Kashmiri intifada: the Burhan Wani factor

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 12.10.16

In the address of Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif to the United Nation General
Assembly (UNGA) last month, the unequivocal and emphatic mentioning of the name and
role of Burhan Wani was a single major feat that is bound to infuse a new spirit of sacrifice
and struggle for freedom in Kashmiris residing especially in the Indian-held Kashmir.

Sharif said: “A new generation of Kashmiris has risen spontaneously against India’s illegal
occupation, demanding freedom from occupation. Burhan Wani, the young leader
murdered by Indian forces, has emerged as the symbol of the latest Kashmiri intifada, a
popular and peaceful freedom movement, led by Kashmiris, young and old, men and
women, armed only with an undying faith in the legitimacy of their cause, and a hunger for
freedom in their hearts.”

In this part of his message, Sharif astutely substituted the term freedom fighter with freedom
leader who has inspired the actuality of a new version of the Kashmiri Intifada that is neither
a militant movement launched by a bunch of militants surviving at the fringe of society nor a
manufactured effort having any external handle to control. Instead, it is a movement
spontaneous in origin started by non-militant Kashmiris of all age and gender, and it is led
by a new generation of Kashmiris. Sharif also pointed out that the inspirational motivator of
this movement, which is popular in nature, is the rightfulness of the cause it is following
while the objective of the movement is to gain freedom from India’s illegal occupation.

Unfortunately, the acuteness of Sharif’s message has not been much appreciated in
Pakistan. It was perhaps the first time that, at the platform of the UNGA, any leader of
Pakistan dared take the name of a Kashmiri who had lost his life at the hands of Indian
security forces in the Indian-held Kashmir and called him a ‘freedom leader’. Through Sharif’
s speech, Pakistan fulfilled its promise of supporting the Kashmir issue politically or
diplomatically on behalf of Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control, an interim
border laid in 1972 under the Simla agreement till the final settlement of the Kashmir issue
takes place.

One of the major differences between the Kashmir uprising in 1987 and the current one in
2016 is that the former derived its inspirational strength from the struggle of Afghans
against the invading Soviet army whereas the latter has been deriving its strength from the
Arab Spring of 2011. Secondly, in 1987, several militant groups sprouted in Kashmir to fight
for the cause of the freedom of Kashmir whereas, this time, the movement is in the hands of
common, unarmed Kashmiris, one expression of which is that hundreds of thousands of
Kashmiris violated curfew and offered the funeral prayer of Wani, their fallen hero. Thirdly,
in 1987, the nature of Pakistan-India relations had a direct bearing on Kashmir’s freedom
movement whereas this is no more the case now.

The recent deterioration in Pakistan-India relations is not the cause but the effect of the
atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris by Indian security forces. Any de-escalation between
Pakistan and India does not mean the dwindling of the Kashmir movement. History dictates
that no matter how much relations improve on the bilateral, Pakistan-India level in social
and cultural sectors, one appalling or oppressive incident in the Indian-held Kashmir
perpetrated by Indian security forces has the potential of ruining the whole bilateral peace
effort spanning over even a decade. The causative nature of the Kashmir issue engenders
a kind of renewed antagonism between Pakistan and India. This means that the Kashmir
issue is alive and seeks attention. This is why, in his address, Sharif not only reminded the
UN Security Council (UNSC) of its commitment to offering the right of self-determination to
Kashmiris through holding a promised plebiscite but also expressed Pakistan’s readiness to
demilitarise its part of Kashmir to let a free and fair plebiscite take place under the auspices
of the UN.

Sharif said: “The Security Council has called for the exercise of the right to self-
determination by the people of Jammu and Kashmir through a free and fair plebiscite held
under UN auspices. The people of Kashmir have waited 70 years for implementation of this
promise. The Security Council must honour its commitments by implementing its own
decisions. This General Assembly must demand that India deliver on the commitments its
leaders solemnly made on many occasions. To this end, steps should be taken by the
United Nations to de-militarise Jammu and Kashmir and undertake consultations with India,
Pakistan and the true representatives of the Kashmiri people to implement the resolutions
of the Security Council.”

In this part of his message, Sharif made at least three points clear. First, if the plebiscite
could not take place in 1949 or afterward under the UNSC Resolution number 47 passed
on April 21, 1948, it does not mean that the plebiscite cannot take place at all. No
resolution of the UNSC is carrying a sell-by date and hence is not prohibitive in the context
of timeframe. The point is simple: If Pakistan and India have failed to create an enabling
environment for holding a plebiscite in 1949, this is not the fault of Kashmiris. A plebiscite
cannot be denied to Kashmiris under any ruse, even under the Simla Agreement that took
place between Pakistan and India in 1972. A supporting environment can be created
anytime to let Kashmiris exercise their right of self-determination.

Secondly, the length of occupation of the land of Kashmir does not mean the strength of
legitimacy of occupation. The interim arrangement to administrate the state of Jammu and
Kashmir cannot be considered permanent at the whim of any country including India.

Thirdly, the Simla Agreement of 1972 has failed to resolve the Kashmir issue. For all
practical purposes, the Simla Agreement is dead. This point alone is sufficient to justify
returning to the UN.

In short, internationally, Sharif rightfully expressed the sentiments of Kashmiris. Moreover,
the Burhan Wani factor indicates that Kashmiris are no more ready to subject their right of
self-determination to any Simla Agreement.

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