On their visit to Pakistan, Hurriyat found Pakistan in a tense state of wait for 2014 to rethink its Kashmir policy.
And this wait is not because of the upcoming national elections in the country. Pakistan is waiting for the scheduled US exit from Afghanistan next year to bring about a geo-strategic shift in the region, possibly bolstering Islamabad’s position against India.And this expectation is not only shared by the establishment but also by the militant groups – albeit for varying reasons. Militants believe that the US withdrawal from the region would be conducive to their goal to re-launch armed struggle in Kashmir, while Pakistan establishment and the army don’t see a renewed armed campaign in the state as a credible option any more.
The Hurriyat leaders some of whom met Jamat-u-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, his deputy Abdur Rehman Makki and United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin got a ‘’distinct sense’’ that they are biding their time. ‘’They think with US off their back they will be in a position of command on Kashmir in 2014,” said one of the Hurriyat leaders who met them and received also a call from the former ISI chief and Soviet-Afghan war veteran General Hamid Gul. ‘’ They don’t buy the theory New Delhi will sincerely bargain on Kashmir if there is no effective armed resistance’’.
And as for the establishment is concerned, there is a real apprehension of the messy fallout of Afghan endgame. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq says that in his meetings with Pakistan leaders, he felt a sense of de javu. ‘’Pakistan sees more spillover of Taliban insurgency into Pakistan and some of it possibly into Kashmir,’’ Mirwaiz said. “And should this happen, Pakistanis feel they will not be in a very good position to stop this’’.
It was a tour packed with a series of meetings across the political divide. And these included meetings with Pakistan army chief General Ishfaq Kayani and ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir ul Islam besides interactions at the prestigious National Defense Academy and the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies where, however, one woman legislator from Balochistan Rahila Durrani surprised Hurriyat leaders by asking them to leave Pakistan alone, and sort their own problems with India and another questioned why they have not among their ranks even a single non-Muslim leader. General Kayani talked about the accommodation of hardline views while stressing the need for an eventual consensus among the separatists.
However, the overall message for Hurriyat leadership was to wait for one year before Pakistan finds time off from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Hurriyat is expected to put its political act together and deepen its grassroots presence. Participation in electoral exercise, however, remains a complete no-no, meaning Hurriyat will not take part in the Assembly polls scheduled for the next year as was being speculated in some quarters.
But as against previous visits, this time the Hurriyat leaders have forcefully articulated their concerns. And this concern is not only about being left out of the ongoing bilateral dialogue process but also about their families being victims of the assassinations by ‘’own men’’.
Incidentally, Mirwaiz and Bilal Gani Lone have had their fathers killed by unidentified gunmen whileas another veteran Hurriyat leader Prof Abdul Gani Bhat’s brother was also killed in the similar circumstances. Mirwaiz, in his speeches, also took exception to the grant of statehood to Gilgit Baltistan, saying the move was detrimental to the larger Kashmir cause. “What if India also gives statehood to Ladakh,” Mirwaiz questioned.On the whole, the visit has changed little on Kashmir, even while it has allowed Hurriyat the opportunity to engage with diverse political, military and militant actors. Any hope of the movement forward on the state is dependent on the contours of the geo-politics that will evolve after US exit from Kabul. – GreaterKashmir