October 2004 News

Talking About Mehbooba Mufti

11 October 2004
The Nation
Asghar Butt

Lahore: Mehbooba Mufti, Chairperson of the People's Democratic Party, the ruling party in Indian occupied Kashmir, recently met a delegation of Pakistani journalists. This must have been a landmark of a sort, because the Pakistani journalist community is, by and large, known for its anti-India views on Kashmir. Whether this visit will help them shed their anti-India bias and allow them to understand the Indian side of the Kashmir case, I do not know. So far as Pakistan is concerned, it has never, to the best of my knowledge, disallowed any Indian journalist visiting Azad Kashmir. So the change of policy, or change of heart, has mostly been from the Indian side. India is generally a more democratic country than Pakistan but when it comes to Kashmir all those liberties that go with a democratic way of life, cease. It has never allowed any international Human Rights body to visit Kashmir, just to mention one aberration in its democratic way of life. So allowing the visit of Pakistani journalists does seem like a breath of fresh air. That is not to say that there are many in Pakistan, as also in Held Kashmir, who disapprove of this visit. They see it as an implicit recognition by them of the legitimacy of the Indian rule over Kashmir. Almost everyone in Pakistan and the majority of the people in the world, including the United Nation, consider Kashmir a disputed territory and not a part of India. But I don't intend to get into that side of the story. The argument here is: whether a visit to Held Kashmir amounts to granting legitimacy to the Indian rule? The legitimacy part comes in when a visitor seeks a visa from the Indian government. But what it really amounts to is acknowledgement of a ground reality. A ground reality is not necessarily a lawful reality. And there the argument should end. That said, there should be no harm in Pakistanis seeing things for themselves. Let us wait for the reports that our journalists file on what they saw or heard rather than start looking at the propriety or otherwise of the visit itself. In the meanwhile we may look at what Mehbooba Mufti told the Pakistani journalists. I quote: 'Yes, I have been here for three hours waiting for you as is everyone in Srinagar. Everyone wants to meet the Pakistanis. My father would be really angry if he found out that I have not campaigned at all today as we are having by- elections for two seats. Her father, as you know, is the current Chief Minister of Held Kashmir. He has also been a Minister in the Central government in New Delhi. Mehbooba, then a much younger non- political person was abducted by a group of freedom fighters, who freed her only when some companions of those fighters, arrested earlier, were set free by the Indian government. With that background in mind, one would have expected a staunch pro-Indian stance from Ms Mufti. But look at this and I quote her: 'Both India and Pakistan should forget their ego and think of the Kashmiris on both sides'. The tone and temper of this statement is in marked contrast to what India's Interior Minister, Mr Parnab Mukarjee has been saying. Reading between the lines it will also be seen, that the attitudes and the perceptions about Kashmir's future of the younger generation of politicians in Held Kashmir is markedly at variance with those of the old generation of pro-Indian Kashmiris. I still remember Omar Abdullah, son of the then Chief Minister of Held Kashmir Farooq Abdullah (and the grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, that great friend of Pundit Nehru) speaking in a TV panel, saying that the present turmoil in Kashmir was the consequence of years of misrule of Kashmir by the Indian government. Omar Abdullah at that time was the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in New Delhi. And now here is Ms Mehbooba Mufti saying that her father is going to be angry for spending time with Pakistanis and not attending to the service to India that she should be doing by getting two pro-Indian candidates elected in Held Kashmir. It is easy to see the longing in her voice to meet the Pakistanis and talk to them. 'Every one wants to meet the Pakistanis', she said. I have repeated these words for those readers of mine who keep sending angry letters to me, telling me how much hate they have for Pakistan. I can understand that. They have been brainwashed on a 'hate' agenda for fifty years. The Indian National Congress had a vested interest in telling the Indians that it was Mr Jinnah who rejected United India. The historical fact is that it was Pundit Nehru who rejected the cabinet Mission Plan of a United India that Mr Jinnah had accepted. I know that Kargil hurt India. But Pakistan too was hurt when India invaded East Pakistan. Let us not go into all that. Let us see what the younger leadership in the Indian part of Kashmir is saying.


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