In a world where journalism is more about excitement, and a cut throat competition over who reaches the spot first, serious discussions are getting increasingly pushed to periphery.
Once we knew that it's literature in hurry, but now it's only hurry. Not that there aren't serious people anymore left in the field of journalism, but the overall emphasis is on how far your camera can zoom in, and your mike can blare out.
In this dizzying world of sound and light, even the serious subjects are trivialised by prim TV anchors, and news hunters who run around like a bat out of hell. This has severely disabled us to identify the issues that really matter, and then reflect as demanded by the subject. In this world of pure hurry if someone takes up a serious subject, stays there for a good while and tries to dig deeper, it's a gust of fresh air. In our neighbourhood, Pakistan, there are some very composed columnists who write about very critical issues facing that country, and genuinely stir the reader's mind. One such columnists is Khurshid Nadeem. I read his column in Dunya almost regularly, and one of the reasons is that I find an intellectual resonance in his selection of topics. Anyway, my today's column is not about him, but about one of his recent columns "Qarardad-e-Pakistan Ki Nayee Ta'beer" – A fresh interpretation of Pakistan Resolution.
Khurshid, in this column and many of his others, comes across as a deeply disturbed mind. He is usually seen as grieving over the loss of politics in Pakistan, and also over the dumbing down of its societal mind. For this he consistently probes into the content of religious discourses that guided Pakistan's political and societal journey. This brings him face to face with very uncomfortable questions; questions that demand a cost in terms of estrangement-of-emotions. In the column under discussion, he leaves his reader with two grim-faced questions. One, about a huge living Muslim population that couldn't make it to Pakistan when partition happened, and either chose, or were to left, to be part of India. Two, about those hundreds of thousands who lost their lives to the tragedy of partition. If partition was delayed, a reference to Cabinet Mission, could we have saved lacs of lives! Though a purely historical anxiety, yet having a bearing on the policy making of today's Pakistan.
I leave it to the readers of Khurshid's column to think over these questions, and make the responses relevant to the present condition, not just in Pakistan but in the sub-continent. I want to use this lens and look at the picture from my own place – Kashmir. Those who went to Pakistan, those who couldn't, and those who lost lives are the subject matter of these two questions. I am inside and outside these two questions, all at once. I'm neither in Pakistan, nor India, and partition didn't snatch my life away. ( If I strictly confine it to the Valley, and for the sake of argument doesn't include Jammu). Where do Kashmiri Muslims stand in this multitude of discourses, and do we need to take up this question of Kashmir as part of bigger question; the question of Muslim political power and civilisational spread in the sub-continent. Also the question of overlaps that exist within this Muslim population and other religio-ethnic peoples living in the sub-continent.
When Iqbal was delivering his Allahabad lecture, or when Pakistan Resolution was passed, Kashmiri Muslims were a part of that political process, in the sense that it pertained to them also. We were not outside the frame. If the questions about the Muslims left in India, or those consumed in the process of the making of Pakistan can be raised on the occasion of Pakistan Day, we have a reason to add Kashmir to the list of questions. When Pakistan braces up to wrestle with the old religio-politcal narrative, and ask very uncomfortable questions in the domain of religion and politics, it need to include Kashmir in that renewed process of thinking. In this, Pakistan will have to go beyond the confines of nation-state, and also deal with the problem of state backed, or purely non-state, armed-adventure into Kashmir.
Up till now we have had two major responses about Kashmir, in Pakistan. There is a section of people, mostly driven by religious motivation, who think about Kashmir in terms of Jihad, and resolutely want to take it to the finish. In the vicinity of this response is another shade of it. A militarised mindset that looks at Kashmir only through the prism of strategy, and along with the religiously motivated, resist any attempt of not looking at it in terms of military contestation. Against this we have a diametrically opposite response. There is a section of people who somehow want to wash their hands off this issue, and to get rid off what they call as 'Kashmir Fatigue'. Some of them won't even mind throwing the baby with the bath tub. In the vicinity of this response is another shade of it. There are some serious minded people who are worried about the economic and security situation of Pakistan and want a timely freezing of this issue. Parvez Musharraf's four point formula was largely a reflection of this mind.
In the talk of counter-narrative, one would like the serious minded people in Pakistan to think about Kashmir afresh, and without vacillating between the two extreme responses – Kashmir First and Pakistan First, lay foundations of a long term thinking that takes into account both the ethical and practical dimensions of this question. Kashmir is not just an unanswered question in terms of its competing irredentist claims by India and Pakistan, it has its share in all the competing interpretations of politics and history in the sub content. We hope that the renewed thinking in Pakistan provides some fresh perspectives on Kashmir.