Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pakistan bans a booklet on Kashmir

Pakistan bans a booklet on Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 30 October 2006

Pakistan has banned another booklet on Kashmir, and this speaks volumes about right of expression and independence of media in Pakistan and Pakistani controlled Kashmir. Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan and Azad Kashmir have no media to speak of, and control of Islamabad is so strict that they decide what should we read and what our ears should hear. Even syllabus for our schools and colleges is decided by Islamabad.

On 22 October 2006, Pakistani authorities have banned a booklet called, ‘Kashmir Ki Pukaar’- cry of Kashmir. This booklet is written by a Pakistani, Arif Malik, who lives in Mirpur and has, for many years, interacted with Kashmiri nationalists, which obviously had some impact on his thinking and his understanding of Kashmir dispute.

This thinking and understanding is different to what government of Pakistan want people of Kashmir and Pakistan to understand. While banning the booklet the authorities said the booklet ‘carries misleading information with regard to traditional stance of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and amounts to ideological sabotage and subversion.’ Authorities ordered to ‘confiscate all its copies wherever found in the open market with immediate effect and to take necessary action against the publisher, distributors and sellers under the relevant law.’

Pakistan, no doubt, is a ‘friend’ of Kashmiri people; and we have witnessed demonstration of this love many times. If I start giving examples of their love and affection for the people of Kashmir then I would need a booklet if not a book to write down everything and authorities would also ban it as they don’t like Kashmiris to read literature which could make them understand their real position.

Pakistani authorities don’t like people of Azad Kashmir or government of this area to think and plan anything. As a ‘God Father’ of these areas they have assumed this role and make decisions for us, and then urge us to accept that they are best for us. They even decide who should be our judges and who should control and plan for us. Very kindly they decide in the meetings of Kashmir Council, which is headed by Prime Minister of Pakistan and controlled by him and his staff, which officer should be promoted and what should be done in Azad Kashmir.

In the last meeting, apart from other things they decided that Justice Riaz Chaudhry should supersede Justice Manzoor Gilani to become the Chief Justice of Azad Kashmir Supreme Court. Justice Riaz Chaudhry had to be rewarded for his services as the Chief Election Commissioner. Soon after very favourable outcome of the elections in Azad Kashmir, he was promoted to become a judge of the Supreme Court. After a month or so in that post he ‘won’ another promotion and was elevated to become the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.

Where else in the world you will see this kind of rapid promotion, and why he and other beneficiaries like him won’t, sing praises for Islamabad. And when other aspirants realise that route to success is through flattering Islamabad and Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, they try to out manoeuvre each other, hence Islamabad gets a good supply of potential ‘collaborators’ and ‘protagonists’ with subservient and docile mentality.

Pakistan is happy with the existing relationship which they have with Kashmir. Areas of ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit and Baltistan are totally in control of Pakistan, and Pakistan can even control and determine events in areas which are across the LOC. Of course Pakistan would not like this relationship to change, but this could change if people of these areas have free access to media and they are told about this relationship.

Those people who sing praises for Pakistan, and tell people that Pakistani authorities are doing everything in our interest, they are rewarded. And those who try to explain true designs of Pakistan and try to explain this relationship of exploitation they are cursed and declared anti Pakistan and traitors; and in some cases anti Islam.

Maqbool Butt Shaheed and other leaders of his party, Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front were the first to taste Pakistani friendship in various torture cells in Pakistan in 1970s; and they were declared traitors. Even when Maqbool Butt was hanged in Delhi and was regarded as the father of the Kashmiri movement; Pakistani mindset with regard to Kashmiri nationalists did not change.

In official Pakistani records and in eyes of establishment there is always a red circle around names of true followers of Maqbool Butt. They will not get government jobs, they will not get government contracts and they will always get negative publicity etc. Apart from that they have always tried to stop Maqbool Butt’s message reaching people; so much so that a book consisting of Maqbool Butt’s letter was banned by Pakistan in 1990s.

Pakistani authorities keep telling people of Mirpur that Mangla dam was constructed for the betterment of the local people. They don’t tell people what impact this had on the local area, and how many people were uprooted and that thousands did not get any compensation. Also they did not tell people that it was constructed to benefit Pakistan and that no royalty was paid for this dam to Azad Kashmir government.

And when Pakistani authorities had difficulty in getting an agreement to construct dams inside Pakistani territory they decided to upraise Mangla dam, which will once again uproot more than hundred thousand people. In order to explain all this, Saeed Asad a writer from Mirpur wrote a book, which was immediately banned by the authorities.

Attitude of Pakistani authorities is like a typical strict father who doesn’t want his children to read literature which could broaden his horizon, as he fears that children might rebel against him. They don’t want the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan to know that they are being exploited, not by India but by Pakistan. And for this purpose they want to ensure that focus is always events and human rights abuse taking place on the Indian side of Kashmir.

No one can deny human rights abuse on the other side of LOC, and people of that area are struggling to change that situation. But for wrongs which go on totally unchecked and un- reported in the areas where Pakistan is in control, we cannot hold India responsible for this. Pakistan has to accept responsibility for wrongs taking place on this side of the LOC, and must make an effort to change the situation.

If Pakistan wants to win hearts and minds of the people of Kashmir under its control; and to send the right message across the LOC then it needs to change its policy. Banning books which tell people what goes on here or cornering those who oppose Islamabad’s wrong policies on Kashmir is not the solution. This policy and strategy in the long run will harm Pakistan and its relationship with people of Jammu and Kashmir.

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

No comments: