This was former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s assessment in 2007. In his book on Kashmir, Saifuddin Soz says it holds true even today.
New Delhi: If Kashmiris are given a chance today to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent, says senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz, concurring with former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s assessment on this issue a decade back.
Musharraf had shared this view with his colleagues in the Pakistani establishment in 2007, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was preparing to visit Islamabad for a “decisive dialogue” with him.
Soz has made these revelations in his book, Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle, which will be released next week.
The then Pakistan President had convinced his colleagues that the resolutions of the United Nations on Kashmir had created a redundant situation as they meant a tight-jacket for Kashmiris — stay with India or go to Pakistan.
“Musharraf had explained that if Kashmiris were given a chance to exercise their free will, they would prefer to be independent. In fact, this assessment of Musharraf seems to be correct even today!” writes Soz.
In the book, he also calls for a revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Kashmir, which he says is “draconian” and has been “misused” in the Valley “to the best of my knowledge”.
Soz also links the “unwarranted and unjustified” use of force under this law with the show of anger by Kashmiris following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
The “decisive dialogue”
In June 2007, when he was a minister in the Union Cabinet, Soz says, Prime Minister Singh invited him for a discussion on Kashmir.
“I found him unusually optimistic on Kashmir’s solution. He shared with me that he would visit Islamabad next month to have a decisive dialogue with Musharraf — much to my relief.”
About two weeks later, in July 2007, Soz met Singh to enquire about his Pakistan visit. The Prime Minister told him that Musharraf had requested for a postponement of the crucial meeting and said he would fix the date soon. That time never came.
“It was unfortunate that Manmohan Singh could not fulfill his mission and his travel to Islamabad for the final and decisive meeting with Musharraf sometime later in July 2007 could not take place because Pakistan’s internal security got vitiated by unfortunate events like Musharraf’s avoidable dispute with the judiciary of Pakistan and the siege of Lal Masjid (3-11 July 2007) causing violence and unrest all around,” writes Soz.
Soz says the so-called Musharraf-Vajpayee-Manmohan formula envisaged same borders but free movement across the region — the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan-held Kashmir, Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh; autonomy on both sides; demilitarisation, that is, phased withdrawal of troops from the region and a mechanism devised jointly so that the roadmap for a settlement is implemented smoothly.
Quoting credible sources in his book, the former Union Minister says Musharraf had convinced his top colleagues, both in the army and outside, that this was the only possible solution that would not yield a situation on the ground as a defeat for one party and the victory for the other.
Soz says that the expression — Musharraf-Vajpayee-Manmohan formula — was part of a non-paper that is still available in the records of the foreign ministries of both countries. The non-paper was getting finalised for a final discussion between the two leaders (Singh and Musharraf).
There were many other areas on which a broader agreement had also been reached. Former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri and SK Lamba, former high commissioner of India to Pakistan, who were privy to the discussion, “testified in a recent meeting with me” and others in New Delhi that the non-paper included many more areas than the famous four-point formula on which a broader consensus had been arrived at.
‘Draconian’ AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act
In his book, Soz says there are families across Kashmir with details of atrocities committed by the armed forces from time to time and many cases were lodged against them. There are numerous cases still pending in courts. Then there are families whose dear ones disappeared and could never be traced. Laws like the AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act, which was suspended later, was “responsible for civilian killings by the armed forces”, says Soz.
The Congress leader writes that the “unwarranted and unjustified” use of force against common people, mostly youth, with the support of AFSPA and other laws, has caused widespread anger among the people.
“That is why the killing of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, on 8 July 2016, proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. That killing led to unprecedented shutdown for more than four months…. Undoubtedly, anger of the Kashmiris, especially the youth, reached its height,” he writes.
Soz also says India should realise that Kashmir is a political dispute that must be resolved politically. “Intelligence agencies should not be allowed to deal with political concerns”.
The ‘organised’ exodus
Soz has quoted “numerous sources” who offered credible evidence to assert that the mass exodus had occurred because Governor Jagmohan, appointed on 19 January 1990 for the second time, thought it prudent to organise the exodus for two reasons: One, that way alone Pandits would feel safe and secure and further sectarian killings would be stopped; second, he would be able to deal with the situation better where stringent laws to curb militancy were already in force and “these laws could not be used freely on a mixed population”.
“Some people suspected that he had been sent to Kashmir to teach the Muslims a lesson,” writes Soz.
“The fact remains that the exodus was an orchestrated event and somebody in authority had put in a sizeable effort in executing it,” says Soz, adding there is evidence that the transport was provided in a planned manner to Pandit families in particular localities and the police department was “fully involved” in organising the exodus.