LAHORE    -   While the government is yet to decide its future strategy to get the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) their rights, two domestic factors are causing distraction and need to be addressed immediately. They are: Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Azadi March, scheduled for Oct 27; and the placards displayed by JKLF people while marching towards LoC. The JKLF march is a new development, apparently ill-advised and ill-timed in all respects.

According to a media report, “Kashmir banega khudmukhtar (Kashmir will become an independent state),” was the frequently chanted slogan by the marchers, who were holding portraits of guerrilla leader Maqbool Butt, former JKLF chairman late Amanullah Khan and current chairman Yasin Malik.

Banners/placards inscribed with the same slogan were also there in large numbers.

“UN take over the control of entire state of Jammu and Kashmir to hold a plebiscite therein,” read some placards.

What does the ‘khudmukhtar’ slogan means at this juncture? Is anyone asking the Kashmiris whether they want to become part of Pakistan, India or want an autonomous status?

At a time when the people of IOK are facing atrocities at the hands of an extremist BJP government and Pakistan is making all possible efforts to get them relief at the earliest possible, the JKLF march and the slogans raised therein will not serve their cause.

The national interest demands that Pakistan and Kashmiris should speak with one voice. The world should see that “Ambassador Imran Khan” and the Kashmiris are on the same page. Any difference of opinion at this stage, real or imaginary, would give enemy India an opportunity to exploit the situation.

As for the Azadi march announced by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, it has put other opposition parties in a difficult situation.

Parties like the PML-N and the PPP wanted an all-party conference convened before finalizing the march date. The ANP has also supported the same point of view after PPP leader Bilawal met Asfandyar Wali and others on Sunday.

Because of their personal interests other parties will not like the Maulana to take the credit in case of any positive outcome and will not like to share responsibility if the march fails to bring desired results for any reason. While the Maulana may have nothing to lose, other parties have their own stakes and may have to face a serious embarrassment in case the move flops.

Apparently the march is not expected to lead to fresh elections, which is the main demand of the opposition parties. The reason is that the Army is fully supporting the incumbent setup. When top businessmen and industrialists had met the Army Chief a few days ago, the latter had expressed full support for the government and advised the visitors not to join hands with the anti-government forces.

And this is exactly the march is against. At a news conference in Peshawar on Saturday Maulana Fazl likened his upcoming Azadi March to a “war”, which would “only end when the government falls”.

“The entire country will be our war zone,” he said.  He urged the “establishment, bureaucracy and police not to back this illegitimate government and distance themselves from it”.

It is an open secret that the country is passing through a very difficult phase. The economic situation is such that the government is not in a position to give any relief to the common man. The policy measures being taken by it will take quite some time to deliver.

In such a situation if the opposition parties resort to a march, the economy will suffer badly. There will also a law and order problem in various parts of the country. Between now and the day of march the media will be full of these news and statements and counter statements by both parties, taking focus away from other pressing problems.

This demands that the government and other relevant institutions should take urgent steps to avert the march. They should not make it an ego problem and go out of the way to defuse the situation.