Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, appeared in Bol News’ Real Politics and shared his thoughts on key issues confronting Indian-occupied Kashmir. Narratives presents some excerpts from his wide-ranging discussion
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah referred to Kashmir as Pakistan’s aorta. It’s such an all-inclusive, such a comprehensive statement that he made no bones about it.
First, we must understand that in calling Kashmir Pakistan’s aorta, the Quaid-e-Azam made it very clear that the path to Pakistan’s life and death goes through Kashmir. And that includes the economy, defence, and other matters. So, let’s not get into further detail and leave the matter here.
Quaid-e-Azam said you can do without your legs, arms, nose, ears, and can also have your kidney transplanted, but you cannot live without your aorta.
With time, we have seen that India buckled under pressure on the water issue and its aggression has come to light. Now the question is, what should we do? We should take a step in that direction and begin acting on Quaid-e-Azam’s sayings on Kashmir; assess Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir, which has nothing to do with triumph or defeat.
It logically states that Kashmir is a natural part of Pakistan. If you carefully observe it, you will realise that politically, geographically, based on the principles of the division of India and based on the proportion of the population, Kashmir has nothing to do with India.
Guarding this aorta has its requirements. Is any opinion-making in progress at home on the issue of Kashmir? No, it’s not. Have we ever found any one of the many retired or serving people talk on the issue? Nobody. Why are we not willing to educate our students, teachers, opinion-makers, columnists, writers and media personnel on Kashmir?
Why don’t we conduct lectures in every department of international relations on the issue of Kashmir? We will find very rare apologetic, defeatist statements of our politicians on Kashmir, barring the fact that the army studies Kashmir and it understands the severity of the issue.
The least that can be done is that politicians appoint a focal person who will prepare a statement on Kashmir every one or two months, which should first be reviewed by Kashmiri muhajireen, by the members of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, and by the opposition on Azad Kashmir, in order to assess the tone and tenor of the world community on the issue.
I believe there is no way talks on Kashmir should fail. If dialogue can result in Pakistan’s independence, and if you can free India through talks, then why can’t you help Kashmir gain freedom? So let’s rule out the possibility that talks on Kashmir will end up in failure
We have to formulate a national policy on Kashmir, debate it for weeks and months, and declare that we will not back out of it. There’s a need to understand the matter of Kashmir; there’s a need to devise a national policy on it; there’s a need to take Kashmiris into confidence; there’s a need to comprehend Quaid-e-Azam’s Kashmir policy.
It has to be understood that Kashmir is a nuclear ring, surrounded by a stockpile of nuclear weapons on all sides. A small incident, a spark may wreak havoc on the whole region.
Pakistan can never have political, economic, administrative or developmental stability unless democratic and political forces are united. There’s a need to give a perfect shape to civil-military relations. We won’t debate the role of Parliament – we see all parliamentarians as respectable.
And we also won’t discuss the past and future role of the judiciary, which I also hold in the highest esteem. But I say that unless military, civil and democratic forces are on the same page, unless there’s a system with checks and balances, Pakistan can’t be stable. It’s not difficult to form cohesion.
All over the world, from Kathmandu to America, people stand with their respective armies. Following the events of 9/11, we didn’t hear or read any news in the American media against the army or its agencies. In the wake of terror incidents in Delhi, nobody asked where the Indian army or RAW was when the attacks were being plotted or perpetrated.
Here in Pakistan, the situation is just the opposite, where the army is held responsible for the ills of the country. So, there’s a need to bring harmony between the civilian and military leadership. On this front, we should make a security council, for which the army’s role has to be given constitutional cover.
After all, it’s the army that comes to your rescue in all kinds of natural and man-made calamities. There are two kinds of powers; one is giving blood for the country, while the other, democratic, are sucking it dry.
National Security Council
There is a need for a National Security Council which should be headed by the Prime Minister and President. In that council, the Chief Justice of Pakistan should also be included, along with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and all four services chiefs to bring about a consensus for there to be joint policymaking on defence, foreign affairs, Kashmir and other key issues.
For the stability of Pakistan, it is imperative to give constitutional cover to the army’s role. In short, we have to strike a balance on ideological as well as geographical borders, defending both frontiers at the same time.
Dialogue on Kashmir
I believe there is no way talks on Kashmir should fail. If dialogue can result in Pakistan’s independence, and if you can free India through talks, then why can’t you help Kashmir gain freedom? So let’s rule out the possibility that talks on Kashmir will end up in failure.
Secondly, in this region you will never want a war. Pakistan, in the real sense of the term, has been fighting a war for its own defence; war was invariably imposed on it. But Pakistan does have the capability to respond to India’s aggression were it to ever go to war.
During Gen Musharraf’s tenure, people like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Abbas Ansari, Prof Ghani Butt and Abdul Ghani Lone would come to Pakistan twice or thrice in a year. Following the Charter of Democracy, you have not invited the leadership of Srinagar’s Hurriyat Conference – what kind of Kashmir policy do we want to have?
That said, I believe that our case is so strong that you can resolve this issue through dialogue, but the proviso is that the dialogue should be time-bound and a proper mechanism should be devised for it. However, all this cannot be given shape without the assistance of a third party.
The American administration has offered its assistance in this regard and the new secretary general of the UN has also offered his support. We need to take full advantage of these avenues, but this cannot happen without the full participation of Kashmiris.
Both sides should roll back non-state actors, trust Kashmiris and let them work and, as for us, we should work towards bridging the gap between Pakistan and India.
Free Kashmir to benefit all
The whole region would benefit from the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. First is that the arms race between India and Pakistan may remarkably reduce; the environment of victory and defeat may change and the atmosphere of negotiations may revive.
Then you may change your priorities and live amicably with each other. And only then can you combine your resources, also using them to play a constructive role in the world. But as long as the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved, other issues will continue to worsen.
Kashmir in Foreign Policy
In the context of our geographical location, we cannot separate our foreign policy, our defence policy and our Kashmir policy from each other. We must review our defence policy and its requirements, linking with them our foreign policy. We have to be well aware of our defence agreements and be watchful of potential future threats.
And at the same time, we have to review the Kashmir policy and see what we have to do with it. The military alone cannot deal with this task.
If we correct our foreign policy, our defence policy and our Kashmir policy, then we will see automatic stability in our economic and domestic policies. We are facing a big crisis, and to deal with it we have to have focal persons who will lobby for us on forums such as the G-7 and the UN Security Council.
It’s not so difficult, but we need a Foreign Office and a Foreign Minister for that. The entire policy needs to be reviewed. These are, in fact, the policies that revolve around people.
The Indian population is increasing at breakneck speed. It wants to see itself in close competition with China. On the domestic front, India is faced with a host of challenges. Unemployment has increased substantially; the law and order situation is bad. They have to get into industrialisation, and expand it.
They have to prepare manpower for European markets. To that end, they need energy, and Pakistan happens to be the energy corridor, a fact that cannot be ignored. Now, it’s the question of our skills and our commitment to deal with these challenges.
First of all, without proper homework, we needn’t have unjustified expectations with Obama, Trump, or anyone else. Secondly, Americans have created problems for themselves by spreading their presence in virtually every part of the world. And Trump is aware of the fact that all this is being done at the cost of domestic American stability.
It has to be understood that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint, surrounded by a stockpile of nuclear weapons on all sides. A small incident, a spark may wreak havoc on the whole region
He believes that America has expanded externally but internally it’s weakening. Had the American President shown a bit of sagacity, then instead of taking this 180 degree turn, he would go step-by-step. Instead, he chose to take a quantum jump.
As a layman I believe he wants to give more priority to American internal stability. This thinking prevails across the world – in European countries like France, Germany and England. The order is being reversed. But as far as Pakistan and Kashmir are concerned, I can say with conviction that if we skillfully handle it we can overcome the crisis.
We haven’t benefitted from American friendship for the past 70 years; Americans have been helping us since 1948, but no matter what happens in the world you take to the streets to burn the American flag. Instead of producing friends in the world, Americans preferred to install agents, but they have supported Pakistan.
If we had not pulled out of the Commonwealth, the seventh naval fleet would certainly have reached East Pakistan. So, there must be stability in our foreign policies.
When (Indian Prime Minister Narender) Modi visited Siachen, he gave just one statement and returned. He said: “I have come to state that the whole of India stands behind its armed forces.” So he actually went there to boost the morale of the troops stationed on Siachen.
We also should respond in kind and talk about our armed forces openheartedly. During Gen Musharraf’s tenure, people like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Abbas Ansari, Prof Ghani Butt and Abdul Ghani Lone would come to Pakistan twice or thrice in a year.
Following the Charter of Democracy, you have not invited the leadership of Srinagar’s Hurriyat Conference – what kind of Kashmir policy do we want to have?
Whatever little we have at the moment is a result of the excellent 1970 Act of Azad Kashmir that Pakistan’s army ruler Gen Yahya Khan gave. And that act was reversed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the form of the 1974 Act.
On this front, we should make a security council, for which the army’s role has to be given constitutional cover
Some politicians of Pakistan tend to view Kashmir from the prism of their respective political parties, while the army leadership looks at Kashmir from the viewpoint of Pakistan. There’s a huge difference in the acts of 1970 and 1974. In short, some of the greatest national undertakings were carried out during the tenures of army rulers.
We initiated a project called Green and Skilled Kashmir, where we began the study of 301 small dams in Azad Kashmir. We identified all the water basins in the initial stage. In the case of 24-25 dams, we found that not a single drop of rain water is wasted, and there is no silting.
We can promote fishing and tourism over there. We can produce micro hydel power over there. We can carry out irrigation and vegetation, raise subsoil water and strengthen the environment. I am telling you all this after discussing it with the leading experts of the world.
Moreover, we introduced carbon credits in Azad Kashmir. That includes reforestation, plantation and several other things. There is nothing that can’t happen over there.