Friday, 30 May 2008

We criticise but forget our obligations.

We criticise but forget our obligations.
Dr Shabir Choudhry

All those who make important contribution in life or challenge the status quo, always become controversial. Supporters and guardians of status quo ensure that no one endeavours to challenge the status quo, and those who do, don’t get away with impunity. And Quayyum Raja in this regard is no exception.

Recently there was a news item that Choudhry Mohammed Khan who claims to represent overseas Kashmiris and is a rich man in his own right should pay legal costs of Quayyum Raja. This itself caused a little controversy, some supporting it and others opposing it.

Some people argued that Azad Kashmir government, its Ministers or any overseas representative has not done anything for Quayyum and Riaz who have been in prison since 1984. Now that they have almost served their term (no one knows how long that is going to be), it is not prudent to let them take ‘credit’ and befool people. They argue Azad Kashmir government and all those who support it, are part of the oppressive system that exploits the Kashmiris.

And those who support the suggestion say there is no harm in this, Choudhry Mohammed Khan has double obligation, one as a fellow Kashmiri, and second as a representative of overseas Kashmiris. No one has asked him for help because he is rich and spends huge amount of money on advertisement and parties when Muslim League leaders from Azad Kashmir visit Britain. It is his money and his decision; we are no one to tell him what to do with his money.

We can request him to pay for legal costs because he is MLA for overseas Kashmiris; and his financial contribution will only enhance his reputation. For whatever reason, if he and others have not helped these prisoners in the past does it mean they should not help them now? It is just like saying that if a person has not been following Islam in his past life, he should not do it for the rest of his life too.

Jamil Maqsood, a Kashmiri from Belgium also felt strongly about it and in his email to me, he said: ‘The last issue of weekly ‘Nation’ contains a news about financial contribution for the legal costs for release of Qayyum Raja and Riaz; and someone appealed to Muhammad Khan so -called member of POK Legislative Assembly. There are more than five hundred thousand (5000000) Kashmiris are living in UK, and many more in rest of the Europe; and if everyone pay one Euro or pound, it makes much more money then needed, please don’t make it a drama of this’.

Jamil Sahib’s other comments are not related to this issue, and I might deal with them some other time; however, I agree with him that there are more than half million Kashmiris in Britain, and some of them are very rich as well; but it is shameful to say that despite this there is no help or any kind of support for these two prisoners.

This large and rich Kashmiri community cannot even afford an Urdu newspaper for Quayyum and Riaz, for years both have been paying for their own Urdu newspapers. They get free English newspapers, and in some cases some prisoners have special delivery of English newspapers sent to them by publishers, but in case of Quayyum and Riaz, Urdu news papers and their publishers could not even afford to send a complimentary copy to these two prisoners.

It must be remembered that Quayyum and Riaz are not languishing in jails for any theft, robbery or fraud; or for any act which could have benefited them personally. Both of them were intelligent and talented young men with bright future, and they got involved in something what they regarded as a just cause.

This is our payback to these two men who have sacrificed their lives for what they believed was just and worthy cause. Having said that there are those individuals, especially people like Azmat Khan and Mohammed Younus Triyabi, who have done everything they could do to help Quayyum and Riaz; and I admit that I am among those who have failed to fully discharge their obligations.

Both Quayyum and Riaz are model prisoners, despite most stringent conditions and pressures, both got highest qualifications one can get in jails. In Quayyum Raja’s words, ‘prison itself is a big university…I had been left on my own and then the continued state of uncertainty of my sentence, the death of my eldest brother who was a big source of support, my own heart attack and then mother’s death just three days before MA final exam, it was more than someone like me could take.’

Despite all these pressures and emotional traumas, Quayyum Raja kept his cool, pulled himself together and overcame these difficulties. Indeed, it was a huge task, and not everyone could have done it. Not everyone who goes to jail and suffer abuse come out with academic qualifications, many come out being abnormal human beings. We can be proud of these Kashmiris and their academic achievements.

If they were Irish and were committed of this crime the way they had been committed, then they would have been out many years ago. They are still there partly because we failed to fulfil our obligations, partly because governments of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, although ‘shed … tears’ for the plight of Kashmiris on the other side of the LOC, decided not to do anything in this case; and partly because politics had a big say in this matter.

As for the legal costs are concerned, I agree, we the Kashmiri community should be responsible for this. Choudhry Mohammed Khan alone could do this and prove that he can also spend money for a cause where there is no direct benefit. Apart from that millions of pounds are collected by various organisations in name of Kashmir, and some of that could also be used for this worthy cause.

No one knows what exactly happens to this money once it is collected, and how much of it gets to needy and deserving people; but managers and directors of these charities have an opportunity to create goodwill by demonstrating that the people on this side of LOC are also Kashmiris and that they also need help.

The money collected in name of Kashmir should be spent on deserving Kashmiris no mater where they are. I have no problem if bulk of the money is channelled to Srinagar, but if a deserving Kashmiri or a family is on this side of the LOC, or are situated in another place, they should also receive help. I hope that Managers and Directors of these charities would pay some attention to this.

Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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