June 2006 News

Zonal referendums in Kashmir are a workable option

26 June 2006
The Daily Times
Khalid Hasan

Washington DC: Ghulam Nabi Fai, executive director of the Kashmiri American Council, told a conference held in Honolulu at the weekend that the idea of a referendum in Kashmir can be translated, without derogation, into the idea of elections to one or more constituent assemblies which will determine the future status of the state or of its different zones. Speaking at the Fifth International Conference on Globalisation for the Common Good on ‘Kashmir a way forward,’ he explained that the sole condition for a referendum is that it should be completely free from undue pressure, rigging or intimidation and it must be conducted under the control and supervision of the United Nations. He said the idea that the dispute over the status of Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people, which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite, is the common ground taken by all three parties to the dispute, namely, the people of Kashmir, India and Pakistan. Initially, it was supported without any dissenting voices by the United Nations Security Council and in particular by the United States, Britain and other democratic states. It only became a matter of controversy only after India realised that it could not win the people’s vote were a referendum to be held. Thereafter, it repudiated its solemn commitment given at the United Nations and internationally. Fai said the common-sense appeal and justice of the idea is undeniable. There is no way the dispute can be settled once and for all except in harmony with the people’s will, and there is no way the people’s will can be ascertained except through an impartial vote. He felt that the peace process between India and Pakistan should be strengthened because it has opened doors of understanding and mutual respect between the two neighbouring countries. It is a healthy sign that India and Pakistan are talking to each other. But talks without any defined parametres can only serve as a camouflage, he cautioned. “If there is no breakthrough in the thought process and mindset, then there is absolutely no possibility that any dialogue or talks will ever succeed,” he added. He warned that a settlement along the 1949 Ceasefire Line is totally unacceptable to the people of Kashmir.


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