LAW, JUSTICE AND J&K
by SUBROTO ROY
First published in two parts inThe Sunday Statesman, July 2 2006 and The Statesman July 3 2006 Editorial Page Special Article
For a solution to J&K to be universally acceptable it must be seen by all as being lawful and just. Political opinion in Pakistan and India as well as all people and parties in J&K ~ those loyal to India, those loyal to Pakistan, and any others ~ will have to agree that, all things considered, such is the right course of action for everyone today in the 21st Century, which means too that the solution must be consistent with the facts of history as well as account reasonably for all moral considerations.
On August 14, 1947, the legal entity known as “British India”, as one of its final acts, and based on a sovereign British decision made only two months earlier, created out of some of its territory a new State defined in international law as the “Dominion of Pakistan”. British India extinguished itself the very next day, and the newly independent “Dominion of India” succeeded to all its rights and obligations in international law. As the legal successor of the “India” which had signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and the San Francisco Declaration of 1945, the Dominion of India was already a member of the new UN as well as a signatory to many international treaties. By contrast, the Dominion of Pakistan had to apply afresh to sign treaties and become a member of international organisations. The theory put forward by Argentina that two new States, India and Pakistan, had been created ab initio, came to be rejected and was withdrawn by Argentina. Instead, Pakistan with the wholehearted backing of India was made a member of the UN, with all except Afghanistan voting in favour. (Afghanistan’s exceptional vote signalled presence of conflict over the Durand Line and idea of a Pashtunistan; Dr Khan Sahib and Abdul Ghaffar Khan were imprisoned by the Muslim League regime of NWFP which later supported the tribesmen who attacked J&K starting October 22, 1947; that conflict remains unresolved to this day, even after the American attack on the Taliban, the restart of a constitutional process in Afghanistan, and the purported mediation of US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.)
Zafrullah Khan, Pakistan’s distinguished first ambassador to the UN, claimed in September 1947: “Pakistan is not a new member of UNO but a successor to a member State which was one of the founders of the Organisation.” He noted that he himself had led India to the final session of the League of Nations in Geneva in 1939, and he wished to say that Pakistan had been present “as part of India… under the latter name” as a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles. This was, however, logically impossible. The Treaty of Versailles long predated (1) Mohammad Iqbal’s Allahabad Address which conceptualised for the first time in the 20th Century a Muslim State in Northwest India; (2) Rahmat Ali’s invention of the word “PAKSTAN” on the top floor of a London omnibus; (3) M. A. Jinnah and Fazlul Haq’s Lahore Resolution; and (4) the final British decision of June 3, 1947 to create by Partition out of “British India” a Dominion named Pakistan. Pakistan could not have acted in international law prior to having come into being or been created or even conceived itself. Zafrullah Khan would have been more accurate to say that the history of Pakistanis until August 14, 1947 had been one in common with that of their Indian cousins ~ or indeed their Indian brothers, since innumerable North Indian Muslim families came to be literally partitioned, with some brothers remaining Indians while other brothers became Pakistanis.
Pakistan was created at the behest of Jinnah’s Muslim League though with eventual agreement of the Indian National Congress (a distant ancestor of the political party going by the same name today). Pakistan arose not because Jinnah said Hindus and Muslims were “two nations” but because he and his League wished for a State where Muslims would find themselves ruled by fellow-Muslims and feel themselves part of a pan-Islamic culture. Yet Pakistan was intended to be a secular polity with Muslim-majority governance, not an Islamic theocracy. That Pakistan failed to become secular was exemplified most poignantly in the persecution Zafrullah himself later faced in his personal life as an Ahmadiya, even while he was Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. (The same happened later to Pakistan’s Nobel-winning physicist Abdus Salaam.) Pakistan was supposed to allow the genius of Indo-Muslim culture to flourish, transplanted from places like Lucknow and Aligarh which would never be part of it. In fact, the areas that are Pakistan today had in the 1937 provincial elections shown scant popular Muslim support for Jinnah’s League. The NWFP had a Congress Government in the 1946 elections, and its supporters boycotted the pro-Pakistan referendum in 1947. The imposition of Urdu culture as Pakistan’s dominant ethos might have come to be accepted later in West Punjab, Sindh and NWFP but it was not acceptable in East Bengal, and led inevitably to the Pakistani civil war and creation of Bangladesh by Sheikh Mujib in 1971.
In August 1947, the new Dominions of India and Pakistan were each supposed to protect their respective minority populations as their first political duty. Yet both palpably failed in this, and were reduced to making joint declarations pleading for peace and an end to communal killings and the abduction of women. The Karachi Government, lacking the wherewithal and administrative machinery of being a nation-state at all, and with only Liaquat and an ailing Jinnah as noted leaders, may have failed more conspicuously, and West Punjab, the Frontier and Sindh were soon emptied of almost all their many Sikhs and Hindus. Instead, the first act of the new Pakistan Government in the weeks after August 14, 1947 was to arrange for the speedy and safe transfer of the North Indian Muslim elite by air from Delhi using chartered British aeroplanes. The ordinary Muslim masses of UP, Delhi and East Punjab were left in danger from or were subjected to Sikh and Hindu mob attacks, especially as news and rumours spread of similar outrages against Pakistan’s departing minorities.
In this spiral of revenge attacks and counter-attacks, bloodshed inevitably spilled over from West and East Punjab into the northern Punjabi plains of Jammu, though Kashmir Valley remained conspicuously peaceful. Zafrullah and Liaquat would later claim it was this communal civil war which had caused thousands of newly decommissioned Mirpuri soldiers of the British Army, and thousands of Afridi and other Frontier tribesmen, to spontaneously act to “liberate” J&K’s Muslims from alleged tyranny under the Hindu Ruler or an allegedly illegal Indian occupation.
But the main attack on J&K State that began from Pakistan along the Manshera-Muzaffarabad road on October 22, 1947 was admittedly far too well-organised, well-armed, well-planned and well-executed to have been merely a spontaneous uprising of tribesmen and former soldiers. In all but name, it was an act of undeclared war of the new Dominion of Pakistan first upon the State of J&K and then upon the Indian Dominion. This became obvious to Field Marshall Auchinlek, who, as Supreme Commander of the armed forces of both India and Pakistan, promptly resigned and abolished the Supreme Command in face of the fact that two parts of his own forces were now at war with one another.
The invaders failed to take Srinagar solely because they lost their military purpose while indulging in the Rape of Baramula. Thousands of Kashmiri women of all communities ~ Muslim, Sikh and Hindu ~ were violated and transported back to be sold in markets in Peshawar and elsewhere. Such was standard practice in Central Asian tribal wars from long before the advent of Islam, and the invading tribesmen shared that culture. India’s Army and Air Force along with the militias of the secular democratic movement led by Sheikh Abdullah and those remaining loyal units of J&K forces, fought off the invasion, and liberated Baramula, Naushera, Uri, Poonch etc. Gilgit had a British-led coup détat against it bringing it under Pakistan’s control. Kargil was initially taken by the Pakistanis and then lost by them. Leh could have been but was not taken by Pakistani forces. But in seeking to protect Leh and to retake Kargil, the Indian Army lost the siege of Skardu ~ which ended reputedly with the infamous communication from the Pakistani commander to his HQ: “All Sikhs killed; all women raped.”
Now, in this grave mortal conflict, the legal theory to which both the Indian and Pakistani Governments have been wedded for sixty years is one that had been endorsed by the British Cabinet Mission in 1946 and originated with the Butler Commission of 1929. Namely, that “Lapse of Paramountcy” over the “Indian India” of the “Native States” could and did occur with the extinction of British India on August 15, 1947. By this theory, Hyderabad, J&K, Junagadh and the several other States which had not acceded to either Dominion were no longer subject to the Crown’s suzerainty as of that date. Both Dominions drew up “Instruments of Accession” for Rulers to sign upon the supposed “Lapse” of Paramountcy that was to occur with the end of British India.
Ever since, the Pakistan Government has argued that Junagadh’s Ruler acceded to Pakistan and Hyderabad’s had wished to do so but both were forcibly prevented by India. Pakistan has also argued the accession to India by J&K’s Ruler was “fraudulent” and unacceptable, and Sheikh Abdullah was a “Quisling” of India and it was not his National Conference but the Muslim Conference of Ibrahim, Abbas and the Mirwaiz (precursor of the Hurriyat) which represented J&K’s Muslims.
India argued that Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan or Hyderabad’s independence were legal and practical impossibilities contradicting the wills of their peoples, and that their integration into the Indian Dominion was carried out in an entirely legitimate manner in the circumstances prevailing.
On J&K, India has argued that not only had the Ruler requested Indian forces to fight off the Pakistani attack, and he acceded formally before Indian forces were sent, but also that democratic principles were fully adhered to in the unequivocal endorsement of the accession by Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference and further by a duly called and elected J&K Constituent Assembly, as well as generations of Kashmiris since. In the Indian view, it is Pakistan which has been in illegal occupation of Indian territory from Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit to Skardu all the way to the Khunjerab Pass, Siachen Glacier and K2, some of which it illegally ceded to its Communist Chinese ally, and furthermore that it has denied the peoples of these areas any democratic voice.
In June 1947, it was uniquely and brilliantly argued by BR Ambedkar in a statement to the Press that the British had made a catastrophic error in comprehending their own constitutional law, that no such thing as “Lapse” of Paramountcy existed, and that suzerainty over the “Native States” of “Indian India” would be automatically transferred in international law to the successor State of British India. It was a legal illusion to think any Native State could be sovereign even for a single logical moment. On this theory, if the Dominion of India was the sole successor State in international law while Pakistan was a new legal entity, then a Native State which acceded to Pakistan after August 15, 1947 would have had to do so with the consent of the suzerain power, namely, India, as may be said to have happened implicitly in case of Chitral and a few others. Equally, India’s behaviour in integrating (or annexing) Junagadh and Hyderabad, would become fully explicable ~ as would the statements of Mountbatten, Nehru and Patel before October 1947 that they would accept J&K going to Pakistan if that was what the Ruler and his people desired. Pakistan unilaterally and by surprise went to war against J&K on October 22, declared the accession to India “fraudulent”, and to this day has claimed the territory of the original State of J&K is “disputed”. Certainly, even if the Ambedkar doctrine is applied that no “Lapse” was possible under British law, Pakistan did not recognise India’s jurisdiction there as the suzerain power as of August 15, 1947. Altogether, Pakistan’s sovereign actions from October 22 onwards amounted to acting to annex J&K to itself by military force ~ acts which came to be militarily resisted (with partial success) by India allied with Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference and the remaining forces of J&K. By these military actions, Pakistan revealed that it considered J&K territory to have descended into a legal state of anarchy as of October 22, 1947, and hence open to resolution by “Military Decision” ~ as is indeed the just outcome under Roman Law, the root of all municipal and international law today, when there is a contest between claimants over an ownerless entity.
Choice of nationality