On the 26th of October in London, a march will be carried out by the People’s Party of Pakistan leader Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary. It is being dubbed as a ‘Million March’ in media circles. But it remains to be seen how Sultan Mehmood Chaudhary (former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir) who has had major fall-out with his own party in Azad Kashmir. This is after he was overlooked for his second stint as the Prime Minister with Chaudhary Abdul Majeed was appointed by the People’s Party of Pakistan authority in Pakistan.
Ironically, the burly Barrister Mehmood has been planning and plotting to overthrow the PM of AJK who belongs to his own party ever since. He has been leading a faction of the party in Azad Kashmir and trying to seduce PML-N assembly members to no avail. With no prior political background in AJK politics before he became the Prime Minister in 1996 after his cohorts with Asif Ali Zardari. Sultan Mehmood was known to be close to Benazir Bhutto during his education in the United Kingdom. In-fact his father Chaudhary Noor Hussein a freedom fighter formed his own party Azad Muslim Conference, which the Barrister merged with PPP to gain clout.
His major following comes from his Thatwaal Jat Biradari in Mirpur, which is prominent in the Kashmiri population in the United Kingdom. Despite the abolishment of feudalism by the first elected President Khurshid Hasan Khurshid, the biradari or the tribal system still holds strong in ‘Azad’ Kashmir. This becomes a big roadblock for progressive politics in AJK. The assembly is riled in power struggles and shouting matches between PPP and PML – N members while the indigenous and historical party Muslim Conference takes a backseat.
A sorry state of affairs for Azad Kashmir which was liberated by Kashmiri rebels in the Dogra Army, set out to be a revolutionary state to free the occupied Kashmir.
Million Man March
It falls a day before the 27th October which is the day when Indian Army landed in Kashmir and remains there as an occupying army. Why 26th? Maybe because its a holiday.
Over the years the protests in different parts of the world for Kashmir are first of all rare but when they happen is usually on the anniversaries. During these token marches and rallies, scores of mini-parties come together with old banners repeating the same rhetorical slogans, head home and comeback next year. Despite the fact that these rallies have happened since the time Maqbool Butt — the great revolutionary was sentenced to death by Indian courts. It has failed to capture the imagination of the non-Kashmiri audience. With these marches often including just the family members and near relatives, it remains exclusive. Or unless the pay for it with free rides and lunch.
Thus a failure on part of these ‘ambassadors’.
Although many Kashmiris from both sides of the line welcome these events but these rallies fail to carry forward these initiatives and build on them. It in turn reflects the idea of these marches. Are these marches just a walk down the park or another mention in their resume when the seek funding?
Instead of joining the bandwagon. We need to raise questions and concerns. As a politically aware nation not as potential fanboys.
The Barrister from the People’s Party of Pakistan has made it to headlines in different papers and even got reactions from the Indian Government. It has failed to be imaginative – since the objective of the march is to just pass a memorandum to the 10 Downing Street in London. Been there, done that and got the silence.
Let’s not forget the ‘Convoy to Kashmir’ which was to be led by George Galloway in 2013 was announced in 2012. It never took off and the reason being, grab the headlines. This is the same group of people who were behind the confetti and clap squads in the audience and social media.
What happened then?
The majority of Aid sent from United Kingdom by many Kashmiri organisations to Kashmir was mostly for Azad Kashmir which was also affected by floods although fortunately it wasn’t extensive. Although some diaspora took it upon themselves to generate funds on their own (knowing the bad reputation of other Kashmir NGOs) and personally dispatched it to Srinagar. Imagine the amount of money that has been pooled to fund the march by these politicians could have been used for the victims of Kashmir Floods. Knowing the fact that the winter is knocking on the door and victims will be suffering even further. What is this march then for? a political point scoring or just another cover for the dirty politics of AJK like usual?
Or is it the extension of the resurgence of Kashmir rhetoric in the Pakistan People’s Party who few years ago had called Kashmir Rebels as terrorists?
Let’s not forget their silence when a Kashmiri girl was allegedly raped by ministers in the AJK cabinet in 2013 who have the powerful backing of Faryal Talpur the sister of Asif Zardari. News from this country seldom travels, and when it should it is choked until it vanishes from public memory.
With Indian Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah trying to add more spice by saying that they should have done the march in Kashmir (to add to hundreds he has killed in previous marches). While Hindu Nationalist government at the centre in India they seem to be irritated by anything Kashmir. Their reactions to this march are an idea to what it holds for Kashmir activism in the near future. Although foolishly their knee jerk reactions present a picture of a military state when it comes to Kashmir.
While Shabir Chaudary a-not-so-famous-internet-intellectual-leader-on-Kashmir has started his rhetoric that he seems to have been pushed by the agencies that have cropped him up. A good opportunity for him to make a name with the Indians who would like his anti-Pakistan rhetoric.
Inclusiveness and Imagination
These two characteristics remain missing from the Kashmiri activism globally, it has failed to put Kashmir on the bigger platform. With the same repeated rhetoric being recycled every year, it has remained exclusive to the audience. Another issue is the narrative that is being projected by these political party’ driven marches. If it is a Pro Pakistani party, it will not be welcomed by the Pro Liberation audience and vice versa.
The problem is the accommodation of these different political views into a single platform. Although it seems unlikely in the present circumstances but the youth from both sides of the line are coming together and creating their own indigenous narrative. This shift is very healthy as it builds the foundations with added perspectives and innovative ideas. For example, the Intra Kashmir Online Conferences, or We Are Kashmir Initiative or even the brilliant Kashmir Solidarity Movement in Scotland which has done fantastic work over the period of three years.
The grassroots work is going in United Kingdom led by students and youngsters from both sides of the line. They are financed by their own pocket money rather than by political parties who further their own agendas by their agents abroad. They are motivated by a cause which will endure their efforts for long unlike these party whose agendas are fuelled by the media hype and political rhetoric.
With massive diaspora population of Kashmir, one needs to bring them on a single platform based on a cause not a political party. The youth of Kashmir worldwide need to be cautious of opportunists and politicians overseas who have fooled around for long. It is time for a shift from traditional politics and create a network of ideas to project Kashmir at the bigger level. Not to let it be exclusive for Kashmiris but for non Kashmiris as well, for the latter can be the ambassadors of a just cause for freedom.
These ‘rallies’ seek political attention for their own vested interests. They die down after a week gathering headlines, and go home. Only surface during the massacres, deaths, and anniversary protests. Lets call spade a spade and institutionalise the movement. Rather than making international activism only about anniversary dates. It needs concentrated and focused effort that can have a long term effect not short term gains.
The need for the Pro-Freedom Leadership is to seek out youth and individuals to further the international discourse on merit basis not on their lineage or pedigree or a defunct political party. Same goes for these hardworking youngsters and students who need to identify genuine leadership.
Remember revolutions are done by the people not by political parties.
Update: What happened then?