Political change in Pakistan and Kashmir issue remains so much interwoven that it often becomes difficult to ascertain as to what becomes decisive in moulding the events on both fronts. We have seen rulers in Pakistan losing their power because of their soft line on Kashmir and we have seen Kashmir politics changing its colors with political changes in Pakistan. Ascendance of Nawaz Sharif to power is no exception to this phenomenon. It has already started to cast its shadow over politics in Kashmir. The moderate faction of Hurriyat conference which boasted about its proximity to the Pakistani state on account of its support for four-point formula of General Musharaf has plunged into a crisis with Musharaf landing in jail and Muslim League(N) coming to power. With Muslim League (N) having made it clear in its election manifesto that it will strive for resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions, the four-point formula of Musharaf instead of putting Kashmir issue on backburner seems to be on the verge of being confined to dustbin of history. The ripples within moderates are becoming manifest with every passing day. Last week it was Shabir Shah who called back his representative from moderate executive within Islamabad. This week, Mr. Yaseen Malik made a scathing attack on Mirwaiz and his Hurriyat for its compromising attitude on Kashmir issue. The events in moderate Hurriyat remain a reflection of negative perception that Pakistani society has developed about overall orientation of Pakistani policies during Musharafs era. Musharaf portrayed Pakistani participation in war on terror as means of achieving its foreign policy goals. Out of this participation, Pakistan however received nothing apart from drone attacks and un-stability. Musharraf took his nation on board by promising that American’s will play a pro-active role in settlement of Kashmir problem. In spite of plunging headlong into war on terror, resolution of Kashmir issue remains an illusion, though a fake impression was given to Musharraf that India was ready to settle it. Pakistan remains completely infested with anger and hatred against Americans. Pakistani voter made it a point to defeat all those who some way or other remained associated with Americans or were in proximity of those who subscribe to the so-called the enlightened moderation of General Musharraf.
They cast their votes in favor of pro-Islamist groups and somewhat negative towards passive foreign policy. It was Musharraf’s patronization that led Awami National Party to power. Despite playing the card of Pakhtoon nationalism by naming North West Frontier Province as Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa the party was completely wiped out in its stronghold. Pathans voted in favour of the parties which opposed war on terror. Pakistan People’s Party was perceived to be more cordial to India as compared to Muslim league. Indians can’t expect many concessions from Muslim League in a scenario where Imran Khan remains potent leader of opposition and challenge to the government.
Concessions on Kashmir can’t be expected because Nawaz Sharief is an ethnic Kashmiri and depends upon the Kashmiri vote bank within Punjab. Punjab Province of Pakistan has a population of eight million Kashmiris who like the ancestors of Iqbal and Pandit Nehru settled there in eighteenth century while the valley was infested with epidemics and floods. Though a minority they remain a potent group on account of high levels of education and penetration within business and bureaucracy. Mr Ishaq Dar, the incumbent finance minister too comes from this group.
In spite of the above assessment, Kashmiris remain apprehensive lest business man and industrialist within Nawaz Sharief don’t prevail upon his ethnicity and his party line. Moderate Hurriyat in Kashmir too may tend to influence him to revive the unproductive stance experimented by Musharaf for their own survival.
(The author teaches law at the Central University, Kashmir. He can be reached at email@example.com)