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Is accession to Pakistan a sensible option? Dr Shabir Choudhry

Sad fact of life is that State of Jammu and Kashmir is forcibly divided between India, Pakistan and China. There are some citizens of Jammu and Kashmir who are satisfied with the status quo, as that is in consonance with their personal, regional or tribal agenda.

Majority of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State want unification and independence of our country. Many authentic surveys showed that up to 92% people of the Valley wanted an independent Kashmir. A recent survey conducted by a British researcher showed that more than 70% citizens of so called Azad Kashmir also wanted an independent Kashmir. For ‘crime’ of publishing this report a newspaper called Majadla was immediately banned by the authorities to give this message that anything against policy of accession to Pakistan will not be tolerated.

Majority of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir want their national identity to be restored. They want to enjoy their fundamental rights, like people of other nations. They wish to establish a democratic and secular society where we can all live with dignity and honour as equal citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir dispute only give us two options, either to become part of Pakistan or ratify the provisional accession with India.

Pakistan can only give one option to people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Despite lofty claims about the UN Resolutions, Pakistan is only prepared to give us one option – that is people of Jammu and Kashmir must join Pakistan. If they disagree to join Pakistan, then they are castigated as traitors. People of Pakistani Administered Kashmir were stunned when they saw how strongly and angrily the Pakistani media, some politicians and journalists/TV anchors reacted when Prime Minister of so called Azad Kashmir, while commenting on political and judicial situation of Pakistan, said if it would be prudent to join Pakistan or consider other options.

He was called dishonest and a traitor. Some even demanded that he should be tried for treason and should be jailed if not hanged. His apologise and explanations were rejected. This illustrates what Pakistani establishment, politicians and media think of people and politicians of Azad Kashmir. Also, it indicates level of their tolerance; and what options they are prepared to give to people of this region and Gilgit Baltistan.

This policy of Pakistan is against the UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir; and even against Pakistan’s official stand on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Pakistan agreed in the UN Security Council that people of Jammu and Kashmir can join India or Pakistan; but was not prepared to let people of Jammu and Kashmir become independent. This speaks volumes about Pakistan’s sincerity to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Before people of Jammu and Kashmir opt for Pakistan, they should see what kind of Pakistan they will find. Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, in his famous speech of August 11, 1947, declared:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”  1

What Pakistanis say about Pakistan?

No matter what he said before the creation of Pakistan, soon after the creation of Pakistan he made his intentions clear that Pakistan was to be a democratic and secular country. It is sad that after his death his vision of Pakistan was distorted and new agenda was imposed, which subsequently created enormous problems for the people of Pakistan, especially non – Muslims. Farahnaz Isphani, a Pakistani author, in her book “Purifying the Land of the Pure”, wrote:

‘Religious minorities are targets of legal as well as social discrimination. We have the toughest blasphemy laws in the world….In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed some of the worst organized violence against religious minorities since Partition on the Pakistan side of the border. Unfortunately, religious and communal violence is also a harsh reality in India and Bangladesh’. 2

Another Pakistani writer and columnist, Khurram Husain wrote in a prominent English Daily Dawn, wrote:

Our state has come to be virtually held hostage by a reality that we have been denying in almost every forum around the world. This reality is that within Pakistan, as a matter of official policy, violent militant groups have been nurtured, trained, supported and nestled within the general population for use as assets in an underground geopolitical game that we have tried to play in the region’. 3

If a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir said or wrote anything similar to what Mr Khurram Husain and Farahnaz Isphani wrote, immediately that person would have been branded as ‘anti Pakistan’ and an ‘Indian agent’. In worst case scenario, the person concerned could have been arrested for sedition or charged with some other serious offence.

In other words, the Pakistani officials have more than one standard. When dealing with critics belonging to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir they apply those laws and standards that were applied to them during the British Raj. This means the Pakistani state is behaving just like an imperialist state, especially when it comes to areas of Jammu and Kashmir under their control.

Instead of paying attention to the plight of the Pakistani people, they are investing in arms and security agencies to ensure that lives and liberties of people are curbed; and every aspect of human life is controlled in accordance with their perceptions.

According to UN Pakistan’s GDP Per Capita Rankings:

In 1970 Pakistan was at no 134th, and all South Asian countries were behind Pakistan. India was at 163rd ranking and even China was behind at 161st.

In 2010, Pakistan was at 175th, India at 164 and China jumped to 114th.

Now in 2016/17, Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate is higher than Pakistan, and their exports also crossed Pakistan’s exports for the first time in the history.

Pakistan is currently among bottom 10 in Asia out of 50 countries in terms of GDP per capita, while in 1970s, they were among top 20.

In term of Human Development Index

In 2011, the world rankings, Pakistan was at 101st and India at 93rd

In 2015, Pakistan is at 147th, and India131th and Bangladesh at 139th. 4

People of Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir need to think and think very carefully. Do they want to be part of this country which has bleak future and where life and liberty of citizens is always under threat; and where secret agencies call all the shots in social, political and economic life of the country. Won’t it be better for us to reject accession to both countries and make sincere and concerted effort to become independent?

India can offer better infrastructure, bigger development budget; but its record on human rights and growing religious intolerance make it less attractive for Muslim citizens of Valley of Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir. In view of this, the only viable and practical option is united and independent Jammu and Kashmir with friendly relations with all neighbours.

Reference:

1/ Speech of Mohammed Ali Jinnah on 11 September 1947, in Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

2/ Interview of Farahnaz Isphani, author “Purifying the Land of the Pure” http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/interview-farahnaz-ispahani/

3/ Daily Dawn, 7 September 2017

4/ Source: http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/HDI

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

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