IHK’s grim reality
THE dire predictions of Kashmir observers and human rights groups have proved correct. The special status given to India-held Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian constitution has been all but removed through a resolution in the upper house of parliament, in a move to avoid the lawful route of a constitutional amendment. India is poised to forcibly convert occupied Kashmir into a Union Territory in violation of all its commitments, including those made at the UN.
The resolution and a presidential order were used to deprive the Jammu & Kashmir assembly of the right to have a say in any changes desired in its status. Meanwhile, a bill in parliament called for separating Ladakh from J&K, but if this amounted to justifying the division of areas on the basis of faith, it was not something that the BJP leaders were likely to lose sleep over, reassured of their own powers of intimidation after their election win earlier this year. Not just that, they also drew strength from India’s image in the international community as a prospering capitalist model.
The changes reduce IHK to the status of a colony. The special status the region enjoyed since 1954 was basically a measure that guarded against any attempt at changing the demography of an overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir. Its abolition could mean an invasion of the Valley sponsored by the BJP in its current belligerent mood.
The move will have violent consequences. The Kashmiris have shown in recent months that, although abandoned by many supporters, their ability to take on the might of the occupiers has far from diminished. In fact, it is the subterfuge, the force, the tricks employed by the BJP that have stoked the fires.
Pakistan has vowed to campaign against the new developments, which the world must have known were in the making. Serious concern of the latest Indian action in IHK was being expressed for some time. Pakistanis will be asking their government as to what exactly transpired, and in precisely what context did Kashmir feature, at the recent meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump.
Indeed, Islamabad is being advised to link its support for the normalisation of Afghanistan in a post-American pullout scenario with Kashmir. That is easier said than done given the current sense of global indifference towards IHK. The world watched in silence as thousands of troops moved into the disputed occupied valley in recent days. Few took notice — even though there may be no cruder version of how a majority living by the tenets of an ideology built on fear of a minority than the one present today in Kashmir.
The hatred inherent in such a brand of politics has been formally accepted as fair and correct by a parliamentary decree in the biggest democracy of the world.
Path to Afghan peace
IT is unrealistic to expect a miracle ending to the long-running Afghan conflict. The US has been in that country for the past 18 years, and if the history of the conflict is stretched back to the Soviet invasion, then we have several decades of turmoil that will not be undone in weeks. However, with the Americans suffering from obvious combat fatigue and the Afghan Taliban also looking to take the battle to the negotiating table, the outlines of a possible endgame may be in sight. The Americans and the Taliban have met recently in Doha, the latest meeting in a long series, and there are efforts underway to arrange a rendezvous between US point man on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban’s political supremo, Mullah Baradar. Moreover, as a senior Taliban official told this paper recently, the hard-line movement and the Americans have reached an agreement on “80pc of issues”. And while the Talibs maintain their traditional ambivalence towards the US-backed Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul, there are signs of a thaw, for as the Taliban spokesman told Dawn: “We don’t recognise the government in Kabul. But we do recognise it is a party to the conflict” … and that down the road “it too will be engaged in an intra-Afghan dialogue”.
Of course, the withdrawal of foreign troops tops the agenda of the Afghan Taliban. And it is also a fact that the Trump administration wants to get American military personnel out of Afghanistan at the earliest. Pursuing and achieving Afghan peace will be a delicate act for all involved — the Taliban, Mr Ghani’s government, the US, as well as Afghanistan’s neighbours. While the principal actors, the Afghan government and the Taliban, continue to fight, a parallel peace process also continues. The immediate goal should be a truce and a commitment from all sides to stop the targeting of civilians. According to UN figures released recently, most non-combatants killed in the first half of this year died in attacks by Nato and Afghan government forces. While the Taliban insist on an American withdrawal, they must shed their rigidity and talk to the government in Kabul. With presidential elections due in Afghanistan next month, perhaps the militia is waiting to see how the dust settles before deciding its future strategy. The goal, however, for all Afghan factions should be a democratic state that ensures rights for all of the country’s sects, tribes and marginalised and female citizens.