PUCL Bulletin, March 2002

Disperse the War Clouds

By Rajindar Sachar

Pervez Musharraf's speech of January 12, 2002 must be analysed separately from the domestic/international angle and from the Kashmir angle. So far as the former was concerned, it was the most blunt, unambiguous declaration against religious extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. He minced no words in attacking madrasas and expressing a determination to put an end to this evil.
Gen. Musharraf has distanced himself completely form the extremists by categorically stating that no group could expect state aid for its violent acts by merely invoking the emotive slogan of jihad. It is easy in India to be skeptical. But that would be to misread the dynamics of events, because since the time Gen. Musharraf was compelled under U.S. pressure to disown the Taliban, he had become persona non grata with the extremists. His present stand is born out of the necessity, for his political survival, to expand his support base to the middle class, the intellectuals, the media and the academicians of course after having made certain of the backing of the army.

Regarding Kashmir, Gen. Musharraf was forthright in assuring that no individual or organisation would be allowed to indulge in acts of terrorism in the name of 'Kashmir'. But, he also reiterated his determination that "Pakistan will continue its moral and political support to Kashmir". But it would be wrong to treat it as spelling out permanent hostility. Surely, we did not expect him to say the Kashmir issue was over? He has, in fact, travelled quite a distance when declaring that violence and material support to militants would not be available. Surely this stand must act as a big damper to the militants in the valley, who had deluded themselves that Pakistan at some time or the other could even interfere militarily. Let us not get upset over his hyperbole that the "Kashmir cause runs in the blood of every Pakistani and that no Pakistani could break relations with Kashmir"? We need only to remind Gen. Musharraf gently that the sentiments in India regarding Kashmir are identical - nay more - and that blood may not have flowed at all if Pakistan had not rashly sent tribals in 1947 to loot, dishonour and capture the Valley. But Pakistan did and Indian blood flowed heavily, and the bravery of Indian officer Abdul Majid, first recipient of the highest gallantry award, Param Vir Chakra, who gave his blood to prevent Kashmir from being taken away from India, is part of the folklore inspiring the youth of India. And 1965, 1971 and Kargil only heightened the sacrifice. Both the countries need to remember this reality. It was probably with this realisation that Pandit Nehru in 1963 and Indira Gandhi in 1971 agreed to the LoC being converted into the international boundary; even Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had agreed but having got a breather in the form of the release of 93,000 prisoners of war chose to repudiate it. Now, in the wake of the U.S. war against Afghanistan and with Pakistan caught on the wrong foot, India's political leadership is unwisely hesitant to talk of this only option capable of putting India-Pakistan relations on an even keel. The BJP feels its macho posture will help it in the Uttar Pradesh elections; naturally other political parties find it politically risky to differ too much. The insistence by our politicians that the old Parliament Resolution laying claim to PoK was inviolable would be a provocative boast when they fully know its impracticability. But then probably we cannot expect political leaders to take any other position during the electoral fever. I hope Gen. Musharraf will understand the short-term compulsions of political democracy unlike that of a military ruler and let this small gap of time elapse before expecting any progress towards a dialogue.
Gen. Musharraf's unseemly appeal to the U.S. to intervene was bound to be rejected by India. The U.S. has already floated the plan for trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir in which the Valley will be given near-sovereignty with international guarantees (read under the U.S. sphere of influence). This is a dangerous move striking at the roots of our secular republic and can never be accepted.

Gen. Musharraf needs to be firmly told that bilateralism is the key to resolving India-Pakistan problems. The General need not call upon the U.S. to speak out the human rights excesses in Jammu and Kashmir. There are enough human rights organisations such as PUCL which have shown sensitivity on the issue of excesses both by the militants and the Government, just as in Pakistan the NGOs have been exposing the excesses by security agencies in various parts of that country, including Sindh. Such a statement was a churlish act which can only vitiate the atmosphere.

Gen. Musharraf should have left out the U.S. which has much to defend itself on human rights abuses against Asians, Arabs, and its own African-American citizens. Gen. Musharraf may be legally and technically correct in his hesitation on the issue of Pakistanis accused of terrorism in the Indian list. But is it not somewhat curious that Pakistan should have handed over without any protest the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan to the U.S. rather than to Afghanistan. Pakistan can, however, defuse the situation by agreeing to hand over Indian nationals such as Dawood and others.

A reference to the will of the people of Kashmir poses no problem as India has always so maintained. Gen. Musharraf's reference, however, to U.N. resolutions and by inference plebiscite is flogging a dead horse. It is unnecessary to go into the legality of it but if technically is the test then the whole of Kashmir stood acceded legally to India in 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession.

I believe the Government of India is being remiss in not following up on its announcement of talks with various groups of Jammu and Kashmir. The Hurriyat Conference now must show practical wisdom. The coming elections in Jammu and Kashmir are of crucial importance. The Hurriyat Conference can redeem its claim only by participating alongwith other parties. It is only then that a winning party will truly have the people's mandate to which the Central Government can then concede the maximum of autonomy excepting Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and Currency. I hope Pakistan will reciprocate in identical measure to PoK.

Of Course, it has to be ensured that the elections are "free and fair" as announced by the Prime Minister. If, unfortunately, this time any doubt is cast on the elections, the situation will become impossible to remedy. Thus, it is essential that the elections are overseen by NGO observers, free from control of the Election Commission or the Government of India. The Hurriyat Conference demand for U.N. supervision is impossible for any sovereign nation to concede.

I would even welcome NGO representatives from the SAARC countries being permitted to oversee the elections. Also the presence of the international media and TV should be freely allowed. We should leave no stone unturned to prove the fairness of the elections because any doubts on this count would permanently alienate the people of the Valley.

To ease the tension, the Governments of India and Pakistan should withdraw the anti-people measures of stoppages of bus/train/air services and the ban on TV channels. All these are ultimately uses of human rights. In the context of the introduction of the common euro currency amongst the bitterest of enemies of Europe, is there any reason why two temporarily estranged families sharing a common culture and history of hundreds of years should stand on the brink of confrontation? I can find none. (The writer is former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court)

Home | Index