MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on Sunday said that perception of the world regarding the Kashmir issue could change if the AJK government and an alliance of pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders in India-held Kashmir were allowed to act from the forefront.

The prime minister was asked at a press conference to explain the difference between his approach and that of the ideology of late K.H. Khurshid which called for recognition of AJK government as ‘revolutionary provisional successor government’ of the erstwhile princely state’s deposed Dogra ruler with a free hand to take the freedom movement to its logical end.

“Perhaps, the ideology of Khurshid sahib was not understood rightly. Instead, it was painted as a new and different narrative,” Mr Haider said, alluding to allegations that the late leader’s credo suggested complete independence of Kashmir from both India and Pakistan.

Haider says world view may change if Kashmiri leaders spearhead movement

“When we call it Azad government of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it should be at the forefront with regard to the [issue of] Kashmiris. It should have its own role,” he added. He said that after the end of cold war, old style of politics had changed.

Elaborating, he said that after the 1971 debacle Pakistan grew weak in the international arena following which the Kashmir issue started being portrayed as a territorial dispute in [some parts of] the outside world.

He said India’s narrative that the borders drawn in 1947 could not be changed was unfounded because the world had seen borders changing in Czechoslovakia, Indonesia and Sudan. “We have to change this wrong perception and present Kashmir as an issue of right to self-determination of its 15 million inhabitants,” he said.

Mr Haider said India had been contemplating settling Bengalis and West Pakistan refugees in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I want to make it clear to the people of Jammu that it’s their region that will bear this load and not the valley. That’s why I request my non-Muslim compatriots who are as dear to me as Muslims to realise this situation and support their oppressed brethren in the valley like they had supported on the issue of Article 35-A [of Indian Constitution].”

He said that India had multipronged negative agenda vis-à-vis Kashmir and in order to tackle it Kashmiris should come forward.

“I suggest All Parties Hurriyat Conference should also be included in it [along with the AJK government] like that of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation… If someone feels troubled with the word ‘recognition’ or people interpret it in some other way, they should at least recognise the [freedom] movement and Azad Kashmir is synonymous with the movement.”

“If this is done, I bet the perception of the world will change with regard to the Kashmir issue within two years,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2019