THE speech of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) Prime Minister Sikandar Hayat Khan just before he flagged off the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus on April 7 has not received the attention it deserves. Considering that he is widely seen as a representative under the thumb of Islamabad, or to be more specific, the Pakistan military, the message he was trying to put across has special importance.
Reading from a prepared Urdu script (obviously vetted if not prepared by the Pakistani establishment) in the presence of a horde of international, Pakistani and local journalists, Hayat made it a point to tell those opposed to the bus service to realise the futility of their efforts. "Those who have failed to cross the Line of Control (LoC) with the power of the gun for 58 years have no right to talk against the bus. You have failed to achieve the goal of liberating Kashmir through the barrel of the gun. Why don't you give a chance to the path of peace and dialogue?" he asked .
He raised several questions about the human rights record of the Indian government in `held Kashmir' and how it was the responsibility of the international community to ensure implementation of the 1948 United Nations Resolutions for holding a plebiscite in the Valley to enable people to decide on whether they wanted to be part of India or Kashmir.
What attracted attention of observers was the list of demands he had for the governments of both India and Pakistan. He stunned the audience by seeking immediate restoration of all the `traditional routes' that connected Kashmiris on both sides of the divide before Partition. He also wanted ``truck services' and air links between the two Kashmirs.
In other words, Hayat was asking both India and Pakistan to agree to immediate and practicable moves that would pave the way for Kashmiris to interact and trade with each other even as the two countries continued their battles on how to resolve the Kashmir issue.
The transformation is indeed dramatic considering that people in Pakistan know fully well that prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, President Pervez Musharraf publicly supported the `jihad' to `liberate' Indian Kashmir. On February 5, 2000, four months after he overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government in a military coup, General Musharraf addressed a public meeting in Muzaffarabad. Raising clenched fists, he declared that the Afghan jihad had shifted to Kashmir and would be fought there. He is the first Pakistan General to have spoken in such explicit terms on Kashmir.
Is the change witnessed in Muzaffarabad on April 7, 2005 on the occasion of the bus launch real and permanent? It is difficult to answer the question at this juncture. Going by the statements and body language of Gen. Musharraf in New Delhi, the change appears to be dictated by new geopolitical realities.