Forum To Bring Kashmiris Across LOC Together
28 December 2003
Karachi: The Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), involved in the track III diplomacy for promoting people to people contact, has constituted a Joint Kashmir Committee, to arrange and facilitate for a dialogue between the Kashmiris from both the sides of the Line of Actual Control. The five-member committee comprises prominent persons from both India and Pakistan as well as Kashmir. The committee, along with visiting both the sides of the LOC will also talk to the governments and interact with the organisations involved in the efforts to achieve a peaceful and democratic resolution of the Kashmir issue. Former finance minister of Pakistan and the main spirit behind the PIPFPD Mubashar Hasan said that the biggest expectations from this committee was that it would bring together the Kashmiris from both the sides. 'It would facilitate a meeting of Kashmiris so that they could propose an agreed solution. We will not interfere and determine what this solution would be. It should be left to the Kashmiris themselves,' he said summing up the mood at the PIPFPD convention. The decision to form the committee on Kashmiris took place after a debate on the point that Kashmir dispute should be settled peacefully respecting the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir of both the sides of the LOC. The Karachi declaration of the Forum also demanded the withdrawal of the armed forces and the armed groups on both the sides and establishment of an effective and accountable mechanism to ensure protection of life and liberty of the people of J&K, particularly women. The debate on Kashmir was intense, lively and interesting. Amarnath, a delegate from Karachi pleaded with the Forum to ensure that Kashmir was not divided on the religious lines, as it would lead to another round of massacre on both the sides of the border. 'The people of Kashmir had paid a very heavy price for a similar division in the past. You have seen the results of the partition on the basis of religion. Even today our hearts are weeping for our brothers and sisters and lakhs of families are still divided,' he said. An interesting but meaningful comment came from Shah Meer, a delegate from Srinagar. 'We Kashmiris have three brothers and two sisters - brothers are Jammu, Kashmir, Laddakh and the sisters are Muzaffarabad and Kashmiri Pundits. We also have a chacha and a mama (India and Pakistan), both claiming us. If you allow we brothers and sisters to meet, we will close ourselves in a room and ask one another what we want. We want a peaceful solution. We will give in writing to the world as well as to both the claimants what we want. This is the only way to solve the problem. If it is not done, then we also have a dada (America) and he will not allow you to work,' he said amidst the cheers. At the level of ordinary Pakistanis as well among the intellectuals, there were mixed feelings on the issue. 'Kashmir often figures in my chat with the friends,' said 20 year old Ratna, daughter of Pakistani member of Parliament Bhagwandas Chawla. 'They keep telling me that our people are being subjected to so many atrocities in Kashmir. I feel that both the Government of India and Pakistan should leave the issue to the people of Kashmir on both the sides to find a solution for themselves', she said. Same view came from a Mohajir community member in Karachi Mohammed Nayeem. Echoing a considerable feeling in the Pakistani society, this government employee said, 'This is all a tamasha created by the two governments for their own benefit. For the last 50 years, Kashmir has been an excuse for spending more and more money on defence. We sympathise with the Kashmiris but let them decide their own future, whether they want Azadi or want to live with somebody. We are not going to gain anything from this issue as a nation. But for the common Pakistanis, Roti, Kapda aur Makan is more important. Because of Kashmir we are 50 years behind,' he said. Even as a strong religious lobby in Pakistan continue with its campaign of supporting Jihad in Kashmir and the media continue to dole out reports of violence and atrocities in Kashmir, there are certain Pakistanis who find these acts counter productive and harmful for both Pakistan and Kashmiris. Noted author of Sindh Muslim Shameem says that waging the struggle for self determination in Kashmir in the name of religion was basically wrong and negative. 'Kashmir is home not only for Muslims but also of Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs,' he said. Away from this debate, yet another delegate from Srinagar Abdul Rasheed Hanjura said that PIPFPD initiative will help in finding an acceptable solution. 'I hope it would lead to a conference of the Kashmiris from all the regions at the earliest,' he said.