Some moderate leaders of a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC] — an amalgam of various political and social organisations favouring ‘palatable’ resolution to the Kashmir issue — are making claims like they will be visiting Pakistan “as owners and not slaves” and “will talk business there”, but some keen Kashmir watchers are not sounding as sanguinely hopeful about the outcome of such an exercise and perceive it as “remote controlled”. The delegation of the APHC [M] led by Kashmir’s head priest, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, is visiting Pakistan later this year where it is scheduled to hold talks on Kashmir with country’s top leadership.
Pakistan has extended an invitation to Hurriyat’s top brass to visit the country this month. The issue of Kashmir may indeed be popular, but listing it as the “core issue” in any negotiations with India after 2008 Mumbai terror attacks does not suit Pakistan by any stretch. Kashmir is no more a priority for Pakistan. Pakistan government remained over cautious when Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of Mumbai attacks, was secretly hanged in Pune, India.
It seems that both India and Pakistan have learned to move forward with time. Pakistan has its own set of problems ranging from worsening security situation to economic instability. Country’s Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar is on record saying that Pakistan was more concerned “what is in the long-term and medium-term interest than what is more popular”. This she told the Aljazeera Television in August.
Presently, the Mirwaiz camp is busy holding consultations in a phased manner with members of civil society, journalists, lawyers and traders in the Kashmir Valley to get feedback on its upcoming visit to Pakistan. But deep fissures within the moderate Hurriyat are perhaps its worst kept secret. Senior leaders like Shabir Shah and Nayeem Khan have overtly expressed their displeasure over the “dictatorial” functioning of Mirwaiz Hurriyat’s executive council on many previous occasions.
On the other hand, Kashmir experts believe that such visits by the Hurriyat only suit India and Pakistan but bring nothing for Kashmir.
Is this proposed visit by the Hurriyat “business as usual” or there is something more to it?
Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches international law at the Central University of Kashmir, believes that Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat faction easily gets ready to act as “facilitator” irrespective of whether its decision is being in line with aspirations and interests of Kashmiris.
“Moderates act as proxy of Pakistan and Indian political establishment and are ever ready to be the facilitators,” Dr. Showkat wrote in his e-mailed response to my questionnaire. “Eventually what happens is that actually moderates get marginalized in Kashmir through such acts, and are being viewed as controlled by Indo-Pak remote control,” he adds.
Senior journalist Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor too shares this perspective to a certain degree. “Well, I think the visit comes with ‘Ashirvad’ [the blessing] of India. Also, the home work done by both India and Pakistan is to convince the moderate Hurriyat leaders to join the mainstream politics so that pre-1953 status of Kashmir can be negotiated with all the major stakeholders. This perhaps sets the tone for upcoming elections in both these countries,” the veteran broadcaster opined in her response.
Many Kashmir observers think this way and some argue that Hurriyat’s visit to neighbouring Pakistan will be sold by the governments in India and Pakistan to their respective constituencies during election time. “Since both India and Pakistan are going for parliamentary elections they want to sell some thing to their constituencies and moderates remain ready facilitators,” feels Dr. Showkat, Associate Professor at the University.
Bashir Manzar, one of the senior political analysts in Kashmir, also does not think the Hurriyat trip will achieve anything significant. “I don't see much happening. This is not the first such visit. More important, what these guys are going to discuss with Pak leadership? To India they ask revoke AFSPA, release prisoners, demilitarize, etc. What are they going to ask Pakistan? They have been drumming all the time that Pakistan is extending moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmir movement, what else they expect from that country? Yes, their visit will help the Pakistan Peoples’ Party [PPP] to make some noise on Kashmir ahead of forthcoming elections there,” Manzar, editor-in-chief of a local English daily.
However, the main opposition in Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Democratic Party [PDP] led by Mehbooba Mufti is sounding cautious on Hurriyat’s upcoming trip. Naeem Akhtar, the chief spokesperson of the pro-India PDP, believes consultation is the only way forward. “Right or wrong, consultation is the only way. There are no other options,” says Akhtar.