by Shujaat Bukhari
At a time when Pakistan continues to grapple with the challenge of maintaining internal stability, leaders of a faction of Hurriyat Conference are gearing up to embark on a week-long visit to Islamabad and Muzaffarabad for what has been named as “consultation process.” However, a question mark has been put on relevance of this visit at this stage and, interestingly, the opinion is divided not only in Pakistan but also in Srinagar as well. Given the traditional hurdle that Syed Ali Geelani and many others do not have travel documents, the composition of the delegation is likely to be one-sided. Nevertheless, the Mirwaiz group has already started a consultation process with different sections of the society.
For separatists, meeting the Pakistani leadership is no big issue. They are otherwise in touch with them on daily basis through the High Commission or in some cases directly. Pakistan’s position on Kashmir is well known and it is obviously in line with what the separatists thinking. So going so far to meet the Pakistani leaders to tell them what Islamabad should do at this stage does not seem to fit in the charter of urgency the Kashmir problem is caught in.
There are two important issues which overshadow the visit. That is why the opinion makers as well as some political leaders in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir have reservations about the visit. One that Pakistan is in a fighting mode with what it calls terrorism and is completely preoccupied with what could be done to minimize civilian casualties in day to day attacks and how the influx of terrorists into major cities is neutralized. Secondly that Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government is on way out as the elections are slated to be held early next year.
So any move to have a united strategy with Hurriyat Conference to tackle Kashmir issue at this stage is likely to cause more damage to the cause than serving any better purpose. Opinion makers point out that since Islamabad is in no mood to annoy India at this stage, it is unlikely that any meaningful outcome could be expected at this stage. Islamabad’s silence on Ajmal Kasab’s hanging was an indicator of a growing bonhomie between the two nations. With the country mired in crisis, it is impossible to take a very hard-line on Kashmir. There is a process of stock-taking going on in Pakistan vis-a-vis the Kashmir issue and in that ‘game’ the concerns about maintaining ‘better relations’ with India are following the whole issue like a shadow. This, some analysts believe, could be a ‘forced step’ the government must have taken to please a particular section in the government.
While Hurriyat would be discussing Kashmir with Prime Minister, Parvez Ashraf, there is view that the PPP government might have invited them to be used for the upcoming elections in Pakistan. Hurriyat could well move around and praise the government for the steps it was taking. With K-word going into background in Pakistan, what Hurriyat could probably do is that it could force the political parties to make it an election issue and take a word from them that they would pursue it afterwards. But minus Geelani and others, the visit will be still seen as one-sided. Increasing indifference of people towards separatist leadership is something they need to address first before knocking at Pakistani doors for help.