‘Ethnic Division Not Acceptable To Kashmiris’

2 April 2008
The News International

Lahore: KASHMIR People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti has urged the Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan as the newly revived democracy offers an environment to both India and Pakistan to push peace process forward. She was speaking at a lecture on ‘Indo-Pak Relations and Kashmir Issue’ organised by the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) on Wednesday in Lahore. “There are three prominent dimensions of Kashmir issue. One of them is Pakistan-Kashmir relation, the other is India-Kashmir relation and the third is Kashmir’s internal dimension,” the Kashmiri politician and daughter of the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said. “We have some suggestions which may be called a part of comprehensive roadmap that has to be evolved for resolution of the Kashmir issue,” she said. Kashmiris would neither tolerate any ethnic division nor bifurcation of Kashmir, she added. She said the Jammu and Kashmir government lacked a mechanism to implement its plans as it was not provided with guarantees for exercise of state power. “If globalisation is the name of today’s sovereignty, then Kashmiris also have this right,” she said and added that Kashmiris do not oppose mutual trade between India and Pakistan but only seek that Indian and Pakistani governments make Kashmiris a part of it. She praised President General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s formula for demilitarisation of Kashmir, joint management and self-rule for Kashmiris and urged the new coalition government to carry on the constructive policies adopted by the Musharraf-led government. The initiatives taken for normalcy of bilateral relations between India and Pakistan by the Indian National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 1999 were also carried forward by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), she said. She hoped the new coalition government would not hesitate in following the Indian precedent as it would prove beneficial for the people of the region. She said Indian prime minister Vajpayee invited Musharraf for a state visit in order to keep the peace process on track despite the Kargil episode. She said she pinned great hope on commitments given to her by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari about continuation of CBM process. She said former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was also in favour of resumption of bilateral ties with India and the PPP would also follow Benazir’s policies. She said that intrusions of law enforcement agencies in both Jammu and Kashmir and Azad Jammu Kashmir thwarted efforts for revitalising people-to-people contacts. She said that Jammu and Kashmir government was trying to change this mindset of law enforcement agencies. She said security agencies were duly reigned in by urging these agencies to keep a human face and abandon excessive violence which could increase hatred and bitterness among the people of Kashmir. She said the new Jammu and Kashmir alliance was trying to prevent violence. After coming into power, the alliance released detained political leaders such as Syed Ali Gilani and innocent Kashmiri people and also abrogated the draconian POTA. Over the issue of mass graves found in Kashmir, she said that the Jammu and Kashmir government fully believed in respecting human rights and it would continue efforts to stop human rights violation in the valley. She said the government was embarrassed for the past cases of severe violations of human rights in Kashmir. She proposed setting up a regional council consisting of member of assemblies from both parts of Kashmir to settle the dispute. She said she would also discuss this proposal with the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir. She urged the Indian and Pakistan government to allow free movement of goods and people through Muzaffarabad border so that economic ties could foster brotherly relations among Kashmiris. She said that Pakistani journalists should also be allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir so they could highlight ground realities. She said that Jammu and Kashmir government had made earnest efforts to promote declining tourism in the valley. The involvement of security agencies had also been restricted to achieve this goal, she added. About BJP’s aversion to her demand of sovereignty for Kashmir, she said that sovereignty had different connotations in the modern world. She said that she was asking for economic sovereignty for Kashmiris by allowing them to start border trade with China and other world countries without any hindrance. She said that Jammu and Kashmir government was seeking decentralisation for the valley. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Asma Jhangir said that there should be an open discourse on the Kashmir issue as all stakeholders seldom expressed their views and policies openly due to complexities. She called for holding an open discussion on human rights violation and militarisation of Kashmir. Human rights violations had seen a tremendous rise in Kashmir as many innocent people had been persecuted, arrested and tortured which was highly condemnable, she said. She hoped that the new democratic set-up in Pakistan would capitalise on the new situation. She dispelled the impression that the ongoing peace talks between India and Pakistan had marginalised the Kashmir issue. She claimed that the peace process between the two countries would bring about normalcy in the region which could result in resolution of Kashmir issue. “Bitter issues can be resolved only if realities are not ignored,” she said and urged that Kashmiri people should be allowed to express their feelings and concerns on this issue without any foreign intervention and pressure so that the regional and international communities could comprehend their problems and learn about their wishes. She said that Pakistanis might have assumed that they should become the mouthpiece of Kashmiris but this assumption should be abandoned now as Kashmiris had gone through many tribulations due to such self-assumed notions. “Kashmiris have mixed feelings about India and Pakistan as there are two general conceptions about them in Kashmir. Some Kashmiris loath the Delhi-based Indian government while some Kashmiris abhor the Islamabad-based government,” Asma said. She praised Mehbooba for her courage and bravery, saying she (Mehbooba) was not only a new voice of Jammu and Kashmir but also of the whole region. SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam said: “The new coalition government in Pakistan should push peace process forward as both the Indian and Pakistani governments had been trying to reach a consensus for resolution of all bilateral issues, including Kashmir”. He called on the new government to strengthen Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) initiated by the Musharraf-led government so that peace and stability could flourish in the region. He urged India and Pakistan to work out an effective implementation of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) without putting it on the backburner in order to alleviate economic sufferings of the people of the region besides making regional economy stronger. He called on the governments of India and Pakistan to end restrictions on free movement of goods across the Line of Control (LOC) and adopt special measures to enhance people-to-people contact in a bid to promote friendship, peace and stability in the region. He said that liberalisation of visa policy could be instrumental to materialise the wishes of people for an more interaction.