The article published on Wande Magazine titled ‘Does Pakistan want an Independent Kashmir’ was mostly dismissed rather than discussed by social media users in Kashmir. In this piece, I won’t discuss the article but will present the case and arguments for independent Kashmir arguing that the idea of independent Kashmir exists and has been part of our beleaguered history.
On 12 September 2010, the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune published a news item declaring that “two-thirds in Indian Kashmir want Independence,” meaning that nearly 66% of people want to be part of an independent Kashmir. Another survey carried out by the prestigious Kings College London showed that 70 percent people in Kashmir want to remain independent. People in Kashmir have given their lives and limbs for the idea of independent Kashmir, and the founding father of independent Kashmir Mohammad Maqbool Bhat gave his life for the freedom of his motherland. Maqbool Bhat’s two other brothers died for their motherland too. No other leader of his stature has been hanged and not many leaders come close to the sacrifice given by Maqbool Bhat for his motherland.
Pakistan has no doubt always supported Kashmir’s struggle for the right to self-determination politically, morally, and diplomatically. The pro-Pakistan sentiment in Kashmir has always been strong and people have died for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. We still see Kashmiri rebels’ bodies wrapped in Pakistani flags and that is a clear marker of the sentiment of the people. However, people have died for Azadi too. Today we can say Kashmir hearts beat for Azadi even more than they were before and younger people are more and more attracted towards the idea and romanticism of Azadi.
The evolution of these two political sentiments can be traced out from 1947 only. The dispute of Kashmir has its genesis in the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. At this point, only pro-Pakistan sentiment existed in Kashmir. The idea of independence was only thought the by Maharaja of Kashmir because he wanted to keep his fiefdom. After the India-Pakistan war of 1947-48, the prestigious The Economist London reported in 1949 that, “the whole world can see that India, which claims the support of the majority (of the Kashmir people) has been obstructing the holding of an internationally supervised plebiscite. From this, the world opinion can only conclude that India has really no confidence that the vote can go in its favour”. This was 1949 and seven decades after India still doesn’t have the confidence to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir.
It can very well be said that till 1960’s there existed only one trajectory of political narrative in Kashmir: either merger with Pakistan or autonomy within India. In the early sixties, Kashmir Independence Committee was formed with Abdul Khaliq Ansari as head and Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, Amanullah Khan, and others as core members. The committee had only one goal – Independent Kashmir. Kashmir Independence Committee is the mother organization of many political organizations like Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Mahaz e Azadi etc. At this time, some Pakistani leaders labeled the Kashmiri activists who were calling for an independent Kashmir as Indian agents, which was proven wrong by the hanging of Maqbool Bhat. The activists who stood for Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan have also praised the pro-Independence activists. A pro-Pakistan activist, writer, and author retired Chief Justice of Azad Kashmir in his book Kashmir Fights For Freedom (page no 1377) writes that “Maqbool Bhat is a revolutionary of a higher order than Bhagat Singh and Ashfaq Majid Wani. Maqbool was a double graduate. He was the news editor of daily Anjam and daily Bang E Haram as well as news editor of the English weekly Khyber Mail Peshawar. He plunged into politics but not the politics of power but that of service and sacrifice. The Ganga tribunal headed by Mr Yaqub Ali, later chief justice of High Court has testified that Maqbool’s family of wife and three children lived on a miserable pittance while he was under death sentence in Srinagar with Rs. 200 made available by the rich worker Sidiq Baba.”
The question that arises here is that why the idea of independent Kashmir came into existence when pro-Pakistan sentiment was already strong? What were the reasons for its emergence?
One of the main reasons was the wrong policy of Pakistani leaders towards Kashmir. Sardar Shoukat Hayat Khan, who was operations head of Pakistan’s army on Kashmir during tribal invasion, writes in his book The Nation That Lost Its Soul that Mountbatten had relayed Indian Home Minister’s message to the Pakistani Prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan conveying that “Pakistan could take Kashmir and let Hyderabad go” to which Liaqat Ali Khan had replied to Sardar Patel, “Have I gone mad to give Hyderabad, which is bigger than Punjab, for the sake of rocks of Kashmir”. This was the first betrayal for Kashmiris. Had Liaqat Ali Khan accepted the offer at that time there would have been no Kashmir dispute as such, as by the logic of partition Kashmir belonged to Pakistan, as it was a Muslim majority region. Dr. Illahi Baksh, who was Quadi Azam’s personal doctor, writes in his book With The Quadi Azam in his Last Days that Liaqat Ali Khan had not sent the Kashmir Papers to Quadi Azam. In the manuscript My Brother by Fatima Jinnah (National Archives Islamabad) she writes “Liaqat Ali Khan had changed Kashmir papers and warned Dr Baksh not to reveal it to anyone. Later Baksh was found dead in Rawalpindi.” This clearly shows the betrayal of Liaqat Ali Khan towards Kashmir.
From time to time, Pakistani leaders have said, “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan”. Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto in one of his first political rally said, “Kashmir will become Pakistan”. Other than these statements, which are always made during the election time or to win Pakistani people’s support, Pakistan hasn’t had a solid Kashmir policy and surely and rightly, Kashmiris are feeling a sense of desertion.
In 2002 Jammu Kashmri National Liberation Front (JKNLF), headed by Shoukat Maqbool Bhat son of Mohammad Maqbool Bhat decided to contest elections in Azad Kashmir but the Pakistani authorities didn’t allow it. They were arrested and not allowed to contest elections, as they didn’t sign the election document in which it was mandatory to declare and write that candidates stand for Kashmir’s complete accession of Pakistan. This clearly shows the Pakistani state’s policy towards Kashmir.
Another instance when Pakistan betrayed Kashmiris was during the Shimla agreement between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, which effectively laid down that Kashmir's fate, would be decided without their consultations. How can two sovereign nations decide the fate of an occupied people without them?
The most fundamental issue at stake is the aspirations of Kashmiri people, which have been ignored since 1947. What Kashmiri people want is that both the nations should respect their political aspirations, as they are main stakeholders; whether they want to merge with Pakistan or remain independent or continue with the status quo.♦
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wande Magazine.