Need For Pakistan to do a Rethink on its K-Policy

  • GOWHAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: Aug 28 2017 9:06PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 28 2017 9:06PM
Need For Pakistan to do a Rethink on its K-PolicyFile Photo

Many Kashmiris express dissatisfaction over Pakistan’s oft-repeated rhetorical claim that “Pakistan will continue to extend moral, diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir” in their political struggle

 

In February 2014, a university in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh suspended at least 67 Kashmiri students for cheering for Pakistan cricket team after it beat India in a tense Asia Cup contest. These students were suspended from the Swami Vivekanand Subharti University and the vice chancellor had described their behaviour “unacceptable”.

On Kashmir’s turf, the news about Kashmiri students rejoicing Pakistan’s victory in a cricket match against India did not surprise many. Kashmiris supporting Pakistan cricket team is business as usual. Most Kashmiris consider India-Pakistan encounters in cricket as “war minus the shooting” and keenly follow the men in green shirts.

This affection for Pakistan cricket aside, the fact is that a substantial pro-Pakistan political constituency also does exist in the Kashmir Valley. This constituency has existed in the Himalayan Valley since the day Pakistan came into being as an independent nation state on 14 August 1947, as a result of the Partition.

During the current phase of anti-India rebellion in Kashmir we have seen numerous images of young Kashmiri lifeless bodies wrapped in Pakistani flags, in place of customary white shrouds, being lowered into graves by their old and fragile fathers. Such images are enough to give us an idea of how deep-rooted pro-Pakistan sentiment is in Kashmir.

Kashmiri civilians, mostly teenage boys, are hounded, tortured, arrested or even killed by government forces during anti-India protests and pro-aazadi (freedom) rallies. This is a result of them raising passionate slogans in favour of Kashmir’s right to self-determination and Pakistan. Kashmiri boys and girls are seen chanting “jeeve jeeve, Pakistan” (long live, Pakistan) or “Pakistan Zindabad” slogans. A few have even set the Pakistani national anthem as a ringtone on their smart mobile phones.

This categorical love for Pakistan emanating from a few sections of the Kashmiri society is not something new. It is, as they say, a matter of fact.

In the past, some Kashmiris would draw up wills with the request that once Kashmir merges with Pakistan, their children and grandchildren should hoist the Pakistani flag on their graves. For some, a visit to Pakistan is no less than an emotional pilgrimage.

Kashmiri children born in the 1990s, also described by some as ‘children of conflict’, have heard countless bedtime stories from their grandparents about how older Kashmiris loved Pakistan. They also loved Pakistan’s cricket and hockey teams, radio commentary in adab ki zubaan (literary language) Urdu, thought-provoking television serials, as well as Pakistan’s sahar angez mouseeqi (magical music) in dil gudaaz aawaz (heart-breaking voice).

As a school boy, I grew up listening to exciting cricket commentary (in chaste Urdu) on Radio Pakistan. I immediately fell in love with this language of elegance and grace. And I continue to nurture strong passion for Urdu.

The very first Urdu sentences that my ears heard, loved and then remembered were “Aasman par halke halke badal chaye huwe hain, aur maidan par iss waqt Pakistan ki team chayi huwi hai” (The sky has been taken over by light clouds, just like how the cricket ground has been taken over by the Pakistani team.) “Bharat ki wicktein aisi girti gayien jaise khizaan ke mousam main paidoun se patte gira karte hain!” (India’s wickets have been falling the same way trees shed leaves in autumn.)

Mind you, love for Pakistan is not just limited to its language or its cricket team, it goes beyond that.

Iconic Pakistani tele-serials Ankahi (1982), Tanhaiyaan (1985), Dhoop Kinarey (1987) and recent ones such as Zindagi Gulzar Hai and Humsafar are household names in Kashmir. It is no secret that many Kashmiri brides prefer Pakistani bridal apparel and make-ups on their weddings.

In Kashmir, one comes across people whose unconditional love for Pakistan will surpass the proudest and most patriotic Pakistanis. A few Pakistanis may even end up doubting their quom parasti (nationalism) and hubul watni (patriotism) on encountering such Kashmiris.

Key observers state that in a suppressed environment, such as the one that prevails in Kashmir, wherein democratic spaces for expression and dissent are suppressed and choked, it is difficult to assess how deep the pro-Pakistan sentiment actually is.

February 5 symbolises Pakistan’s deep-rooted relationship with Kashmir. Every year, this day witnesses the revival of cultural, religious and the geographical proximity the Kashmir Valley enjoys with Pakistan. Observers claim that the pro-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir is neither dead nor diminished, rather it’s suppressed. The reasons are rooted in the conditions Kashmiris are going through since the 90s.

Interestingly, there is also a section of Kashmiri youth which does not entertain any discussion or debate that aims to equate Pakistan with India. When it comes to the role played by the two nuclear neighbours in Kashmir, for most Kashmiris India is an aggressor while Pakistan is the sympathiser.

India’s Independence Day is observed as a ‘Black Day’ while Pakistan’s Independence Day is celebrated with immense joy. In parts of south and north Kashmir, some people organise small rallies in which Pakistan’s National Anthem is played out loud.

Given the fear of being kept under strict surveillance by government forces, intelligence and security agencies, some Kashmiris consciously choose to pay a cost for this expensive expression, their fearless love for Pakistan. That is how much they love Pakistan.

However, it is one part of the story.

Love for Pakistan does not necessarily mean that all Kashmiris favour Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. The dominant ideology prevalent in today’s Kashmir is ‘anti-India’ and pro-independence ideology.

Some Kashmiris question the role of Pakistan in Kashmir, especially after the outbreak of anti-India armed rebellion in 1989. They are of the view that Pakistan replicated the Afghan model of resistance against Soviet occupation in Kashmir with an aim to avenge the Fall of Dacca in 1971. Some voices in private interactions express dissatisfaction over Pakistan’s oft-repeated rhetorical claim that “Pakistan will continue to extend moral, diplomatic and political support to the people of Kashmir” in their political struggle. Some Kashmiris also question Pakistan’s official policy regarding Kashmir, which they feel keeps wavering from time to time. They feel frustrated over what they describe as ‘Islamabad’s inconsistent Kashmir policy’.

A few voices from Kashmir’s new and assertive generation are also worried about how the extremist elements have hijacked the Kashmir solidarity movement in Pakistan. They are concerned about why more and more voices from Pakistan’s vibrant civil society and liberal circles don’t speak up enough about Kashmir.

Furthermore, there is a genuine concern over why the Pakistani electronic media is not holding prime time television debates on Kashmir in order to,

1.     a) Counter Indian media’s Kashmir narrative largely based on propaganda, falsehoods and vitriol

2.     b) Raise global awareness about the genesis of the Kashmiri dispute and to hold Indian forces accountable for their alleged atrocities  committed on the people of Kashmir

Without a whisker of doubt, there is anger against the Indian state when it comes to the treatment of Kashmiris. However, to assume that Pakistan’s role in Kashmir cannot be questioned, evaluated, critiqued, commented upon or rationally analysed is naïve. This line of thinking is both regressive and anti-intellectual. In my view, there is a stronger sentiment for aazadi (independence), but the pro-Pakistan constituency in Kashmir is also an undeniable reality. It is an unpalatable truth for the Indian state.

That said, in the absence of any empirical study, it is very difficult to assess whether the pro-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir has weakened or enhanced over the years, or whether it is dead or diminished.

Kashmir bleeds every single day. Kashmir suffers every single day. Kashmir mourns every single day. Given the love Kashmiris have for Pakistan, can Pakistan now move beyond rhetoric and try to know and understand what it means for a Kashmiri father to bury lifeless body of his young son on almost daily basis? Can Pakistan do a rethink on its Kashmir policy? Can Pakistan divorce rhetoric and embrace statesmanship?