The struggle takes a new turn

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AT PENPOINT

The only people who would be made happy by the abrogation of the special status Jammu and Kashmir had in India would be property dealers. The fact is, Azad Kashmir is very beautiful, and enjoys a salubrious climate. Occupied Kashmir is even more beautiful, and has an even better climate. Yet just as only AJK citizens may buy property there, only J&K residents could do so in Occupied Kashmir. Now that that restriction has been waived, many mainlanders, particularly Hindu chauvinists, would like to buy property there. The increase in demand would mean an increase in turnover for property dealers, and a boom in prices.

It does not help the government that the economy is also underperforming. That makes it all the more necessary for the opposition to tone down its criticism if a united front is to be shown the world

It is interesting, but it would seem that there would be a pre-Israel Jewish experience absorbed by the BJP, as well as a post-Israel experience. It seems almost as if the Kashmiris are to India what the Palestinians are to Israel. It is worth noting that the Quaid-e-Azam had seen the parallel between Palestine and Kashmir, seeing both as illegally occupied territories. His visit to Palestine in 1947 was oddly prophetic, for he had foreseen trouble in Kashmir, which should have acceded to Pakistan, but which had a Hindu maharaja.

As it is, the BJP introduced in the 21st century a policy tried by the Zionists from before World War I, under the noses of the Osmanli sultans, of buying land from Palestinians, and thus changing the demography of Palestine. They continued buying land under the British Protectorate (1919-1948). Jewish settlers did not succeed in becoming a majority in Palestine, but it helped in An-Naqba in 1948, when the Palestinians were slaughtered, and forced to leave their homes, which were filled by Jewish settlers. In the same way, making settlements out of land in the Palestinian West Bank, captured in 1967, to have been used in a two-state solution, has meant that there cannot be a two-state solution. The purported Palestinian state would be crisscrossed with land acquired to connect the settlements.

One of the most striking features of this recent development is the status given to Jammu and Kashmir. First of all, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had been converted into a state of the Indian Union. Its temporary position, which Article 370 defined, is now being streamlined. The state has been split into two Union Territories, one (Kashmir) with a legislature, the other (without one) Ladakh.

There is a certain logic behind this step, for it means that the central government will supervise the territory. Though Jammu and Kashmir was supposed to be a state, it spent long periods under President’s Rule (most memorably, from January 1990 to October 1996). Putting the police and law and order under the centre actually makes sense. The state has been under direct rule since June 2018.

More than Jammu and Kashmir, there should be fear as well among the states which do not have a BJP government. True, J&K may have been a special case, but it now seems that only legal sleight of hand is needed to downgrade a state. Pakistan has apparently given AJK similar benefits, like a state flag and constitution, but that is because it takes the view that the final status of J & K is not yet determined. In fact, AJK is not mentioned in the Pakistani Constitution, though the provision allowing Pakistan to be expanded obviously is about AJK.

This is another problem with the Indian action. It should only have taken place after a final decision on Kashmir (India claims AJK as its territory). This has caused some to wonder if the old formula is being revived: AJK to stay with Pakistan, Ladakh with India, and the Valley to be made independent. Unlikely, because the BJP would not like another Muslim-majority state in its north, but it is odd that the territory is being readied for a formula that was never backed by the USA in the 1980s, but did cause it tremendous excitement.

It should not escape notice that this is happening right at the time that the USA is engaging Pakistan in Afghanistan, where it wants its help (through influence over the Taliban) in withdrawing. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the USA along with the COAS and the DG ISI, and US President Donald Trump made his claim about Indian PM Narendra Modi’s request for mediation. While US State Department Assistant Secretary Alice Wells denied prior US knowledge, is it beyond Trump to have been told about the plan by Modi, and then to convert that half-remembered conversation into a mediation request? It is being freely said that Trump’s mediation offer prompted the Indian action, but it should not be forgotten that this step had been promised by the BJP in its election manifesto, which was perhaps the first declaration of intent.

Pakistan has other problems than just Afghanistan, the first being its money woes. It needs to come off the FATF Grey List if it wants to keep the IMF package, which in turn allows it to access financial markets. At least part of the problem, according to the Indian narrative, is created by sponsoring jihadi groups for Kashmir.

Also, it might not have escaped Indian notice that the situation was turning into a repeat of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. With the impending US withdrawal, some at least of the resistance fighters might decide on Kashmir as a suitable place for jihad. The USA in 1989 was not as closely linked to India as it is now. Some action was thus necessary.

Pakistan is not just economically ill-prepared, but also politically. The opposition cannot support the government even if it wanted to, because so many of them are being put behind bars for corruption. As the example of Mian Nawaz Sharif has shown, his voters do not buy into the narrative that he is corrupt and deserves worse than he is getting. It does not help the government that the economy is also underperforming. That makes it all the more necessary for the opposition to tone down its criticism if a united front is to be shown the world.

The COAS warned against a false-flag operation. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned the public against getting their hopes up from the UN. Is the nation being prepared for even worse than merely the abrogation of Article 370?