Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Test for Kashmiri nationalists

Test for Kashmiri nationalists
Dr Shabir Choudhry 29 July 2009
Sardar Liaquat Ayat is not only in hot water but he is in jail. He is going through this ordeal not because he has committed any crime but because he has expressed an opinion which is against interest of the ruling elite.
He is a known Kashmiri nationalist, and President of Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party. I have not met him but he came to my attention when I read his interview in Saeed Asad’s book regarding human rights abuse in Neelam Valley. Sardar Liaquat Ayat very bravely and unequivocally exposed acts of human rights abuse committed by Pakistan army. His statement was so good that we produced quotes for the speech which was delivered at Geneva by KNP Chairman, Abbas Butt.
Sardar Liaquat Ayat while referring to Pakistan army, said:
‘Forces of occupation were present everywhere and openly displaying their weapons to harass people. If you want to see unruly army, which has no care for welfare of the people, and which is not controlled by any one then visit the Neelam Valley. This army is stationed in villages and populated areas. There is no concept of sanctity of ‘chader and chaar divari’ - meaning respect for home and dignity of women, because honour and dignity is trampled under big boots of the army. Dignity and honour of no one is safe here. Sexual abuse is common here; and because of fear factor no one dares to complain’.
When I read this statement I knew he will have to pay for his honesty and bravery. He was arrested for holding a public meeting on 19 July, and exposing a political fraud committed on this date in 1947. The ruling party - Muslim Conference, in Pakistani Administered Kashmir claims that their party on this date passed accession to Pakistan resolution. History does not support this contention, but when lies are spoken consistently and over a long period of time some people will believe them.
The facts are that in a press conference held on 28 May 1947, Choudhry Hameedullah, acting President of the Muslim Conference said: ‘Accession to Pakistan will disturb Hindus while accession to India will disturb Muslims. Therefore, we have decided not to enter into any controversy either with India or Pakistan. The second thing we have decided is that we should try to acquire independence for the State. The third question now before us is what would be the position of the Maharaja? We have never been lacking in showing loyalty and respect for him and it is because of this attachment that we did not support the Quit Kashmir Movement although in one way it was a natural Movement. We, therefore, felt that we should try to find a solution which will maintain the position of the Maharaja Bahdur while at the same time, it should also satisfy the Praja. The best solution that we have found is that the Maharaja should become a constitutional King as is the position in many countries…… The fourth thing that we have decided is that we should a Constituent Assembly of our own to draft our constitution……’
Choudhry Hameedullah had full support of leadership of the party, and it was expressed in the meeting of the Working Committee of the Muslim Conference on 18 July 1947. The working Committee after careful consideration unanimously endorsed the statement made by, the acting President, Choudhry Hameedullah; and ‘ unanimously adopted a resolution calling upon the Maharaja to declare independence and assured him of the Party’s wholehearted support and co operation.’
This was a bombshell to all those who regarded Muslim Conference as their ‘pet’, and regarded Kashmir being in their ‘pocket’. Much publicised Muslim Conference ‘Convention’ was itself a fraud, as no official invitations were given to delegates, which is the normal practise. A small advertisement was placed in newspaper and members were requested to attend the ‘Convention’, which was attended by less than hundred people, and mainly supports of Mirwaiz who were motivated by religious fervour.
On 19 July 1947 a resolution was passed that was contradictory to the one passed by the Working Committee, which normally consists of matured and experienced people. It was also contradictory to the official policy of the party and statement of Choudhry Hameedullah. The resolution said, ‘It is, therefore, necessary that the State must accede to Pakistan’. People wonder what had happened between 18th and 19th July which brought about a complete U – turn.
Sardar Liaquat Hayat was arrested for crime of exposing political fraud committed on 19 July 1947, and imposed on reluctant people of Jammu and Kashmir in order to promote their own interest and also the interest of Islamabad. He condemned the so called ‘accession resolution’, and advanced the cause of democratic, secular, and united independent Jammu and Kashmir.
Pro Pakistan government and Pakistani agencies have shown what they are capable of doing. They have arrested these leaders, which is clear abuse of their human rights and clear violation of UNCIP resolutions on Kashmir, which says: ‘All authorities within the State of Jammu and Kashmir will undertake to ensure in collaboration with the Plebiscite Administrator that:
(a) There is no threat, coercion or intimidation, bribery or other undue influence on the voters in plebiscite;
(b) No restrictions are placed on legitimate political activity throughout the State. All subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste or party, shall be safe and free in expressing their views and in voting on the question of the accession of the State to India or Pakistan. There shall be freedom of the Press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit;
(c) All political prisoners are released;
(d) Minorities in all parts of the State are accorded adequate protection; and
(e) There is no victimisation’.
We people of Jammu and Kashmir are a divided lot. We have failed to shown unity when most needed. NAP is a pro independent party, which like other parties needs a political space, but we have to see it differently. We have to view this as an attack on our liberties, attack on a fellow leader and attack on our fundamental belief of independence. We have to demonstrate our complete solidarity with NAP leaders and take active part in release of these leaders. It should not be taken as a struggle of NAP, but struggle of all those who believe in united and independent Kashmir, and all those who believe in secular, democratic and progressive Kashmir.
In this regard I request all nationalist parties to fully cooperate with NAP leaders and support all their programmes to demonstrate unity; and send a clear message to the authorities that if you want peace and harmony in this region then release these political prisoners immediately and without any conditions. Apart from that I request nationalist parties to organise protests independently as well to show that it is not struggle of NAP only, but struggle of all freedom loving people.
Apart from that NAP and other nationalist parties should contact embassies and Foreign Offices of different countries and explain the plight of people and human rights abuse perpetrated in Pakistani Administered Kashmir. If we Kashmiri nationalists failed to get release of these innocent people then it will be a clear signal to the authorities that these people are divided and cannot rise above their petty differences.
This impression will open a floodgate of human rights abuses in this area, and lead to subjugation of other nationalists. We need to send a clear message to the authorities that we will not allow them to contravene our social, political and economic rights; and any attempt to curb our human rights will be opposed and brought to the attention of the international community.
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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Friday, 17 July 2009

India Pakistan talks - Gilani scores a goal.

India Pakistan talks - Gilani scores a goal.
Dr Shabir Choudhry 17 July 2009

On side lines of NAM Summit, Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan met in Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Good thing is that they have managed to issue a joint statement as well. This indicates some progress in talks and climb down by India, despite strong and arrogant stand before the talks.

Since the Mumbai carnage in November 2008, India has consistently and emphatically maintained that the dialogue process cannot resume till Pakistan takes "concrete" and "visible" action against perpetrators of Mumbai terrorist attacks. But many thought it was only posturing and because of geo political situation and war on terrorism, India could not afford to stay away from the negotiating table for too long.

Pakistani government and its supporters are claiming a great ‘success’ in the talks. Some Pakistanis claim Gilani has scored a goal over his old and very experienced rival. For the first time the Pakistani Prime Minister has demonstrated good performance, which could be the result of better preparation and team work.

There is more than one way to look at what is there in the Joint Statement. However one Indian, Aditya, commented in the following words; ‘The joint statement sounds like a virtual surrender by India after the high sounding rhetoric that talks would resume only if the terrorism sponsored from across was stop’.

The meeting between the two teams was a long one, spread over three hours, which included nearly one hour of one to one exchange of views between the Prime Ministers. Pakistanis can claim to have come out jubilant that once again the Indian government because of different influences have agreed to start the dialogue process.

Moreover they have managed to get a kind of ‘admission’ that India has some role in the matters of Balochistan and other turbulent areas of Pakistan. The government of Pakistan has consistently claimed that India was behind the troubles in Balochistan and others areas of FATA and Malakand; and in view of those allegations even to get a reference of ‘Balochistan’ and ‘other areas’ in a joint statement is a big achievement of the Pakistani team.

Conversely Indians can claim that they have managed to avoid a mention of Kashmir in the joint statement; and that is a blow to the Pakistani stand on Kashmir and makes it a laughing stock. It makes people think that government of Pakistan is not serious with the Kashmir dispute; and that their policy changes with time. However Pakistanis can claim that issue of Kashmir is inherently included when the text says: ‘India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues’.

Traditionally both countries accuse each other for various terrorist related activities. Pakistan has provided arms, training and other logistic support to those who fight against Indian rule in Kashmir, and India has continually complained against this. But Pakistan has never accepted that they have provided any arms or training, rather they always say we provide ‘political and diplomatic support’.

I have no evidence if India is involved in arming and financing terrorism in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan, but the joint statement implies that India has some role in it. This is very crucial part of the joint statement, as it is recognition of an Indian involvement in various parts of Pakistan.

Apart from that the Pakistani team claim a victory over India, its past stand and behaviour on dialogue because of the following in the joint statement: ‘Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed’.

This appears to be a climb down by India which consistently claimed that the talks could not take place until the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks were punished. Pakistan got resumption of talks by making another promise that they will do "everything in its power” to combat terrorism. Taking this as a victory, Prime Minister Gilani said, "All core issues that were pending under composite dialogue should be discussed... That should not be bracketed with this Mumbai incident."

In the past whenever there was a major ‘terrorist action’ in Jammu and Kashmir or in India, the government of India used to express strong reaction; and at times abandon talks. The above sentence in the text indicates that it will not happen in future. In other words one can deduce that the dialogue process will continue even if a major terrorist action is committed, especially if there is no visible official link to these terrorist actions.

Perhaps the Indian Prime Minister realised this mistake and later on he said: “A composite dialogue cannot begin unless and until the terrorist attacks that shook Mumbai are accounted for and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes brought to book. The starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan has to have their commitment not to let their territory be used for terrorist activities against India. If acts of terrorism continue to be perpetrated, there is no question of a dialogue, let alone a composite dialogue.”

However this is not what the joint statement says. The joint statement makes no mention of Pakistan's commitment of 6 January 2004, in which Pakistan agreed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorism against India; and the Prime Minister of India’s statement appear to contradict the official joint statement. I hope that assurances given to each other in Sharm El Sheikh are sincere and both parties implement the agreement in letter and spirit

Some commentators claim young and energetic Gilani desperately needed some success to boost his credentials at home and abroad, because many were taking him as a lame duck Prime Minister. He managed to persuade the old and experienced Prime Minister of India that if we don’t resume talks India could have more terrorist attacks as it will weaken his position and strengthen those who believe in gun culture and violence.
That may not be the whole truth. Government of India also wanted to start the dialogue. They could not have remained stubborn and appear uncompromising when Hillary Clinton is due to visit Delhi on her visit to the country, in which both countries expect to conclude big and attractive deals. India wanted to show that they are willing to make compromise and support the war on terrorism.

The Indian Premier in his second term in office wants to make some serious progress and improve relations with the arch rival – Pakistan; so he, like Premier Gilani also went to Sharm El Sheikh with an open mind and with intention to make some progress. Both Prime Ministers were eager for success and to wanted to create this impression that they were serious in their fight against terrorism and to improve bilateral relations. It is because of this Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has apparently given another concession by agreeing to review the Mumbai dossier.

By agreeing to this India has very cleverly put Pakistan in dock and now it is Pakistan’s turn to clean on terrorism and bring culprits to justice. Apart from that Pakistan has to clearly demonstrate that Pakistan is genuine in its fight against terrorism; and resolving all dispute with India through a process of dialogue.

What this means is that America, Britain and other countries with stakes in Pakistan and peace and stability of the region will use their influence to coerce Pakistan to ‘do more’. Prime Minister Gilani appears to be victorious, but in my view that was only a first round, and there are other rounds to be played yet. Outcome of this ‘coercion’ and policy of ‘do more’ together with Secretary Level talks will ultimately determine who has won in Sharm El Sheikh.

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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Friday, 10 July 2009

It is time to talk

It is time to talk
Dr Shabir Choudhry 10 July 2009

Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh are due to meet next week in Sharm El Sheikh, Egyptian Red Sea resort. Before their meeting Foreign Secretaries of the both countries will meet to work out a mechanism to kick start the peace process which became causality of the Mumbai carnage perpetrated by terrorists in November 2008.

True, it is time to talk, as that is the only way to resolve disputes and build bridges of trust and confidence. Both countries had many rounds of talks in the past, but have failed to make substantive progress on core issues; however they have made some progress on insignificant issues, although they have their own importance and can help to create conducive environment to resolve bigger disputes.

In fact, on some disputes both countries have been talking since 1947, as is the case with the Kashmir dispute; and with time the dispute gets more and more complicated. We people of Jammu and Kashmir want honourable and dignified solution to the dispute and that is no where in sight. It appears that both countries talk on Kashmir for sake of talks, and not to resolve this dispute.

Apart from that, approach of both countries to resolve the Kashmir dispute is erroneous and out of step with reality. They have treated the Kashmir dispute as a territorial one; whereas the dispute is related to fundamental rights of more than 17 million people, which include our most cherished and inalienable right of self determination.

The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and President of Pakistan, Asif Zardari met in Russia on 16 June 2009; and in that meeting it was agreed that Foreign Secretaries of both countries should talk to agree on a mechanism to re start the stalled talks. It must be noted that the meeting was only a side show, held when the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Yekaterinburg was taking place, where both these leaders were present as Observers.

While referring to the meeting in Sharam El Sheikh, Pakistani Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit in his weekly press briefing told journalists in Islamabad that, "We are going with an open mind and hope that the composite dialogue is resumed. We are going to be meeting with a constructive and a positive mind."

It is good to note that they intend to go there with ‘open mind’ and ‘positive mind’. But it makes people think with what kind of mind they used to attend the previous meetings and summits. Moreover what are they going to talk; and how their talk is going to be different to previous talks?

They make lofty claims to end terrorism - fight it tooth and nail, and normalise bilateral relations; but at the same time make plans to promote terrorism in a different geographical location. On one end talks were going on and Indian Prime Minister was received in Lahore where he made epoch making speech and wished to make a new start in South Asia; on the other hand plans to sabotage that process were being finalised in GHQ of Pakistan.
The ‘composite dialogue’ which continued for four years did not produce any tangible results. This resulted in frustration in some quarters; and some sections of the Pakistani establishment were expressing their disappointment and there was even some talk of revival of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. In Pakistani Administered Kashmir old training camps were being prepared to resume the old job.

Despite the fight against militants in Pakistan, very reliable reports from the local people reveal that militant activities along the LOC, especially in Neelam Valley has increased. This will ultimately result in more problems for the people of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the LOC. It appears for some sections of the Pakistani establishment, militant activities in Kashmir are still jihad; and it is terrorism only when bombs go off inside Pakistan.

Last year Mumbai terrorist attacks stunned many, both inside India and outside. Many feared Indian reprisals which could have escalated in to wider military confrontation. Thank God, common sense prevailed and matters did not get out of hand. However this terrorist act, which is believed to have been carried out by Lashker e Taiba, was more than enough to prematurely end the ‘composite dialogue’.

Lashker e Taiba and other terrorist outfits are alleged to have close working relationship with Pakistan’s elite secret agency. Indian claim is that LeT could not have carried out such a sophisticated mission without logistic help and support from this agency. Pakistan on the other hand denies the allegation and strongly asserts that they are also victim of terrorism and are fighting terrorism at home.

Now there is urgent need to start the dialogue process; and this realisation that dialogue must be given another chance is on both sides of the divide. Other friendly countries or those who have stake in peace and stability in the region are also urging both countries to resume the peace process.

The Americans once again feel that in order to eradicate terrorism and win war in Afghanistan, they need to pay some attention to the Kashmir dispute. America’s new Ambassador to New Delhi Timothy Roemer, while replying to Senate Foreign Relations Panel said: “I think it has been an extremely sensitive hotspot for the world and for the region, where we've almost experienced thermonuclear war on several occasions”.

He further said: “It is a delicate and sensitive issue… We would diplomatically encourage that the Pakistanis and the Indians first of all improve their relationship, their ties, their trade, their exchanges, to foster peace and more prosperity in that area between their two countries. Secondly, I think it's important to try to make sure that, where we can, in front of the scenes, behind the scenes, through diplomatic channels, encourage them to talk about this issue and hopefully resolve it between their two countries.”

Whereas I welcome the resumption of the peace process, both countries need to understand that they can resolve all their bilateral issues with this dialogue, but they will never be able to resolve the Kashmir dispute by bilateral talks. People of Jammu and Kashmir are principal party and the most suffering party; and until they are not part of the peace process there will never be any satisfactory solution to the Kashmir dispute and peace in the region.

While they are working out a new mechanism for the resumption of the peace process, they need to do take following points in mind:

1. Bilateral talks should lead to some kind of trilateral talks that people of Jammu and Kashmir are also engaged in the peace process;

2. Intra Kashmir dialogue representing all regions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be encouraged and facilitated that some understanding could be reached among them with regard to the future of the State; and that they can select their representatives who can take part in the dialogue to protect and promote interest of the people;

3. Concrete steps should be taken to reduce and eradicate violence and terrorism on both sides of the LOC that suffering of the people could come to an end;

4. And for this purpose terrorists and terrorist infrastructure must be uprooted both from Pakistani Administered Kashmir/ Gilgit and Baltistan and Indian Administered Kashmir that no terrorist action could jeopardise the pace process.

5. Army presence in Kashmir should be reduced that people are not intimidated and their rights are not trampled.

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:

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