Profiles: Political parties

The key political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of the Kashmir National Conference Party, with his sons and infant grandson, in 1951 [GALLO/GETTY]
National Conference Party

Founded by Sheikh Abdullah, cited as a personal friend of Nehru, in 1939, the National Conference Party has dominated electoral politics in Indian-administered Kashmir for decades. The party supports autonomy for Kashmir within the scope of the Indian constitution.

Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson, Omar Abdullah, is now leading the party.

Although the National Conference Party has a largely Muslim following, it allied with the Indian National Congress rather than the All-India Muslim League during the time of India’s partition into the states of India and Pakistan.

In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah, who became the first prime minister of Kashmir in 1948, was imprisoned after being accused of conspiracy against the state of India. This came just as Abdullah began to be more vocal in his calls for Kashmiri independence. Barring a few short spells of freedom, Abdullah was imprisoned from 1953 to 1968 for supporting the plebiscite movement in Kashmir.

After reaching a deal with Indira Gandhi in 1975, Abdullah became chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and relinquished his support for the plebiscite movement.

From 1975 onwards the National Conference has advocated the restoration of Kashmir’s pre-1953 autonomous status, which limited India’s control largely to foreign affairs, defence and communication.

In 2002, two decades of National Conference power was brought to an end by popular mandate in Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections, which brought a rival ethnic Kashmiri party, the People’s Democratic Party to power.

A 2008 alliance with the Indian National Congress Party is credited with helping current leader, Omar Abdullah, become chief minister of the coalition government in 2009.

Omar Abdullah’s time as chief minister has been rife with allegations of increasing human rights abuses by the Indian Paramilitary Forces and the Central Reserve Police Force. His government faced massive demonstrations in 2010, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 117 stone-throwing youth and the arrests of more than 5,000 people protesting against human rights violations and in support of Kashmir’s independence.

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front

The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) was founded in the 1960s with the ambition of forming an independent state of Kashmir through the reunification of Indian-administered Kashmir with Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

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The JKLF enjoyed much support in the valley during the 1980s and is largely credited for leading the insurrection that began in 1989.

The organisation announced a unilateral ceasefire in 1993 and gave up armed struggle as a means to achieve its political goals.

After 1993, the JKLF was transformed from an underground guerrilla organisation into a political organisation committed to fighting for Kashmir’s independence through non-violent means. This change was largely attributed to the end of Pakistani material and moral support to the JKLF after the organisation refused to support Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and continued its advocacy for an independent and united Kashmir

By the mid-1990s there was a division within the organisation when ideological disagreements led to a split along Pakistani and Indian-administered lines. The leader of the Indian-administered wing, Yasin Malik, wanted to halt all militant activities but the leadership of the Pakistan-administered wing refused to renounce violence. This rift would break up the organisation.

The JKLF in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is headed by its president, Sardar Saghir. Amanullah Khan, one of the oldest living and foremost ideologues of the JKLF, continues to function as its chief patron. The faction remains committed to the creation of a greater and independent Kashmir through peaceful means.

Yasin Malik remains the head of the JKLF in Indian-administered Kashmir. Under Malik, the JKLF remains a key Kashmiri nationalist party in the region. The party supports the inclusion of Kashmiris as a principal party in India-Pakistan peace negotiations on Kashmir.

Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Party

Founded in 1999 by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP) is an ethnic Kashmiri party advocating self-rule for Jammu and Kashmir.

To realise this goal, the JKPDP calls for very specific actions that must be taken and standards that must be set. The JKPDP calls for the free movement of goods between the borders of Kashmir. This would in essence render all borders around the valley “irrelevant” according to the JKPDP. Also essential to this goal is complete economic autonomy with self-authority over water and other resources within the Valley of Kashmir. The JKPDP is also calling for a demilitarisation of civilian areas.

The current head of the JKPDP is Mehbooba Mufti. Mufti is the daughter of JKPDP founder Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

In 2004, the JKPDP won state assembly elections and formed the state government. After winning state elections, the JKPDP sent one member to the upper and lower houses of the Indian parliament. The JKPDP is also a party to the coalition of United Progressive Alliance. Presently, JKPDP is the largest opposition party in the Kashmir legislative assembly.

To the JKPDP, self-rule is reliant upon a combination of intra-state measures with inter-state and supra-state measures rather than isolation. The party has been supportive of Kashmir specific Confidence Building Measures undertaken by India and Pakistan and advocated the resolution of the Kashmir conflict through a sustained peace dialogue.

Source: Al Jazeera