Kashmir: what could have been - By Khalid Hasan Back   Home  
I suppose it is a sign of the times that one should be faulted for never having Kashmir out of one's mind, as a correspondent complained the other day in this newspaper about me. Who knows how long it will take before a reference of any kind to Kashmir becomes enough of a misdemeanor to have an ISI jeep without a number plate standing outside your home and watching your back wherever you go.

After all, that sort of thing has happened often in this country. Whenever political fashions change or a new deal is made with outside players, things, that until then were considered legitimate, overnight become illegitimate. And given this government's "principled" alliance with the so-called "international coalition" against Afghanistan and its people, nothing should be ruled out, including the displeasure of "agencies" with those who are either foolish or old-fashioned enough to remain involved in Kashmir.

If unconstitutional government can be declared constitutional under the doctrine of necessity, why can't a continuing interest in Kashmir be treated as an undesirable activity? What is publicly known about the terms of our post-September 11 arrangement with the "crusaders" against "international terrorism" may not exactly be the tip of the iceberg, but there should be no doubt that there is much more there than meets the eye or is being allowed to meet the eye.

The basic facts about Kashmir are known to everyone, though not always to those speaking for state agencies in or outside Pakistan. I recall one self-proclaimed "Daughter of Kashmir" currently ensconced in the cabinet, who has frequently been sent abroad to present the case for Kashmir. During a string of appointments in Washington at a number of congressional offices some years ago, every time she would open her mouth, which was almost all the time, she would come out with different facts and figures. She was equally fuzzy about what happened when at the time of independence and thereafter. However, those on the other side of the table were barely interested in details and so it did not matter.

It is popularly believed, and rightly so, that had the Quaid-i-Azam lived, events in Kashmir would not have taken the tragic turn that they did. There has also been speculation as to how much the Quaid knew or was told. One thing is beyond controversy. The Quaid was not told of the tribal intervention in Kashmir.

To this day, it is not clear who ordered it, though the finger of suspicion points to Khan Qayyum Khan. Liaquat Ali Khan knew about it, though when asked by K.H. Khurshid in 1949 in Lahore if the Quaid also did, he kept quiet.

With the passing of time, more facts have come to light. Prof. Zawwar Hussain Zaidi who can be said to have put the entire nation in his debt by his work on the Quaid-i-Azam's papers, has come upon a letter sent to the Quaid from Srinagar on October 12, 1947, by his private secretary, K.H. Khurshid who was there to visit his family and report on the situation in the state. While the Quaid must surely have read the letter, it is not known if he ordered any action on some of the recommendations made by Khurshid. Be that as it may, the Khurshid letter is an unvarnished account of the existing situation in Kashmir and may answer some of the questions that have been asked about the last days of the Maharaja's rule and where Pakistan and the Kashmiri Muslim leaders may have gone wrong.

Khurshid informs the Quaid that events in Kashmir have been "moving very fast since the release of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as an act of 'royal clemency'". He adds that other members of the Sheikh's party, jailed for their part in the Quit Kashmir movement, have also been set free, but the Muslim Conference leaders "continue to rot in jails".

He writes that the state is getting rid of Muslims who held positions of any significance in the state forces. European officers have also been let go and the positions falling vacant have been filled by Hindu Dogra Rajputs. According to Khurshid, "The Maharaja is dead set against Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. He is reported to have said that even though his body be cut into seven hundred pieces, he would not accede to Pakistan ... The state today is a hotbed of dirty court intrigues ... to disrupt the Musalmans and suppress the popular feeling in favour of Pakistan."

The "popular feeling" that Khurshid reports nails the claim that Sheikh Abdullah had the people's backing for securing Kashmir's accession to India. His National Conference had no non-Muslims in its ranks. They only began to join him after independence to strengthen his claim to represent the people of the entire state. Khurshid informs the Quaid that as things stand, everything points towards "the road to Delhi".

The Maharaja has appointed his uncle the prime minister and a nominee of Sardar Patel has been inducted as his deputy. Work on the Jammu-Pathankot road, he adds, is in hand. Petrol supplies, suspended for reasons unknown by the Rawalpindi authorities, are being flown in from Delhi. Dogra troops have been deployed all over the state. They would soon be on the rampage against the Muslim population. But despite all this, Khurshid points out, there is no support for accession to India except by "some Punjabi Hindus of Jammu".

The Muslim Conference is "dead" and its leaders, he adds, are either in jail or in Pakistan, "but there is a very strong undercurrent of popular feeling in favour of Pakistan, to utilize or exploit which, there is nobody here. Spontaneous demonstrations (in Pakistan's favour) are being held in different parts of the city and the state but there is nobody to mobilize these scattered elements."

Khurshid writes that since Abdullah never had any non-Muslim following, now that Pakistan has been established and the League-Congress controversy is at an end, his followers want that Kashmir should accede to Pakistan. Khurshid tells the Quaid that "Pakistan must think in terms of fighting" for Kashmir as the other side is ready to take the state by force. He also recommends the supply of arms and food to tribes within the state because unless that is done, the local population will not be able to resist for more than a fortnight.

It is, of course, on record that the Quaid's orders to his British commander-in-chief to send troops into Kashmir were disobeyed. Pakistan's claim over Kashmir went by default, both militarily and politically. In the latter case, there was not a single pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leader around in the state.

Khurshid also suggests to the Quaid to issue a statement (he provides him with a draft) that would "clarify the League position vis-a-vis the Indian states". It has been said that the League's position on this crucial question was ambivalent and provided the princely rulers with the legal authority to accede to any of the two Dominions.

Khurshid, mindful of this, includes the following elaboration in his draft for the Quaid. "The Muslim League has always stood for the right of self-determination of the people all over the world and it was this principle which formed the basis of (the) Pakistan demand by the Muslim League. This is a question entirely different from the interpretation of the position of the states under the (June 3) Plan."

In other words, while the Quaid-i-Azam, because of the League's special relationship with Bhopal and Hyderabad, accepted the right of the rulers to accede to India and Pakistan, it was assumed that the will of the people of the acceding states would remain paramount. In the case of Kashmir, popular will was overwhelmingly in favour of accession to Pakistan. But that was not to be; however, it is wrong to blame the Quaid for this, as some now tend to do.
Published in Pakistan daily Dawn.