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Musharraf not the lone ‘revisionist’

20 December, 2006

By Muhammad Ahsan Yatu


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There is not much new in Musharraf’s suggestions on Kashmir. Almost all rulers of Pakistan except Ayub and Zia wanted to end a conflict that had no solution, but to accept the existing realities in an honourable way. Ayub sought the solution in war and Zia in militancy. It is no secret that both the Generals had deep links with the CIA. Musharraf is under media attack, which is routine. All those rulers of Pakistan, be it Liaqat or Bogra or Bhutto or Benazir or Nawaz, who tried for reconciliation with India faced similar criticism. Some of Musharraf’s predecessors thought that remaining silent was a better way out, while some others like Benazir in her first term and Nawaz during his second term preferred a bold approach, though not as openly as Musharraf did. Musharraf’s suggestions are direct and blunt. India, whose stance on Kashmir is that it is not a problem, may or may not agree with the suggestions. If it does, making of a deal will take time and its realisation may take a couple of decades. Let us see how Musharraf is not the lone revisionist.

The elites that were to rule Pakistan after partition were more interested in seeking the accession of Junagadh, Hyderabad, Bhopal and even some Sikh states with Pakistan. This innocent desire surprised even Patel, the first interior minister of India. He was astonished when he met a delegation of Pakistani officials, who despite his invitation to talk on Kashmir, kept on talking about Hyderabad. Patel did not know that they were not as interested in the rugged mountains of Kashmir as in the resource-rich Hyderabad. Besides, some people in the Pakistani foreign office believed that Kashmir would fall like a ripened apple in their lap. It did not, nor did Junagadh and Hyderabad.

The Indian National Congress due to its socialist ideals was not in favour of giving the right of accession to the rulers of the Princely States; it wanted the people of these states to decide whether to join India or Pakistan. The Muslim League insisted that the rulers should decide the matter. Not only that, the Muslim League included another article in the Instruments of Accession that gave the rulers of the state a third option; the states could maintain a kind of independence also. It was not difficult for the leaders of the Congress to read the mind of the Muslim League. They were right in assessing that if things happened as the Muslim League had wished, then that would mean that India would be divided not into two countries, but into many pieces. Thus the contours of the relationship between India and Pakistan were drawn even before the partition. These were the contours of distrust, conflict and clash.

While the Indians were busy with the planning of counter-strategies, the Muslim League obsessed with fantasies, accepted the request of the Nawab of Junagadh to join Pakistan. Junagadh was away from Pakistani borders and it was also a Hindu majority state. Thus the Muslim League initiated the process of violation of the Instrument of Accession. It meant the future of the remaining disputed states was to be decided not through politics but through power. The Indians were prepared, while Pakistan was not. India attacked Junagadh and Hyderabad and annexed them. Pakistan attacked Kashmir with the support of the Kashmiris and annexed one-third of it. India also attacked Kashmir on the invitation of its ruler Maharaja Hari Singh and annexed the rest of it. It was the beginning of the end of the game.

The war ended when India took the ‘Situation in Kashmir’ to the UN. Had war continued, Pakistan would have been destabilised at the beginning. Within the Pakistani establishment, Liaqat Ali Khan rightly longed for the end of war, whereas some powerful Generals thought otherwise. Liaqat was severely criticised for the ceasefire. He had to even face a rebellion.

The UN resolutions went India’s way. The plebiscite in Kashmir could only be held if both sides would agree. On deployment of the armed forces, India was to have another advantage. So the UN resolutions technically favoured the Indians and ended the game completely. Prime Minster Bogra was not a fool when he said to the Indians that the plebiscite would be held whenever they wished, but meanwhile it would be best for both countries to become friends. All Bengali politicians, including Suhrawardy and Nazimuddin, had the same opinion. All of them were labelled as traitors.

General Ayub Khan too knew about the futility of the UN resolutions, but he took a chance. He tried to resolve the Kashmir problem through war. After the end of the war, we were in a big problem of how to get our strategic locations back. The US, whom Ayub Khan had served so faithfully, was not interested. Our ‘enemies’, the Russians, came to our rescue and in Tashkent an agreement was reached. There are not many examples in war history where a weak party was accommodated as generously as in Tashkent. Yet, Ayub Khan had to face criticism.

After the war of 1971, Bhutto tried to get rid of the Kashmir problem through a revolutionary approach. He would do so by making Azad Kashmir a province of Pakistan. He could not, because pro-China intellectuals who were also a part of his political party opposed the idea. And the intellectuals who were from pro-America Jamaat-e-Islami, declared him an Indian agent.

General Zia organised militancy not only in Afghanistan, but also in the Indian Punjab and Kashmir. One wonders what kind of politicians and rulers this unfortunate nation had/has. No one here cared/cares for the people. No one here knew/knows that we have no educational base and no natural resources other than humans, land and water. A look at the world development map will reveal that we were/are only better than countries like Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia. Yet, we would indulge in such conflicts that even the mighty US and Russia could not afford. Our obsession with our strategic depth has left us nowhere. The militancy in Kashmir did to the Kashmiris what the Taliban did to the Afghans. If someone still wants to take credit for the cruelties against humanity, then only God can save Pakistan, provided He is interested.

Benazir never looked as wise as she was during her first term. She knew what she was doing. During the visit of Rajiv Gandhi to Islamabad, her silence on Kashmir delineated that she had accepted the existing geopolitical realities in Kashmir. She reached an understanding on Siachen and nuclear control with Rajiv. In spite of these big achievements, she was immediately declared a security risk.

Nawaz Sharif during his second term had become fully aware of all the dimensions of the situation in Kashmir. That is why the bus diplomacy was started. His next step was to expand trade with India and to enter into joint ventures in manufacturing. Only Jamaat-e-Islami and General Musharraf resisted his moves. He was portrayed as a person who had sold out Kashmir. Today the same Jamaat-e-Islami is more than eager to form an election alliance with Nawaz and the same Musharraf is following his footsteps in Kashmir. It is not irony of circumstances; it is about the facts that open the eyes of a ruler. In a country like Pakistan where society and state both are virtually non-existent, Musharraf’s moves will be criticised vehemently by a wayward media. What matters is how his real constituency, the army, reacts. It, too, should realise that Pakistan needs a break.

Ends

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