Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, is these days campaigning for upcoming general elections in Pakistan. Leader of Pakistan’s second-largest party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Oxford-educated Khan who captained Pakistan to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup, took time off his busy schedule and gave an exclusive interview to senior Pakistani journalist Shafiq Ahmad for Kashmir Narrator. Excerpts from the interview—first to any Srinagar-based publication:
In November 2011, while batting for the “improved” Indo-Pak ties, you said: “The Kashmir issue should be put on the back burner for a while.” The Modi government’s declared policy is that Kashmir is India’s integral part, a settled issue. Do you believe that ‘freezing’ Kashmir issue is possible for any regime in Pakistan?
My comments have been taken out of context. The reference was simply to create a more congenial environment for talks on how to move forward towards resolution of the Kashmir conflict. The fact is that Kashmir defines the parameters of the Pakistan-India relationship. Unless the conflict is resolved, there can be no substantive peace in the subcontinent. The Modi government’s use of violence against unarmed Kashmiris protesting for their rights enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions is not only a complete abuse of human rights and all international humanitarian laws, it also points to the urgency of seeking a solution to the issue.
The resolution lies in finding a solution within the ambit of UNSC resolutions, as was done in the East Timor case – which was exactly identical to the Kashmir conflict. We stand with the people of Kashmir and their UNSC-guaranteed right to self-determination.
In a series of tweets in June 2017, you lashed at US President Donald Trump for “siding with oppressor India” and for calling Kashmir’s “freedom movement” as “terrorism.” How do you see US’s U-turn on Kashmir after 9/11?
I stand by my statements on Trump. The fact is that the struggle of Kashmiris is a UN-recognised struggle for self-determination – a principle that was reaffirmed post-9/11 in the Almaty Declaration (4 June 2002). This Declaration was adopted by the heads of state/government of member states of the conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). Both Pakistan and India are parties to this Declaration. Not only does the Declaration reaffirm the principle of self-determination, it emphasises that this principle must be exercised “in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.” Non-fulfilment of this will pose a threat “to regional and international peace.” The US position on Kashmir is contrary to the UN Charter, prevailing international law, and various international conventions.
In the run-up to the elections in ‘Azad Kashmir’, you said in a rally in Bagh in May 2016: “Our premier [Nawaz Sharif], instead of raising voice [for Kashmiris], is busy in flourishing his business there.” Is it an admission that Islamabad is non-serious on Kashmir?
Nawaz Sharif undermined Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination when he became the first Pakistani Prime Minister to visit India officially (for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony) and not meet the Hurriyat Conference leadership in New Delhi. He did this because he was busy meeting his Indian business counterparts to talk business, not reaffirm Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. He put his business interests before the country’s interests and Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination.
After slamming Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman for its “shameful failure” on Kashmir, what kind of change have you witnessed in the Committee’s Kashmir campaign?
Absolutely no change. My party’s Members of National Assembly (MNAs) have been trying to get information of the money spent on this Committee’s foreign junkets and the results that were achieved. But the Speaker has disallowed all these queries. The Kashmir Committee has been an utter failure and continues to be so, because the present government has no Kashmir policy and Maulana Fazlur Rehman has used the Committee for junkets abroad. An added disadvantage for the Committee has been that the Maulana is treated with grave suspicion in Europe, and most European countries have denied him a visa. So how can such a chairman project the cause of the Kashmiri people?
How do you see the current geo-political situation favouring Pakistan’s Kashmir cause?
It is not Pakistan’s Kashmir cause. Pakistan is supporting the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination and highlighting human rights abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir. No military occupation can succeed, and the generations of Kashmiris rising against Indian occupation will eventually succeed in defeating the tyranny of the Indian occupation forces and getting their right to self-determination.
Since 1947, political parties in India have remained on the same page on Kashmir. On the other hand, in Pakistan, which calls Kashmir its jugular vein, the politicians routinely speak in different voices on the issue. Why is it so?
There is unanimity within the Pakistani nation on the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination, but some politicians for their own vested interests try to shift their positioning on Kashmir. However, even these self-serving politicians do not risk the ire of the Pakistani nation by publicly disowning the moral and politically-correct position that Pakistan has maintained on the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people in accordance with UN resolutions.
General elections are likely to be held in Pakistan later this year. If your party comes to power, how different will be its Kashmir policy than its predecessors? Or, there would not be any Kashmir policy?
We will put forward ground-breaking conflict resolution proposals for resolving the Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions. My party is already working on these. Our Kashmir policy will be substantive and not restricted to declaratory platitudes.
There’s always an impression given by political parties of Pakistan barring some religious outfits like Jamaat-e-Islami that they are for friendly ties with India but the army is a spoilsport. How true is it?
No one in Pakistan is against peace and good relations – no civilian leader or the military. However, substantive peace can only come through conflict resolution and Kashmir is the central conflict that needs resolution. Also, peace and good relations cannot come from the barrel of a gun, which is what India under Modi has been attempting.
Many in Kashmir’s pro-freedom camp hold ex-Pak dictator Pervez Musharraf responsible for causing an irreparable damage to the Kashmir cause by floating his so-called 4-point formula. The formula, it’s argued, virtually buried the UN resolutions on Kashmir. Have the UN resolutions lost their relevance as the military ruler used to argue?
General Musharraf did great damage to the Kashmir issue – the UN resolutions continue to be of central relevance in that they reaffirm the legitimacy of the Kashmiris right to self-determination. The UN resolutions therefore continue to have a central legitimacy and are critical to resolving the conflict.
You were a sort of craze in Kashmir during your cricketing days. Kids were named after you and a young generation in the ‘80s treated you as its idol. Any message for the people of Kashmir?
Me and my party remain committed to seek a just resolution of the Kashmir conflict in keeping with the UN resolutions and the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people. Kashmir is not just a dispute about territory – it is fundamentally about the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, a right that has been acknowledged by the international community in the form of UNSC resolutions. We will raise our voice for this right and against the human rights abuses being done by the occupying Indian forces in Kashmir.
This interview appeared in April issue of Kashmir Narrator. For subscribing to hard copy, contact KashmirNarrator@gmail.com for details