While laying the foundation stone of the new campus of Azad Kashmir University of Science and Technology at Mirpur on Monday, Prime Minister Gilani reiterated Pakistan’s principled stand on the Kashmir issue. He was categorical in stating that there could be no compromise on the right of self-determination for the people of the disputed state to decide whether they wanted to join Pakistan or India. And to secure that right, he assured the audience, Islamabad would continue to raise its voice at every possible international forum.

Somehow, there is little to show on the ground that our present ruling leadership is sincerely pursuing that resolve. By any logic, Kashmir constitutes an integral part of Pakistan: its population consisting overwhelmingly of Muslims, their cultural and familial ties with Pakistanis; its geographical contiguity and the location of Pakistani rivers’ source; and, by that score, the essence of the partition plan. It was for this reason that the Quaid-i-Azam used for it the term “Pakistan’s jugular vein” and another of the country’s prescient leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto vowed to fight for it with India for 1,000 years. Pakistan’s neglect of the reality that occasioned these words in the minds of the Quaid and ZAB is now coming home to roost. India has already completed projects depriving Pakistan of a large share of its water, and is relentlessly going ahead with a vast network of others that would turn it into a veritable desert. Islamabad has no choice but to give up its current posture of taking things lying down and launch a well thought-out campaign at the international level till the desired goal is achieved. The policy of appeasement has never worked with stronger foes who, in actual fact, get more determined to hold on to their stand and put the affected people to further repression! Thus, the MFN status will never work; at best, it would overwhelm our agriculture and industry with Indian products, virtually sounding a death knell to our economy. New Delhi would have calmly, without firing a bullet, realised its aim of hegemony over Pakistan. The reiteration of the above thoughts provides enough food for thought for our leaders to wake up and act. Side by side pressing India for Kashmir’s just solution, we should take up the construction of Kalabagh Dam and other big water reservoirs to partially meet our requirment.

Mr Gilani would also have an opportunity of getting a clearer view of the problems the people of Azad Kashmir are facing. For instance, the half-hearted implementation of the high sounding projects to rehabilitate the earthquake-hit population is rightly a sore point with them. The case of some of the Mangla Dam affected persons is no different. It is in Pakistan’s own interest that Azad Kashmir progresses and prospers, reinforcing the feeling of belonging among the local people. Kashmiris have a large Diaspora. If Dera Ghazi Khan has an international airport, Muzaffarabad definitely deserves to have one also.