Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Emma Nicholson and EU Kashmir report

Emma Nicholson and EU Kashmir report
Dr Shabir Choudhry 13 December 2006

Baroness Emma Nicholson is under fire. A few weeks back not many Pakistanis and Kashmiris were even aware of her name; and now she is the talking point in all Pakistani and Kashmiri political circles around the world.

One wonders what she has done to deserve this treatment. As a Member of European Parliament, the EU rapporteur and vice chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, she has presented a draft report on Kashmir and has requested the EU to endorse it. This report has obviously annoyed the government of Pakistan. They have in turn activated their vast and effective network spread all over the world. People have begun a barrage of criticism, and interesting thing is that most of the critics have not even seen the report never mind reading it; and many of the critics are unable to read English anyway.

Before we analyse the report and see good and bad points in it, it is important to note that Emma Nicholson is European and will think like one with no personal and emotional ties with that region, especially with the Kashmir dispute. Also we need to note that her conclusions are based on the information she gained from Kashmiri and other sources. Moreover no report could be perfect- every report will have its critics and admirers.

Another point worth considering is that in the recent past three reports have been compiled by notable international bodies, and they all have criticised government of Pakistan. The government of Pakistan is annoyed with all three reports and is busy trying to refute them. First report is by Human Rights Watch, second is by Emma Nicholson on behalf of EU, and the third is by International Crises Group.

Does this mean that all these reports produced by prominent international bodies are wrong and government Pakistan is correct? Or there is some truth in these reports and government of Pakistan, as all undemocratic and corrupt governments do, is trying to hide facts; and divert attention from the real problems faced by the people on the Pakistani side of Kashmir. This is not to suggest that people on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir have no problems - they are the worst sufferers of militancy, counter militancy, terrorism and violence.

Emma Nicholson’s report will also have some admirers. Some will praise her for being realist, and strong will to write down what she thought was right, and for not giving - in to pressure of interested lobbies. Some would say that her report has once again brought the Kashmir dispute to the limelight, and is discussed in the various circles around the globe.

Perhaps her knowledge of Kashmir dispute and interests of the concerned parties is not up to the level of other ‘experts’ and especially native experts. Perhaps overriding concern of Emma Nicholson was to encourage peace process and support the dialogue; and ‘empower people’ divided by force in different regions. Perhaps with that in mind she identified some of the impediments; but failed to identify all the hurdles.

Should we, as Kashmiris, condemn and oppose her for writing a report on Kashmir to highlight our plight, or compliment her for making this painstaking effort. Is it not better to praise what good things she has said in the report and politely identify wrong points and try to persuade her to change those; instead of starting a campaign against her and discourage all others to refrain from saying anything on Kashmir because as soon as you open your mouth you will annoy some one because of entrenched positions on the Kashmir dispute.

Unlike some of Emma Nicholson’s critics I have thoroughly studied the report, and I find it quite interesting. In most reports on Kashmir, focus is always the Valley of Kashmir, as if it was Jammu and Kashmir in totality; in fact, it is only one region of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. All regions of the State have different problems and no region can claim to represent the remaining four regions; but we have one thing in common- we are all victims.

Because of this bias in the past reports, where focus has always been the Valley, the other regions of the state were neglected and one wrong impression emerged was that the problem was related to the Valley only. No doubt the Valley is very important, and people of this region have suffered the most in the past Seventeen years, but this does not mean that people living in other regions are not suffering.

People of Gilgit and Baltistan still DONOT have those social and political rights enjoyed by their counterparts on the other side of the LOC for many decades. This is not to suggest that people on the other side of LOC are not suffering because of militancy and presence of large number of army in the populated areas. Militancy and counter militancy has brought enormous problems for the people on the Indian side, but Indian, Kashmiri and international human rights organisations have documented all this; and there is wide scale condemnation on human rights violations.

Areas pf Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan were no go areas for non Kashmiris and especially Europeans. The deadly earthquake of October last year provided an opportunity to European human rights teams to visit Azad Kashmir and see for themselves the plight of the people. One such group Human Rights Watch produced its report a few months ago, and told the world that everything on this side of the LOC was not rosy even before the earthquake, and the earthquake has enormously exacerbated the misery of the local people.

Emma Nicholson’s report is a first attempt (as it is not directly linked to earthquake relief work) on behalf of the international community to see what goes on inside these areas. It is an acknowledgment that these areas- Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are also part of the State and that people of these areas are denied of their basic human rights.

However everything in the report is not according to our wishes (and for that matter no report could satisfy all parties completely), as it fails to talk about Kashmiri peoples right of self -determination. Question we need to ask is, is she the first person to negate our right of self- determination? What about government of Pakistan’s stand on the issue of our right of self determination- they have repeatedly said that Kashmiris cannot become Azad; and furthermore recent statements of General Musharaf, which clearly talk about the division of the State?

For producing this daring report which talks of our miseries should we condemn Emma Nicholson that no one else after her writes about plight of the people on the Pakistani side, or we should commend her? If we condemn her it suits Pakistani government, and if we praise the report or some parts of it, it suits India- typical problem for ordinary people of Jammu and Kashmir.

As a Kashmiri I feel both parts of Jammu and Kashmir are occupied, one can, however, debate about the level of freedoms and human rights abuse and its causes in both parts. And as Kashmiri I have no interest which of our occupier is more exposed and condemned by this report; my prime concern is the interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir. My criteria for this and any other report will be to see if it promotes a Kashmiri interest or not; and if it does then I will not oppose it just because Islamabad or New Delhi feels uncomfortable about it.

In view of many experts, especially Kashmiri politicians and writers, Emma Nicholson’s report is a ‘trivial matter’ when we compare it with utterances of General Musharaf. He has made a complete U turn on Kashmir and has totally rejected right of self determination of the Kashmiri people; and tragedy is that some Kashmiris are showing pleasure as General Musharaf’s statements was Magna Carta for the Kashmiris.

Some educated Kashmiris and those who are sitting in assemblies or Parliaments are trying to shield Pakistan by saying that Pakistan is under pressure, or Musharaf and Pakistan are two separate things; and we must not criticise Pakistan for mistakes of General Musharaf. If we accept this logic then one can say that we should not criticise India for human rights abuse because the man in uniform committing abuse is not India. Chief Minister of Gujrat was not India, so with this logic we cannot accuse India for riots and killings of Muslims in Gujrat.

Pakistani government likes us Kashmiris to believe that it was absence of right of self determination from the report which prompted their response. Previously it was always India and her policies on Kashmir focus of attention, and Pakistan watched the situation from its comfort zone; and now all of sudden the focus has shifted to the areas under Pakistan and Pakistan finds itself in the dock. Otherwise Pakistan has given no attention to the Kashmiri peoples right of self determination and have always shown interest in the territory and Kashmiri resources especially water resources.

Some of the salient points of the report are reproduced for the readers that they can see for themselves merits of this report; and also see why Islamabad is annoyed:

C. ‘whereas the question of water resources is a factor underlying the dispute between Pakistan and India over Jammu and Kashmir and is central to any definitive resolution,’
2. ‘Notes that both countries are now members of the nuclear club; draws attention to the fact that India is the world's largest democracy and has a functioning democracy at local level, whereas Pakistan still has to show that it is respecting democratic principles in a great many areas;’
8. ‘Is deeply saddened that the earthquake had a disproportionate impact on children, nearly wiping out a whole generation of Pakistani Kashmiris, which may well be the most devastating long-term impact of the earthquake; is highly concerned about reports of child trafficking in the aftermath of the disaster, given that even before the earthquake mechanisms for child protection were virtually non-existent;’
9. ‘Draws attention to the plight of three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) created by the earthquake in AJK; in the absence of a convention on the rights of IDPs, welcomes the UN’s ‘Guiding Principles’ which offer the basis for a humane response to the insidious assault of forced displacement on human rights; demands that Pakistan respect these principles supported by the international community and strongly recommends that the EU focus consistently on them, as well as on broader issues of democracy, justice and human rights in Pakistan; notes also that on both sides of the LoC long-standing 'refugee' camps should be dismantled, and proper attention paid to their occupants' protection, needs and social integration;’
10. ‘Stresses that the disaster struck a region already weakened by 60 years of festering conflict, one which is in the eye of the storm of the war against terrorism, and where fundamental institutions have been constantly undermined by organised crime and terror networks exploiting Pakistan as a major base, using the rugged terrain and institutional deficiencies of that country to undermine regional stability;’
11. ‘Is appalled that the already minimal basic “rights” enjoyed by Pakistani Kashmiris before the earthquake (i.e. food, water, shelter, sanitation, schools, and barely adequate health-centres) have been decimated, compounding a situation notable for a lack of democracy and the existence of oppressive and unjust laws, especially those applicable to women;’
12. ‘Strongly emphasises that, in the context of the massive destruction and social upheaval wrought by the earthquake on an already weakened democratic base, and given the enormous seriousness of the humanitarian situation, continuing calls for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir are wholly out of step with the needs of the local people and thus damaging to their interests; urges those playing 'big power' politics when millions are in basic need to redirect their energies to fighting the corruption that has wrongly diverted the flow of international funding away from the intended recipients; notes that, even without the earthquake, any plebiscite would have been meaningless without a change in policy from Islamabad, which maintains that all of Kashmir is an integral part of Pakistan's territory; underlines furthermore that a plebiscite without such a policy change could be no more than a rubber stamp on the status quo;’
13. ‘Notes that Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir was less affected by the earthquake than its neighbour (tens of thousands made homeless, as opposed to millions on the Pakistani side) and has been better able to cope; applauds the competence with which the emergency was addressed by the government, the local population and the army; notes that, as a result, of the 30,000 who lost their homes, all now have housing due in large measure to an intelligent self-help policy instituted by the government;’
17. ‘Regrets, however, that Pakistan has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures in AJK; notes in particular the continuing absence of Kashmiri representation in the Pakistan National Assembly, the fact that AJK is governed through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad, that Pakistan officials dominate the Kashmir Council and that the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Accountant-General and the Finance Secretary are all from Pakistan; abhors the provision in the 1974 Interim Constitution which forbids any political activity that is not in accordance with the doctrine of Jammu and Kashmir as part of Pakistan and obliges any candidate for a parliamentary seat in AJK to sign a declaration of loyalty to that effect; is concerned that the Gilgit-Baltistan region enjoys no form of democratic representation whatsoever;’
19. ‘Urges the EU to take a firm stance against the abomination of the Hudood Ordinances and to revisit, critically, the 3rd Generation Cooperation Agreement it signed with Pakistan in 2004, Article 1 of which states very clearly that the Agreement must be based on a true respect for human rights and the upholding of true democratic principles, given that it is pre-eminently clear that Pakistan is not living up to its commitments, especially in AJK;’
20. ‘Urges Pakistan to revisit its concept of democratic accountability, minority and women's rights in AJK, which as elsewhere are key to improving conditions for the people and tackling the menace of terrorism;’
21. ‘Deplores documented human rights violations by the armed forces of India and the all too frequent incidents of terror and violence perpetrated by armed militant groups based in Pakistan; strongly urges both sides to do all they can to address these violations; welcomes Pakistan's public commitments to curb infiltration across the LoC by militants operating out of territory under its control, but believes it must take much stronger and more effective measures; welcomes the continued and determined commitment by President Musharraf to fighting terrorism, which, it is widely recognised, presents enormous challenges; approves and supports multilateral and bilateral EU Member State aid to assist Pakistan in fighting terrorism and in making determined efforts to improve the lives of the people of AJK;’
22. ‘Recognises and supports the aspiration of the Kashmiri people for a significantly reduced military presence in the area; points out, however, that meaningful demilitarisation can only take place alongside genuine action to neutralise the threat of infiltration of Jammu and Kashmir by militant outfits operating out of Pakistan;’
23. ‘Notes that while Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir enjoys a unique status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, granting it greater autonomy than other states in the Union, there remain deficiencies in practice with regard to human rights and direct democracy; is pleased, therefore, to see recent moves in Jammu and Kashmir to strengthen democracy (as evidenced by the 75% turnout in recent local elections); urges India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to exercise its full mandate with regard to any suspected or documented violations and, to lend it even greater credibility, urges the NHRC to make good the absence of any human rights professionals on its governing board; looks forward to enhanced progress in this area, and to positive outcomes from the new laws on child labour and on women and violence;’
29. ‘Notes that Pakistan established a Federal Relief Commission within days of the disaster to coordinate search and rescue and relief operations; regrets, however, that Pakistan declined Indian offers of helicopters, on the grounds of their pilots' nationalities, as well as cross-LoC joint relief operations, medical relief teams and repair of telecom infrastructure, all of which could have significantly contributed to reducing casualties;’
31. ‘Highlights the fact that the initially hesitant reaction to the disaster by the Pakistani military created a needs vacuum in the immediate aftermath, which was exploited by militant organisations on the ground, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the renamed Lakshar-e-Tayyaba (declared a terrorist organisation and, as such, banned by the Musharraf government in 2002), who swiftly became de facto providers of food, lodging, schooling for children and welfare for widows; is very concerned that this has bolstered the credibility of such polarising groups in the eyes of the local population, further undermining any potential for genuine democratic representation;’
32. ‘Urges the international community to use its massive reconstruction pledges to, among other things, support Pakistan’s democratic transition; is deeply concerned about corruption and especially recurring reports that these funds may be being diverted to support armed jihadi groups; urges the international donor community to do all it can to implement safeguards and to monitor closely the use of funds delivered;’
33. ‘Urges the EU and its institutions not to let the plight of the people of Jammu and Kashmir disappear from the radar screen and to ensure that aid and other programmes are designed and implemented with long-term recovery and institution-building in mind;’
35. ‘Believes it is vital to increase the frequency of cross-LoC exchanges at all levels of civil society and across all walks of life; suggests that exchange programmes be created between professional associations, schools and academics, including a common University with a campus on either side of the divide; to help reduce levels of mutual suspicion between the armies on either side, suggests that military-to-military contacts be initiated through exchanges between National Defence Colleges;’
37. ‘Encourages EU multinationals to recognise the investment potential of Jammu and Kashmir, and in particular the existence of a skilled, educated workforce on the Indian side; suggests that European businesses might enter into joint ventures with local companies and that investment insurance schemes be created to boost investor confidence;’
39. ‘Stresses that tourism has considerable potential to bolster the local economy; therefore encourages EU Governments to keep a close eye on the security situation, with a view to ensuring up-to-date, coordinated travel advice to those wishing to travel to Jammu and Kashmir;’
40. ‘Underlines that, as the EU's own experience demonstrates, one of the keys to improving relations between countries is through increasing bilateral trade flows; believes that, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, cross-LoC trade is particularly vital to generating economic growth, development and the unlocking of its economic potential; recommends that road and infrastructure projects be made a priority;’
41. ‘Warmly welcomes the forthcoming initiative to open a road trade route between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad; strongly encourages both sides to move rapidly to significant volumes of trade; urges swift agreement on the modalities of road freight, with an emphasis on simplifying them as far as possible;’
42. ‘Strongly supports continuing initiatives by the political establishments on both sides and at all levels and urges them to give priority to the needs of the people of Kashmir, both materially and institutionally, so that their political, economic, social and cultural disadvantages can be redressed; recommends that the EU be available to respond to requests from either government;’.
This report, or for that matter any report, is not divine, and is subject to criticism and changes. We should compliment the EU for good points in this report, and request them to take certain things out and include our inherent right of self determination in it. Kashmir dispute for India and Pakistan could be issue of territory, strategic interest or enormous natural resources; but for us it is right of self which has been hitherto denied.

We Kashmiris should look at things as they are and not see things through the lenses provided by Islamabad or New Delhi. To write anything positive on this report at this time is asking for trouble, and my friends and well wishers advised me to stay out of this as Pakistani and pro Pakistan Kashmiris have been influenced by massive propaganda campaign against this report.

But I am what I am, always write what I think is correct, and do not worry to go against the tide. And I hope that my readers and well -wishers will take this submission in that light.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: drshabirchoudhry@hotmail.com

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