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Monday, 30 April 2018

Tribute to a great visionary leader, Amanullah Khan -

Tribute to a great visionary leader: speech delivered on the second death anniversary of Amanullah Khan, legendary leader of the freedom struggle in Kashmir

Friends and colleagues assalamo-alaikum.

As we remember our beloved leader and mentor Mr Amanullah Khan on his second death anniversary, our hearts are filled with sorrow at the loss of a fatherly figure. To each one of us he is, and he was an important and special person. We have many memories of Aman sahib, as we always referred to him, and we will cherish these memories as we would of a very close family member.

I will not tell you anything that you do not already know about Aman sahib. I am sure that many of you have read all the three volumes of his book that chronicle his contribution in the freedom struggle, and indeed about Aman sahib the person who was the founder the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front-JKLF. I will however reflect and make my observations on this iconic leader of our freedom struggle who for me, as I am sure for many others, was not only the leader but a mentor for almost four decades this year.

Aman sahib's importance goes beyond his party members however, and runs deep into the lives of Kashmiris across our forcibly divided country. He struggled all his life for the right of his nation to be free. In the pursuit of this goal he was steadfast and tenacious to the very last breath. This side of his persona for the freedom of our country, is quite clearly a hall mark of a great leader, which he undoubtedly was. 

In this regard we must follow Aman sahib's tried and tested approach. His experiences of facing adversity, and how he would remain firmly wedded to his political beliefs, and party line, despite the challenges that he faced. Such an approach must be a guiding light for all of us, especially in the current political and diplomatic climate within Jammu Kashmir’s neighbourhood and globally.
We must always review our current and future activities based on our abilities and capacities, rather than our wishes and emotions. We have a much bigger overall responsibility than we usually realise, and much more pressing challenges than we usually care to appreciate. We often do and say things that can take us off our desired and required direction. Therefore we must remain focused on the overall objective guided by Aman sahib’s approach of always being able, to find an alternative avenue to remain on course, for the ultimate goal of azadi.
Aman sahib lived and died for his nation and his people. His contribution to the freedom struggle is incomparable. He has left a movement that has made an indelible mark in the liberation struggle across all sections of society in Jammu Kashmir, and has awaken the Kashmiris not only on either side of the ceasefire line in Jammu Kashmir, but within the Diaspora spread right across the world.
Now that his physical presence is no longer with us, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to take the liberation struggle to its logical conclusion. It is also a test for the will of our party, and the leadership at all levels of the party structures, to remain focused on the final destination, and the challenges, both internal and external, that our party- the JKLF- is faced with in the struggle.

Aman sahib was born in Astore in Gilgit, and at an early age was taken to the valley of Kashmir for educational and family reasons. He remained there until 1952 when he crossed over to Pakistan as a young man. He was already an activist when he arrived in Pakistan, and remained actively engaged in continuous struggle for freedom of his nation till he breathed his last on 26 April 2016 in Rawalpindi.
In between he also spent ten years in the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1986 where he was invited and facilitated by the expatriates who were engaged in political activism with the Plebiscite Front. A year later in 1977 he founded the JKLF in which he was supported by these expatriates from Azad Kashmir.

In 1986 Aman sahib was deported to Pakistan by the UK government under an administrative order on allegations concerning the abduction and killing of an Indian diplomat, and also because India considered him as an enemy. He was tried in a court of law and was exonerated by the Crown Court of all the charges that were alleged against him by the British government.

Aman sahib however was implacably opposed to India’s occupation, and stance on Kashmir. His activism was indeed a factor that gave the Indian government the excuse of the diplomat’s killing, to have him removed from the United Kingdom. India did not like being exposed by him and the JKLF at the international level as a country, which completely reneged on her commitments given at the UN on Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Therefore the UK government caved in to intense pressure from India, which also threatened to shelve a deal to buy British Westland military helicopters, which in the end however, India purchased from France instead. Indian threat however, achieved its intended result of having the great freedom fighter removed from the international arena.

Seven years later in 1993, having been invited to attend a conference at the European Parliament on Kashmir, Aman sahib was arrested under an Interpol warrant executed by the Belgium authorities on India’s behalf. Aman sahib remained incarcerated in Brussels for nearly three months while a Belgian court addressed the 300 page dossier sent against him by the Indian government.

 I visited Aman sahib in prison on number of occasions, and also assisted the team of lawyers which included the renowned Pakistani jurist MS Zafar sahib, in preparation of his legal defence. Seven years earlier in his 1986 trial, I also performed similar duties as well as appearing as one of only two witnesses recommended by Aman sahib to appear for him, the other witness was British Parliamentarian Mr Terry Davis who supported our cause.

Aman sahib was a selfless and single minded leader who dedicated, and devoted every second of his life, for the ultimate goal of freedom, and reunification of his divided country. Even in death this dedication, and devotion is clearly reflected in his wish to be buried in Gilgit, to symbolise the unity of Jammu Kashmir he so passionately advocated, and wanted to see as a free country.

Symbolism of Gilgit as his final resting place therefore, is important. It is important because it reveals his wisdom and vision in view of Gilgit Baltistan’s position since 1947. Especially since 1947 Pakistan has steadily sought to separate the region physically, psychologically and politically, from rest of Jammu Kashmir as whole.

Less than three months before Aman sahib passed away, and despite in failing health, he went to Gilgit to mobilise pressure against Pakistan government’s intentions to annex Gilgit Baltistan into its federation as a province. For over a month Aman sahib interacted with notables and opinion makers to create the desired momentum against Islamabad’s decision. The momentum was reinforced later by Mr Yasin Malik when he wrote to Prime Minister of Pakistan calling his government’s decision detrimental to the freedom struggle regarding integration of GB as a province of Pakistan.

During this very intense few days in early January 2016 I was in contact with both Aman sahib and Yasin sahib, and witnessed closely the astute manner in which both leaders acted decisively, to avert a disastrous action by the Pakistan government. Aman sahib however, did say something specific regarding Pakistan, before he took the decision to visit Gilgit, about which I will not give any details for the time being.

Suffice to say however, that although he was critical of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, he was of the considered opinion that Pakistan must extend unconditional political, and diplomatic support on the right of Kashmiris to independence, and unfeterred self-determination. And in this context saw Pakistan’s place in the Kashmir imbroglio different from that of India. And here I am not stating anything that most of us do not know.

In his life Aman sahib did not see Jammu Kashmir become an independent country. However in his life time he succeeded in creating a political movement that transcends the division of our country and the nation.  The fact that the JKLF is led by a single leader, and the fact that the JKLF is the only political party spearheading the liberation movement since 1947 that operates on both sides of the ceasefire line, and among Kashmiris in the Diaspora. This not only reflects the unity of a divided country, but also it is a testimony of the achievement by a legendary a leader.

The party has become an iconic political reality of Aman sahib’s legacy for the nation, and indeed those who are committed to a reunified and sovereign political status for Jammu Kashmir, irrespective of their political, ideological, ethnic or religious background. The JKLF of Aman sahib therefore, by its existence guarantees, and ensures the fundamental right of each and every one of us throughout the geographically, fractured state of Jammu Kashmir, to be the real stakeholders on the future status of our country

Aman sahib was a man of wisdom and vision. And as a visionary leader   he gave the occupying powers, India and Pakistan an honourable way out that would satiate their respective egos over the Kashmir conflict, and strongly advocated that Jammu Kashmir should become a bridge of peace, and friendship, rather than a bone of contention and enmity between the neighbours.

Aman sahib was intensely loyal towards his comrades in the party.  He knew most party members by name, and always showed humility and respect to all. He was a courteous and kind person with enormous generosity of character, and would find the courage to forgive individuals who had wronged him. Aman sahib was spiritual person who was deeply influenced by the example of the Holy Prophet PBUH.

Aman sahib’s loyalty to comrades is quite well exemplified in the manner in which he   ensured from the platform of the JKLF, the JKSLF, and indeed through his own written and spoken words, that the sacrifice and shahadat of his colleague and co- ideologue Shaheed-e- Kashmir Muhammad Maqbool Butt becomes, etched in the psyche of the nation.

It is therefore, not incidental that Shaheed-e- Kashmir’s martyrdom has become an epitome of a  subjugated nation’s struggle for azadi, for freedom, for liberation and indeed for the strong belief that people of Jammu Kashmir must become the  masters of their own destiny in their own land.

Aman sahib has rightfully ensured beyond any doubt, that Maqbool Butt’s sacrifice merits, and deserves the recognition, the respect and the gratitude of the entire nation.

Therefore, for  his legacy to remain a potent force for independence, we must remain focused and determined about our overall strategy and policy objectives, especially when responding to situations and challenges that might arise from time to time, as indeed they do arise, whether in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan or in Indian held Jammu Kashmir.

Those of us who can remember the world as it was twenty years or so ago, can recall how relatively accommodating it was to talk about our cause in London, New York, in Washington or even in many European capitals including Brussels. Not so now and this raises some serious challenges which we as a party have to face up to in a politically mature and objective manner.

Aman sahib’s example reminds us that we have a solemn duty to be disciplined, and respect the others, not because we agree with them but because it is the right thing, for us to do. Aman sahib as a leader was a pragmatist and a democrat, who recognised the rights of those who disagreed with his party’s ideology. He was an ardent advocate of consensus and actively espoused it.

 Even with the successive Azad Kashmir governments Aman sahib made every effort to encourage and espouse within a self-serving leadership, a commitment that would reflect a political and diplomatic relevance of the Azad Kashmir government to the freedom struggle in the name of nearly five million people of Azad Kashmir.

The struggle to gain our people’s freedom has moved on into a new phase, with new challenges, and new realities as I have alluded to above. We should take cognisance of these realities, especially in our neighbourhood. Our attitude to both India and Pakistan regarding their respective positions on the Kashmir issue, should reflect these realities.

Aman sahib as the architect and ideologue of the struggle, has clearly laid this out for the movement. The overall national interests and objectives of the movement, must remain central to our political and diplomatic activism, irrespective of our feelings and emotions about each country. This objectivity should inform each and every step and action of our tactical and strategic policy formulations, and policy execution, without in any way compromising on our political ideology.

There should be no confusion about where we are heading. Our destination is clear. Our struggle is for a reunified and independent Jammu Kashmir, whose people must exercise their unfettered right across both sides of the forcibly divided country. It is the people of Jammu Kashmir who must shape a dignified status of their nation, which is consistent with their fundamental rights, and which they exercise freely, and without external domination.
We as a party must ensure through our struggle that our people gain the opportunity to exercise their right to decide- the right which is an inherent right, a right that is inalienable and cannot be denied to them by force. This is the clear party ideology, and this is what Aman sahib stood for, struggled for until his last breath.

This is Aman sahib’s legacy and this is what we have to preserve, and move on with objectivity, sincerity, determination and confidence. Aman sahib was a strong willed leader with a steely determination.  He was a brave leader who took bold and calculated decisions.

Aman sahib was a strong advocate of a political solution over the Jammu Kashmir issue. He lived a simple life and remained absolutely focused on the freedom struggle.

This is exactly what Aman sahib expected from himself in his life time, and this is exactly how we should carry on his mission. On the second death anniversary of the great leader, let us pledge that we will remain focused and united in preserving Quaid-e- Tehrek’s legacy. This would be the most appropriate tribute to his long struggle for a free and dignified future of twenty million people across forcibly divided Jammu Kashmir.

Today we as a party, and our leadership is just as much committed, determined and politically prepared, as we ever were, to achieve these cherished goals of freedom with dignity, and peace with justice. This is what Aman sahib struggled for seventy long years of his life, and this is the steadfast position of our leader and Chairman Mr Yasin Malik today. And as Allah Subhanwa ta’ala is our witness, this is also our position behind him.
Jazak-Allah Khair for listening to me.

Zafar Khan- 
April 29- 2018



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