Saturday, 14 May 2011

Cross Border Terrorism and Human Rights in Kashmir

Cross Border Terrorism and Human Rights in Kashmir
Text of speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Seminar arranged by Kashmir Culture Centre Vienna and Socialist Party of Austria on 13 May 2011.

Title of seminar: Cross Border Terrorism and Human Rights in Kashmir

Mr Chairman, Madam Raphel Sternfield, Secretary General International Secretariat of Vienna and Socialist Party of Austria, honourable guests, friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam and good afternoon.

I am grateful to respected Naeem Khan, Choudhry Rashid Khan and Kashmir Culture Centre Vienna and Socialist Party of Austria for arranging this seminar and inviting me to express my views to this august gathering.
Mr Chairman, although there is no agreed definition of terrorism, but the term is used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or persons for political or ideological goals.
Some definitions legitimise use of violence by civilians against an invader or forces of occupation; but other definitions call all kinds of violent resistance as terrorism. Most people define terrorism which involves the use or threat of violence with the aim of creating fear to the intended victims and others in the community.
Some terrorism could be a senseless reaction to some event, resulting in violence, death and destruction; but generally terrorism is carefully planned and its aim is to promote an ideology or achieve political or other goals for a community or a nation that is perceived deprived of legitimate rights. Terrorism, in my opinion, is a curse and present a very serious threat to democracy, to the free exercise of human rights and to economic and social development.
Mr Chairman
Title of this seminar is, ‘Cross Border Terrorism and Human Rights in Kashmir’, which means terrorism caused by cross border terrorism. There is no evidence that terrorists cross over from the Indian side of Kashmir to terrorise people on the Pakistani side of the divide. However, at one time, people from that side came here to get training and weapons that they could go back and fight India; and in doing so they terrorised society and especially non Muslims.
But one must not construe that people on this side of the divide are not victims of violence and terrorism. People of Pakistani side of Jammu and Kashmir State are also victims of violence and intimidation; and they are deprived of their fundamental human rights.

Terrorism on the Indian side of Kashmir

But, let us first deal with terrorism on the Indian side of the divide. No one dispute that acts of violence, terrorism, and human rights abuses take place there. Those who commit acts of violence and support it, or promote it, sometimes justify it in disguise of freedom struggle or religious struggle. It must be remembered that one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist, and there is very thin line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist.

I am not here to defend India’s record on human rights abuses. It is not my role, because I am a loyal Kashmiri and my role is to defend and promote interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir; but while doing that, I feel it is necessary to expose all those who commit crimes against people of Jammu and Kashmir in name of religion or freedom struggle.

We know Para Military forces have committed human rights violations and have also killed people - a fact which is recently confirmed by the Amnesty International; but as an analyst and an expert on Kashmir and India - Pakistan relations, I have to look at other sources of killings and human rights abuses.

Those who initiated militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, trained people, armed them and continue to send militants across the LOC to commit acts of violence, in order to cover up their own misdeeds accuse India of killing innocent people of Kashmir and abuses of human rights.

As I said earlier, India has committed human rights abuses, but we need to expose others who commit human rights abuses in name of religion, a cause or a freedom struggle and put that in the account of the Indian army.

I feel sorry for those who have died in name of Kashmiri struggle, and I also feel sorry for their families, however, I would like you to look at other sources of killings:

1. Indian army and para military forces;
2. Militant groups fighting each other, which was frequent in 1990s;
3. Militants killing their opponents and so called informers without any hearing or justification;
4. People killed in personal revenge, family and tribal disputes;
5. People killed in cross firing mainly because these mujahids engage Indian army and para - military forces in crowded place and cross firing results in killing of innocent people;
6. Cross border firing – innocent people are killed by cross border firing;
7. And targeted killings of Pakistani secret agencies and their proxies in Jammu and Kashmir who oppose their policies.

You can see there are many sources of killings, but for convenience, Pakistani secret agencies and their agents want people to talk of only one account – that is the account of the Indian army. My point is where army is responsible for killing of innocent people, do oppose that and condemn it, but when there are other culprits be that secret agencies of Pakistan or militants, don’t shy away from exposing them.

The problem is Pakistani sponsored militancy established a gun culture in Kashmir – remember prior to start of militancy in 1988/89, there was a proxy politics and denial of genuine political rights, but there was no gun culture. This gun culture, atmosphere of fear and intimidation was created by militants who had no professional training; many of them were not educated and were not accountable to anyone for their actions.

They terrorised the society in name of freedom; and eliminated anyone who opposed them. All the acts of violence which were committed by them were put in the account of the Indian army. For example, when Mir Waiz Mohlana Farooq was killed, it was propagated that India has killed a political leader and Chief Imam of Kashmir. We all condemned India for this killing and held demonstrations against India in various parts of the world.

Similarly when Abdul Ghani Lone was killed, some people accused India for that, but by that time we were politically mature enough to understand that he was eliminated because he challenged policy of secret agencies of Pakistan. He challenged God Fathers of Kashmir policy in a secret meeting that was held in Dubai few months before his target killing. It was revealed by those who attended that meeting that big bosses of Pakistan’s secret agencies were annoyed and felt humiliated; and the result of this cold blood murder of Abdul Ghani Lone.

Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat, a senior leader of the All Parties Hurryet Conference recently revealed that Mirwaiz Farooq and Abdul Ghani Lone were not killed by the Indian army, but they were killed by ‘our own people’. Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat is a pro Pakistan leader and still he waited 20 years before he felt comfortable to speak truth. If he had said this in 1990s he would have been silenced for ever.

Aasiya Andrabi, Head of Dukhtaran-e-Millat and a pro Pakistan female leader said, and I quote:
‘The Kashmiri struggle couldn’t remain indigenous. We became pawns in the hands of agencies whether ISI or others…. They want people to be on their pay role and anyone who resists, they try their best to curtail their influence. ….Money is one of the important factors in this game. That is why our leadership is in the hands of Pakistani agencies. This is a tragedy that most of the Kashmiri leadership here and abroad are corrupt and receive money from Pakistani agencies to further their agenda…. The so-called Kashmiri leadership made money from both India and Pakistan and many times from both at the same time.’ Unquote

Pakistani Administered Kashmir

Mr Chairman,
Time and again, I and my colleagues have pointed out contradictions in Pakistan’s policy on terrorism. We pointed out that Pakistani agencies are not only sheltering terrorists, but are also providing them training, arms and other logistic support. These God Fathers of terrorism still think if bombs explode in Afghanistan, India and Kashmir it is Jihad; it is terrorism only if Pakistani cities are targeted by some renegade militant groups.

On the Pakistani side of Kashmir and some parts of Pakistan militant training camps are fully active. In Pakistani Administered Kashmir alone there are many training camps and secret hide outs where thousands of people are trained, and they are waiting to cross over to Jammu and Kashmir to commit violence in name of ‘jihad’.

Lashker E Tayeba, a banned terrorist group has purchased a land of 200 kanals in district Muzaffarabad in Pakistani Administered Kashmir. 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. My concern and concern of other true nationalists of Kashmir is that increased activities of the militants along the Line of Control, especially in Neelam Valley result in human rights abuses on this side of the divide, as people are harassed and intimidated by the militants.

This clearly shows that the Pakistani government still has two conflicting policies on terrorism and violence; and recent events of Abbotabad in Pakistan have proved what we have been saying all along.
Mr Chairman,
Some people associate religious intolerance, extremism and violence with Afghan Jihad. To me that is not true. We Kashmiris became victims of religious intolerance and terrorism many decades before the Russians came to Afghanistan.
On 22 October 1947, in name of Jihad and in clear violation of Standstill Agreement, which Pakistan had with government of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan arranged a tribal invasion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Thousands of tribesmen from Pakistan, in name of jihad and in name of our ‘freedom’ attacked Kashmir and killed non Muslims, raped Kashmiri women, kidnapped Kashmiri girls, looted and plundered our homeland.

No religion or civilised community can justify this kind of treatment to its minorities; and those who try to justify this kind of savage behaviour are enemies of Islam and enemies of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

With help of secret agencies of Pakistan, groups that promote extremism, communalism and hatred in name of ‘jihad’ have hijacked the Kashmiri agenda of right of self determination and transformed it with their brand of ‘jihad’.

Islam teaches tolerance, peace and respect for women, and respect for believers of other religions. What these fanatics are doing is totally against teachings of Islam. They are doing a disservice to Islam and creating hatred against Muslims and Islam. If activities of these people are not checked then we, people living in the West, will face enormous problems in future because of the hatred and misunderstandings created by a bunch of extremists. Our Jihad must be to counter them, oppose them and expose them that they cannot do any more harm to our religion and Muslims.

Problems of extremism and intolerance that we Kashmiris face today; and other liberal and democratic minded people of Pakistan face, seeds of that were sown a few decades ago. If we want our next generations to live in peace and harmony, and enjoy fruits of liberal and democratic society then we have to fight their war today. We have no choice but to stand up and fight for our right to hold our views, right to live in peace and harmony and practise what we believe.

Chairman, I thank you for your patience.
Dr Shabir Choudhry, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs, London View my blog and web:

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