Revisiting Kashmir Stance
26 June 2005
Lahore: THE Kashmir Committee's unanimous decision that Mr Aziz be requested for a briefing on the government's Kashmir policy has come at an important time and is appreciated. Considering recent events, one has to agree with the committee members that the fallout of options entertained by the government at various levels has created a level of uncertainty about the path towards a solution. Apparently the committee, headed by Mr Hamid Nasir Chattha, has also taken note of the lack of unanimity among the APHC factions. With the start of the Pakistan-India peace process 18 months ago, hopes were raised that perhaps the two sides had realised the importance of making progress on the Kashmir issue. However, with time, it is turning out that while the effort is lauded, the Pakistani government does not see the process take the direction it had hoped for at that stage. Pakistan has clearly been much more accommodating than India, and furthermore, its efforts in rightly underlining the importance of including the Kashmiris in the negotiation process has inadvertently caused confusion. During their recent visit, Kashmiri moderate separatists belonging predominantly to the APHC raised many eyebrows in Pakistan by suggesting that holding the UN mandated plebiscite may not be the most desirable path the peace process can take. The Kashmir Committee has taken strong note of this strange development, and correctly stressed the need for Pakistan to remain committed to its long held and principled position in favour of the UN resolutions. It is for the Indian side now to exhibit a degree of flexibility similar to the one extended by Islamabad. The Pakistani government cannot be blamed for whatever confusion has occurred on both sides of the border, following the APHC leadership's visit to Pakistan. The strong desire in Islamabad to include the Kashmiris is a reflection of its sincerity to the process, since it would make little sense in trying to make progress without catering to the interests of the most affected party. The Pakistani leadership should take this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the Kashmiri people, and remove any confusion that surrounds its stance about the future of the disputed territory and its oppressed people.