|The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service|
The recent upsurge in Kashmir, which brought lakhs of people marching for azadi out on the streets, is being watched with bated breath in Pakistan. Officials in the Pakistani government say the marches vindicate their stance that the azadi movement has been triggered by human rights violations by Indian security forces, and not, as the Indian government alleges, by Pakistani machinations.
Former foreign minister Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali says the recent stir indubitably demonstrates that a majority of Kashmiris want their state to be a part of Pakistan. He said: "We made several attempts to find an equitable solution, even abandoning reliance on the UN resolutions and accepting the reality that a settlement of the Kashmir issue was impossible without abandoning our conventional positions. However, New Delhi failed to respond to any of this."
Former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed links the current crisis in the Valley to the slowing down of the peace process. "I believe India is responsible for the slowing down of the peace talks," he said. He’s dismissive of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Independence Day speech that blamed Pakistan for recent terrorist activities in India. "Those who are accusing Pakistan are in fact supporting insurgents in Balochistan and the NWFP," he said.
However, secretary-general of the South Asian Free Media Association, Imtiaz Alam, believes that India’s apprehensions about Pakistan are not totally misplaced. "Yet, I believe the new government in Islamabad was oblivious of whatever ‘the state within the state (read ISI)’ may have done in any of the neighbouring states to advance its geostrategic agenda in the region. So the Indian leadership should show caution," he said.
Human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir says the Kashmir issue remains unresolved because the establishments on both sides of the border have yet to abandon the legacy of distrust. "It’s eventually people’s pressure that will drive the peace process between India and Pakistan forward. And with the installation of a democratically elected civilian government in Islamabad, an opportunity once again presents itself for the two liberal democracies to seize the moment," she said. The pressure of protests on the streets cannot be ignored by both sides.