Valley under siege, says 1st Pak reporter in 52 years
1 July 2001
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The first ever Pakistani reporter to visit Srinagar has written a detailed account about the situation in the Valley. In an article which appeared in mass circulated daily, The News, Pakistani journalist Ershad Mahmud has noted that the people of Kashmir want the turmoil to end but see a solution to the problem “beyond India’s sovereignty.” India had allowed Mr Mahmud to visit Srinagar to attend the wedding reception of All Party Hurriyat Conference leader Abdul Ghani Lone’s son. Ershad Mahmud is the first Pakistani journalist to visit the trouble torn state in several decades. He visited Srinagar along with Sultan Sikander, who is also a columnist with hardline Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt. Mr Mahmud is also director in the department of Kashmir affairs in the Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies. Recounting his eight-day stay in the Valley, Mr Mahmud has described how Srinagar was under siege with a heavy presence of Indian security agencies. “I was granted the visa to visit Srinagar to attend Abdul Ghani Lone son’s Valima ceremony. Sajjad Lone married Asma Khan, daughter of Amanullah Khan, the previous year here in Islamabad. The Indian government was most auspicious in granting us entry to the state where no Pakistani was ever allowed access during the last over 52 years — a fact we learnt about on actually reaching the valley,” he said. The writer also talked about the political and militant activities in the state. He said that majority of Kashmirs want freedom and are sympathisers of Pakistan. “Kashmiris are frustrated, living in a frightening atmosphere and face economic hardship. Asked how they see an end to this crisis, they were unanimous for a speedy solution of any sort; what sort even they don’t know it. I could not see a final demand or bottom line on which Kashmiri people can be settled. It is greatly felt that general consensus to end people’s misery lies beyond India sovereignty,” he writes adding that “Kashmiris en masse want complete alienation from India is a bare fact.” During his interaction with a cross section of people, Mr Mahmud writes, he could not found a possible solution to the problem. He said that while most of the Kashmiris love Pakistan, accession to Pakistan is not seen as a feasible option. “It’s a growing impression among Kashmiris that accession to Pakistan is not a feasible option due to international and regional geo-political situation,” he said. The writer points out that the Pakistani lobby was strong in the Valley and has a presence in every “nook and corner.” “Kashmiri people hold deep affection for Pakistan and respect for the people. Everyone wants to visit Pakistan and see his beloved country,” he said. The reporter noted that militants groups — particularly Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba — commanded the respect of the people. He writes that Lashkar had grown in stature after a series of Fidayeen attack on Indian security personnel. Young boys now idealise Lashkar, the writer notes but Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin commands respect from all quarters. On the political situation, the Pakistani journalist credits APHC leaders Syed Ali Gilani, Abdul Ghani Lone, Sheikh Abdul Aziz and Shabbir Shah for keeping the political activities alive in the region. “They are the core political force which in face of hostile and suppressive atmosphere is busy in contact campaigns, going door to door to raise political awareness among masses,” he said.