If only PoK’s tallest leader, Arif Shahid was alive today

By Smita Prakash New Delhi [India], Aug.30 : Amidst talk of India possibly inviting people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir living outside Pakistan for a Pravasiya Bharatiya Diwas (celebration of overseas Indian community) in January 2017 in Bengaluru, one can't help wondering what Arif Shahid would have thought of the idea had he been alive.

Shahid was the tallest leader of Pakistani Kashmiris. A pacifist, he raised the issue of atrocities on Pakistani Kashmiris in a democratic manner. Shahid was the President of the Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Conference (JKNLC) and the Chairman of the All Parties National Alliance (APNA).

In May 2013, this affable leader was assassinated in cold blood in his own home. No enquiry was ordered and his assassins walked free. There was no condemnation of Shahid's killing. Pakistani politicians and civil society members maintained a conspiratorial silence. Shahid had been labeled an Indian agent by the all powerful Pakistani intelligence agency - ISI. People of 'Azad Kashmir' or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan were shocked at the snuffing out of the genuine voice of Kashmiris.

Shahid's fatal flaw was that he believed that the rule of law would ensure his safety. He stayed back in Pakistan and did not live in enforced exile like Baloch leaders Bugti, Murri and others.

In 2004, Arif Shahid, while addressing a rally, said, "Pakistani generals have flourished in the name of Kashmir.

Kill 5 - 20 in the name of Kashmir - get promoted from Colonel to Brigadier. Kill 25-30 in the name of Kashmir; get promoted from Brigadier to General. And if a General is able to push jehadis across the LoC and they die there killing others, then get promoted to a Lt General...in 1947, 1965, 1971 Pakistani generals have waged their wars in our (Kashmir) name.

It is their war, and proxy war not ours." Arif Shahid sought to distance Kashmiris from the concept of Jihad.

In the books he authored, his interviews and speeches, Shahid spoke of how jihad or religious war is alien to Kashmir.

He said, "The erstwhile princely state of Kashmir has Shias, Sunnis, Noor Bakshi, Islaimi, Pandits, Dogras, Buddhists..the theo-fascists of Pakistani intelligence try to work jihadi networks and make it a religious issue.

Only secularism can work in Kashmir." Shahid was a true leader of Kashmiris under Pakistani occupation.

He preferred not to leave the land of his forefathers and staunchly defended his organisation from scurrilous attacks by establishment stooges.

But like Saleem Shahzad, the brave journalist who was brutally killed in 2011, Arif Shahid too was mercilessly eliminated, another victim of state sponsored snuffing of brave voices in Pakistan.

Shahid had been warned several times by well wishers that he should tone down his criticism of the Pakistan military, else he would be killed, but he seemed to prefer death rather than toe the line of the establishment.

The APNA movement lost its steam with Shahid's assassination. His followers have gone underground, living lives of anonymity. They have not surfaced even after India sought to voice their plight now in international forums. Unlike Baloch leaders who live abroad in exile and run their movements for independence from Europe and the US, Kashmiris from 'AJK' and Gilgit Baltistan are a leaderless lot.

There were some stalwarts like Shafqat Inqalabi, Manzoor Parwana, Wajahat Hassan Khan and Nawaz Khan Niazi, all of whom cannot indulge in any political activity in Pakistan.

They have been placed under Exit Control List and are not allowed to speak to the Pakistani media. The media too dare not speak to them about any Kashmir-related issue. Big brother is watching. When it comes to Kashmir, you will see the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin on Pakistani TV debates.

And neither of them speaks about the status or plight of 'Azad Kashmir' or Gilgit Baltistan. But now their plight is going to be highlighted by India in the new turn of events is taking place. Had Arif Shahid been alive he would have quoted his favourite poem once more. Dukh ki kali lambi raatein Zulm kay dhoop main vaar na dena Jabr (force) ka suraj dhal kay rahega Log himmat haar na dena Zindaano (jails) ke salakhen tootenge Quflon (locks) ko pareshan dekhenge Daawa hai hamaara zanjeeron Hum jashn-e-bahara (spring) dekhenge Kya dar hai ki noor ki chahat mey Hum ko bhi shab-e-gam kha jaye Kuch log toh aise bhi honge Jo suraj darakshan (brightness) dekhenge.

Source: ANI