Why they killed Arif Shahid

Arif Shahid’s son, has been threatened with dire consequences if he attempts to place the blame on any agency.

Pervez Hoodbhoy May 30, 2013

On the evening of May 13, an assassin stepped out of a car that had just driven to the doorstep of Sardar Arif Shahid’s residence in Rawalpindi.

He waited for the 62-year-old Kashmiri leader to arrive. After pumping four bullets into him, the killer calmly got back into the car and was whisked away.

A major Kashmiri nationalist leader, chairman of the All Parties National Alliance (APNA) and president of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Conference (JKNLC), had just been silenced. Mysteriously, a press that thrives on crime reporting was mum the next day. The murder still remains unreported.

My first meeting with Arif Shahid was just a few days after the October 8, 2005 earthquake. It had nothing to do with the politics of Kashmir. A team of teachers and students from Quaid-e-Azam University, using money raised by the Eqbal Ahmad Foundation, were engaged in a relief operation that was to last many months.

There were already 90,000 dead, and thousands of houses had been reduced to rubble. Winter was around the corner and countless more people would die unless they could be protected from the snow and bitter cold nights to come.

For our team, Arif Shahid was a gift from heaven because of his close familiarity with the villages around the earthquake devastated towns of Rawalakot, Bagh and Muzzafarabad. The number of shelterless families in dire need was staggering.

But how could strangers like us separate the needy from the scores of hucksters swarming around? We had enough wherewithal to construct 2,000 corrugated tin-roof shelters — a drop in the bucket, perhaps, but still significant if apportioned properly.

With perspicacity and determination, Arif Shahid set about the task of separating the needy from the greedy and patiently walked us around the worst-hit areas.

Gruff only in appearance, he was warm, caring and friendly. We noted with some amusement that, although Islamabad was just a few tens of miles away, he would invariably introduce us to groups of survivors as honourable guests from Pakistan!

Who killed him? As in the case of Saleem Shahzad, fingers will inevitably be pointed but there will be no closure. At the same time, the mystery is not impossible to fathom.

Family members, and others close to Arif Shahid, say that he had long been under observation and books that he had authored were seized.

As one who had successfully brought together fractious groups from both sides of Kashmir, he was considered especially effective as a mediator. In 2009, he had therefore been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and his passport had been confiscated. It was later returned after he won a court battle.

Speakers at a small protest meeting that I attended in Rawalpindi a few days after the murder said that he had received threats that, for now, he had decided to ignore.

Significantly, this appears to be the first instance where a major Kashmiri nationalist leader was actually eliminated. Arousing suspicion is that there has been no condemnation of the murder by Pakistani political and military leaders, nor a demand that an investigation be launched. Instead, Amer Shahid, Arif Shahid’s son, has been threatened with dire consequences if he attempts to place the blame on any agency. He has been instructed to attribute the murder to a family feud.

Hounded by both the Indian and Pakistani establishments, the position of Kashmiri nationalists is a difficult one on both sides of the divide because they espouse the belief that Kashmir must seek equal distance from both Pakistani and Indian control. While outsiders sometimes dismiss their dream as quixotic, they have gained growing traction in the last decade.

While India’s record on human rights in Kashmir is abysmal and rightly worthy of criticism, Pakistan has squandered the moral advantage it once had in international fora. By supporting jihadists and targeting nationalists, it has alienated world public opinion — and the Kashmiris. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Kashmir has turned into a dead cause. For this, Pakistan’s military and civil establishment can have no one but themselves to blame.

The writer retired as professor of physics from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2013.


jack | 10 years ago | Reply

@Jami Ahmed Hi Jack I know what the UN resolution is. Do you know what it is? You may think you know the UN resolution, but let me try again. “Nehru promised to hold plebiscite and then refused when realized India will loose (sic).” There were a few conditions attached to the plebiscite under the UN resolution. Most importantly, 1) Both country will withdraw there army from the respective area under their occupation i.e India leaves IOK and Pakistan leaves AJK. Pakistan didn’t comply so didn’t India. 2) There would be no demographic change in Kashmir by means of allowing people from outside to settle in Kashmir. India has to date complying to this under a constitutional decree. Pakistan violated it almost from the day one. 3) Pakistan unilaterally gave away a part of Kashmir to China without Consulting India, one of the parties to the dispute. What is ironical is that they didn’t ask for the opinion of the Kashmiris (on both sides) for whose freedom they shed tears all day long. “The partition plan allowed ruler of the state to join either India or Pakistan *but in keeping with the wishes of the people.”* Don’t you see the apparent contradiction in what you’re saying. If the ruler’s decision to join one or the other is to be dictated by the wishes of his people then he is not allowed anything but simply being told what to do. And if the ruler is allowed to join whoever he wishes to, then there is no need for him to consider what his people want. In truth, The rulers were given a free hand to choose their alliance but was advised to keep the wishes of their people in mind. It was an advice, not a legal binding.

Jami Ahmed | 10 years ago | Reply

Hi Jack

I know what the UN resolution is. Do you know what it is? Nehru promised to hold plebiscite and then refused when realized India will loose. The partition plan allowed ruler of the state to join either India or Pakistan but in keeping with the wishes of the people. Rulers of Hyderabad and Junagarh were muslims and they opted for Pakistan. But India occupied them as the majority of population was Hindu. But applied a different yardstick in Kashmir and didn't consider the wish of the people.

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