Can Muhammad Masood Khan change anything for Azad Jammu & Kashmir?
This summer’s protests in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IOK) have been the most sustained, violent and aggressive since 2010. They have magnified the urgency with which both India and Pakistan need to resolve this issue once and for all before Kashmir becomes nothing more than a metonym for mass graveyard.
It is imperative that a solution be found. Hopefully, Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK)’s recently elected president has the answer.
On August 6, 2016 Muhammad Masood Khan secured 42 votes defeating Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Chaudhry Latif Akbar who only managed to take six votes. The 23rd President hails from the AJK’s Rawlakot area. He succeeds Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan.
There is no denying that previous presidents have tried their utmost to end the violence and bloodshed. Unfortunately they haven’t been able to make much headway. If anything the situation has only worsened.
Then what gives Masood Khan an edge?
His track record showcases effective international leadership in diverse matters encompassing peace and security, nuclear diplomacy, prevention of proliferation of biological weapons, social and economic development, migration, and international humanitarian law. He is a respected diplomat, exudes confidence, is an able negotiator of international reputation, a brilliant orator and showcases the very essence of diplomacy.
But observers may point out this is expected from every diplomat.
Then what is different?
The distinction this time around is that here is a man who has always worked tirelessly for the Kashmir cause. For him, it is not merely an official duty. It has always been an obligation and a moral responsibility.
His dedication is apparent in all the hard work he has put in to ensure that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are given their due rights, in accordance with the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Through the international media and by giving lectures at various universities and think tanks, he has worked hard to build support for the realisation of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. During his term as Permanent Representative to the United Nations he urged the General Assembly, UNSC and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help decide Kashmir’s political future through a fair, just, and autonomous dispensation.
Owing to his previous posts, Masood Khan enjoys the confidence of the AJK Assembly and AJK Council and also, in fact, a wide berth of Pakistanis including the diaspora community.
It is clear that Khan is determined to not let this issue be swept under the rug. His international exposure and standing guarantee that this issue will be kept in the public eye and his resolve and energy has the potential to propel the international community towards finding a solution to end the decades-long carnage.
Hustle and activity can already be seen in the once dormant Kashmir House. There is already a six-point proposal on the table. Meetings have been held with various governors, political leaders and even the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif himself within just one week of taking office.
With all this in the backdrop, it is expected that the Kashmir movement will finally have much needed momentum.
Kashmiris need a leader who has a good repute and standing. Someone who commands respect. Someone who can present an argument in a way that silences the opposition and leaves no room for debate.
Masood Khan has that reputation.
It seems leadership may have finally been handed over to capable hands. His appointment may very well be the beginning for the end of this year’s long dispute.
Should the people of Kashmir continue to harbour what little hope they have left?
It seems so. Yes.
Only time will tell of course, but so far the signs are good.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.