Trans-LoC trade and travel has remained the only initiative with some consequence on the Kashmir front between India and Pakistan. After it took off, several individuals and institutions from across the world started contributing towards this initiative.
Since the trade still lacks all the basics and scores of families have gone bankrupt, there is a huge scope for helping the trade to build capacities, resort to a strong advocacy and learn how it can help the two sides to come closer.
But one of the non-governmental organizations had thrown its hat in the politics of trade and is trying to create an association of the trade across the divide. Idea was great and continues to be so. But the task is herculean given the divisions of stakeholders on basis of culture, politics and ideology and national interest.
In fact an exercise was carried out well before the first truckload crossed the Kaman Post in 2008. When the trade delegation drove into Kashmir, it was a historic reception. By the end of their visit, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry initiated setting up of a joint trading chamber. Zulfikar Abbasi, a power producer of Mirpur was given the mandate to lead the chamber for the first year. In the second year, he was supposed to be replaced by Kashmir Chamber but it did not happen.
If the trade insiders are to be believed then Abbasi created his own profile at the cost of the year long mandate. He would fly between the world capitals and rub shoulders with the top decision makers. And when the time lapsed for his tenure, he indirectly challenged the Kashmir Chamber questioning their right to represent Kashmir trade in wake of other trade bodies operating in the state. The ‘big brother’ gesture proved too costly for the Chamber.
It was in a trans-LoC trade related exercise by one NGO in Turkey that his right to force his leadership on the trade was challenged. This coincided with the NGOs serious effort to help the two sides to have a joint chamber.
The 44 seats that would make the joint alliance are equally distributed among Kashmir, Jammu, Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. Ladkh and Northern Areas will get their share later. Kashmir got 11 and they are distributed between KCCI, FCIK, Traders & Manufacturers Federation and Cross LoC Traders Association in the pattern if 5:2:2:2. It has created a new battle within the Kashmir stakeholders.
The election was supposed to take place on December 29. A person was nominated but the election was deferred to next day. When the quorum met again, individual stakeholders raked up issues that forced KCCI to move out. As efforts are going on for a patch-up, insiders in the trade said there is somebody who is using the inflated egos of the individual stakeholders to prevent Kashmir from having a single, sane voice that can contribute to the trade at its most formative juncture. The person who is elected as leader from Kashmir will lead the joint chamber for the year starting January 2012. But can he ever be elected?