August 2004 News

A Fighter To The Core

1 August 2004
The News International
Naveed Ahmad

Islamabad: There are few who match the devotion and services rendered by one single leader since partition of the subcontinent as well as the unfortunate divide of the Jammu & Kashmir state. Till his death on July 31, 2003, Sardar Ibrahim Khan alone commanded the Kashmir scene for over half a century nationally as well as internationally. Although one cannot make an effort to point at any of his distinction to be the most impressive, he has his name written in history of the Kashmir state for playing an instrumental role in organising the resistance struggle against the Maharaja's tyrannical rule in 1947. Sardar Ibrahim then emerged as the founder president of Azad Kashmir government after its division. His statesmanship took him to the UN headquarters in 1948 to wage a legal battle there for the Kashmir cause. It was, undoubtedly, a great achievement for a young Muslim Kashmiri who had set foot in politics in the mid 1940s as a consensus voice from Poonch, which had been an autonomous ownership of the Dogra dynasty. For the fact that the people of Poonch have always had close ties with the Northern Punjab cities ie Murree, Rawalpindi and Jhelum due to cultural affinity and geographical linkages, Sardar Ibrahim was most suited to run the struggle against the British army. Being one of the few Kashmiris having been educated in prestigious British institutions such as the London University, he set himself on the path trodden by the great Quaid-i-Azam. From J&K Assembly membership in 1946 when he was in his early 30s and also becoming the parliamentary leader of the Muslim Conference, he was blessed with the opportunity to steer the destiny of his nation in those turbulent times. Like Jinnah, he adopted the Western way of life but at the same time held strong ties with and enjoyed the trust of the local ulema. The British lifestyle impressed him exceedingly while he studied in UK, as did the statesmanship of Winston Churchill. The Kashmiri leader would advice students and political workers to read more and more about Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps these imprints on his mind brought him closer to another western-educated Pakistani politician Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. It goes without saying that a look at his life was always a reading in resistance and defiance, a visibly renewed energy was witnessed in him after the resistance struggle of the early 1990s started. For Sardar Ibrahim, who always had a passion for good reading, the freedom struggle made him to revise his own work titled 'Kashmir Saga'. The opinionated Kashmiri leader had to eat his words that the conflict be resolved by converting Kashmir into a buffer state between Islamabad and New Delhi. The dynamics of political necessity brought him back to his old stance of 'principled stand' on the issue. Sardar Ibrahim duly stands tall amongst his contemporaries for always advocating the cultural plurality of Jammu and Kashmir State. He would never even hesitate in voicing his displeasure and grief over the forced exodus of Hindus and Sikhs from the territory in the wake of 1947 resistance struggle. The late Kashmiri leader would rather regret that had the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs adopted a joint strategy against the authoritarian rule of Maharaja, the political landscape of the state would have been entirely different. Great viscidity and turmoil always challenged the leadership credentials of Sardar Ibrahim and he never bowed to the hard choices laid before the nation. He would step down from AJK presidency when General Ziaul Haq toppled his leader ZA Bhutto's government in 1977. Sardar Ibrahim refused to comprise his principles after the assurance from the dictator to stay in power. Kashmir watchers observe that the skill and statesmanship of Sardar Ibrahim - widely known as Ghazi-e- Millat - was never needed as much as in the testing times the region is passing through now.


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