Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Taking a Page From Separatists Playbook: Kashmiri Politician Plays Both Sides

London Kashmir Conference in Jeopardy
Kashmir Centre condemned by wide-section of British Kashmiris
Massive Protests, boycotts in offing - APKCC

By Murtaza Shibli
Editor, Kashmir Affairs

(Mr. Murtaza Shibli, 37, was born in Bijbehara and completed his Master's degree in Media and Journalism from the Kashmir University. He has worked as a journalist, as a security consultant for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and as a communication trainer. Well versed in Farsi and English Literature, he is currently based in U.K. and edits online quarterly

The proposed ‘International’ Kashmir Conference on 28-29 November in London may be called off due to intense condemnation of the organisers - Kashmir Centre headed by Nazir Ahmad Shawl. The Conference is being widely condemned by the UK-based Kashmiri groups for inviting National Conference leader Omar Abdullah. All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee (APKCC), an alliance of the British Kashmiri groups and an equivalent to Srinagar based the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), while opposing the participation of pro-Indian Kashmiri leaders has asked Nazir Shawl to withdraw the invitation to Omar Abdullah. A conglomerate of 12 political parties and activist groups, APKCC has threatened boycott and a massive protest against Kashmir Centre if the invitation to Abdullah was not revoked.

Accusing Nazir Shawl of sprinkling salt on the wounds of Kashmiris by inviting Omar Abdullah to the Conference, prominent British Kashmiri leader and president of People’s Muslim Conference Chaudhry Shaban questioned if the conference was really being held for the benefit of the Kashmiri people.

Another Kashmiri activist and the JKLF leader Raja Abdul Rauf Khan condemned the decision of Kashmir Centre to invite Abdullah in the conference. Maulana Bostan Qadri, one of the senior and very well known Kashmiri activists and Chairman of Tehreek-e-Ullma J&K UK, said London Conference would be boycotted if invitation to leaders like Abdullah were not withdrawn. Inferring that Kashmir Centre was involved in conspiracies against Kashmiris, he said that Kashmiri community was fully alive to “conspiracies against the freedom movement and it will not allow anyone to play with the sentiments of Kashmiri community”. One of the Kashmiris, on the condition of anonymity, accused Shawl of making money out of Kashmiri cause and now trying to reach out to India in order to get a safe passage back to Srinagar. Earlier this year, a newspaper report claimed that his wife Shameema Shawl held meetings with a pro-India Kashmiri politician and tourism minister here in London.

Nazir Ahmad Shawl would be hardest hit by the statement of Tehreek-e-Kashmir a pro-Jamat-e-Islami group who used to support Shawl because of his Jamat background. In his remarks, President Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK Mohammad Ghalib said that inviting Omar Abdullah was tantamount to making a joke with the blood of martyrs and their sacred sacrifices. A onetime Jamaat member and head of their ‘diplomatic affairs’ in Azad Kashmir, Shawl developed tense relations with Jama’at-e-Islami after he left Syed Ali Geelani and came to join Kashmir Centre London. His critics accuse that he was ‘bought’ by the Pakistan government to stay away from Syed Ali Geelani, often described as hardline Islamist.

Shawl, the executive director of Kashmir Conference has been under pressure to ‘perform’ for some time, as out of the three Kashmir Centres supported by the Pakistan Government, London Centre has supposedly failed to achieve any desirable results. There have been rumours for quite some time that London Centre might be closed down or its head changed. The current controversy has added weight to the opposition claims that Shawl is inept in handling delicate situations and lacks wisdom to reconcile differences within his own lot in the community.

The status of the London Conference was already a suspect given the fact that there is severe resentment among the Western politicians with regards to the emergency in Pakistan. The British politicians have out rightly condemned Pakistani emergency and demanded the restoration of democratic institutions. Though Shawl has managed to sign a couple of British MPs to attend the conference, he has failed to solicit support from the ethnic Pakistani MPs. According to the informed sources, the British Muslim MPs of Pakistani background who have previously showed their support for Kashmir are not attending the event. Many others have decided to stay away for the fear of being seen close to the General Musharraf’s regime, as Kashmir Centre is closely seen as part or extension of the Pakistani military regime.

The Conference is proving a major problem to the Kashmir Centre due to the current Pakistani crisis. Majority of the Kashmiri participants from either side are pro-Musharraf politicians. This includes Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who openly supported ‘emergency’ imposed by General Musharraf as well as the President and Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir whose government endorsed the emergency calling it a step in the right direction. Calling the organisers approach silly, one London based Kashmiri said that organisers should have postponed the event given the current international sentiment. Now that the Kashmiri leaders are planning to launch a massive protest against Nazir Ahmad Shawl and threatening boycott, there are growing indications that the Conference might be abrogated last minute.

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