Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Death of two Kashmiris - Afzal Guru and Mohammed Ali Murtaza, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar in the UN Human Rights Session in Geneva

Death of two Kashmiris - Afzal Guru and Mohammed Ali Murtaza, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar in the UN Human Rights Session in Geneva   
Seminar arranged by International Committee for the Respect and Application of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights ICRAC (CIRAC) during 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva

Title of the seminar: Human rights in South Asia    
12 March 1213

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaikam
Despite remarkable work of the UN Human Rights Council and other human rights organisations, and power of mass media, situation of Human Rights in South Asia is getting from bad to worse. One can write books and booklets on the situation of human rights in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan; and divided State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In these countries human rights organisations, civil society and powerful media and social media expose the perpetrators of the human rights abuses, and explain the plight of the suffering people; and, at times, these governments under pressure from human rights organisations and civil society take certain measures to alleviate suffering of the people.

If these governments are serious about improving human rights situation in their countries or areas under their control, they have to take practical steps to improve situation of human rights in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Jammu and Kashmir.

However, it is not possible to explain situation of human rights in all parts of South Asia; therefore, I will focus on deteriorating situation of human rights in Pakistani Occupied Kashmir.

Mr Chairman

Before I elaborate my point, I want to say that month of February 2013 has proved that people of Jammu and Kashmir are killed on both sides of the LOC. Afzal Guru lost his life in Delhi Jail on 9 February 2013. Mohammed Ali Murtaza lost his life in Kotli, Pakistani Administered Kashmir on 18 February 2013. Afzal Guru was hanged for providing logistic support to those who attacked the Indian Parliament on December 2013. Despite his role in that tragic event, which, of course, was highly sensitive target because the attack on Parliament is conceived as an attack on pride of a nation; many believe he should not have been hanged.

However, Afzal Guru was hanged and his body was not given to his relatives and he was buried inside the prison.  People of Jammu and Kashmir claim that we are subject to inhuman treatment on both sides of the LOC; and both governments have similar policies, as both want to hold on to Kashmir. That was the Indian response to one Kashmiri - Afzal Guru; now let us see response of Pakistan to another Kashmiri, Mohammed Ali Murtaza who was not involved in any crime and did not provide any logistic support for any attack on the Pakistani Parliament or involved himself in any other illegal activity.

Mohammed Ali Murtaza lived in district Kotli which is part of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. He was a man of good character and memorised the whole Quran, a task which only selected and talented individuals could accomplish. He went to visit his sister who was married and lived near the LOC near Seri.

‘Brave’ and proactive secret agencies of Pakistan, who are law in their own rights, always look out for soft targets that they could exploit innocence and vulnerability of the people living in Pakistani Administered Kashmir, especially those who lived near the LOC. Vulnerable and not so clever, 27 years old Mohammed Ali Murtaza, who had whole life before him was picked up by the Pakistani secret agencies and tortured to death.

As this topic has been covered extensively by my colleague Abbas Butt, I leave out these details. However, it would be pertinent to point out that the brutal killing of Mohammed Ali Murtaza could have gone unnoticed if it was not for the social media and new technology. Young angry men were devastated by the inhuman treatment, and within minutes news and photos of the deceased were sent to various people and posted on social media. That encouraged the local daily newspapers to publish news about this incident. The secret agency personnel and the compliant local administration tried to control the situation, but the genie was out of the bottle. In this regard, Tanveer Ahmed, a British Kashmiri did a tremendous service by visiting the grave of the deceased and interviewed his family and put it on Youtube.

After a long time the local people have strongly expressed their anger and resentment against this inhuman act. They strongly condemned this act; and demanded that Pakistani forces of occupation must leave this territory. This news and inhuman torture at the hands of the Pakistani army which is a Muslim army and which is supposed to ‘defend borders and provide security’ infuriated the local people and there were strong protests against Pakistan and presence of Pakistani army.

In the past local people of Azad Kashmir saw many dead bodies of people in the rivers flowing from the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir to the Pakistani side. It was always stated that these were bodies of those Kashmiris killed by India after torturing them. However, after what has happened to Mohammed Ali Murtaza, many local people say it is possible that all those people were actually killed by the Pakistani army and then shifted the blame.

It must be pointed out that Pakistan and pro Pakistan Kashmiris claim that the Pakistani army is there to provide them security and defend the borders. Fact, however, is that in private conversations majority of the people regard them as forces of occupation; and some brave nationalists openly say they are forces of occupation and demand that they should go back to Pakistan.

Because of wrong policies of respective Pakistani governments, people of Pakistan and other areas are also suffering. There are powerful groups which under official patronage promote religious hatred, intolerance, violence and terrorism; and this policy is root cause of many problems in Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir, as this policy is exported to other areas. In Pakistan we can see ethnic minorities being systematically killed and their houses burnt; and this policy was successfully implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Chairman

Exploitation and intimidation in Pakistani Administered Kashmir takes place in many forms and shapes. All aspects of our lives are controlled by Islamabad or their lent officers and puppets. The syllabus our children read in our schools and colleges is prepared in Islamabad, which imposes Pakistani history and culture on us. How ironic, Study of Pakistan is compulsory for children of Azad Kashmir; but Study of Kashmir is not part of our curriculum. History and politics we are taught is a Pakistani history or their version of it; and true history of Jammu and Kashmir is hidden from us.

If some people produce facts about what Pakistan has done to us, and present true version of history those people have to suffer for this. I am prime example of this victimisation. Because of what I write to expose Pakistan’s imperial designs and tactics, a systematic malicious campaign is unleashed against me; but they cannot intimidate or break me. Those people who publish my books and promote them also come under fire.

It is disturbing to learn that Pakistani secret agencies are harassing those booksellers who sell books which expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. In this regard those books that have strongly criticised Pakistan’s blunders and human rights abuses which started with the brutal tribal aggression in October 1947 have been targeted.

Book sellers in various parts of Azad Kashmir were visited by secret agency men. One bookseller told my publisher that he could not sell these books anymore because secret agency people have given him stern warning. These people are so frightened that they have hidden these books and have requested the publisher to take them back.

When one book seller was threatened with severe consequences if he continued to sell books that expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, the poor man said I only sell books, and have no time to read books to find out which books expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

Mr Chairman

What this means is that the Azad Kashmiri book sellers can only sell books which promote Pakistan, or are written by Pakistanis and their puppets; or they can sell pens, pencils and writing pads, and not any books on history and politics. It also means people of Azad Kashmir are deliberately kept oblivious of facts and Kashmir history. Is this not against right of expression, right to education, right to know about one’s history and culture?

To conclude, I want to add that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed; and the Kashmir dispute is not religious in nature. Furthermore, it is not struggle to become part one country or the other. Our struggle is to determine our own future without any conditions or intimidation. India and Pakistan cannot decide our future by bilateral talks; we people of Jammu and Kashmir must be part of the dialogue process.

Mr Chairman, I thank you for your patience.

Dead body of Mohammed Ali Murtaza clearly showing signs of torture.

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