Autonomy, Self Rule or Independence?
It is time Governments of India and Pakistan respect the aspirations of people and solve all outstanding issues, urges Shams Rahman.
While New Delhi’s agreement to examine ‘autonomy’ and consider ‘self-rule’ sounds better than ‘status-quo’, let’s see what there was and what there can be? Following the division of Kashmir (entire state) under the Indian and Pakistani military, bureaucratic and political machinery, both 'Kashmiri' governments had full autonomy. On Pakistani side while Pakistan took away Gilgit and Baltistan and ruled these areas directly from Islamabad, the rest of the areas were organised under 'Azad' Kashmir and still have Prime Minister and President along with Supreme Court and other features of an independent government minus independence. The Gilgit and Baltistan have been recently given their name back with some more political rights i.e. electing representatives.
This side of Kashmir also had President (Sadar-e-Riyasat) Karan Singh and Prime Minster Sheikh Abdullah. Indian Jurisdiction was confined to defence, foreign affairs, communication and currency. However, the government of India gradually eroded the autonomy of Kashmir using different tactics of carrot and stick. Now the Indian side has strong political parties that are capable of getting that autonomy back. The upsurge in agitation and armed resistance in Kashmir has played a significant role in bringing autonomy issue back on agenda. For India needs ‘autonomists’ against ‘indepdendists’.
On the Pakistani side Pakistan has appointed Governor and Chief Minister in Gilgit Baltistan which portray these areas as a province. However, Pakistani government has assured Kashmiris that this does not change the status of these regions in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and Tibet. The good thing is that these regions have more political and legislative rights than before.
One possibility that is becoming more and more obvious is that the division of the state (status quo) will be made permanent with the mutual agreement between India and Pakistan. That is what India appears to agree on. The other possibility is that Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu and Ladkah will be separated from Kashmir and integrated into Pakistan and India respectively. The argument for that is that the tendency amongst people in these areas to identify themselves with Kashmir is almost nonexistent. Therefore, why force them to stay with Kashmir against their will? Although Kashmiri nationalists and pro-independence people can argue against that but when the pro independence parties are virtually nonexistent in these regions AND Huriyat leadership is also in agreement that these areas can go their way, the independent state argument wont hold much weight.
Now looking from outside and above it seems that majority of the State Subjects in these regions do share a political Kashmiri identity. However, they have been living under different administrative, legislative and political setups for over 60 years. Therefore, unless there is a strong movement on both sides for unification, I don’t think the decision makers at the top of International system will particularly think about uniting the two Kashmirs. The most can be offered is further improvement in the flow of people and goods across the division line. However, if there is a strong and sustained political, democratic and peaceful mass campaign across the division line for unification India has to agree on the unification on these two regions. However, Pakistan although apparently agree that it is up to Kashmiris, would like to have 'Azad' Kashmir made into a Pakistani Province and leave only Valley to become a semi Independent State. Reading into Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s reaction to Gilgit Baltistan issue, the Huriyat leadership appears ready for that solution. However, the reaction to such Pakistani attempt in 1970s by the most popular Pakistani leader ZA Bhutto tells that even if Hurriyat leadership accept such a move the ‘Azad’ Kashmiris in AJK and across the world won’t let their autonomy and (Azad) Kashmiri identity taken away. Furthermore, many of us here in UK always wonder why there is no movement at all for opening travel and trade routes between Jammu and Mirpur? Is Kashmiriyat just an eye wash?
In this context what should be the common demands of those Kashmiris across the division line and elsewhere who have been and are still striving for a united independent democratic State of Kashmir? An outline based on various proposals from perspectives over the past two decades is suggested below for the consideration of ordinary Kashmiri State Subjects.
India and Pakistan clearly and publicly admit that the future of entire state of Kashmir (Kashmir Valley, Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) is to be decided by over 16 million Kashmiri State Subjects in all parts of Kashmir and living in diaspora across the globe;
As it stands Pakistan agrees to this and publicly argues for the right of Kashmiris to self determination. However, as mentioned above Pakistan will agree to other options if asserted by the international community arguing that Indian can only go to this extent for example ‘status quo’ and not that one unification or any change in ‘borders’. Therefore, if Kashmiris want more than that, then THEY have to find ways and means to campaign for that. Free all detainees and political prisoners and disclose details of all those Kashmiris who have been disappeared. This also include the ‘release’ of Afzal Guru and remains of Maqbool Bhatt from Tihar prison Delhi for his proper burial in Kashmir wherever his family would like him to be buried; Remove armies from Urban and Rural dwellings;
Open all traditional routes for the flow of all the State Subjects and goods across the state; Hold free and fair elections in all three legislative units (a) Gilgit Baltistan or Pakistani Northern Kashmir (b) Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistani Southern Kashmir (c) Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmir). Every State Subject should have equal right of participation regardless of political persuasions with transparent registration of voters, equal media coverage and monitoring by agreed international civil, legal and democratic bodies;
All these elected bodies should have autonomy over their local resources and affairs regardless of the final decision about the future of the entire state. For example even if eventually state becomes divided and these units go to India or Pakistan they should have their autonomy recognised and respected. If the state stays united still these governments should maintain their autonomy. In any case the royalty for the use of their resources must be paid to these governments. The regions of Ladakh and Jammu might also like to opt for local legislative assemblies?
After an agreed period free and fair elections to elect representatives of the entire state should be held again with equal participation of all political persuasions and under international supervision with a clearly expressed and agreed mandate to represent Kashmiris at any deliberations between India and Pakistan or China or other relevant international forums on the future status of Kashmir State.
This is how, in my view, the Kashmir Question can be addressed in a democratic, just and peaceful manner with opportunity of incorporating aspirations of the entire population of the Kashmir State.
(Shams Rehman is from Oldham England, UK. Feedback at: email@example.com)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Dec 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 28 Dec 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Dec 2009 00:00:00 IST
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