The Kashmir election, last chance for APHC. By HAMID BASHANI.Toronto. Canada.


As the dark clouds of war are vanishing from South Asia, the issue of the Kashmir election to be held in Late September or early October is becoming the focus of international attention. The 23 parties Conglomerate, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (

Participation in this election means to Jeopardize the struggle for the right to self-determination and to be the integral part of the Legal and constitutional structure of the Indian Union. Although some senior leaders time after time have contested the election and remained the members of the Kashmir legislative assembly under the auspices of Indian constitution. Most vocal opponent of the election and a top leader of the alliance Syed Ali Geelani himself had been the member of this assembly for Fifteen years. It was only after 1987, when the Muslim united front lost the election and the militant outfits started mushrooming in the vale of Kashmir, some leaders began questioning the supremacy of Indian constitution and transparency of the election process. In the forthcoming polls, senior Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani roles out the possibility of a fair election even if international observers monitor it. Geelani insists that the Indian security forces and military would steel the election even in the presence of the observers and monitoring groups.

To understand the APHC's perspective, one has to understand the history of formation, structure and manifesto of the alliance. The APHC was not formed in
a smooth political or democratic process. Fundamentally, this alliance is the by-product of militancy in Kashmir. The militant outfits and their sponsors forced these 23 groups, ranging from ultra right wing Islamic fundamentalists, pseudo-secular and nationalists to the so-called moderates, to form this Politically odd and highly complex conglomerate to represent the militancy on the political and diplomatic front. The alliance failed to develop a common and clear vision of the future of Kashmir and cannot even unanimously define the right of self-determination in its central executive committee, let alone the ranks and files of its constituent members. Mere mention of the issue of Accession to India, Pakistan or independence leads towards serious clashes in its close- door meetings and public demonstrations.

The alliance also has serious difference of opinion and irresolvable Contradictions on the socio-political system of an independent Kashmir. After independence, Kashmir should be a secular or a theocratic state governed by Islamic laws is a question of fundamental nature while striving for the freedom or autonomous status or complete independence of the state. The alliance is unwilling and in fact completely unable to raise and discuss this question even on its Policy-making bodiies and at open public forums Right-leaning Islamic fundamentalist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim conference,Dukhteran-e-Milat consider the freedom struggle as sacred jihad and a religious obligation against infidels and Indian secular socio-political system.
Their dream and political objective is to merge with Pakistan and create a Taliban or Saudi- Brand medieval Islamic society with full-fledged execution of Islamic jurisprudence, obviously with little room for modern concept of freedom, human rights and principle of natural justice. On the other hand, the so-called secularist Groups like JKLF suffers from terminological inexactitude and fails to outline its principal objectives. Since its formation in 1977, the JKLF has been unable to define the legal and constitutional formation and socio-economic system for a free and independent Kashmir. When it claims to form a democratic and secular state it cannot explain why it should be separated from India, and when it goes for Islamic state, it is hard to explain why it should not merge with Pakistan. A pseudo-nationalist approach without clear vision of future and without defining a socio-economic system, which is not clearly different and better than that of India and Pakistan, cannot attract the common masses and do not provide solid grounds to participate in the polls.

The top ranking policy makers in the alliance believe that a debate on these issues would inevitably split the conglomerate in to many microscopic groups with unspeakable blames and accusation on each other and would provide high moral grounds for DR farooq Abdullah's national conference and other parties with relatively clear stand on these issues. In order to elude this scenario, they believe the best course of action is to not open the discussion on these
Controversial issues and avoid the election or any other form of democratic process which would inevitably open this Pandora-box and put the alliance's credential on trail. The problem with this stand is that it's totally at odds with the very principle of the right of self-determination for which the conglomerate claims to be fighting for. The APHC cannot claim that it is fighting for the right of self-determination, which is essentially a democratic right, and at the same time refuse to follow a universally recognized democratic process to prove its legitimacy and its representative character.

As for as the question of transparency and fair election is concerned, the APHC has reasonable grounds to believe that the election could be rigged and have every right to ask for a credible monitoring system. On this issue it deserve the benefit of doubt. The government of India has to show a considerable degree of flexibility on monitoring system and possibility to allow international or local observers in the election. India's chief Election Commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh has already mad it clear that poll experts from countries with good domestic credentials could be allowed to see the poll process in Jammu and Kashmir. People who have well established credibility like Tappan K.Bose and Ved Bhsin, and who were previously nominated for Hurriyat's private election commission could be trusted for monitoring and observation. In the changing political scenario, the APHC is on the crossroad and would be no longer able continue its stand against democratic process and remain relevant in Kashmiri politics. Without going through a democratic process it has no legal, political and moral grounds to claim that it is speaking for the people of Kashmir.

A vast majority of the people of Kashmir is neutral and silent in the complex political situation, prevailing now days in Jummu and Kashmir. Many political parties, with substantial following in the common masses are not the part of this alliance. Hurriyat has to understand that the National conference might Have won the election in 1987 and subsequently in 1996 through rigging or use of some unfair means, but it does not make it irrelevant in Kashmir Affairs and cannot be excluded from dialogue on the issue. . As the APHC cannot deny the fact that Peoples Party Azad Kashmir in 1996, and Jummu & Kashmir Muslim Conference in 2001,took the office of the government of Azad Kashmir through massive pre-election rigging, by rejecting the nomination papers of all pro-independence candidates, Virtually leaving no opposition in the field, but APHC
Not only closely interacted with these parties but also accepted their leading role in the struggle for the resolution of the issue. The APHC is closely Working with Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, chairman of Pakistan's national committee on Kashmir, despite his staunch Pro-Pakistan role, brutal violations of the principle Of right of self-determination and draconian measures Taken by him against pro-independent candidates, as the president of Azad Kashmir in 1996. The APHC has to adopt the same pragmatic approach towards its bitter opponents and accept their right to be party in daily affairs and in future settlement of the Kashmir imbroglio. After all only a democratic process can decide who is enjoying majority in the masses irrespective of political ideology and stand on the future of Kashmir. If the APHC considers itself the most popular group in Kashmir then it Should have no problem in proving its claim through The Recognized democratic process of election after asking for procedural fairness and suitable safeguards against rigging.
Until now, the APHC has been acting as an umbrella organization for militants, now its time for it to prove its mandate and legitimize itself as a Political group otherwise it might be the beginning of The end of this conglomerate as a relevant voice in The affairs of Kashmir

(The writer is a Toronto based commentator and a specialist on Kashmir affairs. He is the secretary general of the Council of Advocates International, a Toronto based human rights And civil liberties organization.)

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