February 2005 News

Jihad benefited Kashmir cause: Qayyum

27 February 2005
The News International

Lahore: Jihad or Kashmiris' armed movement has forced India to come to the negotiation table for the solution of Kashmir issue, said Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan. In an interview with The News, former Azad Jummu and Kashmir premier and supreme head of the Muslim Conference said it was the armed struggle that inflicted huge financial losses on India, as it had to maintain enormous military force in held Kasmir. Though, India repeatedly tried to dismiss the armed insurgency claiming that the movement had not created any problem, it was facing complex problems due to the struggle. He criticised cracks in the rank of struggling armed groups. 'Had this armed struggle been under one flag, there would have been a far-reaching impact on Kashmir issue,' lamented Sardar Abdul Qayum. When, these Kashmiri groups did divide and they set different goals about Kashmir, India, and even about USA, things got mess up. On the other hand, Sardar Qayum said, it was not practical to think that India could be dislodged from Kashmir by force. 'It is a distant reality,' he viewed. About possible solution of Kashmir dispute, he said certain region-based interim arrangements could be part of an ultimate solution. 'In the long run, the people of several regions of disputed Valley would finally opt for accession to Pakistan or India. Region-based plebiscite or settlement was a bright possibility for such arrangements,' he said. He said there was no mechanism about exercising third option on future of Kashmir problem and Kashmiri Muslim would finally opt for Pakistan,' he said. Whatever is the scenario regarding solution of Kashmir, Kashmiris should be central party of the dispute. 'International community is also very much convinced to give central position to the Kashmiris in the dispute,' he added. Referring to the proposal presented by President Musharraf about dividing Kashmir in seven regions and another proposal forwarded by US-based Kashmir Study Group to divide Kashmir into five regions run by India and Pakistan, he said despite all these developments, there was no finality of the solution yet. Though India has publicly termed Kashmir its integral part, he said, it knows very well that the ground realities are against its stance. 'The flexibility shown by President Musharraf on the UN resolutions was realistic and it had also played important role in pressurising India,' he said. Regarding evolution of Kashmir crisis in post-9-11 scenario, he said, before the incident American officials always came to the conclusion that Kashmir movement was a legitimate and indigenous struggle. However, after the attack on Twin Towers, the whole scenario changed and 'panicky' Americans started labelling every armed struggle as a terrorist act. He said though American at official level termed every Kashmir-related incident an act of terror, at private meetings, the Congressmen, senators and other important personalities still admitted that Kashmir movement was basically not a terrorist struggle. He also said after Kargil Americans realised the importance of resolving Kashmir problem after the armed skirmishes on the LoC that pushed both countries to a war-like situation. Especially, he added, a threat of possible nuclear war came into focus. With the passage of time, the USA administration started contacting governments of Pakistan and India and various levels of interaction was initiated to address the issue. He said it was his fondest desire to include Kashmiris in the dialogue process, as they are primary party in the whole conflict. Beside, he said, intra-Kashmiri contact was also indispensable, despite Indian hurdles in its way. Opposing Pakistan move to announce unilateral ceasefire along the LoC, he said Kashmiris and armed outfits had not been taken into confidence on this issue, leaving behind India as a sole major party of the conflict. India got full advantage of this act of Pakistan and successfully attempted to make this burning issue a 'bilateral conflict'. He made it clear that India is a big country and we cannot force it to withdraw from Kashmir if this issue remained bilateral. He said there was no reason to have differences with the policy adopted by Gen Musharraf for resolving Kashmir issue. On the other hand, he said, President Musharraf's insistence on 'core issue of Kashmir' compelled India to initiate dialogue between the two countries. He said he and other Kashmiris had protested with Pakistan government as the whole process had not been Kashmir- centric following start of a series of confidence-building measures (CBMs). 'Through CBMs, the whole idea of composite dialogue became a futile exercise as there was no progress on basic issue of Kashmir,' he opined. He said international community or USA and Britain's interest in this part of the world has no apparent reason, saying that he has no knowledge what actually they have in their mind. 'The USA and UK started pressurising both countries for solution of Kashmir problem and took several measures for holding interaction among Kashmiris,' he said, adding that India always created hurdles in such contacts and only allowed a few Kashmiri leaders to be part of parlays. He was of the view that there was an exception as prominent Kashmiris succeeded in gathering at Kathmandu. But he (Sardar Qayyum) and Syed Ali Geelani were kept out of the intra- Kashmir dialogue or Katmandu Conference. He viewed the stance taken by Katmandu moot, which was participated by senior Muslim and non- Muslims of the valley, about Kashmir problem was good. The apprehension of India that the Kashmiris could take a harder stance against its rule on the Himalayan state in any interaction among them had been dispelled by the Katmandu conference. He said there was impression that Indians now willing to allow Kashmiris to meet with each other for one reason or the other. Qayyum disclosed that there was a complete deadlock in foreign secretary and foreign minister-level talks. However, due to pressure from world powers and India's realisation that this issue could not be ignored, this deadlock had ended. He said the bone of contention this time was travel documents for Kashmir bus service. The Kashmiris and Pakistan government made it clear that they would not accept visa and passport as travel document for Sirinagar-Muzaffarabad Bus Service. He said that following hectic consultation, the issue was resolved and it was decided that no visa and passport would be issued for this purpose. He said this development was not a success or failure for any side. 'It will be realistic to expect from Indian government that it will make progress on this issue after this major development and everything has been done,' Sardar Qayyum said. We should forget for the time being that there would be a long-lasting and permanent solution of Kashmir. He said interim steps would certainly contribute toward the final solution. 'The main thing is continuation of dialogue process and all the problems will ultimately resolve,' he maintained. However, he stressed the need for including Kashmiri representatives in the negotiation process. He said he had proposed various interim arrangements for ultimate resolution of Kashmir issue including a ceasefire in Kashmir that already had been in place. Another important thing, he said, was that Kashmiris should be allowed to travel to both sides at various points of the LoC. He said even there would be no harm to Kashmir problem if Pakistan and India agreed to allow their citizens to cross LoC on visa and passport. He said one of the urgent issues was better interaction among all the Kashmiri leaders. During his discussion with various key personalities of USA and the UK, he said, 'I had pleaded for withdrawal of all anti-terrorism laws from the Valley. He said only Tada had now been in force, which should also be abolished immediately.' As soon as the Indian army had absolute authority in Kashmir, the Indian government itself could not take any important decision,' he observed. Release of prisoners from Indian jails and announcement of ceasefire in Kashmir were also important steps in this direction, he added. He recalled that it was an important query of these circles that how armed groups would respond to these interim steps. 'We told them that the people that had been involved in armed resistance for the past fifteen years would not shun arms if Musharraf or any other person asked them to do so,' he explained. Despite this, he added, these armed men could give up arms if they found a way and saw any substitute to the militancy,' he said. It is hoped that they would positively support any such move. He made it clear that any isolated incident from these armed groups should not be taken seriously once a sort of arrangement on various issues was made possible,' he said. 'We should not ignore firm stance of some of these groups and there must be no excuse by any side if any incident took place in the evolving scenario,' he said. He said there had always been subversions on various international incidents stating that 'we should take this issue in realistic terms.' 'I have also proposed to stop official subversion by both India and Pakistan in Kashmir because this could be a cause of reversing the whole peace process,' he said. About the support of Kashmiri leadership to the peace offer given by President Musharraf, Sardar Qayum said, both the leaderships based in Pakistani and Indian Kashmir were very much supporting Pakistan's peace efforts. He was of the view that hardliners were in Pakistan and India and past experience was basic reason behind apprehension of Kashmiri groups. He said hard-line tone of some Kashmiri groups, including Geelani faction, would soften once two to three more steps were taken for resolving Kashmir issue. However, Sardar Qayyum gave credit to Kargil war and armed struggle of Kashmiris for giving impetus to an international effort for resolving Kashmir conflict. He said there was no let up in build up of Indian troops in Kashmir and the threat to peace in the region was very much there. He said if any one was still able to cross Loc despite presence of 0.8 million military in valley and fencing of LoC with sophisticated Israeli expertise, he should be given a gallantry award. 'He must be an angel or something supernatural,' he observed. About Muslim and Hindu population in Jummu, he said that India could not change ratio in this part of Kashmir despite hectic efforts. 'The referring of Baglihar issue to third party is a good development as far as Kashmir dispute is concerned,' he replied to a question adding that this controversy would be an additional benefit in respect of underlining the issue at world fora. About foreign minister's disclosure that back channel diplomacy was undergoing between Pakistan and India for resolving Kashmir issue, he said Kasuri's statement would be understandable in next 15 to 20 years. Regarding split in the APHC, he said cracks in the APHC were not a damaging development. 'These leaders are united when they are against the Indian rule. No one among them is supporting Indian cause,' he said. He expressed the hope that all rival leaders would ultimately get united on one platform.


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