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Need to demilitarise held Kashmir stressed

February 24, 2019

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Ayesha Jalal, Victoria Schofield and Anam Zakaria engage in a session, titled Kashmir Scars, at the Lahore Literary Festival. — White Star
Ayesha Jalal, Victoria Schofield and Anam Zakaria engage in a session, titled Kashmir Scars, at the Lahore Literary Festival. — White Star

LAHORE: There is an immediate need to demilitarise the India-held Kashmir as this is the main problem for the people living there, says Pakistani-American historian Ayesha Jalal.

In a discussion on ‘Kashmir Scars’ at the Lahore Literary Festival here on Saturday, Ms Jalal questioned what the Indian troops were doing in Kashmir as they were supposed to man the borders.

“After Pulwama attack hundreds of Kashmiris returned (to the valley) because of attacks (on them in other parts of India) which is unprecedented.”

Recalling her visit to the valley, she said the Kashmiris told her that ‘heavy presence’ of military personnel was an issue and not the militants who were hiding in mountains.

Ms Jalal believes that political will is required to resolve the Kashmir dispute which she said was lacking on the part of the leaderships of both the countries. “The United Nations cannot mediate this issue between the India and Pakistan if one party (India) is not willing,” she said and added that Kashmir had become an intrinsic part of Indian politics.

Victoria Schofield, a British author and historian, who moderated the session talked about human rights abuses in the occupied valley. “People are being killed leaving women and children widowed and orphaned and this should not happen in the 21st century,” she said.

Ms Schofield said the Kashmiri youth knew that they could not beat the Indian army, but still it was picking up guns.

Author panelist, Anam Zakaria, asked why the Indian media was completely ignoring the reasons behind the Kashmiri youth picking up arms. The independence movement in Kashmir got momentum after the killing of Burhan Wani, she said.

In another discussion on ‘Changing Nostalgia - The Ottomans, the great war and Turkey today’, Oxford University historian Euege Rogan talked about the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire.

He also discussed Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and also today’s politics in the country, especially after the failed coup in mid 2016. Journalist and writer Ahmed Rashid moderated the session.

Kargil operation: At another session on Saturday, panelists revisited the Kargil war – a step planned by a few generals in the words of author and journalist Nasim Zehra.

“Those who planned the Kargil operation committed a blunder thinking that India would not respond. But India reacted strongly,” Ms Zehra said during a discussion on her book ‘From Kargil to the Coup: Events that shook Pakistan’. “It was moderated by senior journalist Owen Bennet-Jones, whop said: “It was unprecedented” that such an exhaustive book on military conflict was written in Pakistan.”

The organisers were faced with a situation when a participant vented anger over the views expressed by the author. Ms Zehra responded by saying that she discussed the role of some generals involved in the Kargil operation she had great regard for the Pakistan Army.

She said India had no idea about the Kargil plan till May 1999. They (the generals) moved the troops even without the knowledge of a key officer in the chain of command, she said. “When the Kargil conflict took place, journalists like me believed the version that it was the job of mujahideen,” she said.

Ms Zehra said Nawaz Sharif expressed his astonishment when the defence secretary told him that Pakistan crossed over the LoC (Line of Control). “Really?” said Sharif. However, she said, Mr Sharif then backed the operation ‘in the national interest’. She said after India’s strong response Mr Sharif left for the United States where he was told by then US President Bill Clinton that “you have to get out (of Kargil)”.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2019