On Kashmir Solidarity Day this year, Islamabad remained comparatively calmer compared to last few years. The underlying message could have been that a greater space for and commitment for peace between Pakistan and India is now possible. Alongside, it would have been embarrassing for the leadership in Pakistan if the usual flag-bearers of Kashmir’s independence had been allowed to play pranks in the federal capital while the former is busy sending messages of cooperation. Also, the fact that these usual suspects stay at the heads of the now-banned outfits, with one of them purported to be under ‘protective custody’ of the security agencies, would have made the things more complicated.

These vexations in the way of allowing the prevalence of the K-word in the capital aside, Pakistan (and India too) have more important things to ponder over regarding the Kashmir issue. Having made the issue as one of the ideological rather than purely territorial and strategic, both the states have rendered their positions too entrenched to think creatively in order to move out of the quagmire. But in all this rut, the worst affected community is Kashmiris themselves. Not only that the violent actions and the terrorist activities committed by Pakistani groups render Kashmiris ever more vulnerable, their basic human rights are being perpetually violated by the armed forces deployed by India.

Lately, one got a chance to read a blog by a Kashmiri youth from the Indian side of the LoC, who had visited Pakistan recently. His response on the general lack of passionate camaraderie shown by the Pakistani populace sends chills down your spine. He made me recall similar disenchantment shared by the late Ms. Sunanda Pushkar – a Kashmiri Hindu by origin – when she came to Pakistan few years ago.

She was taken aback to see the women in Lahore and Karachi. “Back home, we take dopattas (head scarf) exactly imitating the way we thought Pakistani women would be putting them on, taking a clue from the 1980s’ media images. But you guys have left it behind. We feel betrayed”. They are passionate and they like to be in uniformity with Pakistanis, irrespective of what religion they follow. A sort of natural affinity may be?

But what did we do with this natural affinity? Making (or allowing) their legitimate struggle for self-determination to melt into hardcore black terrorism has over the decades brought destruction to everything Kashmiri. While assimilating our groups bring havoc to the their societal fabric through terrorism, we have not only ruined their cause in this fog but have also brought unprecedented radicalisation in our own society. These (now banned) groups are still allowed to operate with different names.

They are being facilitated even when their leaders reside in jails like princes. In the name of ‘mainstreaming the extremists’, we have allowed them to mainstream their narrative. The narrative bases itself largely on the narrow interpretation of religious postulates and uses pan Islamism to the sheer detriment of Pakistani nationalism while garbing itself in shallow xenophobia. We have allowed these groups to reconstruct their image as social workers. That gives them legitimacy and public approval ratings.

Have we ever wondered how the world sees it? This entire jugglery frames Pakistani people as a war-mongering nation that justifies its wars on religious grounds – the much-misunderstood concept of Jihad. It’s not ISIS maligning Islam here. It’s us doing it so willingly and so passionately. To what end? Look at the plight of the ordinary Kashmiri and you would know.

As if it was not enough, the state has been doing an over-the-top propaganda about the happenings in Kashmir. It had gone to such heights in the 1980s that people stopped believing it. It only contributed to the ever-increasing apathy among the Pakistani people, which is the first thing a Kashmiri visiting Pakistan experiences.

On the other hand, what the Indian government has been doing in Kashmir can’t be ignored too. As Iftikhar Arif sahib once said:

Woh nile ke saahil pe hon ya

Firaat ke kinaaray per

Saaray lashkar aik tarah ke hotay hain!

It hardly matters what color of their uniform is, all the armies mete out similar atrocities when unleashed on people unsupervised. Whether it is missing persons, torture in custody, violation of rights to freedom of speech and of expression, their army in Kashmir has not been able to make a different mark than ours in the (then) East Pakistan.

In this situation, the general public in Kashmir can’t be blamed if they become wary of both the states. A young aspiring girl working in corporate sector in Indian administered Kashmir once said when inquired about how she saw Pakistan’s Kashmir strategy. She said, “Why don’t both of you leave us alone? Why using us like a cake and behaving like cunning foxes quarreling each other for that cake making excuse of sometimes solidarity, sometimes religion and sometimes in the name of human rights?” Both the states better look for the answer within first.

Some people among the Kashmiri intelligentsia would speak very passionately about the ‘sacrifices’ given by the terrorist leaders we have banned here. Now, that was a big shock. “How could they?” a pacifier in me shrieked. How else should they should do, a realist screamed back. Some of the fellow jail inmates of Masood Azhar for example, spoke about him with sheer dedication that only a Pir is spoken about.

There are yet others who talk about him with sheer hatred because he and his allies have made their struggle look like an unending wave of terrorism. Both the states and intelligentsia therein, picks and choses these opinions like cherries in order to make their analyses, whichever way it suits their state.

What everyone has forgotten is, there existed a UN Resolution. Plebiscite you say? But the Resolution talked about some prerequisites of the Plebiscite too. Did both the states comply? All right, the major onus was on us. So how far did we show our practical support to what we call Kashmir cause? Is staying at home commemorating Kashmir Day while showing solidarity by watching a good film (that would most probably be an Indian film), called struggling for the cause? Or supporting some bloodsucking leaches that have now turned into Frankenstein monsters is called solidarity?  Or getting dictated by these monsters on what foreign policy we want to adopt is sovereignty?

It is high time that Pakistan adopts an alternative course of strategy. Shun every monster. Deal with the mayhem diplomatically.

Internationalize the issue without taking advantage of the terrorist incidents. If some geniuses in the security establishment still want to invoke a Mukti bahini moment, it’s not bad to revisit history. Mukti Bahini was backed by Indian boots on ground at the rear end of the purely indigenous campaign. Are we in a position to do that?

Remember, it is not 1971. We are breathing in 2016 and both the states are now nuclear equipped. Back then we lost UN support because of the atrocities committed in the Bangla land. In 1999’s Kargil misadventure we lost international support because of being the aggressive party. Is their any way that we win this support in comparison with the Indian side? Is that possible when LeT and JeM are delivering speeches openly?

The truth will set us all free.