March 2006 News

Resolving the Kashmir issue - II

14 March 2006
The Daily Times
By Mubashir Hasan

Islamabad: By retaining the highly centralised and inflexible system of governance even after the British departed, the population of Kashmir has been alienated from the governments of India and Pakistan Any quantum of autonomy for Kashmir shall remain wanting unless the entire administrative powers, legislative, executive and judicial rests with the elected bodies of the people. Moreover, Pakistan and India should agree to give substantial budgetary support to the state government for a period of next 20 years The people of the state should also acquire the freedom to enter Pakistan and India without visa. Furthermore, the communication, transportation, educational and other infrastructural facilities of India and Pakistan should be made available to the people of the state without discriminative restrictions Indus waters: India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir may affirm the status and validity of Indus Basin Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan provided that the rights now exercised by India over river waters in the territory of the former state shall stand devolved to the state. Freedom to travel and trade: Any quantum of autonomy for the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall remain wanting if the people of the state do not acquire the freedom to enter Pakistan and India without visa. Conversely, the citizens of India and Pakistan should acquire the freedom of movement throughout the state. There will also have to be freedom of trade between the Sate of Jammu and Kashmir and the territories of India and Pakistan. The people of the state should be able to export and import from India and Pakistan without any restrictions, customs or other duties. Similarly, Pakistan and India should have freedom of trade with the state. The state under its new dispensation may exercise authority in establishing relations with other states in commerce and trade and other matters with the agreement of Pakistan and India. In any case once the citizens of Kashmir acquire the right of entry and of doing business in Pakistan as well as India as if they had the rights of citizens of India and Pakistan in their commercial relations with other countries, they will be in a position to enjoy all the benefits accruing to both the countries. Travel abroad: Passports issued by the State of Kashmir should be recognised by the international community by virtue of the agreement reached between India and Pakistan and accepted by the people as a result of the referendum. Similarly, visas issued by India and Pakistan to foreign nationals should be valid for the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Infrastructure: The communication, transportation, educational and other infrastructural facilities of India and Pakistan should be made available to the people of the state without discriminative restrictions. Currency: The currencies of Pakistan and India may be made legal tender throughout the former state. Extent of autonomy: Subject to the foregoing, the entire administrative powers, legislative, executive and judicial should rest with the elected bodies of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Special provisions: Pakistan and India should agree to give substantial budgetary support to the state government for a period of next 20 years. Gains for Kashmiris: By negotiating a solution of the Kashmir issue along the lines indicated heretofore, Kashmir becomes almost independent with a friendly India and a friendly Pakistan on its sides. The unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is restored. It acquires identity as an autonomous unit in South Asia. Its defence against China, India and Pakistan stands guaranteed without any budget expenditure on its part. The Kashmiris become almost citizens of three domains. Gains for Pakistan: Pakistan’s security is greatly enhanced. From the northern and central parts of the Line of Control Indian army positions move far away to the east. The need for defending the Line of Control along almost 800 kilometres ceases to exist. Pakistan’s defensive position at the Chinese border remains unchanged. Pakistan not only legally acquires certain aspects of sovereignty now available to it in the areas to the west of the LoC but also enhances its status in the areas to the east of the LoC. Pakistan’s right to travel and trade in the entire state and its right to defend the Khujrab border acquire legal sanction. Citizens of Pakistan become free to travel and trade in the areas of the state not hitherto accessible to them. Gains for India: India’s security concerns are well protected and its right to defend the Laddakh border remains intact. The need for defending the LoC along almost 800 kilometres ceases to exist. Citizens of India are free to travel and trade in the areas of the state not hitherto accessible to them. Gains for the region: The gains for Pakistan, India and Kashmiris will be true gain for South Asia and, indeed, for the whole world. The spectre of nuclear war will lift forever. The long term prospects of peace and prosperity will be greatly enhanced. The question of governance Imperialist mode of governance: In 1858, the Sovereign sitting at a distance of 8000 miles had devised an ironclad system to preclude a rebellion against the crown by people as well as by a governor-general or a commander-in-chief and towards that end had crafted a system of governance to prevent such a possibility. The system bestowed no executive or legislative power to governor-general, governors or commissioners. All executive power was vested in civil officers covenanted to serve under the secretary of state for India, a senior member of the British cabinet in London. The military officers were awarded Queen’s Commission swearing loyalty to the Crown. In this manner a self-acting, self-perpetuating, frame work of salaried officers was devised. The all embracing system of laws was aptly called a steel frame work as it allowed no political flexibility for adjustment with the passage of time. At the time of independence, with the departure of the British, the yoke of their system of governance should also have been to thrown away. That was not done as it most readily seemed to suit the new ruling elite. The overwhelming majority of the population remained outside the equation of governance as it was during the Raj. The structure of governance over India before independence was the principal instrument of our enslavement. It was a device to perpetrate imperial political and economic domination. It usurped political freedom of individuals and associations of individuals. It gave power to officers to rule over the populace as they thought fit in the interest of the Crown. It firmly maintained iniquitous property relations which perpetuated poverty and allowed transfer of Indian wealth abroad. It was the principal devise to implement the policies of ‘divide and rule’ nationalities, economic classes, communities, sects, ethnic groups and tribal societies. Imperialist governance retained: The British imperialists had to depart by the first half of the century. However, we retained their system of governance. By doing so we retained its oppressive content which had allowed a few in London to dominate the huge population of India through exercise of physical force. Today, six decades after independence, one hears exactly the same types of complaints from a large majority of the people of Pakistan especially in provinces of Sindh, Baluchistan and the North West Frontier. The situation in India is not much different qualitatively. In many ways, today, the imperialist system allows New Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka to inflict on majority of the people of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh injustice and oppression in their day to day existence. The violation of basic human rights is widespread. Just as the system had failed the British, it also manifestly failed the rulers of Pakistan by not letting the provinces to integrate as a strong federation. Just as it had alienated the people of India from the British, it alienated the people of the province of East Pakistan from the state of Pakistan and in a similar way it has alienated the populations of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir from the governments of India and Pakistan. The gora sahib having departed the old mode of governance served the brown sahibs extremely well. The prosperity and authority of the post-colonial ruling elites knows no bounds, albeit at the cost of the social contract between the state and the people as a whole. The interests of the crown have been replaced by the interests of the coteries of politicians and civil and military officers. Those at the helm of the affairs remain as ‘strangers’ to the people in general to use the term coined by Penderel Moon. Nature of oppression: What seems to oppress common man and woman most in the subcontinent is the discrimination the system of governance is able to maintain, against the spirit and letter of the law, between the rich and the poor and between officials and non officials. There is no way for the people to protect themselves against highhandedness of police, security forces, magistrates and revenue officials. Officers at district level and their subordinates continue to enjoy virtually the same powers under criminal procedure code and laws governing police, revenue, magistracy etc. In almost every way the machinery of the state is unable to implement on the ground the policies made at federal-union and state-provincial levels. The executive authority as exercised subsumes the spirit of democratic governance at state-provincial, district levels and below. The ability of the officers and officials exercising the powers of the state to benefit their persons through extortions from the public and looting the state treasury which generally goes under the title of ‘corruption’ is yet another malady gnawing at the vitals of the state. The distortion and defiance of laws, rules and regulations has become an industry in its own right for the benefit and profit of those are at the helm or are responsible for the running of the system of governance. Our political leaders have learnt little, if at all, about how we misgovern ourselves and what is wrong with our system of governance. Take the case of Bangladesh and Pakistan. In 1971, the leaders of the political parties of Pakistan had another chance after the 1971 war to usher an era of peace and prosperity in their lands. They failed to do so. Poverty and all the human miseries connected with it are still present. Social contract between the state and the people is conspicuous by its absence. No state can be a haven of peace and security without a firm social contract. The state has to serve the people and in so doing the people have to help the state. The case of India is not much different from that of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The assumption underlying the independence struggle that once the British sovereignty ends, all will be milk and honey, proved false. It was not enough to replace the parliament in London by parliaments in New Delhi and Islamabad. Something more than a mere transfer of state power at the helm was needed to give the subcontinent peace, tranquillity and prosperity. I was a participant in the negotiations in which the basic points of the constitution of Pakistan approved in 1973 were agreed to. In the negotiations held in the autumn of 1972 with President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the provinces of Balochistan, Frontier and Sindh were represented by experienced and highly respected political personages elected in 1970 to frame a new constitution for Pakistan. Several among them were veterans of the independence struggle as members of the Indian National Congress or its allied political parties. Present were governors and chief ministers of Balochistan and Frontier and they had access to all political, administrative and economic information to secure their cherished objective of provincial autonomy. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his political adviser Barrister Rafi Raza, Minister of Law Abdul Hafeez Pirzada and Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, all hailing from Sindh, were also ardent advocates for provincial autonomy. Together with the veteran leaders from the provinces of Balochistan and Frontier they reached consensus on the basic points of the new constitution fairly quickly. All sides were fully satisfied and passed the bill for a new constitution within a relatively short period of nine months. The contentious issue of provincial rights seemed resolved. In reality little stood resolved. No sooner than the constitution was unanimously approved in 1973, the elected provincial government of Balochistan was dismissed by the federal government at Islamabad. The government of the NWFP resigned under protest. Islamabad launched military action in Balochistan. The leaders who had agreed to a new dispensation which would allow the necessary provincial autonomy had hardy realised that what they had agreed to was the continuance of the same structure of governance that had existed earlier since the British days. However, they were in the distinguished company of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali Khan, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhai Patel who a quarter of a century earlier had thrown out the British but had retained the structure of governance that had initially made the British hold possible but ultimately aided its disaster. The British system miserably failed to rectify the grievances of the weak and downtrodden. Common man and woman at the lower levels of social and economic status longs for a government that provides security of life and property; dispenses justice; maintains schools and hospitals; provides jobs and increases incomes. In olden days when any of these basic requirements were not fulfilled, it was the Rajah who was blamed along with his ministers. Nowadays, the blame is showered on a wide spectrum of targets. A complex web of perceptions comes into being to explain the cause of deprivation at the level of individuals and groups. Along with the executive head of the government of the country and the ruling political party, the dominant ethnic group, religious community, racial, national and cultural identities are perceived to be the culprits. Long held inter-faith, inter-caste and above all nationalist prejudices get reinforced. Vested economic, political and communal interests make best of the situation. Populist orators, political demagogues have a field day. Corruption of local officials, highhandedness of police staff, absence of teachers from schools, doctors from hospitals, lack of medicines, hoarding by local traders, broken roads and bridges, drying pipelines of water and tripping electrical power-lines serve as grist to the mills of agitation and building of a variety of political movements. The principal reason why the blame of all shortcomings in administration, faulty implementation of government policies, manifest loot and plunder of the public and pilfering of state exchequer goes to the highest level lies in the highly centralised setup of the structure of governance. De-facto state protection is available to every culpable state functionary. Hundreds of thousands of government servants go unpunished for the violation of people’s right and crimes committed by them against the people. The state in the countries of the subcontinent is perceived to be the principal protector of all kinds of oppressors, law breakers and law benders. Prime ministers, chief ministers, ruling political parties, members of parliaments and state-provincial legislatures are blamed, not always wrongly, for all the irregularities, misdemeanours and offences committees by the officers in the field and their subordinates. Governments at the highest level get entangled in subduing demonstrations, agitations and movements by physical power often unnecessarily. Over time positions harden and permanent antagonisms get built up. So it has been for over a century. The highly centralised and inflexible system of governance has played a major role in the development of this unfortunate situation. It is largely avoidable and should be kept in mind during any search for a lasting solution of the Kashmir issue.

 

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