Saturday, 27 June 2009

When drones will visit Pakistani controlled Kashmir

When drones will visit Pakistani controlled Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 27 June 2009

Jihad and jihadi groups and their infrastructure have always been present in Pakistani controlled Kashmir, in fact, these areas came under control of Pakistan through use of tribesmen in name of Jihad; however a suicide attack in Muzaffarabad, capital of this area is totally new phenomenon.

According to unconfirmed reports four people, including army men died and around twenty were injured; but ISPR statement claimed: `Two soldiers embraced shahadat while three others were injured when early this morning a suicide bomber exploded himself against an Army vehicle closed to Shaukat lines, Muzaffarabad'.

In situations like this, normal practise is to blame India and its agencies, as they blame Pakistani agencies for incidents of terrorism in India and in Jammu and Kashmir; but before it could happen Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. Baitullah Mehsud’s deputy, Hakimullah Mehsud, while claiming responsibility for the attack said, ‘the attack was launched to show TTP's power’.

As soon as I heard this tragic news I phoned a Kashmiri friend who is well connected and has always been very critical of this ‘jihad’ and the jihadi forces who have no discipline, accountability and sense of responsibility. “So jihad has reached Muzaffarabad”, he retorted.

I was not expecting this from him so I asked him what he meant by that. He said: “This jihad, its teaching, its recruitment, its training and its launching to other areas in the region has proved to be very rewarding. Jihadi forces enjoyed special privileges and were perceived as above the law. They dominated the society, harassed innocent people, and dictated their terms because the government of Pakistan, its agencies and their puppets in Azad Kashmir provided all kinds of support to them. I was sure that one day this jihad will visit areas where it nourished and flourished; and probably teach new lessons to teachers and promoters of jihad”.

I was stunned by all this. How could you say that? Do you know people have been killed and militancy could destabilise this peaceful area, I said. He angrily interrupted me and said: “Why didn’t you think of this when you people set up militant camps in this area and launched terrorism in Kashmir Valley and elsewhere? Didn’t that destroy peace of those regions? Why did you remain quiet at that time?”

He was correct. Most of us one way or the other supported militancy in name of jihad or freedom struggle. I tried to wriggle out of this by saying that situation at that time was different; and that now demands of the struggle have changed. I added that we must change our tactics according to situation.

“Don’t play with words”, he interrupted me again. “Situation in human societies never stays same, and people like you take advantage of the changing situation. When it suited you people, it was jihad. When bombs were killing innocent people and destroying and destabilising other areas it was jihad. But when what was done in holy name of jihad got out of control and, bombs started to drop in various parts of Pakistan it became terrorism and shar pasandi.”
He paused for a second and ignored my request to talk. “Millions of dollars were spent to propagate jihad and militancy and its rewards. I don’t know those who have lost their lives in name of this jihad will get heaven or not but they have turned this region in to hell. Nearly three decades of open support and nourishment of terrorism in name of jihad and struggle has helped to assert its influence in every corner of Pakistan; and it could not be rooted out in days, weeks or months. Even if the authorities in Pakistan are serious and sincere in this fight; and their strategies are also correct, it will still take them many years to root it out. And who knows geo political interests and situation will change again, demanding different approach”.

I thought it is best not to tread on this path and not to provoke him. So I expressed my agreement with him that mistakes were made in the past, and that we must ensure that rule of law and basic human rights are not trampled.

He did not bite this. “No Dr Sahib, you are wrong again. It was not a mistake; and those responsible for all this do not show any remorse or even regard it a mistake. It was their deliberate and considered policy; and take it from me that policy has not changed, only their strategy has changed because of so many pressures and changes in situation.”

“Those who devised this policy of jihad and exported it to other areas”, he said, “Still openly support it. They take pride in the fact that they defeated a superpower with that jihad. They still think jihad is the only solution to the problems of Kashmir and Afghanistan; and that they have every right to continue jihad on the Indian side of Kashmir”.

However, despite all the evils the Pakistani society has, this group of people don’t want anyone to wage a ‘jihad’ against Pakistan, even when someone wants to have an Islamic laws, as that will be construed as challenge to the writ of government and brutally crushed. This group doesn’t give same right to other governments to crush those who challenge writ of the government in their countries.

He said call them Talibans, terrorists or militants, by and large they are still safe. No doubt they have suffered losses, and their structure is disrupted, but they have managed to disperse and move out to other areas. Majority of those who have been killed or uprooted from their homes are innocent people. Thousands of militants have moved to adjacent areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and other areas of Pakistan from where they will strike back.

He said around 26 people were arrested by Pakistani special forces fighting terrorism from Mirpur and Khaliqabad - areas of Azad Kashmir about two weeks ago. A large quantity of arms was also confiscated from three locations in Mirpur district, including a place called Jatalan. It is claimed that the target was Mangla Dam and Jatalan head works.

I was shaken for a moment with the prospect of blowing up of the Mangla Dam and its huge impact on people of the area and people of Pakistan. This would have given a licence to the Pakistani secret agencies to oppress Kashmiri nationalists in the area and crush the movement for independence.

Fearing the worst for my area, which is near Jatalan and Mirpur, I asked him what would be the outcome of all this. This is not to suggest that I had no concern for other areas. This news that thousands of militants have illegally entered areas of Gilgit and Baltistan worried me. My local contacts also confirmed presence of these militants, and that the local people were intimidated and they feared the worst. They feared that the Pakistani secret agencies will use this as a pretext and root out nationalists who oppose the Pakistani rule in this area.

In reply to my question he said, “Muzaffarabad suicide attack is the first one but it won’t be the last one”. He said situation in these areas is going to get worse. Presence of militants and their infrastructure in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan is a known fact. Battleground could shift and this infrastructure will be taken out. America has ‘God - given right’ to attack with drones any area where they think high value targets are hiding. What if they think some of these high value targets are hiding in Gilgit and Baltistan, which could be true, and then there is every chance that drones will strike in these areas?

This was frightening. He had a valid point. If thousands of militants have entered areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, whether drones come or not it is enough for the secret agencies of Pakistan to round up all those who are on their list as ‘trouble makers’ or ‘undesirables’. The government of Pakistan knows that people of Gilgit and Baltistan are against their rule and suppression of fundamental human rights. They also know that people have finally decided to oppose their policy of exploitation and oppose construction of dams in areas of Gilgit and Baltistan.

The presence of terrorists and Taliban in Gilgit and Baltistan, true or not, will provide an excuse to the authorities in Islamabad and to those who want to establish their unquestionable writ, and have their way in these areas will be tempted to strike at roots of nationalism of people of these areas, hence more trouble and misery. May Allah Almighty help us?
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

To view other articles see my blog:

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Contradictions in a war against terrorism

Contradictions in a war against terrorism
Dr Shabir Choudhry 18 June 2009

Summary of Dr Shabir Choudhry’s speech made in a seminar organised by Interfaith International during eleventh session of the UN Human Rights Council on 10 June 2009.

It is good to note that government of Pakistan has expressed its determination to root out terrorism and extremism. They have shown their determination by conducting a military operation in Swat and other parts of Malakand Division. No one is sure how many terrorists have been killed in this operation; however one thing is sure that it has killed thousands of innocent people, and uprooted more than three millions from their homes.

The operation was started in hurry and without appropriate preparations; and as a result of that more than three million of people are languishing in camps without appropriate help and support. The hurriedly started operation helped the authorities to win support of the concerned quarters that Pakistan was serious in its resolve to fight against terrorism, but I am not convinced if it will help to defeat terrorism and extremism.

I disagree with those who claim that Pakistan will not get anything out of this war. The government is getting plenty of dollars to fight this war; just like the previous government did. The present government could not have got new funds for doing the same job for which the previous government already received the funds and did not complete the tasks.

This government had to go out in force and show that it meant business; and for that if innocent Pakistanis lose lives it doesn’t bother the ruling elite, as long as they are appropriately rewarded for this. To make things better for the ruling elite, millions of people languishing in camps will help them to attract more foreign funds, hence more embezzlement.

I respectfully disagree with those who say that the uprooted people should be settled in areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. True these areas are beautiful, weather is cold and are adjacent to the Malakand Division, but let me make it clear that we don’t want any of these people, as we already have too many Pakistanis illegally settled in our homeland. These Pakistanis are settled there in clear violation of State Subject Laws. These outsiders not only dominate economy of Gilgit and Baltistan, but also meddle in social, cultural and politics of the area.

Apart from that problems of Pakistan, be it related to violence, extremism or uprooting of people are created by the ruling elite of Pakistan; and they should resolve these issues without being burden on others. Uprooted people are Pakistanis, we feel sorry for their miseries, but they should be housed inside the territory of Pakistan. If they are housed inside the Kashmiri territory – Gilgit and Baltistan, then that will add to our problems; and might lead to more communalism, violence and extremism.

In my view internally displaced people, uprooted from cold and beautiful areas of Pakistan shall stay for long time in these camps, as there presence will help the ruling elite to beg for more money. We note with regret that people who were uprooted because of the earthquake some years ago still have not been housed, and they are also still languishing in camps in various parts of Pakistani Administered Kashmir.

No doubt junior and middle ranking officers of the Pakistan army are serious in this war; and they are suffering causalities. People are getting killed on both sides. But many Pakistanis still think it was never their war; and Pakistani authorities had to work really hard to make it their own war.

Despite all the killings and suffering, I believe Pakistan cannot win this war, as there are clear contradictions in their policy. On one hand Pakistan appears to be actively engaged in the fight against terrorism, but on the other hand leaders with history of terrorism and violence are enjoying their freedom. Moreover Lashker E Tayeba, a banned terrorist group has purchased a land of 200 kanals in district Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Administered Kashmir.

This land transaction could only be done with the help of Pakistani establishment, as legally no Pakistani individual or organisation could purchase land in any part of the State. It is clear that Lashker E Tayeba is known for its terrorism and violence and could not be expected to run courses on peace studies, conflict resolution or human rights.

I met the journalist who broke the news about this land purchase and interviewed him during my recent visit to Muzaffarabad and Neelam Valley. He was threatened with sever consequences by different secret agencies of Pakistan if he did not keep his mouth shut. Apart from that the local people I met in the Neelam Valley confirmed that militants were still crossing the LOC. Of course these people were not infiltrating with intention of promoting peace and goodwill.

My concern and concern of other true nationalists of Kashmir is that because of this infiltration and land transfer people of Jammu and Kashmir will suffer on both sides of the LOC; therefore it must be stopped immediately.

This clearly shows that the Pakistani government still has two conflicting policies on terrorism and violence. Apart from that children and other relatives of those killed in this operation will resort to violence and extremism. There is also danger that terrorists or Taliban might have taken refuge in these camps and might spread to other towns and cities to promote their cause. Moreover this policy of arming people in name of ‘lashkers to fight Taliban’ is another policy to create more terrorists. End

The Seminar was also addressed by Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri, Chairman UKPNP, Hamid Khan, Chairman BNF, Suraiya Makhdoom from Sind, Munawer Laghari, from Sind and Dr Sekhlon Singh from Canada. Dr Charles Graves, Secretary General Interfaith Chaired the session and Nasir Aziz moderated it.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

To view other articles see my blog:

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Status of Indian and Pakistani army in Jammu and Kashmir

Status of Indian and Pakistani army in Jammu and Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 16 June 2009

Dr Nazir Gilani is among a few Kashmiris who regularly write on Kashmir and human rights abuse. He, at times, comes out with new phrases, which provide a new dimension to debates. In response to my article, ‘Another own goal’, he made an interesting remark:
‘India is not an occupier in Kashmir. She is there as the consequence of a provisional agreement with the Government of Kashmir. The jurisprudence of this provisional agreement is accepted by the Government of Pakistan in all her bilateral agreements with the Government of India, namely, Tashkent Accord and Shimla Accord’.

This observation gave a new dimension to the debate and requires further consideration. The Indian army came to Jammu and Kashmir not as army of invasion; rather they came on request of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. On 22 October 1947 some parts of the State were invaded by unruly tribal warriors, killing and pillaging on their way to Srinagar, the Maharaja’s forces were not able to defend the State territory. The Maharaja had two choices: either let these tribesmen run over the country and destroy everything or seek help from India – he chose the later.

The Maharaja could not have got help from the government of Pakistan as they betrayed his trust; and despite the Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja, they stopped all the necessary supplies to the State and managed the tribal invasion to punish the Maharaja for not yielding to the demands of the Pakistani rulers who wanted State’s accession to Pakistan.

The Maharaja requested help from India, and signed an accession treaty on 26th October 1947, which was ‘provisionally’ accepted by the government of India. In line with the request of the Maharaja the Indian forces landed in Srinagar on 27th October 1947. Their primary purpose was to save the State from the invaders; and protect ‘life’, ‘liberty’ and ‘property’.

So Dr Nazir Gilani’s contention is that the Indian army did not invade the State, rather they went there on the request of the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, and went there to protect the state from invasion. They had a specific role to perform in the State. What they did there, wrong as it might be, does not change the legal position of the army’s presence.

In reply to some of the criticism, in my next article - It is a matter of perspective- I said: ‘He (Dr Nazir Gilani) is entitled to express his opinion and defend it. Others have a right to accept it, remain silent or challenge it. Question, however, is if the Indian army, using Dr Nazir Gilani’s phrase, is not ‘an occupying force’ then logically it is a ‘legal force’. If that is so, then what is the problem? Why people of Kashmir are complaining and protesting?

I don’t know how many takers there will be for this argument in Jammu and Kashmir, and especially on the Indian side of the LOC. Also I don’t know how many people will direct their wisdom and experience to elaborate this point to the satisfaction of those who have serious grievances.
Another friend and a colleague in struggle, Mumtaz Khan, also cared to read that article and made the following comments: ‘The other point that didn’t fit into nationalistic profile of Shabir Sahib when he specifically sought opinion of Valley people on the observations of Gilani Sahib that is very much against the very essence of nationalism especially what Shabir Sahib believe in entire state Jammu and Kashmir as single entity but trying to localize it which opponent forces normally practice to keep this division alive. I do not mean to doubt his intentions but words normally create such impression’.

Perhaps my friend didn’t read carefully to note that I never used the word ‘Valley’ in that paragraph. I said: ‘I don’t know how many takers there will be for this argument in Jammu and Kashmir, and especially on the Indian side of the LOC’. Jammu and Kashmir does not mean the ‘Valley’. Similarly the phrase ‘on the Indian side of the LOC’ does not stand for the ‘Valley’.

Anyhow the fact is that many parts of the State have no complaints from the presence of the Indian army. For example, people of Gilgit and Baltistan have no problem with the Indian army. I have spoken to some leaders from Gilgit and Baltistan on the topic; they clearly have no problem from the Indian army. However their problem is related to the presence of the Pakistan army in Gilgit and Baltistan and many regard it as an army of occupation.

Similarly people of Ladakh have no problem with the presence of the Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir. I have spoken to many people from Jammu, and they seem to have no serious issue with the presence of the Indian army. However they had a serious problem with the presence of militants, many of them non Kashmiris, in parts of the Jammu region and wanted the Indian army to root them out.

Majority of people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir criticise what their brothers and sisters have to endure in the Valley, but have no direct problem with the presence of the Indian army (cross border skirmishes and firing created problems for the people, but that generally happened when there was infiltration taking place or when there was tension on the LOC which is manned by the Pakistan army from the other side).

That leaves us with the Valley of Kashmir, main part of the State in many ways; and which has faced wrath of the Indian army since 1989. The Indian army’s relationship with the Valley has been different from other areas of the State; hence majority of the people, especially in 1990s regarded the Indian army as ‘army of occupation’. I was referring to this fact rather than undermining struggle for unification and independence of the State, which has always been close to my heart.

After this explanation it would be pertinent to analyse the legal status of the Pakistani army in some parts of the State. Unlike the Indian army, the Pakistani army was never invited by a Ruler or any legitimate authority to enter the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Under terms of the Standstill Agreement, Pakistan was responsible for providing certain non military services which the government of the Punjab provided during the British Raj.

But despite the Standstill Agreement Pakistani government managed a ‘Tribal invasion’ to acquire Jammu and Kashmir. Unofficially Pakistani army and civilians entered the state territory to support and direct the tribal invasion. Officially Pakistani troops entered the State territory in April 1948, not on the request of Kashmiris, but to safeguard their strategic and other national interests.

The UN Security Council took a serious notice of illegal entry of the Pakistani troops in the State territory; and the UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948 explains this situation in the following words:
A. (l) As the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
(2) The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavor to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistan nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
I hope this explanation will help readers to understand legal status of both armies at the time of their entry in to the State territory. Their presence and role in the respective parts is subject of much controversy and resentment, but that is a separate topic.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

To view other articles see my blog:

Friday, 12 June 2009

It is a matter of perspective

It is a matter of perspective
Dr Shabir Choudhry 12 June 2009

Good thing about pluralistic society is that there is more toleration and acceptance of divergent views. People are not called traitors, castigated, imprisoned or killed just because they have expressed a view which is disliked by the dominant group in the society. Endeavour is made to accommodate different views; and people are allowed to exercise their right of expression.

I frequently write on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism and politics of South Asia. I have noticed that some Pakistani writers express their opinions on ‘Kashmiri Jihad’ and its sponsors more strongly than I do; and yet they get away with that and I face a barrage of criticism, accusing me of all sorts of things. Some even don’t hesitate to criticise my family which only shows their class and upbringing.

My last article was about the incident of Shopian, titled: ‘Another own goal’. Some emails I got in response of this praised me; and others depicted me as an evil person. Both views cannot be correct. So it is a matter of perspective and how one is viewing the events. Generally our thinking and opinions are shaped by the upbringing and experience we go through; and a person who has lived all his life in Kashmir or in a village in Pakistani Administered Kashmir is bound to have different perspective on matters with someone who has lived in democratic, liberal and progressive societies of Europe.

Criticism of some fake people with a personal agenda is largely ignored by people, but what hurts many is lack of tolerance and understanding of educated people. Unfortunately they have also developed this phenomenon that if you don’t openly agree with them or appreciate their views you are not ‘sincere’ and ‘loyal to the struggle’. In reply to these people in my previous article I said I don’t need ‘their certificate’; and I still stand by it.

My latest article has also attracted some sharp criticism. Some frustrated people, as usual, have made personal attacks. Some genuine people have directed their wisdom and experience in jurisprudence, history and law by demonstrating their knowledge and point scoring skills. Most of the points they were referring to were not ‘justified’ in the article, or even discussed, so it appears they were endeavouring to get their message across to some ‘others’. Anyhow despite the ‘spin’ in these arguments, I feel much ‘wiser’ after reading these comments; and I am sure others have also benefited from this.

Dr Nazir Gilani has made an interesting point that in law the Indian army in Kashmir is not ‘an occupying force’. He is very skilful writer and knows his subject well; and there is no limit to his wisdom and analytical ability. He is entitled to express his opinion and defend it. Others have a right to accept it, remain silent or challenge it. Question, however, is if the Indian army, using Dr Nazir Gilani’s phrase, is not ‘an occupying force’ then logically it is a ‘legal force’. If that is so, then what is the problem? Why people of Kashmir are complaining and protesting?

I don’t know how many takers there will be for this argument in Jammu and Kashmir, and especially on the Indian side of the LOC. Also I don’t know how many people will direct their wisdom and experience to elaborate this point to the satisfaction of those who have serious grievances.

It is totally wrong assumption that I am ‘provoked’ to write by telephone calls or by emails. Everyday I receive many telephone calls and emails on topic of Kashmir and terrorism and peace in South Asia. I don’t write an article on every email or telephone call. I select my topics carefully. My topics deal with current issues – issues which are related to real people; and aim always is to inform, educate and generate discussion. But when people have no logical argument to oppose or defend an argument they resort to foul language and personal attacks.

Apart from my critics, the article, ‘Another own goal’ was also read by many other people, among them was Mohammad Ishaq Khan, President UKPNP, Belgium branch. His view is different to those who have daggers in their hands. With his permission I am producing the letter, which is as follows:

Dear Doctor Sahib, Regards

‘Sir I regularly see your posts on Kashnet and on Kashmirmail. I find your mails quite informative and well prepared which provide a great material on Kashmir issue. I also see the people who criticize your views, which is also a good sign. But I see some people who do not see if you are right or wrong just criticize you in a very poor and stupid way. Their purpose of course is to differ even if you write a verse of the Holy Koran, believe me. I know you are a committed nationalist and a learned person. I never saw any negative sign in your mail but some morally very low level people use very dirty and bad language on kashnet against you. I do not know what their purpose is but I do understand that they have nothing to do with movement for freedom. So the purpose of my this email to you is to ensure you that where there is a tiny group of people using bad language against you, there are many more who respect you and want to see your mails and articles. And the second purpose of this mail is to request you not to answer those people who have no sense…….’

Yours sincerely
Mohammad Ishaq Khan, President UKPNP, Belgium

I had other emails appreciating this article, but I chose to use this email for four reasons: He is a Kashmiri nationalist. He is a known person and is the President in Belgium of a well known nationalist political party. And above all he is not a fake man, and lives in a pluralistic society. If I had used any other person’s email, not known in political circles then critics would have sprung in to action, and would have called him fake.

If I remain quiet I am criticised. If I condemn the Shopian incident – rape and murder, and demand full investigation and punishment, I am criticised. If I oppose and expose opportunists and selfish Kashmiri leaders, I am criticised. If I draw comparison between two occupying countries and try to explain that depending on situation both forces of occupation could brutally crush us, I am criticised.

Mohammed Ishaq Khan has accurately put it: Even if I write a verse of Koran they will criticise that as well. It looks when I write, intentionally or inadvertently I touch some ‘raw’ nerves or tender nerves; and people get disturbed. The ‘task’ of some people is to criticise me no matter what I write. They remain silent and as soon as I write something they are ‘activated’. Their ‘job’ is to insult me and oppose me hoping that I will be demoralised and give up my struggle. They are totally wrong. It strengthens my resolve and makes me think that I must be doing something right that so many people are ‘activated’.

Some critics say my writings demoralise people. I have failed to understand this logic. I have condemned rape and murder in Shopian, how can that demoralise anyone? I have demanded investigation and punishment for the culprits, and how can that demoralise anyone? I have criticised corrupt and selfish leaders and how could that demoralise anyone? Only cronies and blind followers of those corrupt leaders and their handlers could be could be demoralised by this; and every true citizen of Jammu and Kashmir should do everything in their power to demoralise them.

Apart from that if a person shoots another person on head at point blank; and a third person says the victim is expected to die. How could anyone with common sense call this ‘justifying’ the shooting?

What I said was that all forces of occupation commit crimes like this; it does not mean that I justify them. In fact, in the same article I wrote: ‘Kashmir, especially the Valley has been unfortunate in this context where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives and people are imprisoned, killed in torture cells and women suffered rapes and humiliation. I and many other people including human rights activists condemn all this; and demand that the culprits must be punished for these crimes’.

I have no issue with the state of Pakistan, but I have very strong issue with their Kashmir policy, as it affects me and other people of Jammu and Kashmir State. But I have no interest in defending interests of India or Pakistan; however it looks some people are distressed when some disturbing facts are presented about Pakistan.

We come from different social, political, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and it is natural that we differ on issues; but while defending or promoting an argument we must respect each other. I don’t expect every one to agree with me, but I expect some to understand my point of view.
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:

To view other articles see my blog:

Monday, 8 June 2009

Another own goal

Another own goal
Dr Shabir Choudhry 08 June 2009

A friend phoned me and asked me about this tragic incident in Shopian where two innocent girls were allegedly raped and killed. ‘It was tragic and blatant abuse of human rights’, I said to him.

He said, “If you really think it was human rights abuse and you condemn it then why have you not written against it?” I told him no one can say it was not human rights abuse; and every person with conscience will condemn that; but do we need to write an article on every rape and every murder which takes place?

Tragic is the incident of Shopian – it must be very agonising for the relatives and friends of the families concerned, but is it not true that in most Third World countries- and even in so called advanced and civilised countries - human rights abuse, rapes and murders are common. Does that mean one has to write an article to demonstrate that he/she condemns it?

Kashmir, especially the Valley has been unfortunate in this context where tens of thousands of people have lost their lives and people are imprisoned, killed in torture cells and women suffered rapes and humiliation. I and many other people including human rights activists condemn all this; and demand that the culprits must be punished for these crimes.

While no one can justify rape and murder, but at the same time we have to ask ourselves why all this is taking place. Did Indian forces burst in to houses of civilians in Kashmir, killed people, harassed them, torture them and raped women before 1988/9. Or all this started when we Kashmiris agreed to wage a ‘proxy war’ - in name of Jihad and freedom struggle on behalf of Islamabad that they can settle an old score with their arch foe India.

Now even in view of Islamabad that struggle or jihad is ‘terrorism’; but at that time both parties were happy with the arrangements: we Kashmiris agreed to get gun from ISI, get their training, take their money and other rewards and shot at the targets selected by them. Pakistani agencies were happy to provide all the above and more that India could be taught a lesson. By doing this did we people of Jammu and Kashmir expected that India will award us with bravery medals and welcome us with flowers?

India reacted to this just like any other power of occupation does, and we people of the State suffered immensely because of this. No doubt people of the Valley suffered more than others, and we all feel for that, but is it not true that the Kashmiri leadership also has to share the blame for suffering and misery of the people. The leadership failed to lead, because they were not leaders rather most of them were ‘proxies’; and were on pay role of agencies and lacked vision and clarity.

This is not to mitigate the offences or crimes committed in Kashmir, but the fact is that all forces of occupation commit human rights abuse. Even those countries who claim to be champions of human rights and call themselves civilized nations are culprits in this regard; and one only has to see what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan to judge their lofty claims. But they are clever and have developed a sophisticated system to influence people; and even when they kill thousands of innocent people, with help of their powerful media it is presented as a service to humanity, democracy and justice.

What India has done in Kashmir cannot be justified, and I will be the last person to justify that; but as a thinking person who has ability to analyse and make comparisons, I can visualise how Pakistan would have reacted if people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir or people of Gilgit and Baltistan had borrowed guns from India and waged a war against a Pakistani rule.

One only has to see what is going on in Swat, various parts of FATA and Balochistan, where helicopter gunships, jet fighters, heavy guns, tanks and commandoes are in action to kill Pakistanis and Muslims. More than 3 million people are made homeless and they are suffering in camps in this heat with enormous problems, and with very little support form the authorities. Some displaced people complain that they have been uprooted for the past 5 weeks and still there is no help from the government.

The Pakistani government and the army reacted in the same manner in 1970/1, when people of East Pakistan asked for their democratic rights. It is claimed that millions of people were made homeless, thousands women were raped and around three million lost their lives.

In Swat majority of people were not against Pakistan, and yet they suffered this ordeal. It is claimed by the displaced people that more people have lost their lives because of the army shelling and aerial bombardment than at hands of the Taliban. People had no choice but to flee for their lives and leave everything behind.

In the Kashmir Valley on the other hand majority of the people were against the Indian rule, and during 1990/1 it looked as India had lost. The system of government had totally collapsed, with militants calling the shots. Yet I could not remember Indian army or para military forces using jet fighters, helicopter gunships, heavy artillery, and tanks etc. Yes they were brutal. They killed, they tortured, there were custodial deaths and there were rapes; and none of that could be justified.

But if past history of Pakistan army, and present on going war and tragedy is anything to go by, then Pakistani army and agencies would have been no better. If they can do that to their own Pakistani Muslims, what will they do to us Kashmiris who are not part of Pakistan and who DONOT want to be part of Pakistan?

It is alleged that culprits in the Shopian tragedy are members of CRPF who have bases in the area, but there is no conclusive evidence to assert this claim. This tragic incident has once again demonstrated that human rights abuse still goes on there, and that people of the Valley are still angry. Despite the large turn out in the recent elections (which was to exercise their democratic right and elect their Assembly Members that they can help them in every day problems), the people of the Valley do not hesitate to express their resentment against New Delhi.

People of Kashmir have expressed their anger against this tragic incident. The government promised to take strong and quick action against the culprits, but there hasn’t been any visible progress on this matter which is fuelling public anger.

All parties connected to the Kashmir dispute have scored own goals. The Kashmiri leadership from 1947 to date have many own goals to their credit. The Government of India have many times scored own goals; and it looks that from time to time they score own goals. The last own goal was related to Amar Nath Cave and the land transfer issue. The Shopian incident, tragic as it is, has strengthened the defunct APHC, and it is viewed by some as another own goal by New Delhi.

It is not clear whether these own goals are scored by accidents and negligence or they are scored to provide new lease of life to the defunct APHC and its leadership which is generally out of step with demands of the independence struggle and geo political situation of the area.

Whoever is the culprit in this tragedy must be found and punished. The government of India is accustomed to scoring own goals and get away with the consequences. The government of Omar Abdullah is new and people have many hopes from it as well; but if it fails to investigate and punish the culprits then it will be an own goal, which could prove very costly.

Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.
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