BY: |Hamid Mir|

Two important points, made by two important personalities in a very important conference. The first one came from former President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, who said: God willing, we will see Kashmir being liberated in our lifetime.

Second one came from the elected Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider, who said in a sad tone: The harm caused by former dictator Pervez Musharraf to Kashmir cause perhaps even eclipses harm caused by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These important points were raised on a platform where, after a long interval, important political and religious parties were present to debate and ponder upon the Kashmir issue.

This All Parties Consultative Conference (APC) was organised by, Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader, Maulana Fazalur Rehman. Sitting on his right were Chairman of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Senator Raja Zafarul Haq and Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider; And sitting on his left were former President, Asif Ali Zardari and President Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Masood Khan.

The absence of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the ruling party who also has government in two other provinces, was in bad taste, but nevertheless they were represented by Federal Minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, who belongs to MQM-Pakistan and his party is in a coalition with PTI in the centre, along with Amir Khan, also from MQM. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s another coalition partner, Balochistan Awami Party’s (BAP), was being represented by Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, who vehemently supported the plight of Kashmiris.

The harm caused by former dictator Pervez Musharraf to Kashmir cause perhaps even eclipses harm caused by current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The most significant aspect of the conference was the presence of leaderships from both Indian occupied and Azad Kashmir. Representing the oppressed people of occupied Kashmir, Syed Yousuf Naseem bared his battered and bruised heart to the people of Islamabad, which was full of love for Pakistan. Leaders representing Azad Kashmir, from Raja Farooq Haider to Abdul Rasheed Turabi, all spoke in unison that they only want resolution of Kashmir conflict in light of the UN resolutions, and if someone tried to implement an ‘out of the box’ solution to the problem, they will be violating article 257 of Pakistan’s constitution and such solutions will not be acceptable to the people of Azad Kashmir.

In the conference Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahl-e-Hadith and Shiite scholars, representing different schools of Islamic thought, were also present and seated together. Chairman Tehreek-e-Islami and Shia Ulema Council, Allama Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi said the struggle and sacrifice of the Kashmiris had erased sectarianism from our ranks today and we Pakistanis now needed to start an active and united movement in support of the Kashmiri people. Maulana Fazalur Rehman had previously also arranged an All Parties Conference regarding Kashmir two years ago when he was the Chairman of Parliament’s Kashmir Committee.

Although he is not a member of the Parliament anymore but a few days before Kashmir Solidarity Day, not only did he invite political and religious parties, but also invited representatives of proscribed or banned outfits, who arent usually invited to such gatherings where leadership of mainstream parties like PPP & PML-N are present. But in this conference Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Liaquat Baloch, Sajid Naqvi, Raja Zafarul Haq, Central Representative of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) Ameer Hamza, Leader of Ansar-ul-Umma (AuU & HuM) Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz from Jamiat-e-Ulema Samiulhaq (JUI-S) were all seated at the same table.

It seemed as if Maulana Fazalul Rehman was trying to bridge the gap between national political parties and proscribed outfits. When Asif Ali Zardari said that God Willing Kashmir will be liberated in our lifetime, a few Ulema (Islamic scholars) glared at him in surprise but Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Chinyoti seated next to me said, God Willing. A few people may consider Mr Zardari’s statement as a political one and dismiss it, but ask the importance of these words from those who are busy shouldering dead bodies and coffins daily, burying them draped in the national flag of Pakistan.

Asif Ali Zardari said that God Willing Kashmir will be liberated in our lifetime

Vice-Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council, Kamran Murtaza informed the conference that the government had decided to install former speaker of National Assembly, Syed Fakhar Imam, as the new chairman of the Parliaments Kashmir Committee. Many attendees expressed their surprise at Fakhar Imams name.

Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani’s son and MMA’s secretary of Information, Shah Owais Noorani, during his speech said that the appointment of Fakhar Imam shows the reckless attitude of a reckless government towards the Kashmir cause, because Fakhar Imam has never been associated with Kashmir issue and has never attended any conferences on the matter.

Jamat-e-Islami’s Liaquat Baloch also termed the government’s Kashmir policy as non-serious. Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir said that Senator Sherry Rehman or Senator Raja Zafarul Haq would have been more appropriate for this position. Speakers at the conference kept remembering Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Qazi Hussain Ahmed for their superhuman effort in highlighting the Kashmir cause internationally.

Some speakers hinted in code words while others openly expressed their reservations about some back channels still trying to negotiate Musharraf’s four-point formula, which at the time was rejected by Kashmiri leadership on both sides of the border. The president of AJK, Masood Khan, who is also a former ambassador, made it clear that Musharraf’s formula or any similar formula, whose prime objective is to abandon Kashmiris demand for freedom and turning Line of Control (LOC) into permanent border, is absolutely unacceptable to the Kashmiris.

Pakistan’s ruling elite should pay heed to the words of Prime Minister and President of AJK. No one can deny the historical fact that military dictators have always done more harm than good for the Kashmiri people and dastardly Indian leadership becomes hand in glove with these Pakistani dictators to fool the innocent and gullible Kashmiris.

Now, Imran Khan has been told to wait-out the general elections in India, let BJP win these elections, let Modi become the Prime Minister again and then resolve the Kashmir dispute with the same Modi. The logic behind this suggestion is that Modi himself is a staunch Hindu fundamentalist and those who oppose dialogue with Pakistan can only be staved off by someone like Modi, but will Modi ever agree to a resolution of Kashmir conflict that will enlighten the Kashmiri faces with a smile?

Maulana Fazalur Rehman, by calling this consultative APC on the 3rd of February, just a day before Modi’s visit to Srinagar, has not only supported call for a general strike on his visit, but has also planned to keep a close eye on Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir issue, post Indian General Elections.

Pakistan’s ruling elite should remember that Kashmiris have thrown India out of their hearts and minds, they have achieved mental freedom and now they only await physical freedom. Their minds are made and decision is final, now a declaration is all that is pending. Hence, no Musharraf formula from backdoor channels would work and trying any such formulas will only garner Pakistan humiliation for itself.