Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was the first Kashmiri nationalist party which started militant struggle against the Indian occupation of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1989, an insurgency led by JKLF gripped Srinagar and soon there were blood and bullets everywhere. Kashmir has witnessed worse bloodshed of the century in the following years. Before the end of 20th century in less than ten years from 1989 to 1998, more than 70,000 Kashmiris were killed either by the militants or by the Indian forces. JKLF vanished from the scene as quickly as it appeared in 1989. Within two or three years its militants were killed in clashes with rival militant groups, notably Hizbul Mujahidin (HM) or captured/killed by the Indian forces. It lost weapons supply and legitimacy, as the movement it started for a sovereign (Khud-mukhtar) Kashmir later became “Holy Jihad” to win Kashmir for Pakistan.
Recent developments in Pakistan particularly initiation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has sparked a new wave of nationalism across the Jammu and Kashmir. China’s pressure on Pakistan to give Gilgit-Baltistan a legal status has opened a new debate in Pakistan, India and defiantly all parts of Kashmir. Kashmiri nationalist parties are busy in holding all parties conferences and organizing seminars throughout the world on the future status of Gilgit-Baltistan and its impact on Kashmir. JKLF is also doing the same and has also inaugurated its Gilgit-Baltistan office. So the question is; can JKLF rise again, and what it needs to do so?
Well, the short answer is; yes it can, and it needs what it lacked at the first place. And the long answer is; the JKLF can rise again and it needs a secular, non-militant, and indigenous movement against all kinds of occupation and all the occupiers, from all parts of Jammu and Kashmir, with a clear plan and future program, starting from the demilitarization and unification of Jammu and Kashmir. JKLF lacked a secular face in 1989, it was, to a great extent, religious and so soon replaced by other religious groups with a variant ideology. It was militant, and soon it ran out of weapons supply. It has indigenous support but not enough from the local people against the local occupier. It has only rebelled against the Indian occupation, whereas it wanted a free and sovereign Kashmir, free from all kinds of occupation. It has a concentrated insurgency only in one part of Kashmir and other were not mobilized. And finally, it lacked a political program. A program necessary for the demilitarization and the unification of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
JKLF or any nationalist party for that matter can only rise through a non-militant, secular, and indigenous support. Like every other nationalist party, JKLF lacks what is necessary to win Gilgit-Baltistan. It might have local supporters but not enough. And the biggest challenge is to win parties rallying for independent Gilgit-Baltistan. They are fed-up of Azad Kashmir and make no distinction between Azad Kashmir based nationalist or pro-Pakistan parties. For them, Azad Kashmir has ignored them and Pakistan has exploited them for seventy years and now they want independence from Pakistan and don’t want to link Gilgit-Baltistan with the Kashmir dispute.
Obviously, they have their opinion but it is history that has linked Gilgit-Baltistan with Kashmir. Azad Kashmir based nationalists have a different version of history and Gilgit-Baltistan based nationalists seem to have a different version. One possible way to win them over is; get them on board for the demilitarization and the unification of Jammu and Kashmir, to create United States of Kashmir, by uniting all the previous states of Kashmir, with a right to exist separately. And this is one of the ways, that JKLF or any other Kashmiri nationalist party can adopt to rise or rise again.
The writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad. He blogs at Kashmirica.wordpress.com and can be reached on twitter at @imrankhushaal and on email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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