Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salahuddin has said that no government would be able to survive in Islamabad, if it abandons the "Kashmir cause" and warned the new regime not to make the "mistake" of pursuing friendship with New Delhi at the cost of Kashmir.
"No government in Pakistan, whether it is Nawaz Sharif or anybody else, will remain in the chair if it abandons the Kashmir cause," Syed Salahuddin, head of the United Jihad Council and leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, told The Indian Express during an interview in Islamabad.
Salahuddin advised the incoming government "not to repeat the mistake of putting Kashmir on the back burner and try to foster friendship with New Delhi through trade, cultural exchanges and tourism". Because the PML (N) has won a strong mandate, ‘we will expect them to follow Pakistan's traditional policy on Kashmir, which is to resolve the issue in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir through UN resolutions’, he said.
"Nawaz Sharif and his party's leadership must understand that till the time Kashmir is under India's occupation, the national security of Pakistan, the safety and security of its borders, and its economic stability is at stake," Salahuddin said.
Salahuddin said: “Pakistan's agriculture and energy needs depend on the waters that flow down from Kashmir. So our expectation from Nawaz Sharif's government is that he will make this the first priority and give it central place in the Indo-Pak relationship. Otherwise, it will be lethal to the interests of Pakistan and that of the Kashmir struggle in the same way that it proved to be during the regimes of Musharraf sahib and Zardari sahib.
"In the name of confidence building measures, in the name of friendship, in the name of trade and culture, moving ahead to establish a relationship with India, and going for a one-sided surrender on Kashmir, would hurt the feelings of the Kashmiri people and do irreparable damage to their confidence," Salahuddin said.
"If Pakistan is not able to help us militarily, it must continue to help us in diplomatic and political forums. If Government shows one-sided flexibility, extends an unreciprocated hand of friendship towards India like Musharraf, it will be suicidal. What did Pakistan get out of Musharraf's policies?"
He challenged Pakistan to stop advocating Kashmir's cause if it feels that doing so would harm it. "But it must not stay silent on one pretext or the other, sometimes it is trade, sometimes it is culture. If Pakistan abandons Kashmir, Kashmiris would sustain the movement on their own. In 2001 there was a ceasefire between India and Pakistan and a fence was erected across the border, but the mujahideen continued their activity. We can sustain our armed struggle without any foreign support for a hundred years, the topography of Kashmir is very favourable."
Salahuddin said he disagreed with the broad political consensus in Pakistan that Kashmir was not the immediate priority.
He said: "We told Musharraf that if you want to take any measures on the diplomatic or political front, please do, but the militant infrastructure on the ground is your basic leverage and provides you bargaining power. If you get anything, it is only because of that. And when your bargaining power is gone, what will you go to the table with? What have the weak ever achieved through negotiations?"
Salahuddin added: "I can tell you with authority that when Musharraf showed an apologetic approach and came up with a policy of retreat, he inflicted irreversible damage on our movement. India felt relaxed after his retreat, and started infiltrating into Balochistan."
Asked about the impact of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan on Kashmir, Salahuddin said: "It will have a positive impact. It will send an invigorating message to Kashmiri mujahideen; when America and Nato's 26 countries with latest war technology and massive budgets were running away after being defeated in Afghanistan, why could the same not happen in Kashmir?"