‘Kashmir is not about realpolitik’
The reign of terror in Kashmir will not, cannot, continue forever
After assuming charge as President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Sardar Masood Khan chose Pakistan Today for his first interview irrespective of the fact that many leading newspapers and magazines were in the queue.
The president spoke his heart out on a host of issues including brutal state terrorism by New Delhi on innocent Kashmiris, the plight of those Kashmir youngsters and children subjected to torture and oppression by Indian forces, the unprecedented support to Kashmiri freedom loving people from around the world, including from within India, and the strategy of Pakistan to handle the issue at local international fora.
Question: There could hardly have been a more trying time for one to represent Kashmiris. How do you plan to go about countering ongoing Indian aggression first and then building a long term strategy?
Masood Khan: I agree with you that Indian atrocities and aggression have crossed all lines. They are killing, maiming and torturing Kashmiris in pursuance of their policy of state terrorism. This must stop. We are pursuing a multi-pronged policy. First, we are consolidating our position within Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. A cacophony of voices on Kashmir confuses internal and external audiences and this is exploited by India. Second, we would go to the international community with more vigour and consistency. Our main interlocutor is the United Nations and its affiliates, especially the Human Rights Council, but we will also reach out more systematically to the US Congress and European Union whose decisions impinge on Kashmir. Third, we would leverage the strengths of our Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora community because the influence of their second and third generations has increased manifold. Finally, we would explore some humanitarian corridors to help the entrapped Kashmiris. I also appeal to the Indian civil society to raise their voice against the Modi government’s abhorrent practices in the Valley of Kashmir.
Q: No doubt we need the world’s attention, but foreign intervention often comes with a steep price. Major powers involve themselves only when there’s something significant for themselves to extract from the situation. And India’s been playing its foreign policy cards quite smartly. Do you agree?
MK: Kashmir is not about realpolitik; it is about the rights of the peoples who are under India’s illegal occupation. In a sense, it is the continuation of the colonial domination and foreign occupation of the colonial era. But the world decided to end subjugation by powerful nations of colonised nations. That period of aliens’ domination is gone. And if the world order was designed merely to balance the interests of major dominant powers, there was no need to create the United Nations. A cartel like the Concert of Europe would have sufficed. Kashmiris are asking for the realisation of their inalienable right to self-determination and India can delay it but never deny this right. I think major powers’ over-reliance on India is a grave mistake and any regional order based on trampling of rights will unravel sooner or later. Granting Kashmiris their rights is the right thing to do.
Q: The Pakistani government has, once again, sharpened its diplomatic rhetoric regarding Kashmir, and will likely take it up in the UN also. But do you feel Islamabad could have extended more quantifiable help than the usual?
MK: I won’t call it ‘diplomatic rhetoric’. Pakistan has reinforced and boosted its diplomacy on Kashmir; and we in Azad Kashmir welcome it. In addition to the efforts of the Kashmiris, the most authentic voice is of Pakistan and the world will pay full heed to it. The steps Pakistan is taking are quantifiable. This time around, all segments of state and society are getting involved — government, parliamentarians and rights activists.
I think major powers’ over-reliance on India is a grave mistake and any regional order based on trampling of rights will unravel sooner or later. Granting Kashmiris their rights is the right thing to do.
Q: How do you read regional developments and with such convergence of economic and political alliances do you expect Kashmir to remain isolated? The Indians, Afghans and Iranians are getting together; so are Indians and Bengalis; while CPEC will run right through Pakistan, etc.
MK: I would say: stay the course on Kashmir, economic development, including CPEC, and security preparedness; and India will have to relent and concede. The reign of terror in Kashmir will not, cannot, continue forever. The torch of freedom is in the hands of a new generation, the fifth generation; the flame will not die out. And the succeeding generations of Kashmiris will not forgive Indian establishment for its heinous crimes.
Q: In some ways you are the text book ‘Good Pakistani’ story; risen from humble beginnings, hard-worked your way through government service, and rose strictly on merit. You’d have to go out on a limb to find too many such examples. Why do you stand out?
Masood Khan: I am the story of a Kashmiri and a Pakistani. I believe in goodness of humankind and I find it everywhere — in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan and the capitals where I have lived and worked. Ultimately, your titles and ‘achievements’ do not matter. What matters is whether you at peace with yourself and with your creator; and whether you are striving for a calling and cause greater than your limited needs. And I can tell you that I rose because of the goodness in the system in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. My motto is service to my fellow human beings and Allah has frequently given me plenty of opportunities to pursue that path.
We cannot assure or predict success, but we can ensure struggle, unremitting and irreversible struggle; and that is our pledge. There would be no status quo ante. Let India hear this message clearly.
Q: What, minus the rhetoric, is Kashmir’s future, especially since the recent past, in terms of political success, has not been very inspiring. Do you expect this status quo to hold indefinitely?
MK: There is no ‘rhetoric’ on Kashmir. There is pain and suffering and a massive, excruciaitng tragedy of our times. Young, helpless, besieged and incense boys in Kashmir being mowed down, blinded and tortured — that is the reality of our times. This should be a deep scar on the conscience of the international community, as well as the continuing occupation of a people who have never been part of the occupying state. We cannot assure or predict success, but we can ensure struggle, unremitting and irreversible struggle; and that is our pledge. There would be no status quo ante. Let India hear this message clearly.