29 November 2005
Lahore: FEDERAL Information Minister Sh Rashid Ahmad's remarks at his Sunday press conference in Lahore, calling the idea of an 'independent Kashmir' unworkable, are consistent with the logic of Kashmiris' sentiments and should have no place on the agenda of Pak-India negotiations. But, then, so are proposals for 'self-governance', 'demilitarisation' or dividing the disputed state into separate regions pending final solution. According to the common interpretation of the term 'self-governance' that Islamabad has floated these days, the people concerned enjoy the freedom of decision in a large number of internal matters, but foreign affairs, defence and possibly finance are not within their purview and left with the central government. Would self-governance cover Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas and would the centre in this case be India? Besides this unacceptable scenario there is the fact that the most natural next step of self-governance would appear to be independence. As democracy is abroad in this age, it would not do to deny the people control of certain vital subjects; for that would be offering them a truncated form of democracy. The proposals the country's leadership has been putting forward since the peace process started are needless and unworkable diversions. Even the idea of demilitarisation is not clear enough, though it would at least serve the purpose of providing relief to the innocent people now subject to brutalities by the Indian occupation forces. But would it apply to only Held Kashmir that has been illegally occupied by India or the entire disputed state, including Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas? The suggestion to treat the disputed state as separate regions is so confusing that it is not possible to comment on it meaningfully. India should accept that the only mechanism which would yield a just and lasting solution is a UN-sponsored plebiscite. The Minister's reference to backdoor diplomacy whose outcome, he says, would be made public at the right time does not make much sense, particularly the point that the Indian government does not have the courage to do so, while Pakistan has been making it known. If New Delhi hides any agreement reached there, it only shows it has no intention of implementing it.