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Normalization of Indo-Pak ties hurts Kashmir cause: Salahuddin

Recent developments with regard to Pakistan's normalization of relations with India have made Kashmir's struggle for the right of self-determination disenchanted as this new approach of the Pakistani political leadership has stunned top Kashmiri leaders.
Pakistan bestowed on India the title of its “Most Favored Nation” (MFN status) besides opening several trade routes along the line of control as well as on the settled boundaries, giving a clear signal to Kashmiri political and militant leaders that Pakistan needs business with India.
However, the obvious question that arises is: At what cost does Pakistan seek peace and under what strategy will it follow the peace process? Syed Salahuddin, head of Hizbul Mujahideen, a separatist organization, and head of Mutahidda Jihad Council (MJC), an umbrella organization of all militant groups, seeking freedom through armed struggle against India, says he is desperate and agitated with this new approach taken by Pakistan.
"Kashmir has been the key issue but now it has become peripheral as all claims of supporting our struggle politically, diplomatically and morally are nothing but lip service," Syed Salahuddin told Arab News.
Salahuddin, in his late 60s, hailing from Budgam district of the Indian side of Kashmir, is considered to be the architect of the modern armed struggle against the 'Indian occupation' in Kashmir. Kashmir has been a bone of contention between the two archrivals in the subcontinent. Existing as peaceful neighbors is important for both the nuclear-armed countries so as to avoid any unrest in the region.
Several successive governments in Pakistan, starting from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif, then Gen. Musharraf and now Asif Ali Zardari, have all adopted the policy of normalizing relations besides continuing to discuss the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir with India at bilateral level talks.
More than a dozen such talks have brought no fruit. The process started in Musharraf's era supported by the Americans for deescalating tensions successfully brought down militancy in Kashmir, but for many this strategic shift damaged Pakistan a lot. "We are fighting Pakistan's war in Kashmir and if it withdraws its support, the war would be fought inside Pakistan," said Salahuddin.
He believes that militancy alone is the solution of the Kashmir crisis. "All those who were involved in the so-called peace talks eventually admitted that India is not serious and that it gained more and more time to implement its own design for the region," he said.
The existing dichotomy on the Kashmir issue has placed the Pakistanis in a dilemma on whether to support militancy or the peace process. Salahuddin believes that this is why the Pakistanis are silent and irreverent, while believing that the Pakistani masses must play a vital role in mounting pressure for the cause and for forcing the government to withdraw its new approach, which he says is hurting the Kashmir struggle.
Salahuddin said the movement cannot be wrapped up on the negotiation table. "Who negotiated for the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan? Were there any talks in Iraq and Afghanistan? The US is compelled by the situation to withdraw its forces in the absence of any negotiation and we would follow the same strategy in Kashmir," he said.
Like the rest of the religious schools of thought in Pakistan, the MJC head also believed that opening trade and business relations with India would benefit only India and instead would be counterproductive for Pakistan and its economy. "Pakistan is doing all this without keeping its own interest as prime due to foreign and Western pressures without analyzing its disastrous consequences," Salahuddin concluded.