The mediator's views

Published : Aug 19, 2000 00:00 IST

Fazlul Huq Qureshi, a former civil servant, is universally respected for his integrity. He joined the militant Al-Fatah 30 years ago. In 1974, the People's League was founded by Farooq Rehmani, now in Pakistan, and others. Qureshi became its vice- chairman. A dedicated colleague then was Mausaddiq Adil, an associate at the talks with the government on August 3. Abdul Majid Dar was military adviser to the Tehrik-e-Jehade Islami (1988), of which Qureshi was a member. In 1991, it was absorbed into th e Hizbul Mujahideen, which was launched in 1990. Detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act in February 1990, and released on June 3, 1992, Qureshi founded the People's Political Front (PPF) on August 8, 1993.

This interview was recorded in Srinagar on July 20, well before the Hizb nominated him, on July 31, to work out the modalities of the ceasefire.

The PPF founder observed: "When I was released from jail (in June 1992) I found a changed scenario. The people were listless and the situation was critical. People were in search of a solution. I felt that a fair and positive approach in the circumstance s was to work for a political solution to the Kashmir question. There was no military solution. Might offered no solution. True, our youth were compelled to use the gun, but, ultimately it offered no solution. Militancy was a demand of those times. Our P PF is a political body."

Are you in favour of an unconditional dialogue with New Delhi?


Are you prepared for a bilateral solution in the talks first with India, to be followed later by one between New Delhi and Islamabad?

Certainly... I have advocated this before.

What of the 1953 status as a half-way house, a temporary step towards the final solution?

The 1953 status is no solution. It will give no respite to anybody. It makes no difference.

Are you in favour of a ceasefire on the basis of India checking the security forces and granting freedom of protest?

I have urged this often.Permanent or temporary?It can be a temporary ceasefire.For how long?

It can be indefinite also, while the dialogue continues in a good atmosphere with some constructive steps, meanwhile.

Are you prepared to contest elections, not in a bid for power but to demonstrate your representative credentials provided there are guarantees of their fairness?

We have often declared that elections neither provide a solution to the problem nor do they determine representative character. But if it be necessary to determine who should represent the people of Kashmir, we say that, in all fairness, if that is posed as the sole question in the polls as to who should represent the people to conduct the dialogue for a peaceful solution, a symbolic election can be held. It can be held by any organisation except the Government of India.

What is your concept of the future political set-up in Kashmir. Will it be secular or Islamic? Are you for accession to Pakistan or for independence?

Please read the document I have given you. A solution to the Kashmir question affects the entire subcontinent. We would accept any workable solution acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

* * *

AGN: This manifesto ("document") is a piece of incisive and starkly realistic analysis. It said: "The Indian leadership backed out from its commitment to hold plebiscite, under the auspices of the UNO, to determine the future of the people of J&K. " The matter got enmeshed in international politics. "Our leadership... intentionally allowed the struggle to get lost" in its "quest for power". Censure of the Indira-Abdullah Accord (1975) is followed by one of the Rajiv-Farooq Accord (1986). A rigged poll drove the youth to take up arms.

However, while "all the elements of a mass-based popular movement were present in this phase of our freedom struggle", political parties became extinct once the militancy took over. This "resulted in a political vacuum in which no organised set-up existe d which could consolidate the positive results of armed struggle politically. This inherent lacuna still exists... No organisation existed which could canalise this support (to the militancy by the people) and give it the right direction. Thus an opportunity was lost to consolidate and strengthen the vast potential of renewed public support to the cause of freedom." The armed struggle intensified; but "the grip of our leaders over the struggle loosened".

In this political vacuum, the youth took to "one or other splinter group which had mushroomed. As the social structures collapsed, society was thrown into disarray and insecurity". Distrust and despair took hold over the minds. "Freedom of thought and exchange of ideas became casualties. The fierce nature of this phase of our struggle and the resultant repression let loose by the occupation (sic.) forces needed a coherent, well-organised and disciplined socio-political structure which could absor b the shock. The collective resistance of the people to the repression and brutalities started cracking."

There was a dire need for a well-knit political party to project Kashmir's cause. "The numerous graveyards, the torched houses, the burnt bazaars... the custodial deaths" reflect the people's determination "to attain our cherished objective." The time ha s come for the leaders of India and Pakistan to "recognise the reality" and "accept our right to decide our future".

Qureshi pleaded for "a peaceful and lasting political solution of the Kashmir dispute". To achieve that, "all the three parties should sit at the negotiation table... any settlement reached by India and Pakistan without the participation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is destined to meet the same fate as the Tashkent and Simla agreements in the past." A "meaningful" dialogue is called for.

On August 1, a day after his nomination as emissary, Qureshi said that "talks should be held with an open mind and, after that, Pakistan should be involved in the process for the final resolution of the Kashmir problem."

Speaking from Islamabad on August 2, the Hizb chief, Syed Salahuddin, spoke of a two-step process, starting with India. In the second stage, a Kashmiri negotiating team would be appointed in "consultation with the recognised Kashmiri leadership from both sides." But, he added, the Hizb "may decide to negotiate by itself or give the mandate to somebody else and monitor the process." Would this depend on whether the Hurriyat accepts "the mandate"?

He clarified that Qureshi's mandate was to fix the details of the ceasefire, not to talk on the main issue "of the proposed tripartite negotiations" (India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir).

In an interview to this writer on August 4, Qureshi spoke of a new process which would comprise the Hurriyat and "non-Hurriyat" personnel besides "experts".

There can be no mistaking the man's sincerity and steadfastness of purpose nor the issues New Delhi will have to face in the talks ahead. Significantly on July 30, Farooq Rehmani said that the Hizb's move could turn into a breakthrough (Kashmir Times, July 31).

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