Niloofar Qureshi

Malik Sahib, there are alternatives to shutdowns!

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It’s undoubtedly the increasing criticism of the Hurriyat’s over-obsession with shutdowns that provoked Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik to raise this issue while addressing a seminar organised by the High Court Bar Association (HCBA) last month to pay tributes to slain advocate and noted human rights activist Jalil Andrabi. In a veiled attack on a section of the media and civil society Malik said, “They say we don’t have any other strategy apart from calling for shutdowns” and then went on to sarcastically ask “Do you have a better suggestion? Then tell us.”

And since no one seems to have come up with some more effective alternatives to the Hurriyat’s fruitless ‘shutdown strategy’, the JKLF chairman must be under the impression that he has successfully silenced those who mock the Hurriyat. However, the point here is that when each and every problem has more than one possible solution, how can the ‘self determination’ issue be an exception?

It’s difficult to believe that despite having tremendous experience and being quite intelligent, the Hurriyat leaders haven’t been able to see beyond the ‘shutdown strategy’ for the last quarter century. However, since Malik sahib says so and has asked for alternatives to the ‘shutdown strategy’, I consider it my moral duty to humbly put across my views primarily because I’m amongst those who have been critical this strategy. In order to avoid a lengthy monologue or sound like a preacher, I will attempt to express my views by following a question-answer format purely for the purposes of emphasising vital issues that are directly related to the ‘self determination’ movement.

I will pose the questions and also give the answers basing them on established facts or the Hurriyat’s stated position on the subject. However, on issues where the Hurriyat hasn’t made its stand clear, or, when I’m not very sure of its stated position, I will just say ‘no comments’.

Question # 1- On what basis are Kashmiris demanding ‘self determination’?

Answer- The demand for ‘self determination’ is based on the specific provision for the same stipulated in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 47 adopted on 21 Apr 1948.

Question #2- Does any of the UNSC resolution on Kashmir directly or indirectly allow or accept use of violence as a legitimate means for achieving the ‘right to self determination’?

Answer- No. UNSC resolutions on Kashmir have been passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter which is devoted to “peaceful settlement of disputes” and as such there is no scope whatsoever for the use of force as a means to achieve this.

Question #3- If use of force is not permitted by UNSC resolutions then why is the Hurriyat approving of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir even when the international community views it as terrorism?

Answer- Kashmiri youth are being forced to pick up the gun because of Indian atrocities and since UN and the international community is not taking any action to ensure that India gives the people of Kashmir their ‘right to self determination’. And both Pakistan and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) have said that the struggle in Kashmir is justified and cannot be equated with terrorism.

Question #4 – Have both Pakistan and the OIC been able to convince the UN and international community that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is justified and cannot be equated with terrorism?

Answer- No

Question #5- What is the contribution of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir towards achievement of ‘self determination’? And do the benefits provided by the ‘armed struggle’ outweigh the adverse effects of the Hurriyat being isolated by the international community for endorsing the ‘armed struggle’?

Answer- No comments

Question #6- Since legitimising use of force for achieving the ‘right to self determination’ openly flouts the provisions contained in UNSC resolutions on Kashmir, on what legal or moral grounds can the Hurriyat demand that the UN and international community should compel India to implement UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and simultaneously endorse the ‘armed struggle’?

Answer- No comments

Question #7- How exactly does UNSC Resolution 47 propose resolving the Kashmir issue?

Answer- The plan to resolve the Kashmir issue outlined in UNSC Resolution 47 (as mentioned in Wikipedia) has three steps:

  • In the first step, Pakistan was asked to use its “best endeavours” to secure the withdrawal of all tribesmen and Pakistani nationals, putting an end to the fighting in the state.
  • In the second step, India was asked to “progressively reduce” its forces to the minimum level required for keeping law and order. It laid down principles that India should follow in administering law and order in consultation with the Commission, using local personnel as far as possible.
  • In the third step, India was asked to ensure that all the major political parties were invited to participate in the state government at the ministerial level, essentially forming a coalition cabinet. India should then appoint a Plebiscite Administrator nominated by the United Nations, who would have a range of powers including powers to deal with the two countries and ensure a free and impartial plebiscite. Measures were to be taken to ensure the return of refugees, the release of all political prisoners, and for political freedom.

Question #8- If the process of plebiscite in Kashmir can only start once Pakistan takes the first step of withdrawing all its nationals from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK), then by asking New Delhi to implement UNSC Resolution 47 while doing nothing to ensure that Islamabad withdraws its forces from PaK isn’t the Hurriyat putting the cart before the horse?

Answer- No comments

Question #9- The Hurriyat maintains that UNSC resolutions give Kashmir the status of an internationally recognised dispute. Then why doesn’t it hold any seminars, discussions or debates on these resolutions to increase awareness both abroad as well as amongst the masses especially the youth in Kashmir?

Answer- No comments

Question #10- Having been passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, UNSC resolutions on Kashmir can only be resolved by the parties involved (India and Pakistan) and the UNSC has no powers to make these resolutions binding on India or enforce  them.  Therefore, by blaming the UN for non implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir aren’t both Pakistan and the Hurriyat misleading the people of Kashmir?

Answer- No comments

Question #11- It is an internationally accepted law that parties to a dispute don’t have any rights over an asset till the ownership of the same is disputed. Pakistan and the Hurriyat maintain that Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute. However, India doesn’t agree with this and contends that Pakistan ceding 1,924 square kilometers of land in Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to China under the Sino-Pakistan Agreement of 1963 proves that J&K is not disputed territory. Thus, when Pakistan permitted China to build the CPEC through the disputed territory of Kashmir for its own gains and once again ended up indirectly helping India and completely negating the Hurriyat’s contention of Kashmir being ‘disputed territory’, why didn’t the separatist conglomerate object?

Answer- No comments

Malik sahib, you must be wondering as to how a simple question-answer session can help in the formulation of alternatives that could prove to be more effective than the ‘shutdown strategy’. Sir, the answer is simple- once answers to replace those where the words ‘no comments’ appear are found then certain important issues that may have escaped notice and deliberations will emerge. And once you ponder upon these a much clearer picture of the internal and external factors that influence the ‘self determination’ issue will automatically emerge. This in turn will provide the basic framework to evolve more effective alternatives to the current ‘shutdown strategy’.

However, this won’t be an easy task because it would require a paradigm shift in deep rooted perceptions and taking some very tough decisions. However, since the people of Kashmir look up to the Hurriyat for deliverance I’m sure the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) will not let them down by shying away from changing their outlook and taking bold decisions wherever necessary. And George Bernard Shaw’s famous saying that “Those who cannot change themselves cannot change anything” should act as a source of inspiration for the JRL for rewriting the Hurriyat’s future strategy!

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