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Honouring a pledge

Dr Shabir Choudhry

‘I am ashamed to be a Pakistani’, one Pakistani educationalist, Imtiaz Ul Maqsood said, after he saw what Pakistani rulers did to Nawaz Sharif. He further said, ‘This is a slap in the face of a civil society, rule of law, democracy and the highest organ in any civilised society – Supreme Court’.

Imtiaz Ul Maqsood was part of a group of Pakistanis who came to see me in IKA London office. They came to discuss the Kashmir dispute and also to request me to abandon the idea of an independent Kashmir, as in their opinion it was not in the best interest of Muslims of South Asia, especially Pakistan. They tried to persuade me that first priority of Muslims of South Asia should be to ‘make Pakistan better’, and make it strong and safe. They said I should join a Pakistani party, preferably Imran Khan’s party as he has some good ideas and we should strengthen him by joining Tehrek E Insaf. And while discussing politics of Pakistan he expressed his strong views.

He was furious and deeply disappointed with the government of Pakistan, and said, ‘If a Pakistani citizen cannot return to his country, enjoy his freedom and serve his country, then what is the use of that country. What is use of that country where law is not enacted by the Supreme Court but by the whim of a dictator in uniform, who wants to rule the country at all costs and who forces institutions to make laws to suit him’.

Another Pakistani, Nadeem, presented a counter argument, and said this situation arose because Nawaz Sharif has not honoured his promise. As a Muslim Nawaz Sharif should have honoured his pledge made to honourable personality of a friendly country.

This argument further infuriated Imtiaz Ul Maqsod, ‘which pledge’, he retorted? The one which was made under duress? What is legal value of the pledge which is made when a gun is pointing to your head? Nawaz Sharif did what Islam tells Muslims to do, and that is to save your life if there is serious danger, and even allows you to eat pork to save your life’.

He said, ‘this pledge has no legal value, and Supreme Court has given a clear verdict on the matter. This is not a moral issue. Any promise made under duress is not valid. In any case what about the oath, which General Musharaf made in name of most holy and the highest authority - Almight Allah? Which pledge is more important, the one made under the shadow of gun or the one made in name of Almighty? What about the pledge the General made to the nation with no gun pointing at him that he will take off his uniform. Is that not a moral issue?

Another Pakistani, Dr Javed Akhtar said: ‘I feel very embarrassed and ashamed because of the irresponsible actions of the Pakistani government, which is a blatant violation of the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Musharaf government has demonstrated that they have no respect for law, fundamental rights of people of Pakistan and constitution’.

Dr Javed Akhtar clearly looked very distressed with the events related to Nawaz Sharif’s expulsion. He said, ‘Nawaz Shareef has been deported from Pakistan and again dictatorship and secret agencies have won the battle against rule of law. It is a black day in History of Pakistan. Animals in a jungle are more safer than people of Pakistan.’ He said we all have to work together to make Pakistan better that people get their fundamental rights and democracy, and if this military rule continue this way then my fear is that Pakistan might not survive as a nation state for too long.’

I appreciated their views and concerns and ensured that our well wishes are with the people of Pakistan, and we pray that they win their struggle against undemocratic forces and tyranny. Also I said, I sincerely wish that Pakistan survives as a nation state and emerge as a vibrant democratic and stable country, because it is vital for peace and stability of South Asia and perhaps entire Asia.

We need a stable and democratic Pakistan, which is at peace with itself and can live in peace with its neighbours. We have to remember that Pakistan is not only a nuclear state with tremendous potential and highly charged and emotional population, which is deeply divided on religious, sectarian, provincial and tribal lines; but also geographically situated in very important place.

Apart from that Pakistani society is going through a transition. Decades of wrong policies, undemocratic rule and religious hype have transformed the society in to hostile camps. The situation has been made from bad to worse with the present government. The government officials and their supporters claim that they are sincere and want to transform the society by ‘enlightened moderation’, but their recipe is wrong even if they are sincere. A person could be sincere in his attempts to put off flames, but if he is using petrol instead of water, of course he will cause devastation.

I expressed my agreement that General Musharaf should have fulfilled his pledges, and that he should not ruin Pakistan by clinging to power at all costs. But both India and Pakistan also made pledges to us Kashmiris. India pledged to protect life, property and honour of the Kashmiri people in 1947. We were also assured that we would have an opportunity to determine our future. We all know what happened to those pledges, and how our lives, property and honour were trampled.

Similarly Pakistan also made some pledges, and still claims to be well-wisher and big brother of the Kashmiri people. No doubt Pakistan is bigger than us in geography and strength, but Pakistani history and culture is only sixty years old; and if we compare Kashmiri history and culture with that of what we have seen in Pakistan then we are much greater, much older, more tolerant and more civilised nation, although we are occupied, oppressed and forcibly divided; and this affects the character of people.

If Pakistani governments had fulfilled their pledges and sincerely supported Kashmiri peoples unfettered right of self - determination, rather than converting it to right of accession then perhaps people of Kashmir would have been free of oppression and independent by now. I said how do you expect us Kashmiris to join Pakistan when the situation of Pakistan is the one which you have just explained, and even you feel ashamed to be called a Pakistani.

Normally Pakistani brothers don’t hesitate to criticise their governments and come out with very valid and logical points, but when a non - Pakistani, especially a Kashmiri criticises follies of Pakistani governments, it triggers off their sleeping nationalism. But luckily it didn’t happen, although I noticed some resentment on some faces.

However Dr Javed Akhtar accepted my criticism with smile and acknowledged that various Pakistanis governments have let down people of Kashmir, and that they need to make Pakistan better and so attractive that Kashmiri people should request to become part of Pakistan. He agreed that under the prevailing situation there is no attraction for the people of Kashmir to join Pakistan; but this doesn’t mean that they should have their own way. We all have to work as a team to make Pakistan better and then within Pakistan give Kashmir some autonomy, he says. We cannot abandon Kashmir, it is too important to us.

I thought we were back to square one. These Pakistani brothers don’t want to abandon their demand for Kashmir even when future of their own country is very bleak. They have not learnt anything from their past mistakes. In my opinion they should get their priorities right: first honour pledges given to people of Pakistan including people of FATA, forget differences, get rid off the military rule, restore democracy and rule of law, and provide autonomy to the provinces promised in the 1973 constitution.

Once Pakistan emerges as a stable, democratic and flourishing country then it might appeal the people of Kashmir. What they have seen of Pakistan so far they are not interested in joining Pakistan and every survey clearly indicates that, and anyone who tells you contrary to this is either fooling you or he likes the privileges you provide him. He tells you what you like to hear even though it is not true. It is time to wake up and face ground realities.

(The Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He can be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com)

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