|Administration of Justice, rule of law and democracy|
Dr Shabir Choudhry
Many UN resolutions and international covenants defend and promote human rights of people. Human rights of individuals could only be protected if there is a democratic system in place to protect citizens from state and non state actors who want to dominate others and exploit them.
And it is not possible to have a democratic system without right of expression. Freedom to hold an opinion strengthens other rights, for example, a right of association and a right to take an active part in conduct of public affairs.
A right of expression will ultimately strengthen the democracy with a pluralistic system of political parties, which could promote tolerance, respect of law and protect civil and political rights of individuals.
In other words only a democratic society could protect and promote human rights. It is only in a functional democracy one can see transparency, accountability in public administration and respect for rule of law.
In this respect states have the primary responsibility to ensure that rights of citizens are not encroached; and that no individual is victimized because of his race, colour, language, religion, sex, or political views.
We people of state of Jammu and Kashmir do not have ‘luxury’ of a democracy. We have puppet governments on both sides of the divide which are there to protect interests of either India or Pakistan, hence we don’t benefit from human rights enjoyed by citizens of democratic societies.
We are so unfortunate that our homeland is forcibly divided for the past 58 years; and people on both sides of the divide suffer because of the policies and practices of those who rule us.
While much talked - about peace process is going on, and visit of Kashmiri leaders to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan is propagated as a big success, suffering of the ordinary people continues. They continue to be oppressed and victimized because they were born in this beautiful but unfortunate land.
It is difficult for me to decide which incident I should highlight before the Commission: a killing of three innocent children in Kupwara on the Indian side or the killings of people in Gilgit and Baltistan, on the Pakistani side; or denial of political rights, on the Pakistani side or killing of a militant who abandoned militancy on the Indian side.
Chairperson the following incident will explain what kind of dilemma the people of Kashmir face:
Mohd Farooq alias Imran, son of Mohd Sadiq resident of Billawar, sub district of Kathua district in Jammu, belonged to a militant group called Hizbul Mujahideen. He together with eight other militants, abandoned militancy and wanted to live a normal life. A few days ago he went to the house of his in-laws at Koti Kishanpur to meet his family members; and at about 10.30 pm, an active Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Zakir Hussain, who also happened to be uncle of Imran’s wife, sneaked into the house and fired a couple of shots on Imran from a close range killing him on spot.
This tragic incident clearly demonstrates that people cannot choose to live the way they want. If they continue with militancy they will face a bullet fired by a man in uniform; and if they abandon it they will face a bullet fired by a former colleague.
We people living on the Pakistani side of the divide face different kind of problems. Whereas people of Gilgit and Baltistan are directly colonised by Pakistan and face inhuman treatment because they don’t want Pakistani bureaucrats and agencies to control their lives, people of Azad Kashmir are ruled by appointing puppet governments there. And this creates many problems for the people of this region, as explained in the report prepared by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on 14 October 2004, and I quote:
"Many in Azad Kashmir believe the general officer commanding of the Pakistan Army at Murree has a big say in their affairs. A number of people told the HRCP team that the freedom of AJK’s political institutions should be ensured by curtailing the powers and the official and unofficial role of Pakistan’s bureaucracy."
‘The lack of a clear definition of the relationship between Pakistan and AJK and the fact that the key positions were occupied by bureaucrats from Pakistan affected the autonomy of the government of the state and created concerns about the future of Kashmir.’
Chairperson I hope that something is done to alleviate the misery and suffering of the Kashmiri people. Thank you.
This is a text of Dr Shabir Choudhry’s speech which he made as accredited representative of World Peace Council at the United Nations Sub Commission on Human Rights 57th Session July - August 2005, under item 3: Administration of Justice, rule of law and democracy.
It is produced here for the information of our readers.