The four-point formula

August 01, 2009

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THE spokesman of the United Jihad Council (UJC) Syed Sadaqat Hussein's belated attack on June 28 on the four-point formula on Kashmir, reeks of factual error and unrealism. Gen Pervez Musharraf neither succumbed to the US and Indian pressure nor did he make “a U-turn on Pakistan's stated policy on Kashmir” when he propounded the formula.

Much worse, partition pure and simple, was offered by Prime Minister Firoz Khan Noon to Henry Cabot Lodge, US envoy to the UN, in Karachi on Feb 10, 1958. The Z.A. Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks (1962-63) centred on partition lines. President Ayub Khan abandoned plebiscite in 1962. Not one country in the world talks of the UN resolutions or advocates plebiscite today.

It is equally wrong to say that “none of the Kashmiri leaders ever endorsed” the formula and that even the Government of India did not take it seriously. None other than the UJC's chairman, Syed Salahuddin, endorsed it on Feb 27, 2007 albeit as a “first step”, in a talk with the media at Muzaffarabad. Syed Sadaqat Hussein should not forget that. He himself had faxed the remarks to the media in Srinagar.

Close on the heels, Mirwaiz Maulvi Umar Farooq said on March 20, 2007, “The Hurriyat Conference will soon strengthen its public contact programme to make people aware of the four-point formula of President Musharraf and take them into confidence on the on-going peace process.”

By then the president's popularity in Pakistan had plummeted low. However, Indians noted with chagrin that the sentiment in the Valley, across the board, was strongly in his favour. Why? Because he had brought the Kashmir dispute to the very outskirts of a solution. Both sentiments deserve understanding and respect.

On May 2 last, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed “Gen Musharraf and I had nearly reached an agreement, a non-territorial solution to all problems but then Gen Musharraf got into many difficulties with the chief justice and other forces and therefore the whole process came to a halt”. The general has uttered the same regret.

It would be reckless to drown the baby of an achievement in the bath water of partisanship or discard it because Musharraf had acted arbitrarily at home. His recent remarks on the Hurriyat's failure to give any concrete proposal on a solution, which the UJC spokesman criticised, are perfectly valid. Syed Ali Shah Geelani's voice is stuck in the groove of an old gramophone record — he has no use for CDs or DVDs — while the Mirwaiz keeps promising to reveal a road map but never delivers. Visiting journalists from Pakistan were astonished to find an absence of intellectual creativity on the subject in the one place from which it could be expected, the once vibrant Kashmir University. True, its students and faculty have suffered a lot and the university has been undermined by the state. But slogans of old are no substitute for realistic proposals.

For long, India and Pakistan were stuck on the status of the LoC. India wanted it to be made an international border. Pakistan consistently, and very understandably, rejected that disastrous proposal. The Musharraf-Manmohan Singh consensus has resolved this impasse by brilliant creativity — the LoC will be made “irrelevant”, just a line on a map as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on March 24, 2006 in Amritsar. The state of Jammu and Kashmir will be reunited de facto.

That, by itself, will be a revolutionary change in a situation frozen for six decades. But it would be coupled with other measures, no less revolutionary, in a package deal. President Musharraf told Geo TV on Oct 23, 2006 “Self-governance with a joint management system at the top for both sides of the LoC, and you make the LoC irrelevant.” The four points were not hatched in a day. He had been throwing up ideas since 2003, if not earlier. So did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh since he came to office in May 2004. Their ideas converged and the back channel gave them concrete shape. “We worked very hard on that,” the prime minister said on May 2. The ideas were codified as the four points only in September 2006 in Musharraf's book Line of Fire. He amplified them in a TV interview some time ago “There was a fair amount of agreement that we need to give maximum (power) to the people of Kashmir so that they have a feeling of governing themselves”; i.e. self-rule, short of independence. The “joint mechanism was to oversee that self-governance and also discussing whatever we have not devolved to the people of both sides”.

Only people callous to the sufferings of the helpless people of Kashmir would sniff at these gains. The basics are agreed; but there is room for a Kashmiri input on crucial issues — how free will be the movement across the LoC? What rules will be made to ensure free movement to the rural poor? The bus is a cruel joke. The powers and composition of the joint mechanism are of crucial importance. There can and must be a consultative assembly comprising legislators from both parts of J&K as provided in the Northern Ireland agreement. Inputs have come from the unionists. The separatists feel comfortable with slogans of old. The people of Kashmir languish while politicians battle for their support.

The writer is an author and a lawyer.