Hurriyat’s economic advisory council

Hurriyat’s economic advisory council

Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani

Hurriyat (M) is going through a rough patch and is faced with many challenges. The principal challenge is the demand to restructure the forum. Hurriyat (M) chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Tuesday 10 July after chairing a meeting of the Executive and the General Council, ruled out any restructuring of the amalgam. It is not clear whether the motion was put to a democratic vote or not. Encouraging evolution and updating a political structure is highly desirable and a step forward.

Addressing a news conference Mirwaiz said “We cannot be mute spectators to economic exploitation of our natural resources and we have decided to constitute Economic Advisory Committee to formulate a strategy for protecting our resources. We will involve civil society members, traders and businessmen to have broad strategy over economic issues. Hurriyat cannot keep itself aloof from day-to-day problems of people.”

There could be no two opinions that the natural resources in particular water embedded in the natural habitat of Jammu and Kashmir are trust properties in the respective areas of the State administered by India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan as such cannot violate their trust obligations and override the primary interest of the people of Kashmir. Our leaders have never sought to defend the natural resources and the merits of the interest shown by Hurriyat for the first time in the last 22 years need to be examined.

The exploitation of the natural resources of Kashmir was first raised by India. Government of India on 21 August 1957 raised the first objection against the decision of the Government of Pakistan to build Mangla Dam Project in Mirpur (AJK). Indian Government accused Pakistan of “consolidating its authority over the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir and of the exploitation of the territory to the disadvantage of the people of the State and for the benefit of the people of Pakistan”. The letter added that “Pakistan’s action was in violation of the Council’s resolution of 17 January 1948 and of the assurances given to India by the chairman of UNCIP”.

Over the last 22 years Hurriyat should have graduated into making mature judgements and should have emerged as a reliable political discipline. It seems that it has not benefited from the good will of Governments of India and Pakistan, good will of various schools of opinion and the good will of the common man and woman in Kashmir.

The decision of Hurriyat (M) to take on board new issues like setting up of an Economic Advisory Committee is at variance to its own Constitution. It is a non-starter. Article 2 in chapter II of the Hurriyat Constitution does not provide for taking any such decision of constituting an Economic Advisory Committee to formulate a strategy to protect Kashmiri resources as announced in the news conference. The procedure to amend the Hurriyat Constitution is set out in Chapter IV and it requires a “majority of not less than two-third of the total membership”. A proper Resolution has to be moved in the General Council and as a general rule proper notice of any such Resolution has to be given to all members entitled to vote. Amendments are not carried out in ordinary meetings.

Even if Hurriyat (M) succeeds to set up an Economic Advisory Committee, it would not have any power to enforce its strategy against India and Pakistan. The only workable route left out to Hurriyat (M) to keep the dignity of its decision, is to seek guidance from article 13, 14 and 15 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. Under article 13 the State is bound to establish a socialist order for the promotion of welfare of the people. Under article 14 the State has to develop the economy in a planned manner. Under article 15 the State has to ensure speedy improvement in the standard of living of rural masses.

Elected Government of the State at Srinagar and the other two Governments at Muzaffarabad and Gilgit are under oath to serve the people. The oath is enforceable through debates in the respective assemblies and through the courts. The elected representatives in the J & K Government have taken an oath to “do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

The decision of Hurriyat (M) taken on 10 July 2012 has its answers not in Hurriyat Constitution adopted on 31 July 1993 but in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir adopted on 17 November 1956. A concurrent interest in the process and quality of life of the people, in the economy, health, employment and in the preservation of natural resources should have been a concurrent interest of Hurriyat from early 1990. It decided to reserve for itself an exclusive political agenda set out in the Constitution adopted on 31 July 1993 and decided to execute its agenda among other means, through a culture of regular and arduous shutter down calls.

Hurriyat failed to realise that the trader and the consumer were local Kashmiris. The shutter down calls hurt the common man and the economy of the State. A reversal being contemplated in July 2012 would not carry the economy or the political agenda of the alliance any further. It is a non-starter from the beginning. The announcement is yet to be made part of Hurriyat Constitution and at the same time it does not reconcile the demand of a restructuring in the forum.

No one would wish Hurriyat to fail its people and people would not be ready for a long time to trust any new political set up. It would be unfortunate if after witnessing the death of a generation and with it killing the right of self-determination for a long time to come, putting people through unprecedented suffering and humiliation never seen from 1846-1990, Hurriyat fails to settle genuine grievances of its various constituents and wishes to keep the status quo through the use of numerical upper hand. It would be a serious error of judgement if number game is relied upon to disadvantage senior and active leaders like Shabir Ahmad Shah, Nayeem Khan and some others.

It is a fact that some of the constituents are solo passengers in a fixed wing aircraft. The substantive merits of all constituents could not be regarded as the same and Shabir Ahmad Shah is one who could not be brushed aside for any reason. A resolution of all internal irritations should not be a matter of concern for the public. Every sincere effort is needed to find a solution to the present internal discord and to transform Hurriyat into a reliable political platform.

Unfortunately, Hurriyat has started showing up the lepers spots. It does not subscribe to the universality of the Kashmir case and only looks for a berth for itself in India Pakistan dialogue. In fact it has committed itself to accepting Kashmir as a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan and even has distanced itself from the title to self-determination. It is seeking a negotiated settlement and would not hesitate to recycle the same numbers in any dialogue with India and Pakistan or in anything that happens around the issue of Kashmir.

Hurriyat in its present shape and on the strengths of its left over constituents is doomed to fail. The diplomatic, political and moral support of Pakistan has passed its sell by date and we are seen as a reflex of a non-Kashmiri interest.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He can be mailed at dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com

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