On Pakistan's Claim to Represent People of Kashmir

By Balraj Puri
October 1998

Pakistan's claim that it "is in fact negotiating with India on behalf of the people of Kashmir" has understandably not been welcomed by them. Its Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed, who made this claim, on the eve of his talks with his counterpart in India, has been challenged even by anti-Indian groups in the state.

The All Party Hurriyat Conference, the biggest congimerate of 23 secessionist groups, while conceding that Pakistan was a party to the Kashmir dispute, asserted that "the case of Kashmir people could only be represented by its true representatives". Another senior secessionist leader Shabir Shah, who after parting company with Hurriyat had recently floated Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party advised Pakistan to refrain from deciding on behalf of Kashmiris as it had no locus standing to do so. "We are mature and sensible enough to speak on our behalf and are the final deciding factor when the question of dispensation of Kashmir comes," added Shah.

London based Shabir Chowdhary, senior JKLF(Yasin faction) leader and head of its diplomatic mission echoed similar sentiments and described Pakistan's role in Kashmir as that of an occupier. Reiterating Hurriyat's stand, its chairman, Sayed Ali Shah Geelani, who is also a senior leader of the Jamait-i-Islami in the State, referred to Pakistan Foreign Secretary's statement and said "we have not given such right to any country". He, however, wanted representatives of only pro-freedom people of Jammu and Kashmir to be involved in the Indo-Pak talks. National Conference, Congress, Janta Dal and Communist parties were, according to him, not entitled to be invited in the talks, as they considered the state to be a part of India and as such were represented by the government of India. But Pakistan's claim to represent the people of state makes no such exception of any community including Hindus and Buddhists, or of any party, including BJP.

If Gilani's argument is accepted it should also applied to those who on either side of the LoC are in favour of the state's accession to Pakistan who should be debarred from being represented in the talks on Kashmir dispute as they were represented by the government of Pakistan.

He either does not want to extend the logic of his stand to cover pro-Pak people of does not consider himself to be among them; even though he considers Pakistan as our Patren.

Whatever be the respective strength of pro-India, pro-Pakistan and pro-freedom people in the state and whether on not Gilani is in favour of increasing representatives of pro-Pak people in the talks on Kashmir, it is obvious that an overwhelming part of the people of the state do not endorse Pakistan's claim to represent their case in its negotiations with India.

Initially Pakistan did support the azadi movement in Kashmir but gradually shifted its support to pro-Pak militant outfits till its High Commissioner in New Delhi bluntly told the Hurriyat leaders in July las that henceforth those among the secessionists who were demanding independence for the state should not expect support from it. The choice for the Kashmiris is accession to either Pakistan or India. The High Commissioner dismissed the protest of agitated JKLF leader Yasin Malik that it would be difficult for them to tell the people of Kashmir that azadi was ruled out after sacrificing the lives of 70,000 Kashmiri Youth. Whom does Pakistan then represent?

India is certainly over touchy when it protest against any reference to Kashmir as dispute by anybody. It takes two to create a dispute. It remains a dispute as long as one of them insists on it. India therefore must accept the reality of the dispute and show its earnestness to discuss and resolve the Kashmir issue and the interest of the people of the disputed state.

But Pakistan's latest claim is far too presumptuous to be of much help in making any headway in its talks with India. It has not only disappointed those sections of population of the state who had been banking on its support to get 'azadi' but also all those who ardently believed in Indo-Pak friendship.

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