We don’t have to wait until heavens fall for the fulfilment of the dream, Kashmir baney ga Pakistan. In the AJK polls, the typical Pakistani politics, in all its gory detail, played out in the tune, Kashmir ban gaya Pakistan. All that remains is to formalise this tabdeeli. The head of the tabdeeli sarkar has already hinted at the modus operandi. Rubbishing the talk of converting AJK into a Pakistani province at an election rally in Tarar Khel, he went well beyond by promising to hold two referendums. The first will be in the nature of the UNSC resolution regarding a plebiscite whereby the Kashmiris were to choose between Pakistan and India. In the event of a yes vote for Pakistan, there will be a follow-up referendum on complete independence. Almost all governments in Pakistan, elected or not, have attempted to find some pragmatic way out of what has become the most difficult political, diplomatic and strategic conundrum. Out of government, all parties oppose tooth and nail anything less than the UNSC resolutions. When not directly ruling, even the security establishment smells a rat when a party in government is caught trying a deal. Negatively, this means that a consensus exists if all parties are in government! But this will be a negation of democracy itself. Not that there have been no consensuses. The 1973 Constitution, Water Accord, Charter of Democracy, 18th Amendment and the 7th NFC come to mind. These were, however, of no interest to the guardians of our state. The latter view any melting of the frozen position on India and Kashmir as contrary to national interest. A civilian consensus would be a non-starter.
Under the present hybrid regime, there are signs that it is changing. At long last there is a realisation that “it’s the economy, stupid”. The persistence of a laggardly standing on all economic league tables in the past decade or so reveals that securing territory at the cost of those inhabiting it eventually weakens the former. Over the longer term since the 1970s, when Pakistan was ahead of China, India and Bangladesh in nominal GDP per capita in dollar terms, the country was overtaken first by China, then India and recently by Bangladesh. In the 1960s, it was neck and neck with South Korea. Little wonder, strategic depth is giving way to economic depth. Geo-economics is the name of the game.
The hybrids feel no need for a consensus. Earlier, a trial balloon was run on trade with India. The opposition cried foul on the nexus with Kashmir. After a strategic retreat, the official response is now directly on Kashmir. The ultimate objective, make no mistake, is to make provinces of G-B and AJK. The two regions are tied with each other by the UNSC resolutions. The outcome of the first referendum under these resolutions is expected to be a yes vote for Pakistan. To maximise credibility, the resolution has to be implemented as per its requirements — UN supervision and withdrawal of forces. The chance of India following suit is zero. Her objection to Kashmir Premier League is some indication. This is why, and as it gives the choice of independence, the second referendum should also be held under the UNSC headed by India. Whatever games India plays on it, her exposure on the right to self-determination will be total. Pakistan will be free to follow Article 1 of the Constitution to include G-B and AJK as non-provisional provinces. They will no more be the municipalities that they presently are, with the people voting for federal largesse.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2021.
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