Yasin wants referendum on both sides of Kashmir
26 March 2006
The Daily Times
Karachi: A permanent solution to the longstanding Kashmir conflict can only be achieved if the people of the disputed valley are equally engaged in the peace process as the leadership of Pakistan and India, senior Kashmiri leaders said on Sunday. Yasin Malik, chief of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), gave his idea of how to determine the true leadership of Kashmir. “I suggest holding a referendum of both parts of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan and India and the party or group which gets a mandate from the people should be given representation in the tripartite dialogue to resolve this dispute once and for all,” Malik said at a high-profile conference held on the third day of the World Social Forum in Karachi. “A full scale and fair referendum would finally bring the true leadership of the Kashmiris who will be accepted by the rest to represent our people in the dialogue,” he said. “If the Indians are engaged in talks with a single party of Nagaland then why it this not the case for Kashmir?” He declared that 85 percent of the people of the valley wanted total freedom while only 15 percent of them wanted to be part of Pakistan. “Both countries should engage our representatives as equal stakeholders in the process and this, I assure you, will be in the larger national interest of the two countries,” he said. “The peace process should be spread to the grassroots so that no young man like the Yasin Malik of 15 years ago should see the gun as his only option for the rights of his people,” he said. “I abandoned the violent option after Kuldip Nayar promised me the support of Indian civil society. I threw away the gun at a time when 30,000 armed fighters were present in Kashmir. Since then I lost 600 colleagues. The Indian authorities persistently tried to make me to go for my gun but I maintained my patience and now a large number of Indians are behind me and for the cause of Kashmir,” he said. “During this period I have been arrested over 200 times and survived six attempts on my life and yet I have been able to defeat the Indian state morally and diplomatically,” said Malik. All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that Kashmir was not just a political dispute but a matter life and death for the Kashmiris. “It is a huge human tragedy.” “We should raise our voice jointly and achieve the goal according to the aspirations of the people. Without this, a permanent peace cannot be achieved,” said Farooq. He said the enlightened people of India were now listening to the Kashmiri leadership and it was time for India and Pakistan to engage the Kashmiris in the peace process. Farooq said the United Nations and other rights groups had failed to deliver for the Kashmiri people and they should be left out of the peace process. “This dispute can only be resolved by a tripartite dialogue involving Pakistan, India and the Kashmiris,” he said. Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, former president and prime minister of Azad Kashmir, confined himself to asserting that the destruction of civil society was due to continuous unrest in the disputed Himalayan state. He said demilitarisation and self-rule was also part of a permanent solution to the conflict. Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, son of former AJK president Sardar Ibrahim, said he reckoned he was a Pakistani first and a Kashmiri later. This prompted boos from JKLF supporters and he traded angry words with them.