By K.N. Pandita
After enjoying about ten days or more of red carpet welcome, warm hospitality, sumptuous dinners, and profusion of photo clicking with people high and low in Pakistan, the team Hurriyat (M) is back in cold and chilly Srinagar.
On arrival in India, the Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Farooq told reporters that his team would not be meeting with and talking to the Indian leaders. He meant to assert his self-proclaimed status of third party to the endemic dispute.
Previously, the Hurriyat chief (M faction) did talk to the Indian Prime Minister and Home Minister on Kashmir issue. He had no qualms of conscience then. He even went to the length of saying that exchange of views with Indian leadership was useful. What prevents him from talking to the Indians now?
India controls larger part of the State territory than does Pakistan. How can Mirwaiz imagine of solving the dispute by energetically responding to the invitation of Pakistan but contemptuously declining to talk to India?
India controls large terrify of the State than Pakistan does. How can Mirwaiz imagine resolving Kashmir tangle while declining to talk to the Indians?
If he assumes that he is representing the people of the part of the State under the control of Pakistan and thus talking to Pakistanis, he is grossly mistaken. Nobody in PoK recognizes his leadership much less the people of Gilgit-Baltistan region who are fighting their battle against Islamabad.
Whom does Mirwaiz represent? Within his own faction, he met with opposition from some of the allied groups to his decision of accepting Pakistan’s invitation. Shabbir Shah and Naeem Khan argued that the time was not opportune for the visit as the ruling coalition in Pakistan was on exit. Their contention was that after a new government was formed in Pakistan following general election, the time would be ripe to undertake the visit.
Shabbir Shah even complained that Mirwaiz had not even talked to him about the invitation and the decision of accepting it. And Naeem Khan was the source of Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat’s chagrin some time back.
Even Ali Shah Gilani and Yasin Malik, who were also invited to Pakistan, declined the invitation on the same plea. Jamaat-i Islami of Kashmir and PoK, too, discredited acceptance of invitation by the M faction of Hurriyat at this juncture.
Of course, Mirwaiz did gather together a handful of his associates among traders, religious sermonizers, some lawyers and intellectuals and many henchmen to convince them of the wisdom of accepting Pakistani invitation and proceeding to Islamabad.
Critics have raised questions like this. In assembly elections 50 or 60 per cent voters cast their vote and elect a government. The Hurriyat rushes to press to call it a fraud and rigging of elections and hence invalid. Is not collecting a handful of henchmen, and then attributing it as peoples’ mandate for visit to Islamabad and talking to Pakistanis a bigger fraud and deception? Why not use one single measuring rod for identical situations and deductions.
Both factions of Hurriyat, including their constituent groups, are manifestly pro-Pak. Ever since, Pakistan officially stands by UN Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir which speak of only two parties to the dispute. Therefore, by taking pro-Pak stance, both the factions indirectly recognize that only India and Pakistan are party to the dispute and the third option does not exist. Thus both of them want to serve the interests of Pakistan or India and not of Kashmiris as they want the people to believe.
Shimla Agreement says that the two countries will resolve their outstanding issues including Kashmir through bilateral talks. None has recognized Kashmiris as a party to the dispute. Neither India nor Pakistan can rescind Shimla Agreement unless endorsed by respective Parliaments.
Interestingly, the Secretary General of UN, Boutros Ghali said in a press conference in Islamabad in 1991 that the UN could not talk on Kashmir because the two contesting countries, India and Pakistan, had signed Shimla Agreement with the UN ratifying the same.
This completely rejects the third party option in Kashmir. On his arrival in Lahore on 15 December, Mirwaiz told the press that he had come to say that Kashmir was not a bilateral but trilateral issue and Kashmiris are the third party. They repeated the rhetoric wherever they went, and many Pakistani leaders and organizational chiefs did respond to them just to keep them in good humour and not to sensitize them to the ulterior purpose for which they were invited.
However, it was the Prime Minister of Pakistan who was called upon to bell the cat. He bluntly told Mirwaiz that Pakistan stood by the UN Resolutions on Kashmir. Mirwaiz faction was left with sour taste.
Many of us do not know that sections of Pakistani media strongly raised doubts on the wisdom of Mirwaiz faction accepting the invitation and visiting Pakistan at a time when elections to the parliament are round the corner and the present government is about to leave the stage.
Elaborating on their objections, the intimidating media asked how come the Indian External Ministry allowed their visit without the slightest hassle. Not only that, they asked how come the Indian foreign office rushed with the passports of two members of the delegation within hours when informed that one passport had expired and the other person had no passport at all.
The inference drawn is that the visit of the group was made on the prompting of both governments of Pakistan and India.
The ruling party in Pakistan, namely PPP, had almost put Kashmir issue under wraps for last five years. Suddenly some inquisitive quarters within that party raised the question of how the party would react if, during the course of election campaign, some opposition parties triggered the Kashmir issue.
The ruling party found the answer in inviting the Hurriyat and separatist factions in Kashmir valley to Islamabad and talking to the Pakistani leadership and civil society about Kashmir issue. The Hurriyatis were surprised at the warm reception and sumptuous feasts hosted in their honour.
New Delhi has developed working understanding with the present regime in Pakistan. It had every reason to lend indirect support to PPP that would lead to help promote latter’s election profile. Let us recollect that almost simultaneously with Hurriyat’s visit to Islamabad, Pakistani Home Minister Rahman Malik was in New Delhi chastising his hosts on aspects of Mumbai carnage and reaching his home constituency while sitting in Delhi and addressing a press conference.