Friday, 18 July 2014

Member EU Parliament criticises Arabs for silence on Kashmir issue

Member EU Parliament criticises Arabs for silence on Kashmir issue

LONDON: Conservative Member of the European Parliament Dr Sajjad Karim has said that protests worldwide against Gaza atrocities are being led and helped by Pakistanis, Arab rulers and organisations simply refuse to stand up for the rights of oppressed Kashmiris.

The North West England MEP said that it was unfortunate that not a single Arab government has ever raised the Palestinian issue with him in the European Parliament.

Sajjad Karim MEP said that on the issue of Indian held Kashmir, the Arab governments firmly stood by India, not Pakistan and this is a fact Pakistanis must digest. “When it comes to Kashmir all to often they are seen standing with the oppressors.”

Speaking to The News, Dr Sajjad Karim said that the horrendous suffering of Kashmiris may not make it onto TV screens and highlighting the plight of Kashmiris may not be trendy amongst many circles in the world “but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening”.

He added: “Kashmirs have been oppressed and they are under attack on daily basis by the Indian government but we don’t hear about that often in western media. Pakistanis across the globe must remember the Kashmiris’ plight also. Its Pakistanis who are leading the protests against Isreal, they should speak up for Kashmiris too.”

Sajjad Karim said that from the International community once again “we see the same silence that is officially pronounced for the suffering experienced in Kashmir and Myanmar is also meted out for the Palestinians. Except there is one difference and that is the public consciousness which tries to take a stand for the Palestinians.”

Sajjad Karim MEP said that as Pakistanis all over the world take to the street to protest they must keep in mind the fundamental question - “what is the official position of these same Arab states when it comes to the long suffering people of Kashmir? Pakistanis should first ask where do Arab states stand on Kashmir before placing themselves on front line in Arab issues.”

Sajjad Karim said that for many rich and influential Arab states, the issue of Kashmir doesn’t matter because of their dealings with the Indian government over trade and commerce.He called on the Pakistani government to also reflect why there is confusion over the issue of Kashmir as official position keeps changing and there is so much more that could be done to highlight the issue.

Dr Sajjad Karim said that for the EU - India free trade agreement negotiations, he ensured that a specific paragraph on human right abuses in Indian occupied Kashmir is included. “This ensures that so far as EU trade with India is concerned Kashmir cannot be ignored. No such constraints exist for the Arab nations and Pakistanis on an individual basis need to show greater maturity in assessing their responses to international situations.”

Thursday, 17 July 2014

India must not waste time on Pakistan, Sushant Sareen

India must not waste time on Pakistan, Sushant Sareen    17 Jul 2014
When the Narendra Modi Government came to power, it was widely expected that the traditional pusillanimity that has characterised India’s policy and approach to the ‘international migraine’ on our Western border i.e. Pakistan, would become a thing of the past. But a couple of months into the new Government, there is a gnawing sense that this Government will also tread the old, tired, beaten and desultory track of its predecessors. No, this isn’t about the invitation to Nawaz Sharif (along with other South Asian heads of state) for the swearing-in ceremony; nor is this about the shawl-sari diplomacy. Those were diplomatic gestures that don’t, or shouldn’t, affect the bigger game-plan or policy framework. What is worrisome are some other actions that have, for now, set the amber lights flashing.
In what could well be the first Pakistan-specific Budgetary measure, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed “exemption from basic customs duty (of 5 per cent) is being granted on re-gassified LNG for supply to Pakistan”. The motivation for this measure was disclosed by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan who told a newspaper that “It’s an important project (LNG pipeline to Pakistan) that will help improve bilateral diplomatic and economic ties between the two neighbours (emphasis mine).” There are also reports of India considering opening mobile telephony access to Pakistani SIM cards. We also have the Vaidik circus in town which suggests that instead of using hard options to crush terrorists, an effort will be undertaken to affect a change of heart in the terrorists by drawing inspiration from the examples of Valmiki and Angoolimaal. Even the RSS seems to have endorsed this initiative, otherwise why else would Indresh Kumar hand out certificate of patriotism to VP Vaidik (unless of course, this is a classic example of patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel).
While Vaidik’s vacuity can and should be ignored (of course, if there is even an iota of truth that a narcissist, loud mouth and self-promoting guy like Vaidik was used either as an emissary or even a sounding board with Pakistan, then we can safely predict that this Government will end up as a bigger disaster than the Manmohan Singh Government) the Pradhan premise is what suggests that this Government is going down the same path as its predecessors. Quite clearly, the Modi Government seems to have fallen for the done-to-death ‘carrot and stick’ policy towards Pakistan. Briefly, this dubious policy’s basis is that ‘carrots’ (LNG pipeline for example) should be offered to Pakistan to incentivise it to change its behaviour; at the same time, a big stick should be kept ready in case Pakistan steps out of line. This is precisely the policy that countries like the US and UK have adopted, and a fat lot of good it has done them. In fact, new research by American scholar Christine Fair has blasted this nonsensical policy by arguing that far from giving Pakistan an incentive to change its policy, this approach actually ends up encouraging Pakistan to continue with its rank bad behaviour.
Until now, the way the ‘carrot and stick’ policy has played out is that while India gave the carrots, Pakistan gave the stick. Perhaps, the Modi Government has tweaked this policy and will try to restore the balance between the carrot and stick (though there is as yet no sign that it has). The pipeline proposal suggests that the new dispensation is thinking of tying in Pakistan more closely with India and building solid economic leverages that can then be used as sticks. If indeed this is the case, then it won’t be long before the Modi Government has another thought coming its way. Aside from proving Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result every time – this policy completely ignores the ugly reality that no matter what goodies you give and no matter how closely you tie Pakistan economically, that country remains unreconstructed and unreformed in its hostility towards India.
The Modi Government would do well to recollect that until 1965, a huge proportion of Pakistan’s foreign trade was with India, and yet that didn’t prevent Pakistan from initiating the 1965 war. India also needs to learn from the US experience – nearly $30 billion have been pumped into Pakistan since 9/11 and yet it wasn’t enough to dissuade the Pakistanis from their double-games of playing both the Americans and the Taliban in pursuit of their own strategic agenda. Even today, nothing has changed in terms of Pakistan’s strategic calculus vis-à-vis India. And yet, if the Modi Government wants to once again try and engage Pakistan ‘productively’ then chances are that once again India will give the carrots and Pakistan will wield the stick. Even if Pakistan doesn’t or cannot wield the stick, there will be little that the Modi Government will have to show for its efforts or its carrots to Pakistan because whatever else these carrots do, they are not going to effect a paradigm change (which clearly the Modi Government is expecting or hoping) in Pakistan’s India policy.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are the author's personal opinions. Information, facts or opinions shared by the Author do not reflect the views of Niti Central and Niti Central is not responsible or liable for the same. The Author is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Neelum Jhelum- China bank offers $300m for power project

ISLAMABAD: Published: July 16, 2014
Exim Bank of China has agreed to offer a loan of $300 million for completing the most critical Neelum Jhelum hydropower project, having a capacity of 969 megawatts, by 2016.
Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Chairman Zafar Mehmood disclosed this in a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power, headed by Senator Zahid Khan, here on Tuesday.
Mehmood, however, said Wapda still required $475 million to complete the project by 2016. “Borrowing from the private sector is on the cards as discussions in this connection are under way,” he said.
Furthermore, Rs57.4 billion will be arranged from power consumers through collection of a surcharge. Of this, Rs33 billion has already been received.

Mehmood pointed out that the surcharge, imposed at the rate of 10 paisa per unit, only met 10% of total expenditures and there were no arrangements for the remaining 90% expenses as the Saudi Fund, Kuwait Fund and other institutions had backed out of their commitments.
The prime minister also approved Rs14 billion for the power project, which had been released, he said.
Responding to a question, Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Zubair told the Senate panel that Rs14 billion had been released from the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of last year, but no funds were earmarked for the project in the PSDP of current year.
He said the government set aside Rs48 billion for the project in 2013-14, of which Rs37 billion was spent. This year’s requirement is Rs72.9 billion, but no arrangement has been made so far.
He expressed fear that the project had not achieved financial close so far, indicating it could be further delayed with expected increase in cost.
Zubair said 64% of physical work had been completed with progress on the dam at 75%, tunnel 72% (total length of the tunnel is 45 km) and powerhouse approximately 100%.

On the occasion, the Wapda chairman asked committee members to visit the project site to see the progress. They are expected to pay the visit after August.

Senator Nisar Muhammad Khan emphasised the need for early completion of the project of national importance.
Munda Dam
Replying to a question about 800MW Mohmand dam and hydropower project, called Munda Dam, the Wapda chairman said it was economically feasible and all bottlenecks would be removed in coordination with the ministries concerned.

Committee members aired their reservations about the establishment of an inquiry committee on Munda Dam and said officials of the Planning Commission and finance ministry had assured of completion of the project after getting opinion of the law ministry.

Water share
The committee also discussed the Indus River System Authority’s (Irsa) role pertaining to distribution of water among provinces and the water and power minister’s remarks blaming Irsa for not releasing water. The issue came up for discussion after Senator Maula Bux Chandio remarked that the minister should not touch already settled issues and let Irsa do its duty.
The Wapda chairman, however, clarified that the minister had telephoned him after the controversy erupted and also wrote a letter to Wapda, asking it to coordinate with Irsa in streamlining the dysfunctional telemetry system in order to remove the confusion among provinces. He also read out the letter written by the minister.

“Water distribution is the sole responsibility of Irsa and Wapda cannot interfere in it,” he stated categorically.
The Senate panel also recommended removal of the chief executive officers of Islamabad Electric Supply Company and Gujranwala Electric Power Company, calling their work extensions illegal.
Committee chairman expressed his annoyance over absence of the water and power minister and secretary from the meeting.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2014.

Kashmir should be made independent: Vaidik

Kashmir should be made independent: Vaidik
The journalist who courted controversy by meeting the Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafeez Saeed said both India and Pakistan should stop fighting over Kashmir.
NEW DELHI: Journalist and Baba Ramdev aide Ved Prakash Vaidik on Tuesday sparked a new row saying there is no harm if Kashmir is made an independent nation, Zee News reports.

In an interview to a Pakistan-based news channel, the journalist feels both India and Pakistan should stop working towards building a bridge instead of fighting over Kashmir.

Vaidik insisted that he just said Kashmir should get autonomy, which it has. "Isn't (Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister) Omar Abdullah a Kashmiri? Is he a Bihari?" Vaidik was quoted by Zee News as saying.

The opposition on Tuesday demanded Vaidik should be arrested for meeting a terrorist.

There was a ruckus in the parliament over Vaidik-Saeed meeting. The Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned till noon following the ruckus.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asked whether the Indian Embassy was aware of the meeting, adding Vaidik was a RSS man.

The journalist earlier courted a controversy by meeting with the 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

Vaidik said Sunday that he had released a photograph of his meeting with Saeed, and added that the interaction had taken place in his personal capacity.

Vaidik, who recently spent almost 20 days in Pakistan, met Saeed at his home in Johar Town area of Lahore on July 2. He told Mail Today that the hour-long meeting was the outcome of a "mutual desire" from both sides and it was arranged with the help of Pakistani journalists.

A picture of Vaidik with Hafiz Saeed was circulated on social media, stirring a raging controversy. Uproar in the Rajya Sabha followed on Monday over the controversy.

Several Congress leaders, including Digvijaya Singh, Anand Sharma and Ambika Soni, raised the issue and did not let the Question Hour begin, demanding explanation from the Modi government over Vaidik-Saeed meet in Lahore recently.

Vaidik said the Congress is raking up the issue to put Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in dock.

Asked about the propriety of meeting a person like Saeed who has been declared a terrorist, Vaidik said even former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh had met ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf, whose actions had led to the Kargil conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of Indian soldiers. "Even President George Bush, who is considered a war criminal by some, was invited to visit India," he added. (With inputs from agencies)

No proposal to repeal Article 370: Govt of India

No proposal to repeal Article 370: Govt of India
New Delhi, July 15: Government of India (GoI) has no proposal to repeal Article 370 of the Constitution that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Lok Sabha was informed Tuesday.

“No” was the reply of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to a written question by TMC member Saugata Roy on whether the government has any proposal to repeal Article 370.

Immediately after NDA came to power at the Centre, Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh had said the government was open to debate on merits and demerits of Article 370 and would make efforts to “convince” the “unconvinced” by holding contact programmes with every section of the society in Jammu and Kashmir.
Singh, who was elected from Udhampur Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir, had said BJP was working “very professionally” on this issue and has been calling meetings in the Kashmir Valley.

“We have succeeded in convincing some of them (on the issue of repealing the provision),” he had said.
Meanwhile, replying to another question, Rijiju said as on date, a total of 270 individuals are being given security by the central government on the basis of their threat perception.

“The central government provides security cover on the basis of assessment of threat to some individuals. The security provided is subject to periodic review based on which security is
continued/withdrawn/downgraded/upgraded. Thus the number of protectees in the central list varies from time to time. However, as on date, there are 270 threat-based protectees in the central list,” he said

Monday, 14 July 2014

Watch TV debate: Problems of people of State of Jammu and Kashmir

My guests are: 1/ Mohammad Abdul Aziz Choudhry Advocate, Head of Muslim Conference AJK Assembly Halqa 4 Khari Sharif; and Chairman Khari  Mirpur Action Committee for Human Rights.

2/ Junaid Qureshi, a leader of Jammu Kashmir Democratic Liberation Party and a political analyst

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Human Rights in Pakistan - A welcome judgement, by Reema Omer

Human Rights in Pakistan - A welcome judgement, by Reema Omer
SHORTLY before his seven-month term as the chief justice of Pakistan came to an end, Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jillani authored a landmark judgement concerning the rights of religious minorities. The judgement, delivered on June 19, 2014, was issued in a case taken up by the Supreme Court suo motu, after the bombing of a church in Peshawar in 2013 that killed over 100 people. Respect for the rule of law, the Constitution, and Pakistan’s international human rights obligations require that the government promptly take steps to implement the judgement in letter and spirit.
Persecution of religious minorities, by state and non-state actors, is among the most serious human rights abuses faced by people in Pakistan today. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) reported that 687 people were killed in sectarian violence in more than 200 attacks in 2013. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch documented 52 killings of Shia pilgrims in 2014. And just last month, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Mr Heiner Bielefeldt, expressed concern at attacks against the Ahmadi community and urged Pakistan to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief.
These figures paint a grim picture, which is vividly highlighted and strongly condemned in the Supreme Court judgement. But what makes it one of the most important rulings in Pakistan’s recent human rights jurisprudence is the enhancement of the scope of freedom of religion, using international human rights law, and a set of clear and binding directions to the government to remedy the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan.

The judgement of June 19 clarifies and expands the scope of Article 20.

While the Supreme Court has expanded its human rights jurisdiction under Article 184(3) greatly in recent years, rulings that examine and clarify the contours of fundamental rights in the Constitution in light of Pakistan’s current social realities and international law obligations are still surprisingly few and far between. Under the leadership of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, for example, the Supreme Court often decided cases on the basis of short orders, containing little or no legal reasoning, rather than in detailed judgements based on a legal interpretation of fundamental rights.
In contrast, the judgement of June 19 clarifies and expands the scope of Article 20 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of religion. The court explains that religion cannot be defined in rigid terms, and holds that freedom of religion must also include freedom of conscience, thought, expression, belief and faith. The court elaborates that these freedoms have both an individual and a community aspect, and on the basis of this interpretation, holds that each citizen of Pakistan is free to exercise the right to profess, practise or propagate his or her religious views, even against the prevailing or dominant views of his or her own religious denomination or sect.
These are very powerful pronouncements, which could be used to challenge previous rulings on the rights of minorities such as the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Zaheerudin v. the State (1993) case, which is difficult to reconcile with the Court’s current reading of Article 20, that freedom of religion and conscience means that a majority religious denomination cannot impose its religious will on minority groups.
A welcome aspect of the Supreme Court’s judgement is also its interpretation of provisions of the Constitution relating to freedom of religion in light of international human rights law and standards. The Supreme Court notes that these standards “serve as moral checks and efforts are continually being made to incorporate these rights into domestic law”.
Determining that the scope of freedom of religion in Article 20 of the Constitution includes freedom of conscience and belief, the court’s judgement cites Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, which set out the more broadly worded guarantee of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Supreme Court’s emphasis on incorporating international human rights law and standards into domestic law through judicial pronouncements is a welcome move, and one hopes it lays to rest voices within the legal community in Pakistan which dismiss international human rights as irrelevant Western constructs.
Another strength of the judgement is that it lays down a set of clear and binding directions. This is a rarity in recent Pakistani jurisprudence, where lofty ideals are often followed by weak orders, greatly reducing the impact of judgements.
Many of the court’s directions echo recommendations that the HRCP and other human rights groups have been making for many years. They include: setting up a task force for promoting religious tolerance; ensuring school curriculum promotes religious harmony; constituting a national council for the protection of minorities to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting rights of religious minorities; constituting a special police force to protect places of worship of religious minorities; ensuring that action, including registration of criminal cases, is promptly taken to bring perpetrators who violate rights of religious minorities to justice; and assigning a bench of the Supreme Court to oversee implementation of the judgement and entertain complaints related to violation of human rights of minorities in the country.
It would be naïve to expect that one judgement of the Supreme Court alone will be sufficient to remedy and redress persecution faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, which has roots in a complicated and checkered history. However, the government’s implementation of the court’s ruling, in consultation with and with the aid of civil society, will certainly be a significant move forward in the practical realisation of the right to freedom of thought, belief and religion.
The writer is a legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists. Twitter: reema_omer      
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2014