Friday, 25 May 2012

Is This Kashmir’s Road Map for Peace?

Is This Kashmir’s Road Map for Peace? By HARI KUMAR and NIKHILA GILL May 24, 2012, 12:56 PM In the summer of 2010, the Kashmir valley in Indian-controlled Kashmir erupted with protests after a school boy was killed under controversial circumstances. Locals alleged that the boy was shot dead by the police. The police in the region frequently fired upon protesting youths who threw stones, killing about 120 young boys that year alone. In an attempt to calm the region, a parliamentary delegation visited the Kashmir valley, held discussions with locals and appealed to them to stop protesting. The former Times of India editor Dileep Padgaonkar, the academic Radha Kumar and the retired bureaucrat M. M. Ansari were tasked with the mammoth job of holding wide-ranging consultations with all sections of the population in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and sketching out a regional road map for peace. The Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organization of separatist groups, refused to meet with the group. After meeting 700 other delegations and some 6,000 people, the three delivered their recommendations in a 176-page report on Thursday. Key findings include: 1. There is a deep sense of victimhood in the Kashmir valley. People want to lead a life of dignity and honor. 2. People want freedom from all forces of religious extremism, unaccountable administration, harsh laws, judicial delays, intimidation and violence. 3. A political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir can be achieved only through dialogue between all stakeholders. 4. Jammu and Kashmir should continue to function as a single entity within the Indian Union. 5. The state’s distinctive status guaranteed by Article 370, which gives its citizens and government special rights, must be upheld. Except a few strategic departments like defense, finance, communications and foreign affairs, the central government needs the state government’s assent to pass laws in the state. Residents of other states cannot buy land there. 6. All the central government acts and articles of the constitution related specifically to the state should be reviewed by a Constitutional Committee. 7. To promote reintegration with the rest of the country, there should be a dialogue between Indian-controlled Kashmir and surrounding Indian areas and an exchange program of artists, students and intellectuals. Tourism across the Line of Control, which divides Indian-controlled Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, should be encouraged. 8. The state should create special economic zones to encourage investment, should provide export incentives for handicraft s and horticulture, and should complete pending rail and road projects. 9. Jailed stone throwers and political prisoners should be released, and the government should facilitate the return of Kashmiri youths stranded across the Line of Control. A judicial commission should be appointed to look into the unmarked graves discovered last year in the area, which hold thousands of bodies. 10. The government should facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits, Hindus from the area who fled decades ago under threat of violence, and of groups who migrated from Jammu and Kargil. 11. Dialogue between the Indian government and Hurriyat Conference, aimed at should be resumed as early as possible, and independently of talks between India and Pakistan. 12. The government should promote interaction between civilians in both India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The report was immediately rejected by some leaders. Mr. Yasin Malik, a separatist leader and chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, said in an interview he had been “proved right in not meeting” with the report’s authors. “The report proved their intellectual bankruptcy. They are trying to divide Jammu & Kashmir on ethnic and Communal lines,” he said. Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir said on Twitter he would “take a few days to examine the report, discuss it with senior colleagues and then react.”

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Interview of Dr Shabir Choudhry in Punjabi:

Interview of Dr Shabir Choudhry in Punjabi:

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Vision of Azad Kashmiri leaders, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Vision of Azad Kashmiri leaders
Dr Shabir Choudhry    10 May 2012

A leader is a person who leads people to a designated goal or, at least, makes sincere efforts to achieve that goal. A good leader works hard and employs his/her skills and talent; and coordinates with other like minded people and organisations to accomplish his mission.

The above statement is true in general, and is relevant to many countries of the world. However, when we come to South Asia, especially Pakistan and State of Jammu and Kashmir, the above statement is not applicable. Values and standards which are applicable in the rest of the world are not relevant in this part of the world.

Here, we find very few sincere people who could be taken as leaders. Majority of those in public life are the biggest crooks; and they make sincere and deliberate efforts to deceive people and mislead them. In other words, leaders in this part of the world do not lead people, but deliberately mislead them; and sad thing is that those who are misled still follow those who loot them and mislead them.

It is difficult to encompass in one article all those in public life in the State of Jammu and Kashmir; therefore, I will only focus on some aspects of those in public life in a territory known as Azad Kashmir or Free Kashmir. Despite the name Free Kashmir, this territory, for all practical purposed is controlled by Islamabad; and its leaders are there to protect and enhance interests of Pakistan

This territory was a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir when the British Raj ended in India on 15th August 1947; and the Maharajah of Kashmir became an independent ruler. He concluded a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan and practically provided Pakistani government a foothold in Kashmir.

Despite the Standstill Agreement this territory or any part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was not part of Pakistan. How sad that ‘leaders’ of this territory now known as Azad Kashmir collaborated with rulers of Pakistan and helped them to attack and takeover this region. The collaborators were appointed rulers of this territory, but the attackers known as the Tribal Raiders killed, raped women, kidnap girls and looted at will. This unprovoked attack forced the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir to seek help from India and consequently signed a Provisional Accession with India.

So one can see vision of ‘leaders’ of this region - they collaborated with a neighbouring country to invade their own country that resulted in the forced division of their motherland. They benefited from this attack, as they enjoyed power and prestige; but the people of Jammu and Kashmir are still paying for their actions.

Another action or a crime of these ‘leaders’ will elucidate vision or lack of it. These ‘leaders’, who were appointed to rulers Azad Kashmir by Pakistani establishment, signed very notorious agreement with Pakistan, known as the Karachi Agreement. They signed away to Pakistan vast areas of Gilgit Baltistan (around 28 thousand sq miles). These areas are strategically and economically very important. Pakistan ruled this region with an iron fist and enjoyed all the benefits; and now they have made these areas practically a province of Pakistan.
Furthermore, these ‘leaders’ signed away their own powers and agreed that they will have practically nothing to do with negotiations on Kashmir whether in the UN or with India; or defence of this territory. The Agreement says that the Free Kashmir will have no role in, ‘Defence; Foreign policy of Azad Kashmir; Negotiations with the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan; Publicity in foreign countries and in Pakistan; Co - ordination and arrangement of relief and rehabilitation of refugees; Co - ordination of publicity in connection with plebiscite; All activities within Pakistan regarding Kashmir such as procurement of food and civil supplies running of refugee camps and medical aid.’
This kind of ‘leadership’ one can only find in this unfortunate land known as Azad Kashmir. These ‘leaders’ deliberately work against national interests of their own country; and have bartered away independence and rights of future generations for the sake of political power. These ‘leaders’ have been more loyal to our one neighbour; and in view of many Kashmiri patriots, they have committed treachery against their own people and their own nation; and sad thing is that they are still imposed upon us as ‘Kashmiri leaders’, and despite all their actions and ‘treachery’ people still follow them.
One could say that the situation on the other side of the divide is not that bright either, because the leadership over there, whether it is pro India, pro independence or pro Pakistan is also power hungry, ego centric and work against the national interests of State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many Kashmiri analysts will agree that most Kashmiri leaders, on both side of the forced division have many things in common – they are corrupt, they are incompetent, they lack vision, they lack unity, they have no programme for independence and unification of their motherland, they are loyal to our neighbours rather than their motherland, they fool people in name of independence and struggle, they exploit their sentiments, they treat the Kashmiri struggle as a business and ensure that the Kashmir pot keeps on boiling and that their close relatives stay away from the trouble spots.

Few days ago some Azad Kashmiri newspapers reported that in a public meeting in which former Chief Justice of High Court of Azad Kashmir and President of Liberation League, Abdul Majid Malik and Sardar Khalid Ibrahim and Yasin Malik were also present, Azad Kashmiri leaders asserted that they will accept any decision All Parties Hurriyet Conference might take with regard to future of Jammu Kashmir.

It is unfortunate to note that ‘leaders’ of Azad Kashmir have not learnt any lessons from the past mistakes; and even in May 2012, they still have no plan for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. They still have no role of Azad Kashmir in their minds; and like to put future of more than four million Azad Kashmiris at the mercy of the leaders of APHC, who are fighting each other and who are also confused and don’t have any plans for the future of State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Many Kashmiri patriots were shocked to see this sweeping statement coming from the Azad Kashmiri leaders; and putting this blind faith in the APHC which do not even represent all sections of the Valley of Kashmir. However, these ‘leaders’ did not clarify to which section of the APHC they were assigning these powers, as this alliance is split in two parts, with each group making allegations against the other.
Even when the APHC was united, out of five regions it did not represent anyone in the four regions, namely in Jammu Province, Ladakh Province, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. It had good support in the Muslim populated Valley of Kashmir; but with time people have become wiser and they know that the APHC, whether united or divided has no plan of its own to unite or liberate forcibly divided Jammu and Kashmir, as they always look for directions from outside of the State boundaries.

What hurts pride and dignity of people of Azad Kashmir is that when Shadow APHC was constituted in Pakistan, they did not trust any leader of Azad Kashmir to carry out duties related to the ‘Kashmiri struggle’ or ‘independence movement’; and each constituent party of the APHC ‘exported’ their trusted man to Islamabad. Despite this humiliation and many more, spineless and compliant leaders of Azad Kashmir take pride in sharing a platform with leaders of the Valley; and give them a free hand to decide their future.

The APHC is now in two groups; one group is led by Syed Ali Gilani and the other by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. If newspapers reports are to be believed then the APHC group headed by Mirwaiz is heading for a split. The news report says: ‘Cracks in the moderate Hurriyat Conference widened today with supporters of rival groups chanting slogans against each other even as chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued a gag order on amalgam constituents from airing differences in public. Soon after the Executive Committee meeting of the Hurriyat ended, supporters of the Hurriyat chairman and executive council member Bilal Lone shouted slogans against another executive council member Shabir Ahmad Shah. Shah's supporters retaliated raising slogans against the Mirwaiz and Lone.’

The report further said: ‘Divisions within the moderate Hurriyat erupted on Sunday when another executive council member Abdul Gani Bhat at a rally in north Kashmir said the UN plebiscite resolutions were no longer "practically implementable" in the State.’

Spineless and compliant leaders of Azad Kashmir want to trust these APHC leaders with future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and would agree with whatever they decide. What Azad Kashmiri leaders do if one group of the APHC agree on division of the State? What would they do if one group of the APHC decide to stay with India?

It is time that the Azad Kashmiri leaders mentally grow up and assert their positions; and tell all the concerned that they have a crucial role when it comes to determining the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We cannot be treated as second class citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, where some chosen few belonging to the Valley of Kashmir will decide what is good for us living on the Pakistani side of the divide.

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

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Pakistan’s terror safe havens remain security challenge, says US

Pakistan’s terror safe havens remain security challenge, says US 02 MAY 2012 US-led coalition forces have weakened the Taliban in Afghanistan, but terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and endemic corruption still pose tough challenges, a new Pentagon report says. “The Taliban-led insurgency’s safe haven in Pakistan, as well as the limited capacity of the Afghan Government, remain the biggest risks to the process of turning security gains into a durable and sustainable Afghanistan,” the latest semi-annual Pentagon report to the Congress Tuesday said. Insurgents “still operate with impunity from sanctuaries in Pakistan,” the report said. For example, insurgents slip across the border from Pakistan into Logar and Wardak provinces in the east, and from there stage attacks on Kabul. “Challenges remain,” a senior defence official told reporters in a background briefing on the report. “The most important of those challenges, of course, remains the sanctuaries in Pakistan and the ability of the Taliban to refit, regroup and rearm there.” The Taliban and the Haqqani network use areas in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas to attack Afghan and NATO troops. Afghan and NATO leaders continue to urge Pakistan to address this problem. “It’s Pakistan’s duty as a responsible international country to control all violence that emanates from its borders into other areas,” the official said. “And we continue to urge them to do so.” NATO’s campaign plan is designed to work at reducing the ability of the Taliban and the Haqqani network to infiltrate over the border launch attacks in Afghanistan. “It’s not perfect, so we’re going to have to continue to work to shield Afghanistan and work to build the capacity of the Afghans to shield them from these things, from these attacks, but I think we will continue the efforts as well with Pakistan,” he said.

Kashmiri identity, Ashraf

Kashmiri identity, Ashraf Kashmiri identity right now has been reduced to a laminated identity card. At the present moment an ID card is the most precious possession of a Kashmiri within or outside Kashmir. However, the real identity of a Kashmiri has been given many names including the worn out cliché of Kashmiriyat which actually is a colonial concept, has been moulded and evolved over few thousand years. If we go by historical discoveries, the first Kashmiris started living in Kashmir right from the new stone age (Neolithic period of human evolution). The only definite and irrefutable scientific evidence about the beginning of human civilisation in Kashmir is the Neolithic (New Stone Age) dwelling sites in many parts of the valley out of which Burzahom site is the most studied and well known in the scientific community. But the significance of the site is not so much known among the people at large. Burzahom Neolithic Site is on a Karewa in the neighbourhood of Shalimar-Telbal road. It has a beautiful location. On one side in the distance is the Dal Lake while in the backdrop is Mahadev peak. The site is famous because it was the first such site discovered in Kashmir. It has dwelling pits, burial pits and some megaliths. The Neolithic (or the New Stone Age) Period of this site dates back to around 3,000 BC. In a way the place represents the site as well as the period where from the first inhabitants of our beautiful valley came. They could be termed the original Kashmiris who started inhabiting this valley like their counter parts in many other areas of the world. The other places where these sites were discovered are Begagund, Gofkral, Hariparigom, Olchibag, Pampur, Panzgom, Sombur, Waztal and Brah. In the dwelling pits human skeletons, fireplaces, and many implements were discovered. However, as has often happened, all these discoveries were stolen from us and taken to Delhi and as usual we were left with empty pits full of rain water! So much for our basic identity! Subsequently many incursions of tribal people took place and Kashmir evolved into a tribal society. The earliest recorded book of history in the sub-continent, Kalhana’s Rajatrarangni describes in detail the tribes who inhabited Kashmir in ancient times. Most of the incursions came from the west and there was very little interaction with the east. Kashmir is mentioned in Greek, Chinese and Arabic literature from the earliest times. Greek chronicles especially Ptolemy’s geography mention Kashmir as Kaspeira. The place of famous foot-walkers! Compared to all these references, there is a lamentable lack of exact geographical mention of Kashmir in general Sanskrit literature. The most specific piece of information regarding Kashmir that Sanskrit literature outside the Valley furnishes is in the term Kasmira or Kasmiraja that designates Saffron and Kustha for which it was famous since ancient times. Historically, Kashmir has passed through various epochs of Hinduism, Buddhism, again Hinduism and then finally Islam. All these faiths have had a peaceful and voluntary transition. In fact, Kashmiris have accepted all these changes without giving up some of their historical traditions of the ancient times. Kashmiri Hinduism based on Saivite trika philosophy is different from the Vedanta Hinduism of the north India. Buddhism itself was completely reformed and changed from the strict Hinayana School to moderate Mahayana School in the fourth Buddhist Council held in Kashmir. Finally, Hazrat Bulbul Shah and Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani brought Islam to Kashmir as the most humanitarian and positive religion. There is no doubt that they introduced many other things apart from the religion and gave a completely new way of life to the Kashmiris. However, Kashmiris are great assimilators. We do not convert but adopt everything to our traditional way of life! For last four centuries we have lived under Mughals, Afghans, Sikhs, and Dogras. But, there is no distinct trace of these races anywhere in Kashmir as we assimilated all in our own society and evolved a composite identity of a Kashmiri! Unfortunately, this identity has been attempted to be eroded since 1947 when we got entangled in a messy conflict between two neighbouring countries. Each one is trying to pick up only that part which suits it. None is prepared to accept the total composite identity of a Kashmiri, moulded by a rich Hindu and Buddhist past, and the most tolerant Muslim present. Kashmiris take equal pride in both Laltaditya and Budshah. There is only one way to way to preserve our true identity. We must preserve and propagate our language and study our long and rich history. Kashmir has been a seat of learning from the ancient times. Unfortunately, during last few decades we have lost the distinction between learning and literacy. We have thousands of literate young people but very few really learned ones! They are the least educated about our past especially about the identity. If we are honestly concerned about our identity, we must, as the saying goes, begin the charity in our homes. We should make it a point to talk to our public school going kids in Kashmiri. We should also not shy away from addressing gatherings where the majority is of local people, in Kashmiri language. We should rather be proud to speak in Kashmiri whenever and wherever possible. In case we fail to begin at home, we may be unfortunately left with the identity of a laminated identity card only! (Comments at

UK for end to external support for violence in J&K

UK for end to external support for violence in J&K May 2, 2012 London: Britain on Monday asked Pakistan to take action against militant groups in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and sought an end to "all external support" for violence in Jammu and Kashmir. In its annual report on the issue of human rights, titled 'Human Rights and Democracy', the Foreign Office said levels of reported violence in Jammu and Kashmir had been declining since 2008, but noted that India authorities reported continued infiltration across the Line of Control. The report, released by Foreign Secretary William Hague, said: "We called for an end to all external support for violence in Kashmir. We continue to urge the government of Pakistan to take action against the presence and activities of militant groups in Pakistan-administered Kashmir". "Levels of reported militant violence in Indian-administered Kashmir have been declining since 2008, but Indian authorities report continued infiltration across the Line of Control," it added. Officials in the British high commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad regularly discussed the situation with the Indian and Pakistani governments, "and with our contacts in Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir". "We continue to encourage India and Pakistan to seek a lasting resolution that takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people", the report said. During 2011, the report said that the British high commission funded an innovative information and communications technology project with the aim of improving coordination and communication between those agencies dealing with the prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of women and children who are victims of trafficking. "The project has been directly responsible for the rescue of a number of trafficking victims, and the new system is being used by various Indian authorities and civil society," the report added.