APHC At Crossroads
27 May 2003
Lahore: THE removal of Syed Ali Shah Gilani from the APHC Executive Council on Saturday is an important event. Mr Gilani is considered a hardliner for his stand that the Kashmiris must be allowed a choice between Pakistan or India. He feels the Kashmiris have no practical option but to accede to Pakistan. His views have often brought him into conflict with independence supporters in the APHC, as well as those hedging their bets. His removal from the APHC Executive is partly due to inner politics, partly external developments. Of late he had been unhappy with the APHC's functioning. Mr Gilani who represented Jamaat-e-Islami in the coalition had of late decided to keep away from the APHC due to its failure to take action against a component which had defied its election boycott. Instead of supporting him, the Jamaat has nominated a replacement. A lot had happened during Mr Gilani's eight months in jail. In April, on a visit to the Valley, Mr Vajpayee offered talks to Pakistan in order to resolve differences including the core issue of Kashmir. The gesture led the APHC to shorten its two-day protest strike to one. The APHC, which had rejected talks with India's pointman N.N. Vohra, was subsequently overtaken by moves from Washington, Islamabad and New Delhi. Some of its components, including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, welcomed the prospect of Indo-Pak dialogue and called for a greater US role in resolving the core dispute. A couple of leaders in Azad Kashmir too were thrown off balance by the new moves. Sardar Qayyum advised Pakistan to respond to talks with India even if it came up with the worst possible suggestions. Sardar Sikander Hayat approved the Chenab formula. The Kashmiris have fought long and hard, sacrificing over 80,000 lives during their struggle. It is not unusual in such trying circumstances for a minority to feel tired and look for respite. The APHC stands at the crossroads. Whatever its leaders decide, they must understand that subscribing to any solution unacceptable to the Kashmiri people would discredit those doing so. Unless the Kashmiris are allowed to decide their future, there will be no peace in Held Kashmir even if it is brokered by Washington, which considers itself the sole arbiter of the world's destiny.