Extremism Liberalism and its impact on Pakistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir,
speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by UKPNP in London
On 14 February 2011.
Chairman, Chief Guest Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri, Abbas Butt, Chairman KNP, Mohammed Sarwar, Chief Editor Weekly Nation, friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam.
Once again United Kashmir People National Party has arranged a seminar on a very important topic; and I am grateful to them for providing me this opportunity to express my views on a topic which is of immense interest to people in our region and elsewhere.
Many people associate religious intolerance, extremism and violence with General Zia Ul Haq and his regime. Thousands of Pakistanis have become victims of extremism and violence since 1977. The extremism and violence increased during the rule of General Musharaf and rule of Peoples Party, and tens of thousands of more Pakistani lost their lives after 9/11.
But I think story of religious intolerance, extremism and violence goes back to 1947. If people of Pakistan became victims of extremism and religious intolerance in 1970s, or after Objectives Resolution of 1949, which changed the course of the Pakistani history, we people of Jammu and Kashmir became victims of this menace in October 1947.
On 22 October 1947, in name of Jihad and in clear violation of Standstill Agreement, which Pakistan had with government of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan managed a tribal invasion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Thousands of tribesmen from Pakistan, in name of jihad and in name of our ‘freedom’ attacked Kashmir and killed non Muslims, raped Kashmiri women, kidnapped Kashmiri girls, looted and plundered our homeland.
In order to justify this crime some people say they killed and raped Hindu and Sikh women, as committing a crime against Hindus and Sikhs is justified in Islam. However, to me they were Kashmiris and they did not deserve that treatment under any pretext. No religion or civilised community can justify this kind of treatment to its minorities; and those who try to justify this kind of savage behaviour are enemies of Islam and enemies of people of Jammu and Kashmir. I condemn what happened in October 1947; and I condemn that mind set which encourage people to become brutes.
Islam teaches tolerance, peace and respect for women, and respect for believers of other religions. What these fanatics are doing is totally against teachings of Islam. They are doing a disservice to Islam and creating hatred against Muslims and Islam. If activities of these people are not checked then we people living in the West will face enormous problems in future because of the hatred and misunderstandings created by a bunch of extremists. Our Jihad must be to counter them, oppose them and expose them that they cannot do any more harm to our religion and Muslims.
Once again Pakistani agencies made us Kashmiris victims of their sponsored ‘jihad’ in 1989/90. In name of jihad and Islam innocent non Muslims were killed and driven out of their homes; and sad thing is that among the culprits were some members of the JKLF as well. Non Muslims in fear had to leave their homes; and many Muslims were also killed because they opposed their brand of Islam and jihad. Anyone who opposed them or challenged their views were intimidated, silenced or butchered.
Amanullah Khan and ISI persuaded people to start an armed struggle against India, and leave areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan alone. Amanullah Khan’s philosophy was if India could be defeated or forced to leave that part of Jammu and Kashmir, then Pakistan will have no choice but to listen to aspirations of the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Amanullah Khan did not explain logic behind his strategy or theory. First, how could Kashmiris militarily defeat a big country like India with a gun borrowed from Islamabad; and why Pakistan would leave areas of Kashmir under their illegal occupation, especially when its arch enemy India was ‘defeated’ in Kashmir and the entire Kashmir would come under their direct and indirect control.
This was a trap of secret agencies of Pakistan, and Amanullah Khan, not walked, but jumped in to it. After being expelled from Britain as ‘undesirable person’, he felt vulnerable and saw no future for him, so it was not that difficult for the ISI to woo him. But once trapped, he did not acknowledge that he made a mistake or he was trapped, he loyally continued with that policy. A mindset was established among Kashmiris and Pakistanis that anyone who tried to criticise events in the Valley or questioned the rationale of this erroneous policy was castigated as ‘anti movement’ and ‘anti Pakistan’; and in worst case, an ‘Indian agent’.
With help of secret agencies of Pakistan, groups that promote extremism, communalism and hatred in name of ‘jihad’ have hijacked the Kashmiri agenda of right of self determination and transformed it with their brand of ‘jihad’. And problem with their ‘jihad’ is that there is no end to it. Promoters of ‘jihad’ declare that it has to continue till doomsday. That means there will be no peace and harmony in our region until and unless these forces are defeated who want to promote extremism and hatred.
Jihadi forces and their mentors want to hoist their flag on Red Fort in Delhi; but what is alarming to us is that they don’t want to go to Delhi via international border or via Wahga, but they want to go to Delhi via Srinagar. What that means is they want our territory to be a battleground for their confrontation with India. Of course this strategy will destroy us before they reach Delhi, so it is imperative that we fight our corner to defeat these people who want to destroy peace and harmony of South Asia.
Biased and intolerant political culture was nurtured and anyone who tried to defy this or tried to speak about plight of people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan was declared ‘an Indian agent’ and ‘anti movement’. This policy, by and large, still continues and those people who want to talk of injustice of Pakistan and problems faced by people of Jammu and Kashmir on this side of the LOC are criticised and opposed, even by some so called nationalist Kashmiris.
I am a practising Muslim, but Allah has not given me this right to pick up a gun and force people to pray or adopt a particular style of life. People are born free; and they have every right to practise what they believe; and peacefully oppose what they don’t like. No one has a divine right to terrorise society in name of religion, no one has right to force people to adopt a particular life style and no one has right to kill, intimidate and frighten non Muslims.
It is a known fact that the militant training camps are back in business in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, in Gilgit Baltistan and in some parts of Pakistan. It is also known that a ‘God father’ of Jihadi groups, Lt General ® Hamid Gul secretly visits militant camps in Pakistani Administered Kashmir twice a month. No one should be under any illusions that he goes there to preach peace and tolerance, as he can only preach violence and extremism in name of religion.
We have to ensure that our territory does not become a battleground. We also need to remember that we cannot go to Srinagar to ‘liberate’ them; and they cannot come to Muzaffarabad to liberate us. One slave locked in one room cannot help the other slave locked in another room. It means they have to struggle for their rights according to their conditions on that side of the LOC and we have to fight our corner on this side.
Those who urge us to concentrate on matters of the Valley are only trying to give this message that problem is only related to the Valley; and that peace and harmony prevails in the areas under Pakistan. Call me what you like, and stick any label against my name, but I will continue to emphasis that our struggle is on this side of the Line of Control and against those who control us and intimidate us.
Problems of extremism and intolerance that we Kashmiris face today; and other liberal and democratic minded people of Pakistan face, seeds of that were sown a few decades ago. If we want our next generations to live in peace and harmony, and enjoy fruits of liberal and democratic society then we have to fight their war today. We have no choice but to stand up and fight for our right to hold our views, right to live in peace and harmony and practise what we believe.
Chairman, I thank you for your patience.
Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir