Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Emma Nicholson report facts and fiction

Emma Nicholson report facts and fiction
Dr Shabir Choudhry 13 March 2007

‘We are not concerned about rights and wrongs of Emma Nicholson’s report, our key concern is that we don’t lose any votes because of this. Local elections are only a few weeks away and we want to win them’, said Liberal Democrat Councillor who at one time was a Kashmiri nationalist.

We were in a social gathering where people asked me to comment on this report, and explain in what way it was against the Kashmiri people. In consistent with our policy on this report I said that there are many good points for us Kashmiris in this report; and we must not reject it just because Islamabad likes us to do so. The report exposes Pakistani policy on Kashmir and explains that everything on this side of LOC is not rosy as presented by Pakistan and its cohorts.

I further said the report does not support our right of self determination because in view of the author ground realities have changed; and in her view Kashmiri people need urgent help and support in other areas in order to come out of the plight they are in, especially after the devastating earthquake. Everything in the report is not to our liking, but we can work together to ensure that the report includes violation of human rights in all parts of the State; and that our right to self - determination must not be negated. This friend turned politician, was not very happy with what I said, and he made the above statement.

I was astonished to hear his views. I tried to be persuasive and said that in life one should not go for political and economic gains only, issues related to conscience, principles and rights and wrongs must have some importance in our lives. He looked at me with smile and said, you have tried to support principles and have pursued politics of conviction, and despite your talent and hard work where do you find yourself?

Attitude expressed by my former colleague and Liberal Democrat Councillor explains that apart from ‘directions’ from Islamabad and ‘Knightsbridge’, people had other reasons to oppose the report. All Kashmiri and Pakistani politicians and councillors, in one way or the other have contacts with the Pakistani High Commission in London, and they are led to believe that if this report is not changed then Pakistani and Kashmiri voters will vote them out.

This councillor further said, ‘Majority of people are influenced by what they read in Daily Jang or hear on Pakistani electronic media. Kashmir is not going to be liberated as a result of this report, but if we go against public opinion we will lose our seats’. So one can see there are many reasons why people are opposing this report, and interest of the Kashmiri people is not their first priority. Some are yelling because they are told to do so; others are doing it because it is politically and economically beneficial to them.

Before EU draft report on Kashmir, known as Emma Nichoslon’s report, not many people knew who she was. However due to a consistent and ostentatious campaign against her she has almost become a house- hold name in South Asian political circles.
This campaign, in view of many, was badly organised. Instead of tackling the issues in the report in logical and articulated manner, some campaigners personalised the author in which she was demonised and accused of being an Indian agent. It looked that they were in some kind of competition to scores points and were more interested in projecting themselves. Also there were many contradictions in the campaign, and impression was that undemocratic and communal forces with coercive and oppressive agenda were determined to change and influence democratic processes in Europe and, especially in Britain.

Thinking and civilised people feel if person of Emma Nicholson’s stature could be accused of being an Indian agent, which of course she is not, then one can safely assume that other Kashmiri nationalists accused of being pro India or pushing an Indian agenda are also innocent and victims of Pakistani establishment’s mischief.

This campaign, designed to harm Emma Nicholson and her report, in actual fact has worked in her favour, as people drew analogy with Salman Rushdie and his controversial book ‘Satanic Verses’, which got much more publicity and was translated in many languages after strong opposition and ‘fatwa’ (edict) of death sentence against the author.

With time Emma Nicholson is getting support for her report. In view of some, she is courageous and articulate. Se has guts to face tough opposition and yet continue to promote the cause, which she believes is the correct one. During my visit to Islamabad and Mirpur in February 2007, some thinking people told me that she has done them a favour by highlighting their plight.

They further said previously the focus of attention was areas on the Indian side of LOC, especially the Valley; and plight of people on the Pakistani side of LOC was largely ignored. As a result those areas were regarded as ‘disputed’ and people fraught with problems; and it was wrongly assumed that everything on the Pakistani side was satisfactory.

The report has activated and promoted a debate on Kashmir, and it has attracted wider audience. People knew what India has done to Kashmir, but not every one was aware of Pakistani designs on Kashmir, especially about the plight of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan. Now people have come to know that the entire state is disputed and that people have problems on both sides of the LOC.

Personally I am grateful to Pakistani agencies and their campaign masters, as they have inadvertently helped our cause (Kashmiri nationalist cause). For many decades we have been consistently trying to draw attention of the world community to the plight of the people living in Gilgirt and Baltistan and in Azad Kashmir. This has always been uphill task for us, and we were not satisfied with our success, because world media and politicians in the West were more interested in the events of the Valley.

Pakistani policy has always been to focus attention on the Kashmiri territory on the Indian side of the LOC: present it in most negative way, present Azad Kashmir in a positive way, and not to talk about Gilgit and Baltistan at all, as in their view it is their ‘Northern Areas’. However situation has changed. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are under international microscope.

As a result of this ‘brilliant campaign’, instigated and controlled by Pakistani agencies and diplomats abroad, sixteen amendments have been agreed; and luckily for Kashmiri nationalists they also include issues related to Gilgit and Baltistan in the report. These amendments further scrutinise the situation of Azad Kashmir, and even include issue of Mangla Dam in it
Amendment 11: ‘deplores documented human rights violations by Pakistan including censorship of reports of human rights violations in Gilgit and Baltistan, where more than 3,000 people died in riots in 2004, 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;’
However amendment 12 deplores human rights abuse on the Indian side of the State, and asks the authorities to take appropriate measures to address this problem. It is another positive amendment, and perhaps Pakistani lobby can take some credit for this, but it must be noted that we have also emphasised all the way through that problems related to all parts of the State must be included in the report.
Amendment 14 ‘deplores the continuing political and humanitarian situation in all four parts of Jammu and Kashmir’ and not only on the Indian side as Pakistan wished. Amendment 4 urge ‘Government of Pakistan to specifically address the issue of children’s rights in AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan and to target child-trafficking more effectively;’
By accepting these amendments Baroness Emma Nicholson has demonstrated that she is not stubborn and that she is not anti any government; and key purpose of her report is to highlight plight of the Kashmiri people on both sides of the LOC; and to promote liberal democracy, peace and rights of women and children. In view of many Kashmiri thinkers and political activists it is ‘pro Kashmir report’ and she has tried to empower people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.
One can understand why Pakistani authorities are upset. They are exposed and their designs on Kashmir have become talk of the town. On one hand Pakistanis speak about right of self- determination of Kashmiri people on the other hand deny political and democratic rights to people living under their control. They have made mockery of this universally accepted right of self- determination by imposing limits on it and by pre determining it that Kashmiris have to express their allegiance to Pakistan.
But one fails to understand why some Kashmiris are speaking against it? Those who oppose this report with its new amendments don’t have interest of Kashmiri people in mind. They either don’t understand its positive points, or they are motivated by personal interests, or some other factors which blinds their judgement. Every society has collaborators, who happily join hands and support forces of occupation, as Norie Maliki and Hamed Karazai have done in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. Kashmiri history shows that we have always been ‘self sufficient’ in Norie Malikis and Hamed Karzais.
Act 1974, prepared and imposed by Islamabad on Azad Kashmir, controls and contains political and democratic rights of the people of Azad Kashmir; and Emma Nicholson questions Pakistan if plebiscite was to take place what will happen to this Act? In other words before Pakistan talks of right of self determination, she has to make first move by ending this ‘proxy war’, by withdrawing her forces from the Kashmiri territory and by abolishing Act 1974.
Many Kashmiri and Pakistani organisations, encouraged and supported by Pakistani officials started a campaign against Emma Nicholson because they think she has negated Kashmiri peoples right to self- determination. Pakistani government negated this right of Kashmiri people since 1949 (read 5th January 1949 UNCIP resolution), and continue to do so, and very recently General Musharaf has very openly negated this right and proposed division of the State. Pakistan has also denied democratic and political rights to the Kashmiri people under their control, and yet there is no campaign against Pakistan.
Emma Nicholson on the other hand, very boldly speaks about rights of these people, and yet we see this campaign in which people of Azad Kashmir are used as a raw material, and this clearly shows who is behind this campaign. Emma Nicholson in an interview with Daily Nation, London, said:
“My report talks about democratic deficits in Azad Kashmir. Three million Kashmiri people do not have democratic freedoms. It talks about plight of the people hit by devastating earthquake. No political party has spoken against these points of mine because all political parties want democracy and resolution of problems that the people of quake-hit areas are facing. Lib Dem and EU stand for democracy and role of civil society.”
In Amendment 8, paragraph 12 (a) new
Notes that both India and Pakistan in the Shimla Agreement of 1972, and in subsequent Joint Declarations agreed that the two nations are ‘determined to resolve the situation by peaceful, bilateral means and not to turn it into an international issue’. Both governments in all agreements since 1972 agree that they will resolve the dispute ‘bilaterally’, so how could Pakistan in all honesty raise this issue of right of self determination or plebiscite?
In order to empower people of Kashmir Emma Nicholson says before any plebiscite can take place non Kashmiris ‘Punjabi and Pathan settlers from Gilgit and Baltistan’ must return to their native homes’, Pakistani troop should withdraw and China should withdraw from Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley’.
I hope that with time this campaign will die its natural death and people will start appreciating good points included to protect and promote rights of Kashmiri people. As far as right of self - determination is concerned it is our natural right and no individual or report can deny this. However Emma Nicholson thinks ground realities have changed since plebiscite was agreed and people of Jammu and Kashmir are divided by those who occupy them. Apart from that she thinks people of Kashmir have other pressing needs, for example, right to food, shelter, liberty and security.

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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