COVER STORY

A positive opening

Imran has made the right noises on Kashmir, but needs army support for a breakthrough

44-kashmiris Plugged into politics: Kashmiris reading about Imran Khan’s victory | Umer Asif

In his first public address since his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), gained plurality in the general elections, Imran Khan said Pakistan and India needed to resolve their issues, including the “core” Kashmir issue, through dialogue. He said that if India took one step, Pakistan would take two.

Imran has said that the PTI will suggest ground-breaking proposals for resolving the Kashmir dispute. In fact, this was in the PTI election manifesto. “My party is already working on these,” said Imran. “Our Kashmir policy will be substantive and not restricted to declaratory platitudes.”

It is believed that the PTI proposal on Kashmir would include some confidence-building measures that were agreed between former president Pervez Musharraf and the United Progressive Alliance-1 regime. Musharraf had proposed a four-point formula to resolve the Kashmir dispute. It comprised more autonomy on both sides of the line of control, free movement of people across the border, demilitarisation and joint management of subjects like tourism and water resources. Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had opposed the proposal while the moderates Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Professor Abdul Gani Bhat were in agreement.

After Imran’s statement, Geelani said that he hoped Delhi would respond positively to Imran for resolution of issues “in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiris”. Mirwaiz tweeted that Imran’s statement was welcome and expressed hope that the two neighbours would give real peace a chance. Professor Bhat told THE WEEK that he hoped that India and Pakistan would grab the opportunity and resume dialogue. “He [Imran] has been elected by the people of Pakistan and he is stressing on the need to resolve all issues, including Kashmir, through talks. We welcome it,” said Bhat.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, in a statement, termed Imran’s address as kind-hearted. “We want him to implement what he is saying,” said Abdullah. Peoples Democratic Party president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed Imran’s statement at a rally on the party’s 19th Raising Day on July 19. “I want to tell Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a new government is forming in Pakistan,” she said. “He [Imran] has offered India the hand of friendship. He has talked about dialogue and you should respond positively to that.”

Imran has made the right noises on Kashmir, much to the delight of both separatists and peaceniks in India and Pakistan. But, unless the Pakistan army supports his Kashmir policy, a breakthrough is unlikely.