Originally Published 2004-02-24 10:17:48 Published on Feb 24, 2004
Amanullah Khan, chairman of the JKLF, is most unhappy with the peace process between India and Pakistan. For a man who knows what it means to be first used by a state and then unceremoniously disposed off after the state has achieved its purpose, Khan realizes that the peace process, if successful, is probably the end of the road for people like him. There was a time in the late 1980's and very early 1990's when Amanullah Khan was a really happening man in Pakistan.
Inside Pakistan-III, The Kashmiri and Religious Politicians Perspective
Amanullah Khan, chairman of the JKLF, is most unhappy with the peace process between India and Pakistan. For a man who knows what it means to be first used by a state and then unceremoniously disposed off after the state has achieved its purpose, Khan realizes that the peace process, if successful, is probably the end of the road for people like him. There was a time in the late 1980's and very early 1990's when Amanullah Khan was a really happening man in Pakistan. His organisation, JKLF, was spearheading the 'freedom struggle' inside the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. But after the Pakistanis raised militias that were sworn to struggle for making Kashmir a part of Pakistan, the JKLF's militant cadre was systematically wiped out. Today, what is left of the JKLF in Pakistan is Khan, who, in the fond hope of remaining relevant desperately seeks out journalists to have his two-bit say on Kashmir.

When I met Khan at an Islamabad hotel, he expressed his unhappiness over the peace process, which according to him had completely excluded the Kashmiris. When told that he of all the people should have realised that this is what was always going to happen and that the choice before the Kashmiris is simple: either they enter into a deal with India, or else India enters into a deal with Pakistan, Khan responded in anger and said that in that case the Kashmiris from both sides of the divide would get together and confront India and Pakistan. But he agreed that in case this happened India and Pakistan will get together against the Kashmiris and in this fight the Kashmiris would lose. Khan went on the defensive when asked why he won't let the Kashmiris ever live in peace. By now Khan had got extremely agitated and started rambling about Kashmir eventually winning its independence and that people who have doubts should realise that there was time when even India no.146;s independence appeared impossible. He then flew off the handle and said that when Gandhi started his movement, he was derided by the British as a 'naked fakir' but later the same British had to negotiate with him.

I told him that the British left India because of the changed international situation and because they lost the stamina to hold on to India. The current situation in South Asia could hardly be compared to the post-World War II situation. Secondly, I said, Khan does great disservice to the memory of the Gandhi by comparing himself with the Mahatma. Khan responded by saying he had picked up the gun only as a means to draw attention to the Kashmir issue and once international attention got focussed on Kashmir he had decided to forsake the gun and pursue peaceful means for resolution of the issue. But this was as much nonsense as one could take from Khan.

I reminded Khan that the JKLF had given up the gun not for some higher ideal but because it had no guns left. The systematic campaign by Pakistan and India to wipe out the JKLF's militant cadre had left Khan with no choice but to give up the gun. I also reminded him that the JKLF was the original terrorist organisation and all its actions were classical terrorist actions. All that the JKLF did was to kidnap and murder innocent civilians. When confronted with the murder of the Indian diplomat, Ravindra Mahtre in UK, the attack on the school bus carrying children of military officers, the killing of Air Force officers who were shot in their backs while waiting for their bus (a case in which Yasin Malik is an accused), the cold-blooded murder of the vice-chancellor of the Kashmir University and the General Manager of HMT, Khan, somewhat unconvincingly kept denying his involvement in all these incidents. But his discomfiture knew no bounds when asked how he could claim to speak on behalf of the Kashmiris since he is not a Kashmiri but belongs to the Northern Areas and cannot even talk in the Kashmiri language. Khan ended the meeting by expressing more disappointment in me than in the peace process.

While 'Kashmiris' like Khan are unhappy, other 'Kashmiri' leaders like Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan, son of the former prime minister of 'Azad Kashmir' Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan and president of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference are somewhat confused. Talking to Sardar Attique, it became clear that his party is not averse to the peace process. This is so probably because the Azad Kashmir leadership has always faithfully followed the line given to it by the Pakistani establishment, especially the army. And if today the Army is searching for peace, then these leaders are not going to oppose the process. Sardar Attique insisted that his party has always stood for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir. He agreed that no quick fix solution to the issue was possible and that it would be a long drawn out process. However, he said, in the meantime alternative arrangements can be worked out to provide relief to the Kashmiris by allowing movement across the LoC, ending the violence in the state, engaging the leaderships of the two parts in a political dialogue, setting up political structures so that intra-Kashmiri dialogue is possible etc.

But while Sardar Attique was reasonableness personified, he and others like him have a problem. A senior Pakistani journalist sitting with us literally took Sardar Attique's pants off and told him that if this is what had to be done then what was the reason for the fighting over Kashmir for 56 years. He warned Sardar Attique that people are going to ask very uncomfortable questions and are going to ask why they have been misled for so long. The diatribe of this journalist, who incidentally is not opposed to the peace process but is also not very optimistic about it, shook Sardar Attique to the core and he was left fumbling for words to explain his position. There was however a lot of merit in what this journalist was saying. The fact remains that the Pakistani leadership has not done the required groundwork to prepare public opinion for the peace process. As a result the peace process is being seen as a surrender or a sell-out and this is going to be a big problem for the military-bureaucratic establishment and the political establishment of Pakistan.

This was exactly what a politically well-connected jihadi leader indicated when he said that if the establishment thinks it can by simple administrative action bottle the jihadi genie then it is in store for a massive surprise. He said that the jihad network had gone far too deep into the body politic for it to be handled through administrative action alone. He said that unless the establishment exposes in public the corruption, shenanigans and depravity of the jihadi leaders, it will not be able to impress upon the public the need to dismantle the infrastructure of jihad. He said that anyone who thinks that jihad can be stopped by blocking the LoC or by seizing bank accounts and stopping fund-raising activity is only fooling himself. According to this man, there are probably more jihadis entering India through Bangladesh (which he called the most happening jihad country) and Nepal than through the LoC.

While the Kashmiris and the jihadis are going to be a problem, the one area from where the regime has least worry is surprisingly enough the religious parties, in particular the Jamaat Ulema Islam (JUI) and the Jamaat Islami. The JI has been traditionally most hawkish on Kashmir. But in the last few months, the Jamaat seems to have softened its position. It came as a big surprise when a young but important Jamaat leader told me that the best way out is for India to placate the Kashmiris on its side and that once the Kashmiris are re-integrated into the Indian mainstream then the Jamaat will be left with no choice but to accept the reality. He said the Jamaat will probably continue to make some noise but will slowly disengage itself from Kashmir. In a dig at his own leader he said 'agar Kashmiri raazi to kya kare ga Qazi' (Qazi Husain Ahmad, leader of Jamaat Islami Pakistan).

A very senior leader of the JUI agreed and he said that people must understand that the Jamaat is not like the military that can overnight affect a U-turn in its policy. He said, somewhat tongue in cheek, that maybe if the right message was given from the right quarters (the army and ISI) to the Jamaat it would go slow even on its rhetoric and eventually back off from its position on Kashmir. He said that the Jamaat leadership has started understanding that sticking to the UN resolutions on Kashmir is not in Pakistan no.146;s interest because implementing these resolutions would mean having to withdraw Pakistani troops from Kashmir and letting Indian troops move into the area vacated by Pakistani troops for maintaining law and order. But the Jamaat is finding it politically difficult to disengage from its long standing position. He said that while the JUI backs the peace process wholeheartedly, for reasons of political expediency, the MMA will continue to raise questions about Kashmir and will continue to observe anniversaries like the Kashmir day on February 5. He added that as long as the MMA alliance survived, the Jamaat would continue to be restrained by the JUI on the question of peace with India. But if the MMA split the Jamaat would revert to its old mindless hawkish position and would enter into alliances with people opposed to peace with India and become a complete nuisance.

After meeting a cross-section of Pakistani leaders, the impression one gets is that with the Pakistani state in the process of making a paradigm shift in its policy towards India, political players in the country are still struggling to redefine themselves to fit into the new scheme of things to come. The fact that the peace process is still in its infancy means that seasoned political players must play their cards carefully so that they are left with a fallback position in the event the peace process grinds to a halt. But just as the future of Pakistani politics will to a great extent be determined by the peace process, the future of the peace process too will depend on how the political players (including the army and the jihadis) redefine themselves.

Inside Pakistan - II
Inside Pakistan - I

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