Beyond Backburner Story
Is Kashmir now a forgotten story?
PUNCHLINE BY Z.G. MUHAMMAD
I cannot be caught on a wrong foot. Kashmir has taken backseat in Pakistan’s national discourse is a truth. It is no more a theme song with major political parties; the Pakistan People’s Party, the Muslim League (M) Or the MQM, Interestingly the Jamaat-e-Islami of late has also been lying low on Kashmir.
This paradigm shift about Kashmir in Pakistan politics was distinctly visible during the 2008 elections. The resolution of this problem that had been for decades the major issue in almost all elections held in the past in the country was missing in the last election campaigns. It was not mentioned in the election manifestos of major parties staking claims for the power.
Pakistan in the post 9/11 situation has been navigating through unprecedented challenges. Besides serious situations in tribal areas and borders with Afghanistan it is confronted with terrorism in all its major cities terrorism. Notwithstanding resilience of the people the country is sinking in the morass of domestic problems.
Is it for the own domestic problems that Kashmir lost its importance and vitality for the parties in power and those in the opposition. The 2008 elections do indicate that Kashmir has lost its sheen for electoral politics in Pakistan. Does it mean it has lost its importance as an issue to the country? As summed up by Munir Akram, former Pakistan Permanent Representative in UN Jammu and Kashmir remains vital for Pakistan for:
Identity: as a Muslim majority area of British India which according to the criteria of partition should have been a part of Pakistan.
Territory: gain or loss of an area bigger than Belgium.
People: ethnically, religiously, culturally and historically linked to the people of Jammu and Kashmir linked to people of Pakistan rather than India.
Strategy: the only direct land link to Pakistan’s allay, China. ( Pakistan Beyond the Crisis State published by Rupa and Oxford)
Munir Akram is not alone in his perceptions there are many others who believe that ‘a bolder stance on Kashmir, based on international principles and the support of the Pakistan people, will not escalate the danger of a conflict so long as Pakistan conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities remain credible.’ But at same time there is equally very strong lobby within Pakistan that strongly advocate not only good relations with India but also strong trade ties even if it calls for putting Kashmir at the backburner or even confining it to deep freeze.
The Pakistan society as is apparent from the opinions in the newspapers is also divided on relations with India. There is a section in media that strongly believes trade with India was the way out for resolving the Kashmir problem. On granting Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India leading Pakistan newspaper Dawn on July 4 observed:
“The act of granting India MFN status marks a step in the right direction. While the issue of Kashmir has been raised by some who oppose the move, the fact of the matter is that the Kashmir issue also can only be settled through dialogue; and trust between the two countries and a readiness to work together are prerequisites for dialogue. India-Pakistan relations need to recover from the deep rift that was caused by the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the aftershocks of which are still being felt. Further efforts to build normalcy in relations between the two countries are therefore necessary. Only by way of working with India can Pakistan truly overcome militancy in the region; Kashmir being an essential component of this struggle.” A larger section of media denounced the decision of granting MFN status as hurried one that would ultimately prove disadvantageous to Pakistan and strengthen New Delhi’s ‘hegemonic’ attitude. Some newspapers in Pakistan took exception to the decision and saw it against the interests of Kashmir. The Nation one of the old newspapers wrote: “While briefing the press about the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan stated that the issue had been discussed in detail and the issue most exercising the members of the cabinet was that of Kashmir. This statement apparently reveals that MFN status is being granted at Indian behest, against the reservations of the cabinet and despite the fact that Kashmiri brothers continue to be denied the right of self-determination.”
Improving trade links with India and not allowing Kashmir to come in the way is an important plank of the PPP foreign policy. In 2008, immediately after taking over as President Asif Ali Zardari had in an interview told Karan Thaper in a that he would set aside the Kashmir Dispute and would not hold India-Pakistan relations hostage to the Kashmir problem and leave this issue to be addressed by future generation.’
The question that is now being asked that will “Imran Khan Factor” change the PPP discourse on Kashmir and will it prompt the Muslim League (N) to relook at its subdued Kashmir policy. The Cricketer turned politicians at his well attended rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan monument, that attracted international headlines demanded right to self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and he also sought withdrawal of troops from the state. The Imran Khan speech at Lahore is going to radically effect Pakistan politics but if is going to impact the PPP’s Kashmir policy needs to be seen.
Let me cap this quote from an article by Sanjeev Srivastava in a well written article in the First Post World:
“Not that the issue (Kashmir) ever takes much of a backseat in Pakistan’s national discourse but the significance of Imran Khan choosing to refer to the ‘K-word’ regularly and emphatically should not be lost on anyone. By asking for the withdrawal of Indian troops from the valley in what is being seen as his comeback rally, he has sent a clear signal to quite a few constituencies.”
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Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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