By Farooq Wani
I have nothing personal against Islamabad, but as a Kashmiri who was brought up in the belief that Pakistan is our genuine well-wisher and that the ‘K’ in Pakistan stood for ‘Kashmir’, I am deeply saddened by how Islamabad has mishandled the Kashmir issue. Ever since UN passed resolutions calling for plebiscite in J&K, Pakistan has maintained that the erstwhile kingdom of J&K is “disputed territory.” But by granting provincial status to Gilgit Baltistan (GB), which being an integral part of J&K automatically becomes “disputed territory’, Islamabad has ended up jeopardising its own Kashmir narrative. After all, how can it justify merger of GB with Pakistan but cry ‘foul’ on New Delhi’s abrogation of Article 370?
It’s not that the decision to merge GB with Pakistan has been taken in a hurry. The idea was first mooted in 2014 by Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan (KAGB) but was unanimously rejected by the Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) since this move would terminate the disputed nature of GB and thus “weaken Pakistan’s national stand on Jammu and Kashmir at the international level.”
This proposal was again revived two years later but was again shot down by the Hurriyat leadership. Hurriyat’s joint resistance leadership represented by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik declared that “Any proposal to declare GB as the fifth province of Pakistan is unacceptable as it tantamount to changing the disputed nature of Kashmir.”
Hurriyat (G) leader SAS Geelani also disapproved the GB merger plan stating that “There are no constitutional as well as moral justification in making any decision over any part of this territory without the consent of its people and it is also clear violation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.”
The JKLF chairman even wrote a letter to Nawaz Sharif, (who was the then PM of Pakistan) highlighting that “If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over GB, India will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with it.” Malik went on to warn Islamabad that if it goes ahead with the plan to provide provincial status to GB then, “With one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir!
The PTI led government’s response to abrogation of Article 370 has been pathetic. Islamabad achieved nothing by taking the Article 370 abrogation case to UNSC. It also made a lot of noise about approaching International Court of Justice on this matter but backed down when it’s UK Based legal advisor Barrister Khawar Qureshi counselled Islamabad that its case was very weak. It took up this issue with Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) but couldn’t convince Riyadh to hold a special meet of foreign ministers to discuss abrogation of Article 370.
So, when PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto took a swipe at Prime Minister Imran Khan by saying “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir was on how we will take Srinagar. Now, under Imran Khan’s government, we have been forced to think on how we will save Muzaffarabad,” he wasn’t exaggerating, because it is evident that Islamabad has lost its Kashmir plot!
As per media reports, in the statement on the OIC foreign ministers issued by Riyadh both in English and Arabic meet, the Kashmir issue doesn’t figure in the agenda list. However, in a desperate effort at damage control, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) of Pakistan has not only termed this report as “baseless” but even said that “Such irresponsible speculations are part of false Indian propaganda and disinformation campaign.”
However, by adding that “Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains a permanent item on the OIC’s agenda,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri has exposed Islamabad’s doublespeak because this news was first broken by Pakistan dailies on 26 November 2020and not Indian media.
So, all other Kashmiris who had put their eggs in Islamabad’s basket are obviously very upset on seeing how the Kashmir issue nurtured by the sacrifices of thousands has been wrecked by Pakistan. Till now, Islamabad may have mulled over the idea of GB’s merger and making it Pakistan’s fifth province, but it didn’t tinker with its status because maintaining GB as an independent entity gave strength to Pakistan’s stand that J&K is “disputed territory”.
Why Islamabad has reversed a 72 year long key decision related to the Kashmir issue is incomprehensible and some say that this has been done on Beijing’s direction. However, whatever may be the reasons or compulsions for granting provincial status to GB, the fact of the matter is that the people of Kashmir have been cheated!
And the GB merger reminds one of Hakim Nasir’s famous lines-
“App gairon ki baat karte hain,
Hum ne aapne bhi azmaaye hain
Log kaaton se bach kar chalte hain,
Hum ne phoolon se zakham khaye hain.”
(You complain about strangers
But I’ve even tested my very own
People avoid thorns while walking
But I’ve been wounded by flowers)