T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Inaugural Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

May 2002

 

I N S I D E

Spotlight    Chalmers Johnson

Editorial

Special Report Sundeep Waslekar Ilmas Futehally

Fundamentals Jagan Kaul

Book Review Romeet Watt

InsideTrack          Dr Subash Kapila

Himalayan Blunder              Romeet Watt

In Black & White An Assessment

Statecraft             S a p r a   says

Bottomline           Dr Subash Kapila

 


A b o u t  U s

F e e d b a c k

D i s c l a i m er

C o p y r i g h t s

 

I  N  S  I  D  E    T  R  A  C  K

 

APHC: Participate or Perish

The Kashmir Telegraph  says.........


In the September-October 2002, Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state of the Indian Union, is scheduled to go to the polls, an event that is keenly awaited in political and diplomatic circles. Recent reports regarding hectic behind the scene parleys to persuade APHC to participate in the elections, has generated a lot of interest. New Delhi has opened channels of communication with the APHC with senior official Wajahat Habibullah armed with the specific plan of convincing the Hurriyat leaders to participate in the forthcoming elections. He has had wide ranging discussions on the subject with Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, and other leaders, and the initial reaction is unenthusiastic. For quite some time, serious doubts have been raised regarding the representative character of the APHC, which according to many is basically a representative organisation of the Sunni Muslims, as it does not have any representations from the other minorities of the state (Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others). The 1987 State Assembly elections were widely regarded as rigged, the Muslim United Front (MUF) — local name: Muslim Muthada Mahaz — as a coalition of opposition parties, was robbed of any chance to win seats. Although it is unlikely that the MUF would have won more than a dozen seats, they would have become a political force, pushing state politics in a more “pluralist direction”.The year 1996 saw elections taking place for the Indian Parliament in May and the state Assembly in September. While both the National Conference and the Hurriyat Conference boycotted the former, the latter saw the participation of the National Conference who campaigned on a ‘maximum autonomy’ ticket. APHC who again boycotted the polls were primarily responsible for the low voter turnout in the valley, with its boycott call. The National Conference state government was elected with Farooq Abdullah as chief minister.Hurriyat leaders are tempted to participate in the forthcoming elections provided the same are part of the entire process leading to a “negotiated settlement” of the Kashmir issue. Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, a prominent leader and former chairman of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said that the elections would only help if these were a part of the process for a final settlement of the issue.

Other APHC leaders, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Abdul Gani Lone and Abbas Ansari, echo similar views. APHC leaders, however, insist that any negotiated settlement should be done in accordance with the United Nation’s resolutions, which according to them could better preserve the dignity and honour of the people of Kashmir.Analysts point out that the insistence of the APHC to solve the issues pertaining to Kashmir through United Nations resolutions is the main stumbling block, in achieving the breakthrough in talks with the APHC.

However, the strongest critiques of the APHC insist that discussions with APHC on the question of participation in elections is a futile exercise in vain, because such a step undermines the role of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. An analyst points out that since the APHC functions on the explicit instructions of the Pakistani establishment, to think that the organisation can play a part in the process of normalisation of the valley and lend credibility to the contemplated poll for the J&K Assembly by condescending to join the fray is thus an exercise in futility. The latest move by the APHC to constitute an “election commission” of its own for conducting elections in whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) to establish its “representative” character for any future tripartite talks, is seen as many as an attempt by the conglomerate to achieve two purposes; firstly to neutralise the National Kashmir Committee under the leadership of former PoK president Sardar Abdul Qayoom; secondly to stay in the reckoning and continue to keep the pressure on New Delhi to kick start some sort of a political process.

Many in the polito-diplomatic circles also see this as a crucial year for the 65-year-old chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The inability of the National Conference to make any headway with its “autonomy package” and the joining of the BJP led government at the centre, are two main issue apart from rampant corruption, which have not gone down well with the Kashmiris. However, Abdullah, who is aspiring to become president (or even vice president) is putting up a bold front and uses every opportunity to dare the APHC to contest the forthcoming elections. India must ensure free and fair elections to the state Assembly and, “to carry the conviction within Kashmiris and the world at large, India should not hesitate to invite independent international observers to oversee these elections. So many other countries have done that, and it does not compromise our sovereignty." A process of reconciliation with ordinary Kashmiris has to be undertaken to end the strife in the Valley, a process, which many believe, will bring peace and prosperity to the strife-torn valley.

APHC has a golden opportunity to seize the initiative and  “abjuring violence is a long overdue initiative that the Hurriyat should have taken ages ago; but it should still be welcome if it places the militant political leaders on the side fighting terrorism." The political process in the state must now seek to firmly establish the democratic principle and a polity that can look forward to bringing peace, reconciliation and reconstruction in the state. The Hurriyat must play a responsible role in the future as a dissenting entity to the existing political parties.”



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