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Balochistan, Kashmir, Indo-Pak Peace!
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
According to media reports Islamabad has decided to put the Kashmir dispute temporarily in abeyance. The internal crisis in Pakistan is cited as the reason. Islamabad has invited Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan to explain the reasons for its changed perception. Reportedly New Delhi has welcomed the development. It has raised no objection to the Hurriyat leaders visiting Pakistan.
One crucial element of the internal crisis in Pakistan is related to the situation in Balochistan. Now with America taking note of the Baloch separatist demand and the human rights violations in that province the crisis for Islamabad has become acute. It makes sense to put the Kashmir dispute in cold storage because Balochistan is rapidly becoming a huge embarrassment for Pakistan.
Consider the genesis of the Kashmir problem. When the British left India in 1947 they gave all the princely states the option to join either India or Pakistan. The State of Jammu and Kashmir had contagious borders with both India and Pakistan. The majority population was Muslim. The Maharaja ruling the state was Hindu. Maharaja Hari Singh planned to demand independence. Pakistan fearful of that eventuality, invaded Kashmir. Circumstances and the need for security impelled Maharaja Hari Singh to join India. Recognizing the peculiar circumstances that led to the state acceding to India, Pandit Nehru while giving his consent stated that Kashmir’s accession to India was “subject to the will of the people”. The Kashmiri people demanded a special autonomous status. Protest grew, separatist demands proliferated, and for six decades there has been unrest punctuated by spells of violent insurgency in the state that are fomented by Pakistan.
Consider the genesis of the Balochistan problem. Before the British left the subcontinent the Khan of Kalat who ruled the bulk of Balochistan claimed that Balochistan was not part of British India. Balochistan has contiguous borders with Afghanistan and Iran. In 1946 the Khan petitioned the British with his demand in a court of law. The lawyer who represented the Khan in court was Mohammed Ali Jinnah. After Pakistan was created the Khan continued to claim independence. Only months later while Jinnah was ailing before his death the Pakistan army forcibly annexed Balochistan and compelled the Khan to accede. For the past six decades there has been protest against Pakistan’s rule in Balochistan. It has ranged from demands for autonomy to outright independence, from democratic demonstrations to violent agitation.
The problem for Pakistan is that if it demands self-determination for Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan? If it seeks secession of Kashmir, the world might ask: why not for Balochistan? There is an uncomfortable truth that Pakistan must digest if it is serious about pursuing peace with India. Both Kashmir and Balochistan may be given autonomy or given no special status different from the rest of the provinces within both nations. Whatever the choice for creating normalization agreed to by New Delhi and Islamabad, it would be greatly facilitated if a context of joint defence and a common market were created between India and Pakistan. Federalism within both nations and a confederation within the subcontinent seem to be the logical way forward.
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02/29/2012 21:31 PM