Muslim Separatists Seek a New State Independent of Both India and Pakistan
MUZAFFARABAD, PAKISTAN — AMANULLAH KHAN, the most prominent of Kashmir's militants, says his homeland must break from India. But not to join Pakistan. ``We are suspect in both countries because we want independence for Kashmir,'' says the chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, the largest of the Kashmir Valley's separatist groups. ``We are getting sandwiched in between two giants.''
The Muslim rebellion in India's Jammu and Kashmir state has won a frenzy of support in Pakistan, which disputes India's claim.
However, as the Kashmiri independence fervor in India seeps into Pakistan, a growing number of Kashmiris are miffed to see their struggle portrayed as a subcontinental territorial dispute and find themselves at odds with Pakistani politicians and even themselves.
``Since 1947, Pakistan has been thinking we would join,'' says Hussain, a young Kashmiri activist. ``But so far Pakistan hasn't done anything for Kashmir.''
``As a final solution, an independent Kashmir could become a greater irritant than a solution,'' says Sardar Muhammed Abdul Qayyum Khan, president of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir or Free Kashmir.
Pakistani and Western observers scoff at the viability of an independent Kashmir, an area inhabited by about 12 million people who have long lived on tourist revenues.
Indeed, both Indians and Pakistanis were surprised by the vehemence of the revolt by Kashmiris, whom many people have dismissed as docile and opportunistic. Although from the same ethnic background, Kashmiris in both countries speak different languages and are split along tribal lines.
Although charged with the anti-Indian fervor of their kinfolk, Pakistan's Kashmiris lack the Islamic zeal of their Indian counterparts.
Rivalries among the myriad separatist groups are beginning to emerge hurting the separatist movement, says Amanullah Khan, a Pakistani-based leader with influence in Indian Kashmir.
On the Indian side, fundamentalist Muslims supporting an Islamic state are gaining strength, while in Pakistan a leftist Kashmiri organization is emerging.
Mr. Khan, who has been accused of being both a Pakistani and an Indian agent and served jail time in both countries, wants a moderate state for Muslim and Hindu Kashmiris. He has called for creating an independent Kashmir out of parts of India, Pakistan, and China.
The militant leader says a war between India and Pakistan poses the biggest threat to Kashmiri liberation: ``No one will be a winner. The Kashmir issue, which has come to the forefront recently, will only get pushed into the background.''