Qayyum Khan (C) with Farooq Abdullah during his Indian visit
Qayyum Should Go Back to Secularism for a Solution of Kashmir
Special to the South Asia Tribune
DELHI, October 1: Last week Delhi had visitors from the part of
Kashmir which is under Pakistan’s control. The star attraction
for media among them was Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan who has been
in the center of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)’s politics
since 1947 as the President or Prime Minister and the unchallenged
leader of the Muslim Conference.
secret of his political survival has been the patronage he has
received from the Army/ISI in exchange for his loyalty to Pakistan’s
claim on Kashmir. He has given the slogan ‘Kashmir Banega
Pakistan” or Kashmir will become Pakistan. He calls
it the ideology of PoK.
PoK visitors also included two Kashmiris who represented the section
of people who are engaged in an unpublicized struggle for freedom
from Pakistan’s control. Both Arif Shahid, the leader of
Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKNLF) and Professor
M.A.R.K. Khaleeque, President of the Jammu Kashmir National Awami
Party were all but ignored by the Delhi media. Arif Shahid also
heads a conglomerate of a dozen nationalist parties named All
Party National Alliance (APNA) formed on July 5, 2001.
against the politics of Sardar Qayyum, this Alliance stands for
secularism and rejects Sardar Qayyum’s slogan of ‘Kashmir
Banega Pakistan’. In a recent pamphlet “Why Accession?
Why not Independence? Arif Shahid ridicules the oft-repeated argument
in Pakistan that this country has a claim on Kashmir because its
letter “K” stands for Kashmir. By this logic, Pakistan
should lay claim to all those countries whose names begin or end
with letters which figure in the name Pakistan, he wrote.
nationalists don’t believe that Sardar Qayyum is really
serious about commitment to his slogan (Kashmir Banega Pakistan).
Arif writes in his pamphlet that Qayyum, when out of power and
when funds are stopped, becomes a votary of independence and talks
of converting the LoC into a permanent border.
at once reverts to singing a different tune when patronage and
funds are restored to him. There are numerous instances in PoK
history of Qayyum threatening to play Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (who
liberated Bangladesh) when out of power. In 1975, he had appealed
to Sheikh Abdullah to help liberate PoK from Pakistan when he
was thrown out from power by the Pakistan People’s Party.
just about a year back, he had helped Pakistan’s Prime Minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto frame the 1974 Provisional Constitution that
strengthened Islamabad’s hold over PoK. The Article 56 empowers
Islamabad to sack any elected Government in PoK. “It (Article
56) was included at my behest to guard against political or administrative
turmoil,” he told a newspaper during his stay in Delhi.
is true Qayyum’s Muslim Conference is the oldest and the
largest party in PoK but its electoral victories and defeats do
not necessarily reflect its popularity or otherwise with the people.
It all depends on the wishes of the Establishment in Islamabad.
when an elected Government is sacked by Islamabad there are no
public protests nor are there genuine jubilations when the Muslim
Conference or any other party wins. In either case it is the victory
of the Establishment in Islamabad.
Sardar Ibrahim, who was made the first President of PoK by the
Pakistan Government in 1947, Qayyum is the oldest politician in
the territory. But because of his ever shifting stances on Kashmir,
frequent charges of corruption against him and his son Sardar
Attique and transparent Army patronage, he cannot claim much credibility
there is another side to Qayyum and his Muslim Conference which
can make them relevant to the current peace efforts in Kashmir.
If we do not see his occasional open or implied revolts against
the Pakistani control of PoK merely as a tactic to blackmail Islamabad,
we may find a psychological explanation for it.
belongs to a party right from his youth that stood for independent
Kashmir until July 1947. In July that year, the party passed a
resolution in favor of Kashmir accession to Pakistan ignoring
its supremo Choudhry Ghulam Abbas’ draft resolution sent
from jail for independence.
Ibrahim Khan in whose house this meeting took place, shot down
this resolution and was suitably rewarded for it by the Pakistani
Government with the post of President of PoK. This brought about
a serious rift in the Muslim Conference. Pro-independence Abbas
patronized young Qayyum to take active part in the party. From
here started the rise of Qayyum.
notable fact about the Muslim Conference is that after it formed
a provisional Government in PoK on October 24, 1947, it made a
declaration committing it to secularism. The declaration said
the Provisional Azad Government was set up with the object of
securing to the people of the State including Muslims, Hindus
and Sikhs the right of self-Government.
one may justifiably argue that this declaration was never seen
in practice. Yet one may not fail to see in this declaration a
challenge to Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir on the basis of
the Muslim Conference persistently rejected Pakistani leaders’
frequent pressures – beginning with Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah
to Mr. Nawaz Sharif – to merge itself into the Muslim League.
Before independence, Mr. Jinnah was after Sheikh Abdullah to convert
the National Conference into Muslim League. The Sheikh’s
reply was that the people of Kashmir did not accept Muslim League’s
this theory has not been acceptable to the people of PoK till
today despite all the brainwashing of young children through school
syllabi prepared in Pakistan is proved by the Muslim Conference’s
refusal to become the Muslim League. In fact for long, Qayyum
didn’t allow the Muslim League to open its branch in PoK.
The present Muslim League branch in PoK exists only in name.
purpose in giving this long history of the Muslim Conference is
that despite all the negative points attributed to the Muslim
Conference and Sardar Qayyum, they have a positive side too, which
can be useful for peace in Kashmir. Speaking at the New Delhi
gathering, Sardar Qayyum said that violence will not resolve the
complex Kashmir issue and terrorists were a threat to peace in
South Asia and were ‘maligning’ Islam in the name
PPP in PoK follows a secular ideology. The APNA is secular with
a missionary zeal. If the Muslim Conference re-dedicates itself
for secularism these three organizations, if invited or not or
even mutually hostile as they are today, can be a serious challenge
to those who are destroying peace on both sides of the LoC, India
and Pakistan in the name of Islamic militancy
APNA Chairman Arif Shahid and Professor Khaleeque were apparently
convinced of the usefulness of the recent interaction within Kashmiris
from both sides of the State. Arif Shahid told this writer such
meetings should go on as the “guns have no place in Jammu
& Kashmir and the blood of innocent people must not be spilled.”
They were a good beginning.
The writer is Director, Institute for Media Studies &
Information Technology, YMCA, New Delhi and a former Editor of