Elections in Pakistan


Z ia Mian is a scholar and activist on South Asian and disarmament issues at the Center for Science and Global Security at Princeton University in New Jersey and teaches there in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He was interviewed about the implications of the first national and provincial elections in Pakistan under the military order established by General Pervez Musharraf.

JUSTIN PODUR: Who won the elections in Pakistan?

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Instead of Nation States

It’s disturbing to see how neatly nationalism dovetails into fascism. While we must not allow the fascists to define what the nation is, or who it belongs to, it’s worth keeping in mind that nationalism, in all its many avatars-socialist, capitalist and fascist-has been at the root of almost all the genocides of the twentieth century. On the issue of nationalism, it’s wise to proceed with caution.

Arundhati Roy, April 2002

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Kashmir timeline 1925-2002

This is a timeline of events in Kashmir from 1925 to the present.  The idea is to present a chronology that might help to explain the conflict and the current situation.  In putting it together I have drawn heavily from Victoria Schofield’s ‘Kashmir in the Crossfire’.  Schofield was a personal friend of Benazir Bhutto, but if you read her book I think you’ll find that she is quite even-handed in her treatment, presenting different perspectives.  In some contexts even-handedness is inappropriate, but for history a presentation of the different perspectives is necessary.  For more recent events I’ve drawn on Amnesty International reports and the daily newspapers from the region (The Hindu, Dawn). If there are relevant events that are missing from the timeline, or events you think should be treated differently, I would like to hear about it. I have tried to stay away from domestic events in India and Pakistan, and so have neglected much that is, of course, highly relevant.  This is a summary of politics in Kashmir and the policies of India and Pakistan as they pertain specifically to Kashmir.

1925 – Maharaja Hari Singh succeeds to the throne of the princely state of Kashmir.  He is part of a Hindu Dogra dynasty, empowered by the British, ruling over a majority Muslim state.  Kashmir has a long history of Hindus (in Jammu and the Valley) Muslims (in the Valley but also throughout Kashmir) and Buddhists (in Ladakh) coexisting.  Hari Singh’s coronation costs millions.

1927 – Hereditary State Subject law passed.  The law forbids employment of non-state subjects in public services and from purchasing land.  Posts are mostly filled by Dogra Rajputs from Jammu, and later Kashmiri Pandits (also Hindus), creating inequality between Hindus and Muslims in the public services.

1931 – Abdul Qadir, a European, makes a speech calling on Muslims to fight their Hindu oppressors.  He is arrested by the state government.  Crowds demonstrate in front of the jail.  Others are arrested.  Police fire on the crowd: 21 are killed.  Hindu shops are broken and looted.  The rulers continue to arrest people.  Sheikh Abdullah, who is to become decisive in Kashmiri political life, is profoundly influenced: ‘Our Dogra rulers unleashed a reign of terror,’ he said later.

1932 – Sheikh Abdullah becomes president of the ‘Muslim Conference’, fighting for Kashmiri freedom from the Maharaja’s rule.  Abdullah’s position is secular, leading to some division in the movement.

1939 – The Muslim Conference changes its name to the National Conference, and moves closer to the Indian Nationalist movement against colonialism and the Indian Congress Party organization.

1940 – In India, the Muslim League adopts the Lahore Resolution that Muslim majority areas become independent, sovereign states.  One proposal for this was a 1933 proposal for Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province, Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan to become Pakistan.  Congress foresees a united, federal India.  The Congress wants all princely states, of which there are hundreds, to eventually accede to this India.  The Muslim League’s position on princely states is one of non-interference in their internal affairs.

1941 – The Muslim Conference is revived as a rival to Abdullah’s National Conference, and takes the position of the Muslim League, seeking Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.

1944 – The National Conference adopts the ‘Naya Kashmir’ manifesto: a constitution featuring secularism, women’s equality, and socialist programmes.  This is opposed by right-wing Hindus and Muslims.

1946 – Abdullah launches the Quit Kashmir movement.  The state is placed under martial law.  Abdullah is imprisoned.  The Muslim Conference leads a campaign of action and its leadership is also imprisoned.

1947 –

Spring – A revolt is launched in Poonch.  The Maharaja suppresses it ruthlessly.  Tribesmen from the Northwest Frontier Province or NWFP (ethnic Pashtuns, from what was then called Afghan Province, the state bordering Afghanistan) join the revolt.

August – Independence from British colonialism, and simultaneous partition into India and Pakistan.  The revolt in Poonch continues as does infiltration from NWFP, as does repression by the Maharaja.

September – Abdullah is released.  He supports union with India, but thinks the people of Kashmir should decide (and not the Maharaja). 

October – Large numbers of raiders cross from NWFP in Pakistan to Kashmir.  Hari Singh asks for help from India in putting down the revolt and accedes to India.  Indian troops arrive and fight.

1948 – Abdullah becomes prime minister of Kashmir.  Problems ensue between him and the Maharaja.  Abdullah contemplates independence and talks about it with foreign powers. Kashmir has a special status in the Indian constitution.  

1949 – Ceasfire imposed, brokered by the United Nations.  The parties (India and Pakistan) agree to a plebescite.  The ceasefire leaves Pakistan in control of part of Kashmir, and India in control of most of the valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh.

India claims possession of Kashmir by the accession of the Maharaja and sees its action as a repulsion of an invasion of India’s territory.

Pakistan claims the accession was illegal, that India has no legitimate claim, the rebellion is indigenous to the valley, and Pakistan is merely supporting it.

The Maharaja leaves Kashmir at India’s urging, never to return.

1951 – First post-independence elections.  Abdullah wins, mostly unopposed, since the main opposition, the Praja Parishad boycotts the election. 

1952 – Kashmir and India reach an agreement on the flag (Kashmir’s flies but India’s is paramount), citizenship (Kashmiris are citizens of India), and some special issues (the governor is called the sadar – i – riyasat and is elected by the state legislature, not nominated by Delhi as in other states).  The Praja Parishad demonstrates for union with India and the result is street violence.

1953 – Abdullah is dismissed as prime minister and arrested by India.  India claims he’s collaborating with the US and planning independence, that he’s corrupt and nepotistic, and he’s running a one party state.  He’s replaced by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, ‘Bakshi the Builder’, who uses ‘lavish amounts of money to appease the Kashmiri Muslims’, according to Abdullah.  He is repressive and unpopular, outlawing freedom of the press for his political opponents.

1954 – Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly ratifies accession to India.  The customs barrier between Kashmir and India is lifted.

Pakistan signs a mutual defence assistance pact with the United States, and then joins SEATO and CENTO pacts with the US and US allies in Central and West Asia.  The US dislikes India’s nonaligned stance, and Pakistan seeks the alliance out of fear of India.  India sees it as bringing the cold war to South Asia, and develops closer relations with the USSR.

1957 – Kashmir approves its constitution.  Abdullah views this as a repudiation of the commitment to a plebescite.

1958 – Abdullah is released from prison.  He gives speeches favouring independence.  4 months later, he is jailed again– for 6 years.

1962 – Elections, which are likely rigged, put Bakshi back in power.  Nehru comments to Bakshi: ‘it would strengthen your position if you lost a few seats to bona fide opponents.’

China attacks India in a border dispute in the Northeast frontier and Ladakh.  India reconsiders nonalignment as the US and UK volunteer to help India.  Relations between China and Pakistan warm.

1962-3 – Talks between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Proposals include internationalization of the valley and partition of the state.  No agreement is reached.

1964 – Abdullah is released.  The Indian government enacts President’s Rule in Kashmir.

1965 – A branch of the Congress Party is established in Kashmir and the National Conference is dissolved.  Protests ensue.  Abdullah goes on Haj.  He is arrested upon his return.

Pakistan attacks, hoping for a revolt in Kashmir, in Operations Gibraltar and Grand Slam.  The operations fail.  A ceasefire is called.  Guerrilla groups in Kashmir increase their activities after the ceasefire.

1971 – Another war between India and Pakistan.  East Pakistan becomes independent Bangladesh.  The ceasefire line in Kashmir becomes ‘the line of control’. 

The Plebiscite Front is banned.  Abdullah is externed from the state.  Elections occur in this context, and the Jammu & Kashmir Congress Party, predictably, wins.

1972 – Abdullah is allowed to return.

1975 – Accord between Abdullah and Indira Gandhi, then prime minister of India.  India sees it as firming the union.  Abdullah sees it as protecting Kashmir’s special status.  He returns to power.  Indira Gandhi rules under Emergency powers, a highly repressive and manipulative fashion.

1977 – Indira Gandhi loses to a coalition in Indian elections.  Abdullah wins in Kashmir.  He’s accused of favouring the valley over Jammu and Ladakh.

1979 – The USSR invades Afghanistan.  The US and Pakistan, but also Saudi Arabia and other states, are involved in training, recruiting, arming, and unleashing the mujahadeen on Afghanistan.  The mujahadeen so recruited immediately take on their own agenda– one aspect of this is establishing Islamic rule in Kashmir.

1981 – Sheikh Abdullah’s son, Farooq Abdullah, takes over office.  Sheikh Abdullah dies in 1982.

1983 – Farooq schedules elections.  Indira Gandhi has returned to power, and seeks a deal where he allies with her Congress Party.  Farooq refuses, offering a compromise.  Indira is upset.  The ensuing campaign is dirty and personal.  Farooq wins.  Indira campaigns against Farooq, alleging rigging.

1984 – Farooq is dismissed in a ‘drawing room dismissal’ engineered by Indira Gandhi.  Protest ensues.  Farooq is replaced by G.M. Shah, who is an unpopular ruler.

1986 – Communal riots occur.  G.M. Shah is dismissed.  Farooq is re-installed as chief minister by Rajiv Gandhi’s government (Indira had been assassinated in a revenge attack for her repressive policies in Punjab) pending elections in 1987.  Farooq has lost his popularity in Kashmir because of his collaboration with India.

1987 – The Muslim parties contest the election as the Muslim United Front (MUF) against Farooq’s Conference-Congress alliance.  Record numbers participate.  The MUF expects 10 seats of 44 but wins 4.  Charges of rigging are widespread.

The insurgency in the valley increases in momentum from this point on.  Farooq blames unemployment, especially educated unemployment, with numbers of 40-50 000 unemployed graduates.  Others blame the theft of the election as the closure of political space making a resort to armed struggle inevitable.  India responds with repression.

1990 – 400,000 Kashmiris march to the UN Military Observer Group to demand implementation of the plebescite.  Soon after, at a march of 1 million, 40 are killed by police.

140,000 Hindus leave the Kashmir valley for refugee camps in Jammu.

1989 – present: Amnesty International figures are that 700,000 security forces are in Kashmir (the population is about 14 million).  34,000 have been killed over the past 11 years. 

1998 – India and Pakistan perform nuclear tests.

1999 – Indian and Pakistani militaries clash in Kargil.

2001 – 3000 conflict-related deaths occurred in 2001.  1000 were civilians. (Amnesty International figures)  Human rights violations are widespread and endemic by the Indian authorities and some of the insurgent groups. 

December – the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (POTB) is passed in the Indian parliament.  Like its counterparts elsewhere in the world, it is a repressive piece of legislation that could be used to justify considerable human rights abuses by the government of India, especially in Kashmir, where India is fighting a counterinsurgency war.

December 13 – An attack on the Indian parliament by militants leads to India escalating its war in Kashmir and threatening war with Pakistan.  India seeks to attack states that sponsor terrorism, using the US ‘war on terror logic’; this leads them to Pakistan.  Pakistan arrests some militants.  India demands more. 

2002 – India and Pakistan are at the brink of war.  Self-preservation suggests war is not a good idea.