Sunday, 20 September 2009

States must also provide justice and equality

States must also provide justice and equality
Dr Shabir Choudhry 17 September 2009

While speaking to a seminar organised in Palais Des Nations in Geneva by International Institute for Peace, Dr Shabir Choudhry said:

Whereas I agree violence and terrorism is evil and must be opposed and condemned, but we also need to look at reasons why people resort to violence. Sometimes when people have exhausted all peaceful and political means to achieve their legitimate rights then some feel violence is the only way to get their voice heard.

I am not condoning or supporting terrorism as that leads to misery, loss of human life and destruction; and very often leads to more violence. Conflicts and disputes should be resolved through a process of dialogue, but when all avenues of peaceful means are closed to them; and people are unfairly treated and pushed against wall, it is expected that some will lose patience and resort to violence.

Violence and terrorism is bad, whether it is individual terrorism, group terrorism or state terrorism; but people will say state terrorism is worst as it is generally the main cause of grievances and has capacity to cause more destruction under the cover of law and order and fighting terrorism. Then situation comes when a man killing people and destroying homes and villages from safety of his jet fighter or helicopter gun ship is called a brave soldier; and person who is defending his basic human rights, his family and his home is labelled as a terrorist.

Every human society has problems and it is not possible to resolve problems of society with use of gun; and this message needs to be understood by the states and groups who have grievances and want to resolve political matters with use of violence. Violence should not be used to advance a political agenda by groups; and governments and their agencies should not deny people of their fundamental rights.

Using his right of reply Dr Shabir Choudhry said, I have lived in England for past 43 years and I have not seen any mosque used as a base to commit terrorism. It is totally wrong assumption. Mosques are places of worship and peace. They are used for praying, teaching religion and spreading peace and harmony not hatred and violence. It is however possible that a terrorist could be using that mosque for praying, but it must not be construed that the mosques has any role in terrorism or its promotion.

He further said I have not condoned terrorism, if anything I have been campaigning against terrorism for many years. Some people say it is wrong to kill civilians but it is appropriate to target army personnel to advance legitimate rights, as they represent a state against which people have grievances.

I do not even support violence against what are called ‘legitimate targets’ like army men and police men, as they also have families, children and parents. Terrorism must not be condoned under any context, but at the same time states must also adopt reasonable and acceptable attitude and treat all citizens equally. They must provide justice and protect fundamental rights of all citizens. When states or some of their organs become a source of inequality, injustice and oppression, people resort to terrorism.

We people of Jammu and Kashmir fought for our right of self determination by using peaceful methods and after 40 long years of peaceful struggle some of them got frustrated and resorted to violence. I know what destruction and misery this policy of using violence to advance the Kashmiri cause has brought to my countrymen. Despite loss of tens of thousands lives, destruction and misery our goal of independence is not in sight yet – we are not any nearer to our destination; if anything we are more divided and further from our goal of independence.

Those powers which are fighting terrorism by using jet fighters and justify it under collateral damage really need to rethink of their strategy as they are creating more people ready to take them on. We have seen the trauma of old men, women and children who were uprooted from their homes in millions in name of fighting terrorists and Talibans in Pakistan. The way their homes were destroyed and the way they were humiliated it will surely lead to more violence and more people will be ready to take up the cause of fighting the oppressors; or take revenge for loss of their love ones. End

Dr. Shabir Choudhry, Director Institute Kashmir Affairs
Tel: 0044 77909 42471 Email:
My blog:

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry on Gilgit Baltistan in Geneva

Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar arranged by INTERFAITH INTERNATIONAL in Geneva on 16 September 2009.
How Constitutional, Political, Cultural and Economic rights are violated in Gilgit and Baltistan?

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamao alaykam and afternoon.

A comment was made earlier that we are here to look at ‘legal’ acts of Pakistan in Gilgit Baltistan. Since Gilgit Baltistan is not legally part of Pakistan, and article 257 of Pakistani constitution makes that clear; so any action they take is extra constitutional and illegal. I want to say that we are here to examine ‘illegal’ acts of Pakistan and oppose them, as they are illegal and undemocratic.

It is generally agreed that democracy is a form of government where people can democratically elect their rulers and hold them accountable for their actions. In other words it is a government of people and for the people - a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation in which free and fair elections are held. In all democracies a right of political expression, a right of speech and freedom of press is essential. Furthermore political pluralism, equality before law and respect for human rights of all citizens is must.

But in Pakistan and especially in areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan, this rule does not apply. Here it is a government of bureaucrats and for the interest of the bureaucrats. Their main aim is to protect and enhance their interest and interest of the establishment they represent. By establishment I mean bureaucrats - civil and military, secret agencies, top army elite, political elite which has always been there in one form another for many decades.

Pakistan always had imperialist designs towards State of Jammu and Kashmir; they wanted to grab the State by hook or by crook. After failing to convince the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir to accede to Pakistan they resorted to military means and managed a tribal invasion on 22 October 1947. This military adventure resulted in first direct military clash between India and Pakistan. When a cease fire was arranged on 1st January 1949, Pakistan was in control of a large territory of the State, which was further divided in to so called Azad Kashmir or Free Kashmir and ‘Northern Areas’ which is constituent part of the State and was officially known as Gilgit and Baltistan.

Whereas areas of Pakistani Administered Kashmir got some political rights and semi autonomous status in 1970, areas of Gilgit Baltistan were directly ruled by Islamabad with draconian laws without any civil and political rights. The present government of Pakistan which claims to be a champion of democracy and fundamental human rights has pronounced a new package for the people of Gilgit Baltistan and has hailed it as ‘empowering people’ and ‘granting people independence’.

People of Gilgit Baltistan have rejected this package as ‘old wine in new bottles’. There has been strong opposition to this Package from various parts of the State, especially from Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Having said that I want to confess, that like in other oppressed and colonised nations, we also have collaborators on both sides of the LOC and they have welcomed the Package.

Mr Chairman

In my view the package has one positive thing – recognition of the fact that this territory is not ‘Northern Areas’ of Pakistan; and they have officially been recognised as Gilgit Baltistan. Apart from that the Package has given some more rights to the people, but aim of Islamabad is not to give more rights to people, but to annex this area by electing a docile Assembly and ask them to sign on a dotted line to complete the task of division of the State. First PPP government in 1970s tried to make Azad Kashmir a ‘Province’ of Pakistan; and abandoned it only after fiercely opposition.

Islamabad has already appointed PPP Stalwart as a ‘Governor’, who will ensure that desired results are achieved in the elections which are due to be held on 12 November 2009. Even Pakistani political parties are not happy on this appointment, as they fear a PPP ‘Governor’ could not be impartial in the forthcoming elections and he will rig them to elect or select people who are loyal to him and his Party.

This Package was prepared by a Committee that consisted of Pakistani bureaucrats and political activists, and was headed by a man called - Qamar Zaman Qaira who has become a new ‘Governor’ of the area. In other words as a head of this Committee he promoted himself to become a ‘Governor’; and this act alone shows this man cannot be impartial as he has vested interests.

This Governor is called a ‘Viceroy’ of Gilgit Baltistan, and he will be a political master of the area; and he won’t be accountable for what he does in an area more than 29 thousand Sq miles; and to more than two million people. People of the area will have no role in his selection. This unelected Pakistani man will have enormous powers. He will even select a cabinet for Chief Minister. He will also have senior Pakistani Office Bearers, again selected by Islamabad to help him to accomplish his task of ruling this colony of Pakistan to promote interest of Pakistan at the expense of the local people.

This Committee did not consult any person from the area. Even their supporters and collaborators were not taken in to confidence, as they were not deemed suitable to be consulted on this crucial matter even though it was to have great impact on lives of millions of people. Thinking in Islamabad is that of an old grandma who claims to know everything; and who wants to assert her control in her own home and in homes of her neighbours.

Even not all Pakistanis are in favour of this new package. A member of Pakistan National Assembly, Marvi Memon wrote in the News International on 14 September, and I quote:

‘What is most misleading in all government statements on the package is the assertion that this package gives most autonomy. But the fact is that it is the Council which has all the powers. The Council of eight un-elected representatives will be ruling Gilgit-Baltistan from Islamabad. These eight include the prime minister and his cabinet members. Even when the rest of the seven elected Gilgit-Baltistan members are elected onto the Council they will be in minority. This is not autonomy. The new Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly has no concept of an opposition as described in the Order. Moreover, all material powers are vested either with the prime minister through the Council or with the governor who is vice chairman of the Council. Since the chief minister, the elected representative of the people, does not have the same powers, it is in effect governor’s rule’. Unquote

The ‘Council’ Marvi Menon has mentioned is Gilgit Baltistan Council which will hold all the powers and Prime Minister of Pakistan will be its Chairman. All the major decisions will be taken in this Council which will have majority of unelected Pakistanis who have no direct link or interest in the area. They will decide what is good for the people of the area. They will decide who should be promoted and who should be appointed; and these decisions could not be challenged any where. This is a democracy in a Pakistani style.

I have plenty to say on the new package. I can also quote many things from critics from Gilgit Baltistan, and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir; but in my view it is better to quote criticism of a Pakistani. So once again I want to quote Marvi Memon, who says:

‘No amount of paid articles to ridicule the valid criticisms can win the people of Gilgit-Baltistan over. No amount of paid welcome parties for non-Gilgit-Baltistan governors can give the impression that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are with the PPP government. The protests of the nationalists, the political parties and the disgruntled youth are a testament to the actual feelings of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan’.

Even a Pakistani politician and a legislator believe that people of the region are not happy with this new package, even though it has some good points in it. They know that it is a trap in a name of democracy. Like people of other civilised countries, people of Gilgit Baltistan also want to enjoy fruits of democracy. They want rule of law, political and economic rights, equality, accountability and transparency, but not at the cost of their freedom and submission to Islamabad.

Mr Chairman

Today the world appears to be united in their fight against terrorism and fight against Talibans, who it is claimed are major source of terrorism and instability in the region. As a result of this war on terrorism Afghanistan has suffered enormously and tens of thousands of innocent people have perished even though Afghanistan had no role in tragic event of 9/11. Moreover the Talibans are not an Afghan phenomenon. They were exported to Afghanistan to accomplish certain tasks.

Talibans are a product of a deliberate policy which has its own mechanism, source of inspiration and source of training and funding. It is wishful thinking to defeat this ideology and this creature while the infrastructure that created this monster is still alive and kicking; while it is still pursuing policies which create more Talibans. Brains and policy that produced Talibans have only changed their tactics; their real goals and strategic thinking has not changed.

Whereas I am seriously concerned about peace and stability of the region, my fear is that forces of violence and destruction could be unleashed in my homeland – areas of Gilgit Baltistan. This will help Islamabad to strengthen their hold and strangulate those forces which believe in democratic rights for all citizens and which regard Islamabad as a colonial ruler.

Furthermore this policy of talibanisation of Gilgit Baltistan will help Islamabad to protect and promote interest of the elite which controls and runs Pakistan in name of national interest. In view of this, we totally reject this new package and demand that Islamabad should relinquish its control and let people of the region run their affairs according to their interests and aspirations.

I thank you Mr Chairman for your patience.

Dr. Shabir Choudhry, Director Institute Kashmir Affairs
Tel: 0044 77909 42471 Email:
My blog:

Monday, 7 September 2009

KNP to hold Black Day on 22 October

KNP to hold Black Day on 22 October
London 07 September 2009

Supreme Council of KNP held an important meeting in Luton on Sunday 6th September, which was presided by the party Chairman Abbas Butt. The meeting discussed and analysed the current situation of the Kashmiri struggle and made important decisions.

The Supreme Council strongly condemned the government of Pakistan’s latest attempts to grab territory which is legal part of State of Jammu and Kashmir. The SC said Pakistani governments have never been sincere with the cause of Kashmir and always have formulated policies to snatch Kashmir; and have deliberately deprived people of their fundamental human rights.

The SC said people of Gilgit Baltistan deserve to have their basic human rights which have been denied since 1947; but no one should be allowed to implement their imperialist designs in name of giving rights to people of the region. The KNP leaders said, if Pakistani authorities were sincere they could have discussed the issue with the people of the region and given these rights without making the region a ‘province’ of Pakistan.

PPP government claims to advance rights of people and democracy, but their policies are designed to deprive people of basic rights and advance undemocratic and unconstitutional practises. They tried to make Pakistani Administered Kashmir a province after the Shimla Pact and they plan to make Gilgit Baltistan a province and pave way for division of Jammu and Kashmir.

KNP leaders said some people of Jammu and Kashmir hold Black Day on 27th October, as that is the day when Indian army landed in Kashmir. KNP leaders said in our opinion their wisdom is misdirected. We have to look at the root cause. Indian army came after the tribal invasion and subsequent ‘Provisional Accession’.

KNP Supreme Council said, ‘It was the Pakistani tribesmen supported by the Pakistani government of the time which violated the Standstill Agreement and invaded parts of the State territory. It was these tribesmen which contravened the State sovereignty and killed thousands of innocent Kashmiri men and women. It was because of this unprovoked and unjustified attack on our sovereignty which seriously threatened life, honour and property of people that the Maharaja was compelled to seek help from India.

KNP leaders said we have serious issues with India on their Kashmir policy, as we believe Kashmir is not their internal part; but as for the Black Day is concerned we should have Black Day on 22 October because this is the day when our troubles and miseries started.

KNP SC has decided to take a lead on this matter and hold a BLACK DAY on 22 October; and in this regard various responsibilities have been given to Dr Shabir Choudhry and Nawaz Majid who will liaise with other like minded people and parties. The meeting was addressed by ZubairAnsari, Nazam Bhatti, Nawaz Majid, Asim Mirza, Abbas Butt and Dr Shabir Choudhry.
Earlier KNP held an Iftar Party in which more than eighty people were present; among them were leaders and political activists of various Kashmiri parties who spoke against the new package for Gilgit and Baltistan and condemned designs of Pakistani government. In the meeting pro Pakistan and nationalist leaders were present, and they all strongly spoke against this new package and demanded that it must be taken back.

A unanimous resolution was passed which strongly criticised the new package and demanded from government of Pakistan to withdraw it as it will seriously damage our struggle for right of self determination. The resolution fully supported fundamental rights of people of Gilgit Baltistan; but added that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is one political entity and it must not be divided. END

Issued by Dr Shabir Choudhry:

Thursday, 3 September 2009

New Package old policy

New Package old policy
Dr Shabir Choudhry 03 September 2009

Pakistani government and a large section of Pakistani media hailed the new package on Gilgit and Baltistan as a big ‘reward’ for the people of the region; and some even said that these areas have got khud mukhtari – meaning independence. If these areas got ‘independence’, that means they were occupied before; which means the country that granted this ‘independence’ occupied them.

Pakistani control and rule in Gilgit Baltistan was not legal and had no moral justification. As a matter of policy resources were plundered and people were deprived of their basic rights since 1947. All the packages given to Gilgit Baltistan by different Pakistani governments ensured that Pakistani control and influence remains intact; and people do not get their fundamental rights or enjoy fruits of democracy.

Pakistani love for democracy and rights of the local people could be seen from the fact that the Committee which recommended this package, and which will have great impact on lives of more than two million people had no representation from Gilgit Baltistan.

The existing system was set up by Pakistan not long ago; and was pro Pakistan. The Chief Executive in that system was a local man - Meer Ghazanfar, even he was not consulted on this matter. He, like other people heard it through the press conference. Similarly so called ‘Northern Areas Legislative Council’ or any of its members was not consulted.

Even East India Company consulted some local people before taking any major decision regarding its colony – India. Pakistani rulers take it as an insult to consult people of Jammu and Kashmir under their control; and if people complain or criticise they are declared anti Pakistan or pro India.

Leaving claims of Pakistani officials aside, let us look at what the new package brings to people of Gilgit Baltistan; and how it differs from Pakistani Administered Kashmir. One good thing in the package is that, at last, Pakistani officials have acknowledged that these areas are not ‘Northern Areas’ and that they should be called Gilgit Baltistan.

Existing ‘Northern Areas Legislative Council’ will be replaced by a Legislative Assembly, which will have 24 Member directly elected. These elected Members will elect 6 women Members and 3 Technocrats. This Assembly of 33 will elect a Chief Minister instead of a Chief Executive. The Chief Minister will be responsible for the government and chair meetings of the Cabinet, but interestingly will have no right to select his Cabinet.

In the existing set up the Chairman holds lion’s share of powers, and he is replaced by a Governor who will be appointed by Islamabad (President). The post of the Governor will go to a Pakistani who has to be more than 35 years old; and has the qualifications to become a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. The tenure of the Governor will not be fixed and he will be holding the office as desired by the President. This Pakistani Governor will select a Cabinet for the Chief Minister. The constitutional head of the region will be the Governor who will have enormous powers but won’t be accountable to anyone for his actions.

The Governor will convene a meeting of the Assembly 30 days after the election to elect a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Chief Minister. The Governor will also appoint Advocate General. It is believed that, like in case of PAK, Gilgit Baltistan will also ‘benefit’ from a Pakistani Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and IG Police to ensure that Pakistani interests are protected.

On a model of Pakistani Administered Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan will also have a Council which will be headed by Prime Minister of Pakistan just like in case of PAK; and Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan will be its Vice-Chair. The Gilgit-Baltistan Council will consist of 15 members. Six members will be selected by the President, Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan. Six members proposed by the Chief Minister and the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit Baltistan. The Minister for Kashmir Affairs will be a member of the Council; however he will not have right to vote.

Although Gilgit Baltistan will have its own Legislative Assembly, but in practise it won’t have much work to do as the Council Chaired by Prime Minister of Pakistan and outnumbered by Pakistani members will take most decisions; and the Assembly will have no power to challenge any of the decisions.

Apart from that the Governor and other Pakistani officials, like in case of PAK will wield tremendous power. They will ensure that only pro Pakistan people are elected to the Assembly; and that elected people do not cross the line, as the ‘elected’ Members don’t cross the line in PAK.

The Gilgit Baltistan Assembly or Council won’t be allowed to discuss or legislate on issues relating to defence, foreign affairs, finance, security and interior. It will have no power to legislate against the principles of Sharia, and in case of any confusion it can approach the Islamic Ideology Council of Pakistan. Furthermore, just like in PAK, no one will be allowed to legislate or work against the ideology of Pakistan.

It is because of all this the people of Gilgit Baltistan have rejected this package, although some pro Pakistan and insignificant people have welcomed it. Hamid Khan, Chair of BNF said: "I strongly condemn this type of setup which further strengthens Pakistani occupation”. He said the package is designed to ‘strengthen the bureaucracy and unelected forces which rule on the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. He calls it a ‘governor rule’.

It is a ‘New Package with old policy’, which aims to maximise Pakistani gains at the expense of the local people. Aim of Pakistani policy makers has always been to subjugate people, deprive them of fundamental rights, strengthen undemocratic forces, and promote communalism, extremism and hatred to divide people and plunder resources of this area.

Malika Baltistani, Chairperson Gilgit Baltistan National Alliance, in a letter to PM of Pakistan said: ‘It is a mournful reality that you have further continued a tradition to prolong our slavery by only altering the titles of the portfolios of our future "masters" than transforming our constitutional, democratic and basic rights from darkness to enlightenment. What you have "endowed" upon us is a provincial set up but without a provincial status, a political system without political empowerment, a constitutional package without constitutional rights, a constitutional draft for Gilgit Baltistan without the input or suggestions by Gilgitis and Baltis’.

Only thing which people have appreciated is the change of name; otherwise all those who matter have rejected the package and called it ‘an eye-wash’; and a gimmick of words to perpetuate the bureaucratic rule over the region. Manzoor Hussain Parwana, Chairman Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement said, “The so called provincial set up aims at concealing the human rights violations and continue the colonial control over the region”.

Advocate Ehsan Ali, Chief of Labour Party Pakistan Gilgit Chapter rejected the package and said that it would increase the sense of deprivation among the people. “The real powers rest with the governor, who is President’s appointee and not answerable to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly,” said Mr Ehsan. There is no constitutional protection to the provincial setup.

One can see the strength of feelings against this undemocratic package given to people of Gilgit Baltistan by a government which brags about its love for democracy and rights of people. If leaders of PPP are sincere with cause of democracy and human rights then they should consider withdrawing this package and take people of the area in confidence before declaring anything.

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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