Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Emma Nicholson report - who has won?

Emma Nicholson report - who has won?
Dr Shabir Choudhry 25 May 2007

It is all over. 24th May is an historic day in many ways. It is on this day that full session of the EU Parliament, after lengthy debate has adopted the EU Kashmir report authored by Baroness Emma Nicholson. The honourable MEPs, who must be congratulated for their hard work, perseverance and principled stand, overwhelmingly supported this report, as it was perceived as pro people and pro democracy. Final voting was 522 in favour of the report, 09 against, and 11 abstained.

Some of those who opposed the report tooth and nail are now taking lead in claiming credit for it; and some of them are playing down its importance. People in the first category are true businessmen and they have mastered the art of making material gains from everything. They promoted and sold ‘jihad’ on one hand and even got money for the dead bodies; similarly they opposed the report, got paid for it and now that the controversy over the report has ended, they are claiming victory and hoping to get financial rewards.

People in the second category, either don’t know importance of this report or they are saying this in order to avoid reprimand and ‘investigation’, as the authorities, according to one reliable source, invested more than one billion rupees on this project. Maths has always been my weak subject, so I won’t be able to accurately tell how much is that in pound sterling. Some of this money was supposed to neutralise consciences of MEPs, but it looks that this strategy and that of intimidation and pressure back - fired.

Pakistani lobby has clearly lost this; although there are many who still claim that they have won even though overwhelming majority has adopted the report, which they claimed would be thrown out because of their ‘brilliant campaign’. Perhaps tactics of the Pakistani lobby were too raw and crude, or perhaps events of mid 1990s were still fresh in minds of some Members of Parliament when George Galloway, a British MP was spearheading Pakistani campaign in Europe, and later on it was revealed by the next Pakistani government as to how much was spent on that campaign and famous free train ride to Brussels. Or may be the world has changed and Pakistani lobby still has not fully realised this change, and its implications.

No matter what these people say to their political masters, fact however is that this report is very significant and will have serious and far - reaching consequences. It will surely have long- term impact on the Kashmir dispute and the plight of the Kashmiris. Prior to this report there was no unified or agreed policy of the EU on the issue of Kashmir, and each country managed its policy on Kashmir, and for that matter with India and Pakistan in line with its national interest or relationship with India or Pakistan.

Before this report was adopted, Britain, because of the imperial connection, was considered as the main country to lead Kashmir policy and others were generally playing less active role. Now that this report is adopted, all twenty seven-member countries of the EU are to comply with this policy. They are equally responsible to protect, promote and advance the policies enacted in this report, and this includes important countries like France, Germany and Italy etc.

Once the news was out that the EU Parliament has adopted Emma Nicholson’s Kashmir report with thumping majority, I started receiving phone calls, and one such call was from a friend, rather acquaintance. He said, ‘congratulations your team has won’. I wasn’t sure what he meant by ‘your team’. I thought perhaps he was referring to Champions League cup final in which team I support was playing, but my team had lost the match, so bewildered with this I asked him which team he meant.

‘IKA (International Kashmir Alliance) team’, he said, ‘you were in contest with Kashmir Centres located in Brussels and London and supported by Pakistan. Baroness Emma Nicholson was your advocate and Sajad Karim, Liz Lynn and Richard Howitt were leading the other team’. He said in his opinion, Emma Nicholson and you people have won, even though the other team is also claiming ‘victory’.

I was gobsmacked by this analogy. I said to him I have different perspective on this. I told him that in my opinion ‘it is not victory for Emma Nicholson or IKA; it is a victory for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, victory for all those who believe in liberal and democratic values. It is victory for suffering and divided people of Jammu and Kashmir’.

As for other team’s claim of victory is concerned they can claim anything to hoodwink or satisfy those who invested so much in this project. I said to him that you will understand better who has won if I give you this example where Mrs Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was asked that Pakistan claims victory in the war of 1965, and India also makes the same claim, who has actually won? She said: This war was started because Pakistan wanted to take by force Jammu and Kashmir which is under our control. We did not start the war to take Kashmir under Pakistan, and now that the war has ended Jammu and Kashmir which was under our control is still in our control so you can see who has won.

Similarly one has to understand that Emma Nicholson authored this report, worked tirelessly for its passage through the EU system, and these people fiercely opposed it at every stage. They claimed that it would not get approval from the EU Foreign Affairs Committee. When the EUFAC passed it by sixty votes in favour and one against it, they said it would be thrown out by the full session of the Parliament. Now that the report has been adopted by 522 MEPs and only 9 MEPs opposed it, one cay see who has won.

Initially people of Kashmir and Pakistan were influenced by the massive propaganda by the anti report lobby, but with the passage of time and after reading the report and its positive and balanced approach the tide started turning in favour of the report. Apart from the support of pro people and pro democratic forces of Jammu and Kashmir the report got very valuable support from prominent Pakistani leaders like Mrs Benazir Bhutto (Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party) and Imran Khan, Chairman Tehreke Insaf).
Imran Khan pledged his full support for the European Parliament report on Kashmir. He said, "This report demonstrates the European Parliament's concern for freedom and democracy for the Kashmiri people in Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir".
He further said, "I am glad to support the Nicholson report on Kashmir and I look forward to supporting the EU in implementing its findings to help those people in Gilgit and Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and throughout Pakistan who are deprived of human rights, justice, the rule of law and democracy".
Benazir Bhutto welcomed the report for‘drawing attention to the right of self determination of the Kashmiri people;
\u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\> \u003c/p\>\n\u003cul style\u003d\"margin-top:0cm\" type\u003d\"disc\"\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for reaffirming the EU's commitment to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means; \u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for taking note of the impact of the earthquake on the people of AJK and for urging the European Union to help and support the Kashmiris in this regard; \u003c/b\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\n\u003c/ul\>\n\u003cul style\u003d\"margin-top:0cm\" type\u003d\"disc\"\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for supporting the role of the composite peace process in moving towards a durable settlement for the Kashmiris based on democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights; \n\u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for urging the Indian and Pakistan governments to facilitate the ceasefire on the Line of Control by calling further on militant armed groups to enroll in a disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation process; \n\u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for encouraging the Pakistan government to transform the ceasefire in place in Siachin since 2003 into a lasting peace agreement; \u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for urging both governments to allow international human rights organizations immediate and unrestricted access to all parts of the former princely state in order to investigate the human rights situation there; \n\u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for calling on the Indian Government to put an end to all practices of extrajudicial killings " disappearances" , torture and arbitrary detentions in Jammu and Kashmir; \n\u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for calling on the Indian and Pakistani authorities to ease restrictions on travel between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad; \u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for urging Pakistan to revisit its concepts of fundamental rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religious practices in AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan; \n",1]
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for reaffirming the EU's commitment to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means; for taking note of the impact of the earthquake on the people of AJK and for urging the European Union to help and support the Kashmiris in this regard; for supporting the role of the composite peace process in moving towards a durable settlement for the Kashmiris based on democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental rights; for urging both governments to allow international human rights organizations immediate and unrestricted access to all parts of the former princely state in order to investigate the human rights situation there; for calling on the Indian Government to put an end to all practices of extra - judicial killings " disappearances" , torture and arbitrary detentions in Jammu and Kashmir.’

She further endorsed the report as it calls upon both ‘Indian and Pakistani authorities to ease restrictions on travel between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad; for urging Pakistan to revisit its concepts of fundamental rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religious practices in AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan;
\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for calling for the first elections to be held in Gilgit and Baltistan and for seeking higher democratic representation in the Northern Areas; \u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for supporting the ICG's 2006 recommendations to disarm militants, shut down terrorist training camps, stop terrorist recruitment and end the flow of money and weapons to the Taliban and other foreign or local militants on Pakistani territory; \n\u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>for strong support of regional integration, trade liberalization, and economic cooperation, and to strengthen organizations such as SAARC and SAFTA; \u003c/b\>\n\u003cli style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\"\>\u003cb\>and for placing a high value on democracy and human rights for all the people in the region; particularly for those lacking in fundamental freedoms. \u003c/b\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\n\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/li\>\u003c/ul\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\> \u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\>\u003cb\>The Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, has always stood firm in her belief in the value of non-violent solutions to conflict, the blurring of hard lines and the promotion of softer borders, the primacy of trade, economic liberalization and regional integration, and the re-assertion of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in all areas of India, Pakistan and Kashmir. \n\u003c/b\>\u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\> \u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\>\u003cb\>Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto therefore supports the recommendations of the EU report introduced in April 2007 which calls for all of the objectives outlined above, in the interests of the Kashmiri people. \n\u003c/b\>\u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:left\" align\u003d\"left\"\> \u003c/p\>\n\u003cp style\u003d\"margin:0cm 0cm 0pt;text-align:center\" align\u003d\"center\"\>\u003cspan style\u003d\"font-size:10pt;font-family:Arial\"\> \u003c/span\>\u003c/p\>",1]
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for calling for the first elections to be held in Gilgit and Baltistan and for seeking higher democratic representation in the Northern Areas; for supporting the ICG's (International Crises Group) 2006 recommendations to disarm militants, shut down terrorist training camps, stop terrorist recruitment and end the flow of money and weapons to the Taliban and other foreign or local militants on Pakistani territory; for strong support of regional integration, trade liberalization, and economic cooperation, and to strengthen organizations such as SAARC and SAFTA; and for placing a high value on democracy and human rights for all the people in the region; particularly for those lacking in fundamental freedoms’.

This clearly shows that the report is pro people and pro democracy and support of the leaders above clearly endorse who has won and who has lost. We Kashmiris are grateful to all those who have helped to highlight plight of the Kashmiri people and get this report through the complicated procedures of the EU parliament.

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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