Issam Ahmed

From Christian Science Monitor: “In Kashmirs, desire for Independence grows

“While a group of Indian lawmakers arrived in Indian Kashmir on Monday hoping to resolve a crisis there that has seen more than 100 civilians killed in the past three months, a surprising amount of Kashmiris in Pakistani Kashmir say they want to see independence from both countries.

In dozens of interviews with the Monitor, residents of Muzaffarabad expressed frustration at the level of power exerted by Islamabad and their economic situation, as well as a desire to form a state with Indian Kashmir, independent of both Pakistan and India.

Because of Pakistani Kashmir’s overwhelming Muslim majority, it has long been assumed that its population is content with rule from Islamabad. But that’s changing, says Mosharraf Zaidi, a newpaper columnist with The News, an English-language daily. “The natural inclination now is toward an autonomous Kashmir, as a response to the failed political process between India and Pakistan,” he says.

Bilal Ahmed says he was forced to leave his studies at Srinagar College after coming under the radar of Indian authorities, who suspected him of having militant ties. He now teaches at a school run for migrants from Indian Kashmir. The government estimates there are about 35,000 of these migrants. In the summer of 1993, Mr. Ahmed left India.

Nearly all of those interviewed by the Monitor expressed solidarity for their Kashmiri brethren on the Indian side of the border, and said they hoped for a united Kashmir [either independent or under Pakistani control]. “If anyone asks me, I will always say I am a Kashmiri, not a Pakistani,” says Meher Gillani, who runs a petrol-station in Muzaffarabad city. “But we must be united, we are nothing without them,” he adds.

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