Husain Haqqani on the origin of the Kashmir issue

If Pakistan had wanted to seize Kashmir by force, there was no reason to sign the Standstill agreement with Hari Singh on August 15, on his request, to maintain the status quo with Kashmir

Husain Haqqani on the origin of the Kashmir issue


Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani’s recently launched book, India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?” has several pieces of disinformation. This opinion piece will debate his views only on the origin of the Kashmir issue.

Haqqani is of the view that Pakistan (i.e. the state of Pakistan including the then ruling Muslim League and the Pakistan army) was involved in the uprising in Kashmir — the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir — leading eventually to Kashmir’s accession to India. For instance, on page 22 of the book, Haqqani writes: “Pakistan tried to strengthen its hand in Jammu and Kashmir with the help of armed volunteers, recruited from among Pashtun tribesmen. This in turn paved the way for India’s direct military involvement.” Similarly, on page 50, Haqqani writes: “So Muslim League politicians, supported by senior Muslim officers of the Pakistan army, organised a tribal lashkar (militia) drawn from the areas bordering Afghanistan. The lashkar’s invasion of Kashmir provided justification for the Indian army to land in Jammu and Kashmir, ostensibly after a panicked maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947. Pakistan has contested that accession ever since.” In fact, this was not the case.

In early September 1947, it was Kashmir’s Poonch district where unrest erupted against Maharaja Hari Singh, a descendant of the Hindu Dogra Dynasty. This incident was not a new thing. In Kashmir, there was a history of upheavals, as happened in 1931 and 1934 in reaction to depriving Muslims from participating in state affairs. However, this time the immediate cause of turmoil was selectively over-taxing Muslim peasants followed by forced collection by the Dogra army, as also stated by Alastair Lamb in his 1997 Incomplete Partition (pages 121-123). In this way, the unrest was local in both cause and effect. The point is simple: Pakistan did not ask Hari Singh to undertake such an act at this time of history.

The Dogra army tried to get hold of Poonch by grueling the peasants overlooking the fact that the people of Poonch were mostly ex-servicemen who fought in the Second World War alongside the British. Consequently, an armed-rebellion erupted against Hari Singh, as also cited in Official Records of the United Nations Security Council (on March 6, 1951, Meeting No. 534, pages 3-4). Soon the rebellion spread to adjacent areas, and a wave of communal riots surged affecting both Muslim and Hindu majority areas in Kashmir. Again, the point is simple: Pakistan did not ask Hari Singh to persecute the peasants of Poonch.

To fight the Dogra army, the peasants of Poonch — mostly related to the Sudhan tribe — needed weapons and manpower in search of which, in early-October, they reached Pakistan’s tribal area, an ancestral home of most of them claiming the Pashtun lineage. The peasants bought weapons from the tribal black market, and persuaded armed volunteers to accompany them to Poonch to fight against the Dogra army, as also reported by Special Branch daily diary (15-17 October 1947: bundle no. 50, Serial no. 816, today’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

On October 21, together they entered Kashmir through Haripur-Muzaffarabad route, as reported by Christopher Snedden in his 2013 Kashmir: The Unwritten History, page 59. At that time, Pakistan was immersed in settling refugees and managing the nascent country whose share of financial assets had been denied by India. Again, the point is simple: if there had been any connivance between the peasants of Poonch or the Poonch rebels and Pakistan, the former would not have spent money in buying weapons and persuading tribesmen for several days to help them out.

By October 24, the tribesmen met their objective of repulsing the Dogra army from Poonch, as also mentioned in the Indian Official History, Ministry of Defence, Government of India (1987, Operations in Jammu and Kashmir 1947-48, Thomson Press Limited, New Delhi). Afterwards, the tribesmen became embroiled in plundering, especially in Baramullah, what came their way to Srinagar, and spent at least two days dallying in the suburbs of Srinagar. The point is simple: if there had been regular Pakistan army troops involved in or leading this incursion, these tribesmen would not have abated their conquest spree just 20 kilometres short of Srinagar and its airport.

Moreover, on October 24, in Pallandri, the Poonch rebels declared an independent (azad) government of Kashmir. However, Pakistan did not recognise it. The point is simple: if Pakistan had been in collusion with these rebels, Pakistan would have recognised the azad government immediately.

On October 26, the Instrument of Accession was reportedly signed, and the next day the Indian paratroopers landed on Srinagar airport to support Hari Singh and retrieve the occupied part of Kashmir. The role of Pakistan started afterwards, first at the diplomatic and later at the physical level. Hence, by October 26, the initiative rested with the peasants of Poonch or the Poonch rebels, and not with Pakistan or even the Pashtun tribesmen. Nor did Pakistan foment the rebellion.

If Pakistan had wanted to seize Kashmir by force, there was no reason to sign the Standstill agreement with Hari Singh on August 15, on his request, to maintain the status quo with Kashmir. The same is the argument against the alleged violation of the agreement. Secondly, if the Poonch rebellion had occurred after Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession with India, one could have presumed that the Poonch rebellion was the handiwork of Pakistan, and not otherwise.

On the one hand, if the road access to Kashmir had not been given to India by the Radcliffe Award of August 17, Hari Singh might not have signed the Instrument of Accession with India despite all revolts. On the other hand, though the Radcliffe Award had provided India with a road access to Kashmir, the journey of India towards Kashmir was shortened by the Poonch insurgence.

Neither is there any evidence nor is there any argument to explicate that the rebellion could favour Pakistan anyhow or it could throw Kashmir automatically into the lap of Pakistan. Secondly, there was no cogent need on the part of Pakistan to encourage tribesmen to do its bidding. In fact, in light of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Pakistan was sure that the whole of Kashmir would join it owing to Kashmir’s having Muslim majority and physical contiguity with it. However, the Poonch rebels and their supportive tribesmen unwittingly ruined the case of Pakistan on Kashmir, and made Pakistan to be content eventually with only 35 percent of Kashmir.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

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