Imran Khan Contradicts Own Stand On Kashmir

Imran Khan Contradicts Own Stand On Kashmir

29 April 2012
India Today
Naseer Ganai

Srinagar: His traction on Kashmir oscillates like the intimidating bouncers he bowled during some of cricket's epic battles between India and Pakistan. But Imran Khan, cricket icon and 'PM-aspirant' of Pakistan, has learnt the tricks of his nation's volatile politics vis- -vis India - never let the sensitive and dreaded K-word down. Like most politicians in Pakistan, he now knows the significance of the Kashmir 'dispute' that has defined relations between his country and India since the British left the sub-continent. This came to the fore when Imran, the Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief whose political rallies have been drawing 100,000-plus supporters, gave an audience to Srinagar-based Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik in Islamabad on Saturday. 'Interesting meet with Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik. Discussed ongoing peaceful uprising in Occ Kashmir & continuing suffering of Kashmiris,' Khan tweeted after the meeting. 'Peaceful res (resolution) of Kashmir dispute central to stable peace. We simply can't ignore or put on backburner suffering of Kashmiris' gen (generation) after gen,' his second tweet says. This was in stark contrast to his remarks in November last year, when in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN he admitted that he subscribes to the Asif Ali Zardari-Yousaf Raza Gilani doctrine of putting Kashmir on the backburner, waiting for a later, wiser generation to sort it out. Though he called Kashmir 'the only issue' between India and Pakistan, his position remained unclear. How would he approach the Kashmir controversy if it's urgent for him but should be dealt with by someone else later? Like a political novice, he then made a statement that no Pakistani leader has ever made: 'I no longer consider it (Kashmir) to be some sort of a territorial dispute. I think it's more of a human rights issue now.' His stand in November contradicted his attitude two months later in January when he attended a lunch hosted by the Indian business glitterati on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos. 'You can't put Kashmir on the backburner and talk about trade ties. One event like Mumbai (26-11) happens and we're back to square one,' he said in Davos, which he instinctively used to catapult himself as a politician on the world forum. Later in March, Imran tried to smoke the peace pipe again with India. He told Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Sharat Sabharwal, that the Kashmir issue couldn't be ignored. 'Totally new thinking is required to move forward since war is not a viable option for India and Pakistan, but Kashmir cannot be put on the backburner. We need a roadmap that will help disarm the militants and help reduce the Indian military presence in Kashmir,' he said. His perplexing Kashmir remarks swung more than the swing he could generate with the ball during his cricketing heydays. Imran has been playing Jekyl and Hyde all along on Kashmir, depending on the situation he was in. His November remarks suited the Indians, though separatist leaders in Kashmir condemned him, while the hawkish political thinkers in his nation booed him for being an apprentice in politics. In October last year, he made the mullahs happy when he uttered the K-word, the way they like to hear it, while addressing a 'tsunami' of supporters. He asked New Delhi to withdraw its military from Kashmir and give the people their right to self-determination. He said no power could ever control people through an army. On Saturday, however, he said peaceful resolution of Kashmir was central to 'stable peace'. JKLF sources said Malik briefed him during a two-and-a-half-hour meeting about the political situation in Kashmir and requested him to play his role in 'settling the long-pending issue'. Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A.S. Dulat, who is a strategic expert on Kashmir, said Imran's 'tweets' were welltimed as they come a day after UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon's statement in New Delhi that India and Pakistan should continue with the efforts to resolve their differences. 'Imran said in a TV interview that the Kashmir issue could be put on the backburner. This surprised many people in Pakistan who thought that he was a political novice and would regret his words one day. Now, Imran is just correcting himself by saying that Kashmir cannot be put on the backburner. It is a political statement and comes at the time when Yasin Malik has met him,' Dulat said. Former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai said India should ignore Imran's statement. 'I think trade and visa issues between India and Pakistan are improving and trust deficit is narrowing. Gradually the political situation will also improve. The statement from Imran on Kashmir is all part of the ups and downs of Pakistan politics. They have different statements for different constituencies,' Pillai said. Sources in the government said Imran should refrain from commenting on India's internal matters - Jammu and Kashmir.