SRINAGAR: The issue of self-governance is highly emotive with the Kashmiris and both India and Pakistan had agreed during Musharaff’s regime to conclude a “charter of principles regarding the self-governance which would be same on each side (Indian and Pakistan administered Kashmir)”, former Pakistan Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.
In his book titled Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework, Kasuri has also termed calls for abrogation of Article 370 by BJP leaders as “ironical”.
“The Kashmiri leaders had been complaining publicly over the years, and now in private to me, that the special status of J&K guaranteed by Article 370 amounted to a farce and a charade….. They complained that, although in theory Article 370 was designed to ensure self governance, in practice it was abused to no end to quash it.”
Apart from referring details of how the Article was incorporated in India constitution, Kasuri says that the Kashmiris were extremely bitter that the “solemn compact (Article 370) was systematically broken.”
“In 1963, Nehru publicly said that Article 370 had been eroded and in 1964 Home Minister G. L. Nanda said that the Article was a tunnel through which many more powers could be acquired over Kashmir by India.”
Moreover, he says a mere executive order issued by the Indian President under Article 370 can crush or destroy Kashmir’s powers.
“They (Kashmiri leaders) added that for decades from 1954 onwards, one Presidential Order after another was issued under this unconstitutional device, each leading to India’s amassing of power, based on the concurrence of the state’s governments that came to power through serially rigged elections. It became clear to me that the grievances of the Kashmiris on this score could not be ignored.”
How important Article 370 is to the people of J&K particularly, those living in the Valley, he says, was illustrated recently by the strong negative reactions in J&K to a statement by MOS in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, issued within two days of his being sworn in.
“He (Singh) spoke of initiating a debate on abrogating Article 370. There was immediate negative reaction all over Jammu & Kashmir. Even (then) Chief Minister of ‘IOK’, Omar Abdullah, reacting in a series of tweets, said, Article 370 is the only constitutional link between J&K and rest of India’, and ‘Talk of revocation is not just ill-informed it’s irresponsible’. One of India’s leading newspapers warned the Prime Minister in an editorial, pointing out that many in the State see it (Article 370) as their only protection against existential threat. Fears of being swamped by a hostile majority remain a powerful motif in Kashmir politics—last erupting into large-scale street battles in 2008.”
Even the chief minister of Indian Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal, a leader of NDA ally Shiromoni Alkali Dal cautioned the Prime Minister against the abrogation of the Article 370.
“It is ironical that while the Kashmiris explained that the article was being misued, there have been statements by BJP leaders recently hinting at the possibility of its abrogation!” he said.
The 74-year-old leader says that it was necessary that the people of Kashmir should be given back the powers of which ‘they had been deprived for nearly sixty years, and that there be effective guarantees against repetition or the past.’
“The envisaged agreement with India did both. India, however insisted in private talks with us that it would only guarantee that quantum of self-governance to territories under its control as Pakistan granted to AJK. When we pointed out, that as far as AJK was concerned, it had a separate President, Prime Minister, Supreme Court, and High Court, the Indians told us, that any constitutional arrangements in this connection notwithstanding, they wanted both sides of the LoC to have similar and equal powers. After deliberation we came to the conclusion that we should accept this and make the necessary changes on our side in the interest of reaching an agreement with India.”
It was, therefore, agreed that the level of self-governance would be the same on both sides, he says. “With this objective in view, it was agreed that maximum self-governance would be granted in legislative, executive, and judicial areas to each of the units. It was also agreed that a mechanism will be evolved to achieve this objective. We agreed that within one year of the agreement, India and Pakistan would conclude a charter of principles regarding self-governance and that the nature and quantum of self-governance would be the same on the each side.”