When the Narendra Modi government scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and announced its decision to turn the state into a Union Territory Monday, it caught the thekedars of Kashmir in Pakistan off guard. The reactions from the Imran Khan government were anything but serious, that too for a piece of land they once called their own.
Honestly, losing cricket matches to India have had better reactions in Pakistan. But the bigger question is: can Imran Khan’s government run without a Kashmir cause, as the saying goes ‘hukoomat petrol se nahin, Kashmir cause se chalti hai’.
Everyone in the ruling elite sold the ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ chooran to the best of their benefit – those in the Pakistani military to keep themselves viable, the politicians to use it during elections, the religious cartel to fan anti-Hindu sentiments, and the ordinary Pakistani to just watch all of them make hay.
Brainwashing since childhood
‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ is what we were told as kids. ‘But how will it become a part of Pakistan when it is in India?’ We would ask. ‘Kashmir hamari shahrag hai (Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan)’. So how are we managing to survive without this vein? The questions, we were told, had no answers, so they better not be asked either.
Growing up in the 1990s, our daily dose of brainwashing involved a 20-minute programme on Kashmir after the 9pm news on Pakistan Television. With Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Iss duniya k gham jane kab hu gy kam playing in the background, we saw agonising images of Kashmir. It would eulogise Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other Kashmiri leaders – we were told that these men were the real heroes.
‘Our heart should bleed for Kashmir,’ was the loud and clear message. But how can the heart bleed for something that was only a state-imposed reality? We would think.
The rulers of Pakistan came and went but what remained unchanged was Pakistan’s Kashmir cause. A cause for which daring to be indifferent amounted to blasphemy of sorts.
Once a year, Pakistanis would get a day to free Kashmir. Every 5 February, they show solidarity with their Kashmiri brethren. School tableaux depict innocent Kashmiri girls singing folk songs and out of nowhere come Indian soldiers firing gunshots to arouse pathos in the audience.
The happenings of Kashmir Day always remained unclear – a national holiday which seemed just like any other off day. Kashmir Day would involve everything other than liberating Kashmir. Waking up late, watching Indian films, and hanging out with friends was our contribution to the cause of Kashmir.
And then there were the poster boys of Kashmir freedom movement. Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin or Ahmed Ludhianvi from banned militant outfits taking out processions, apprising the Pakistanis of the Kashmir issue. But why would you preach to the converted already?
What Pakistan’s Kashmir policy achieved
Now, nearly three decades later, Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has borne no fruits for regular Pakistanis, other than polarising the society on the basis of jihad and instilling hate against India. The government of Pakistan expects the inflation-battling awaam to reunite for the Kashmir cause. But why?
Whether or not your heart bleeds for your own ethnic (Pashtuns, Baloch, Hazaras, Mohajir) and religious minorities (Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus), your heart must bleed for the Kashmiris. It doesn’t matter whether the Kashmiris want it or not.
Prime minister Imran Khan, who recently concluded what we were told was a successful visit to the United States, now finds himself answerless in front of the roaring opposition in Parliament. While he had pleaded US President Donald Trump of mediating on Kashmir issue, he now doesn’t know what actually happened with him. Clueless as ever, in his streetfighter style, the premier told what Narendra Modi’s BJP has done wasn’t cool, and like an astrologer, he also told what could happen. But what was missing as usual was what his plan was. Being unable to do anything about India’s constitutional amendment is one thing; giving sermons about the past quite another.
Pushing the international community to raise the issue of Kashmir is a lost cause, as is evident from the last 70 years of UN General Assembly outings. Also, Pakistan’s recent foreign policy debacles don’t help the cause either. Imran Khan, who had called on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad for help, forgot how Mahathir had categorically said when he had visited Pakistan that he won’t take sides in the Kashmir conflict. Mahathir had also said that the reason for Malayisa’s success was that it isn’t in conflict with any of its neighbours.
During the Indian parliamentary election, Imran Khan had reiterated that Narendra Modi could solve the Kashmir issue. Like an astrologer, Khan got it right. The new measures from New Delhi signal towards etching the Line of Control into a permanent international boundary and like the Punjab and Bengal, Kashmir now too is partitioned.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
This article has been updated to reflect a correction.