ISI Factor in Kashmir politics
Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
It has been around 122 years since 1887 when Walter Lawrence wrote – “The Kashmiri is made up of contradictions. He is timid yet persistent, degraded yet intellectual. ..He would not hesitate to throw his burden on his neighbour’s shoulders and if he failed he would depart to some other village under the aegis of a privileged person who would protect him from the corvee and would allow no one but himself to oppress the wanderer”.
Although like any other community in the last 122 years, Kashmiris too graduated into becoming more self respecting and conscious of their rights and wrongs, yet they seem to have failed to overcome the proverbial characteristic of being ‘made up of contradictions’. They have not given up the “habit of departing to some other village (country) under the aegis of a privileged person (establishment) who would protect him from the corvee and would allow no one but himself to oppress the wanderer”.
On both sides of LOC Kashmiris have gone to live under the aegis of a privileged person. On the mid night of 23 October 1947 Khawaja Abdul Rahim, Commissioner, Rawalpindi Division woke up Sardar Ibrahim Khan and asked him to reconstitute the Kashmir Government in Azad Kashmir which was announced a few weeks earlier on 4 October 1947. In 1990 a section of our leaders in the Valley decided to seek the protection of a privileged person beyond the borders of Kashmir. They were gainfully employed by the establishments in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that both brands of the leadership on either side of LOC continue to fool their people about the fidelity demanded under the terms of reference set out in this employment.
People in Pakistan have resolved to have a freely elected parliament, an independent judiciary and the supremacy of constitution. It is in this context that a case originated on June 16, 1996 from a letter by retired air marshal Asghar Khan to the then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah, asking him to take appropriate action on then interior minister Naseerullah Babar’s statement in the National Assembly. Babar had stated on the floor of the house: “The ISI collected some Rs 140 million from the Habib Bank Ltd and distributed among a number of politicians prior to the 1990 elections with a view to manipulate the results in favour of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad.”
Asghar Khan’s letter was subsequently converted into a constitutional petition (19 of 1996) by the chief justice under Article 184(3), envisaging the human rights jurisdiction of the apex court. According to the petitioner (Asghar Khan), he had sent the first letter with the sole purpose of exposing the role of the ISI in manoeuvring the election results and supporting its favourite politicians to fulfil political ends of the establishment. “You never know how many elections have been rigged and manoeuvred by the ISI in the past,” Asghar had stated in his letter to the CJ, adding the ISI moves since 1988 were actually aimed at defeating the PPP and, therefore, the matter be adjudged and action be taken against those found guilty.
The respondents in the said case were former Army chief Mirza Aslam Beg, Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani, ex-director-general of the ISI Directorate, and Younis Habib, ex-chief of ex-Mehran Bank Ltd, then confined to Central Jail, Karachi. However, the case could not be decided because of the premature dismissal of chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah. He was followed by CJPs Ajmal Mian, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, Irshad Hasan Khan, Bashir Jehangiri, Shaikh Riaz Ahmed, Nazim Hussain Siddiqui and now Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
Chief justice (retd) Siddiqui told a private TV channel that the ISI was an intelligence agency and it should not interfere in national politics, or be used against politicians. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan has asked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to reopen the case he had filed with the apex court almost 13 years ago with a view to take the culprits to task.
It is unfortunate that in Kashmir we do not have the likes of chief justice (retd) Siddiqui and Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, who could be the voice of the people and challenge the cumulative impact of ISI role through the politicians of Kashmir on life, habitat and self determination in Kashmir.
No one disputes the existing fact that Government of Pakistan is a party to Kashmir dispute under UNCIP resolutions and that the people, in particular the elder generation, saw a better future with Pakistan. De facto controls of India and Pakistan have assumed a de jure role in the dispute. Otherwise Pakistan or India could not be a party in deciding the inalienable right of self determination. People of Kashmir need to assert the correct quantum of their relationship with Pakistan. It should be in accordance with article 5, article 257 and its assumed Trust Responsibilities under UNCIP resolutions.
The ISI factor in Kashmir politics, the institutional wisdom administered through the establishment run Kashmir Centres in London, Brussels and New York, the subterranean control of politics and militancy in Kashmir remain at war with the principle of self determination and in fact have caused the death of self determination. The role of ISI in Kashmir politics, which is at variance with article 5, article 257 and its assumed Trust Responsibilities under UNCIP resolutions, in fact attracts the same judicial cognizance as the constitutional petition (19 of 1996) (of Asghar Khan) has attracted under Article 184(3).
The expansion of State sponsored politics, militancy, Kashmir Centres, a section of Kashmir press and corruption of other disciplines, is a threat to the plurality and independence of freedom of expression in Kashmir. It does not serve the cause of self determination or does increment the benefit of the people of Kashmir. It has created a culture of self denial and criminality between the collaborating parties. It is surprising that leaders of seemingly first cadre have sold out their souls to the Lucifer and do not have any hesitation in stage managing a self serving politics as demanded by the employer.
Why should Government of India invite Kashmiri leaders as an equal party to the dispute when Hurriyat has accepted in November 2000 the 10 principles prepared by the International Centre for Peace Initiatives Mumbai, India and Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad, Pakistan that “Talks between GOI and All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), besides other Kashmiri groups, with a limited and clearly spelt out agenda, that is “to discuss the process and not substance of resolving the Kashmir conflict”. Hurriyat was represented at the Conference by Yasin Malik of JKLF and Nayeem Khan. The road map excludes Hurriyat and other Kashmiri groups from any role in the substantive discussions to resolve the dispute. Hurriyat not only accepted a peripheral role for itself but at the same time accepted a substantive role for ISI and RAW (phase 4 principle 5).
In November 2000 Hurriyat conceded that ISI and RAW have an embedded role in the resolution of Kashmir dispute and in ensuring peace in Kashmir. Without prejudice to this presumption, a conscientious Kashmiri has a right to ask as to why no Kashmiri leader in the united Hurriyat or any other group (except JKCHR) raised a voice against the road map prepared by the two institutions of India and Pakistan (of course under the tutelage of respective establishments), which excluded the people of Kashmir from any role in the substance of the resolution and accepted their role only to discuss the process. Kashmiri leaders have been fooling the people of Kashmir. Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain in his opinion column titled “Collaborators within resistance” published in Rising Kashmir has very appropriately raised the following two questions:
1. “Whether these collaborators remain infiltrated in the form of advisors relatives, sons, sons-in-law need to be probed.”
2. “People are not employees of leaders nor of their pay masters.”There is a desperate need to enhance the constituency of ‘Vigilant Citizens’. Unfortunately Kashmiris are failing as a Vigilant society. They may be acting as a Voter society but that is not enough. *(Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.