Monday, 31 March 2014

Watch live TV debate: Exploitation of Kashmiri resources – Pakistan has sold property worth billions belonging to State of Jammu and Kashmir

Guests are:
1/ Abdul Majeed, President JKPNP, Britain
2/ Mohammed Ayub, Councillor Luton Borough Council, Member Central Executive Committee, N League Azad Kashmir  
Part 1
Part 2

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Modi changes tone on Kashmir

Modi changes tone on Kashmir: Echoes Mukherjee mantra

‘Was The Vision Of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Right Or That Of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah?; Vajpayee Created Hope Among People In JK’


Jammu, Mar 26: Though committing himself to carry forward the “work” of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Kashmir, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi Wednesday changed his tone and posture on Kashmir issue advocating roadmaps projected by the right-wing organizations.
Modi, who addressed a public rally at Hiranagar here after paying obeisance at cave shrine of Shri Mata Vainshno Devi near Katra, hit-out at Congress accusing it to be behind all evils across India.
“They (Congress leaders) say that Congress is a vision. I want to tell Shehzada (Rahul Gandhi) that people are fed up with this vision and they want to move beyond this rhetoric,” he said adding, “You have to decide has the vision of Jawahar Lal Nehru for Kashmir brought any good to the people of the state or Sardar Patel’s ideology on Kashmir was better?”
In the same breath, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said; “You have also to decide was the vision of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee right or that of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah?”
The right wing organizations have been strongly arguing that Sardar Patel was against Jawahar Lal Nehru for his approach towards J&K. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of Sangh Parivar, had also launched a campaign for Eik Nishan, Eik Vidhan (one flag, one constitution).
Modi said Congress has not given anything to the country but on the contrary one has to see the approach and vision adopted by the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who created a hope among the people of J&K. “After a long time people of Kashmir had a sigh of relief. Had Vajpayee Ji got 5 more years, the situation in J&K would have been altogether different”, he said claiming that he would try to consolidate the initiatives of Vajpayee.
He added that the militancy over the last 32 years has not only killed humans but Kashmiriyat and Insaniyat too. “The land of Jammu and Kashmir has been soaked in blood by militancy and cross-border militancy,” he said.
“We will solve the Kashmir problem within the framework of Insaniyat (humane approach), Jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat as shown by former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee”, he said and added that development is the only way to prosperity.
In an obvious reference to Congress and NC, he said that the dynastic politics of these parties has only spoiled people’s life and future. “What people got from dynastic politics? It didn’t solve people’s problems but only compounded them”, he said and added, “Three to four generations have been ruling since long but people’s problems have not been solved”.

Hitting out at ruling National Conference and the Congress for not solving the problems of migrants and the refugees during the last more than 4 decades, Modi said those who have not been able to do this in 40 years, have no right to stay in power at the centre and in the state.
“These parties have been befooling the people and have made fake promises during all these years with the refugees. Be it lakhs of PaK refugees, 1965 and 71 refugees or be it Kashmiri migrants,” he said.
“Have you heard of any country where people are struggling for basic rights, citizenship rights and deprived of their motherland for more than 40 years?”, he said and added that in India people of Bangladesh were getting citizenship rights but those who left their houses and settled in India in 1947 are yet to get their due status. “The BJP will work towards solution of their problems”, he added.
Modi also slammed these parties for what he termed using secularism only to hide their misdeeds and failures and befool the people. “Those who don’t have solution to the people’s problems like poverty, unemployment, inflation, education and others, hide behind secularism”, he said adding, “The solution to all the problems lies in development”.

Taking a jibe at Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah over his twitter remarks during his previous rally at Jammu, Modi said he (Omar) should come via helicopter and have an aerial survey once again and judge which direction the wind is blowing. “Omar during our last rally at Jammu had stated that holding such a big rally in J&K is not possible for BJP. The mammoth gathering here is indicative of winds of change blowing across the state”, he said and added that he (Omar) should go for an aerial survey to see that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are heading towards change.

Modi targeted Defence Minister A K Antony and Aam Aadmi chief Arvind Kejriwal, calling them "agents of Pakistan and enemies of India."
"Three AKs have emerged as a unique strength for Pakistan. One is AK-47 which has been used to cause bloodshed in Kashmir. The second is A K Antony, who informs Parliament that people wearing the dress of Pak army beheaded our soldiers while our Army says Pakistanis had come. Who do you want to benefit with your statement," he asked.
Modi took a dig at Kejriwal, who resigned after 49 days as Chief Minister in Delhi, as the "third AK which is AK-49 who has just given birth to a new party".
"The map on his party’s website has shown Kashmir in Pakistan. A senior member of his party is shouting hoarse demanding plebiscite in Kashmir. Pakistan is dancing over their statements. They are agents of Pakistan, enemies of India, and are speaking the language of Pakistan," he said.
Invoking Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Modi said he (Mukherjee) sacrificed his life for Jammu and Kashmir. “More Indian soldiers have sacrificed their lives here than in any war,” he said.

Kashmiris need to change their mindset, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Kashmiris need to change their mindset, Dr Shabir Choudhry            
27 March 2014

Even America, Russia and China with huge military power have only one Commander in Chief each; whereas Pakistani sponsored militancy produced 150 Commanders in Chief in the Kashmir Valley in 1990. At the peak of militancy in 1990/91 there were 150 militant groups, each group had a Pakistani gun, Pakistani bullets and Pakistani training to fight the Indians (although some chose to settle personal scores against each other). Many militant groups had no more than ten militants, but they still needed a Commander in Chief, a few weeks of training in Pakistan, some guns, bullets and money; and Pakistani agencies generously provided all that.

This militancy which some Kashmiri people still claim that it was started to liberate Kashmir (although those who masterminded that say their aim was to keep India engaged in Kashmir) has also produced tens of thousands of graves, thousands of widows, thousands of orphans, thousands of disable and dishonoured men, women, and children; not to mention social evils and some millionaires.

It is sad that innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir had to endure all that in name of independence since 1988/9, whereas those who started this had other objectives in mind. Their plan was not to liberate Kashmir but to use people of Kashmir to advance their agenda; and some sections of Jammu and Kashmir became victims of this proxy war.

It is painful to note that we people of Jammu and Kashmir still have not learnt anything from this tragedy and suffering. There are still many who claim it was their struggle, and Pakistan is their well wisher, despite the fact that some Pakistani Generals, writers, analysts and historians have time and again said that the aim of militancy was not to liberate Kashmir.

Most Commanders in Chief of the Kashmiri struggle were uneducated (someone with Matriculation cannot be considered as an educated man) and did not attend any staff college to complete war studies, yet these militants make lofty claims. Let us see what Lt General Shahid Aziz of Pakistan army, a man who had a remarkable career in the Pakistan army has to say about the Kashmiri militancy.

Like other military officers, Lt General Shahid Aziz also studied at very prestigious military institution. While at the National Defence University, Islamabad, in a debate on the topic of Pakistan’s Kashmir policy he criticised the policy and was perceived as a man who has lost his mind. After retiring he wrote a book titled, ‘Ye Khamoshi Kahn Tak’ – meaning - This silence for how long.

‘What kind of policy is this, that in order to get the enemy (Indian) army entangled (in Kashmir) we spill the Kashmiri blood? Is there an end to this jihad? Is this to get some result, or this is to just keep India engaged there?’ 1

These are words of a man who served the Pakistan army for many years, and held very important and sensitive posts during his long and prestigious service. He believed that the Pakistani policy in Kashmir was not to ‘liberate Kashmir’, but to keep India engaged there. Result of this policy was that innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir were suffering.

On the other hand some Kashmiri collaborators still try to fool people by saying that Pakistan is our ‘elder brother’, ‘our advocator’ and ‘well wisher’. They still tell innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir that Pakistani strategy will liberate them; and that Pakistan is the only country which supports their struggle? Question is which struggle? Pakistani strategy, according to Lt General Shahid Aziz and many others is to keep the Indian army engaged in Kashmir; and not to liberate Kashmir.

The price of this selfish and erroneous Pakistani policy is that tens of thousands of Kashmiri people have lost their lives, many women have been raped and still many people are unaccounted for. For how long more are we are going to be sacrificed in name of elder brother and Muslim brotherhood? While commenting on situation of Pakistan, General Shahid Aziz wrote:

‘Sometime I thought for whom we should save this country. What kind of independence is this where only the powerful and rich people were independent; where justice is for sale; where exploitation (of the poor) and corruption has become an art; where concept of independence was only on a paper’. 2

Lt General Shahid Aziz narrates a story which explains the thinking of the Pakistani elite about future of Pakistan:
One officer told him that his son went to a school where children of elite studied. Once Pakistan Air Force jets flew over Islamabad, after hearing thundering of jets, one child said war has started and these were Indian jet fighters. Another child said these were Pakistani jets and war has not started. Teacher asked how could you be so sure because you are in the classroom. The boy confidently said, my father said if war started, we will all leave Pakistan. Because we are still in Pakistan, it means the war has not started. 3

It is clear that the ruling elite of Pakistan do not feel Pakistan has a great future. Different Muslim sects in name of religion are up in arms and are killing each other. Be they be masjids, shrines, churches, temples, hotels, shopping centres, police stations, army camps and offices of security agencies, they are all legitimate targets of these extremists. When bloody civilians die only statements of regret are issued; but when men in uniform are killed Pakistani jet fighters get in action and they also kill people, whether they are culprits or some other people.

Top Pakistani leaders and senior members of the elite have nearly all their investments outside Pakistan because they feel it is not safe to invest in their own country. Most of them have nationalities of other countries; and if situation gets out of hand they can leave the country within hours.

How ironic, that despite this thinking of the Pakistani elite and disappointing economic, political and security situation, some Pakistanis and Kashmiris urge that people of Jammu and Kashmir should join Pakistan. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Pakistan or the Pakistani people. However, interest of Pakistan is not my first priority; my priority is interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir. I honestly believe that Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir must be united and become independent; and that is in the best interest of India, Pakistan, people of Jammu and Kashmir, and for the peace and stability of the region.

I honestly believe joining Pakistan will be a big blunder, as Pakistan has nothing to offer to us. In any case, Pakistan after 67 long years is still fighting for its survival; and still trying to find its identity. Still there is a debate going on in Pakistan, why Pakistan was created; and no one feels safe in Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

How can anyone with common sense and welfare of the Kashmir people in mind even suggest that we should become part of this society? Pakistanis and Indians have every right to protect and promote their national interests; and we people of Jammu and Kashmir must protect Kashmiri interests.

We have to change this mindset that one country is enemy and the other is a big brother and well wisher. We people of Jammu and Kashmir must understand that India and Pakistan are our neighbours and not our masters. Both want to get Jammu and Kashmir; and welfare and independence is not their priority. Once we understand this, then it will be easy to formulate a practical policy that will help us to promote a Kashmiri interest and
1.    ‘Ye Khamoshi Kahn Tak’ – meaning - This silence for how long, page 177
2.    Ibid, page 178
3.    Ibid, page 178
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Eyes on the doorway, Waiting for papa to come home

Eyes on the doorway, Waiting for papa to come home
Our Correspondent    Published: March 26, 2014

Holding a photo of their father, children of a Kashmiri driver detained in Indian Kashmir hoped that their father will buy them books and cricket bats when he returns – a hope that may not be realised anytime soon. These are the sons of Muhammad Shafique Awan, the truck driver who used to transport goods between Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Indian Kashmir.

Awan is currently detained in the Baramullah District Jail of Indian Kashmir.

Everything changed for Awan and his family on January 17, 2014 when the 35 year old driver was arrested by Indian authorities on account of being accused of drug smuggling on the Cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade route via Chakothi sector of Muzaffarabad leading to Indian Kashmir.

On March 18, 2014, a local court in Baramulla of Indian Kashmir extended the judicial custody of Awan till April 1, 2014. Awan was presented for the first time before the local court on February 19, 2014.

The exams of Awan’s children are near and his detention has had a bad impact on their studies. His daughters, Kainaat and Laiba, are 14 and 12 years old respectively whereas his sons , Muhammad Adil and Muhammad Aqib, are eight and five years old.

“I always do my homework with papa,” said Kainaat, crying. “But now, I cannot read anything because I keep thinking about him.”

The four children and their mother, Ayesha Shafique, reside in a two-room shanty residential setup. It has been provided to them by Awan’s elder brother. “My husband was the breadwinner,” Ayesha said, unable to control her tears. Ever since Awan’s arrest, they have suffered a lot. “I have no money to pay the school fees. How many times will I borrow money to run the house?”

While talking to The Express Tribune, Ayesha shared that Muhammad Aqib asks her when his father will come home with candies and biscuits for him. She has no answers to comfort him. “The government has not helped us yet.” Ayesha hopes that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government will help free her husband from jail.

For Kainaat, her father is innocent. She says that Indian authorities should hand him over to AJK authorities if they have any proof against him. “AJK authorities should handle the matter.”

“How can we believe that the drugs were smuggled from AJK? And even if it were true, action should be taken against the traders. Papa is simply a driver,” expressed Laiba.

The actual problem

Director-General of Travel and Trade Authority (TATA) AJK, Brigadier (retd) Muhammad Ismail, called Awan’s arrest “a story cooked up by Indian agencies to disrupt trade.” He was of the view that if Indian authorities have proof, they should share it with TATA so that proper investigation can be started.

“Awan’s arrest is an open violation of Cross- LoC trade’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The driver should be released immediately,” said Ismail. He stated that they were informed that Indian Kashmir’s Trade Facilitation Officer (TFO) had refused to hand over Awan to police. “The TFO did this because he wanted the matter to stay with the trade authority.”

Ismail said that police of Indian Kashmir arrested Awan forcefully on special instructions from New Delhi and other Indian security agencies. “They are not in favour of Cross-LoC trade between AJK and Indian Kashmir.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2014.

The Kashmir issue from the US’s perspective, by Sabria Chowdhury Balland

The Kashmir issue from the US’s perspective, by Sabria Chowdhury Balland

The issue of Kashmir is not important for the US or for the region itself but rather due to the fact that it involves two nations that have a strategic interest for the US

“With respect to Kashmir, obviously this is a longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan. As I said yesterday, I believe that both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions between the two countries. The United States cannot impose a solution to these problems, but I have indicated to Prime Minister Singh that we are happy to play any role that the parties think is appropriate in reducing these tensions. That is in the interests of the region, it is in the interests of the two countries involved and it is in the interests of the United States of America” — President Barack Obama.

The above quote is crucial in comprehending the current position the United States holds regarding the conflict situation in Kashmir. The region of Kashmir has been in dispute since the independent countries of India and Pakistan were created in 1947. The region has been the source of much tension and conflict over the years, causing relations between India and Pakistan to deteriorate on many occasions. However, the position of the US on this issue is hardly known by its citizens, nor is it widely publicised and discussed as are the tense situations between Israel and its neighbours. Furthermore, the US has not really taken a definitive stance in the matter in spite of the existence of groups in the region that can rightfully be classified as terrorist groups.

The issue of Kashmir is not important for the US or for the region itself but rather due to the fact that it involves two nations that have a strategic interest for the US. Before the Cold War, the US viewed Pakistan as a significant Cold War ally. At this point in history, India was not considered a strategic partner to the US due to its friendly relations with the Soviet Union. However, after the Cold War, this situation began to change following the fall of the Soviet Union and with the increasing prominence and power of China. In order to reinforce its position with China, the US sought to establish closer ties with India.

This historical backdrop is significant in understanding whether the US’s Cold War era perceptions about Kashmir continue to this day to influence its stance on the region. If such is the case, there is the danger of missing realities that have arisen with the passage of time and basing oneself on previous assumptions as the foundation for current decisions and actions. However, the Cold War perceptions of the Kashmir issue do not seem to be the basis of the US’s position on the issue today.

In the present day, the US-India-Pakistan relationship is, to say the least, a complex one. The US needs the assistance of Pakistan in its global anti-terrorism policy and simultaneously needs to maintain amicable relations with India in order to counter-balance China’s increasing influence in the region. Thus, the US’s position with reference to Kashmir is essentially one of neutrality based on maintaining cordial relations with India without foregoing a relationship with Pakistan.

In 2010, when President Obama clearly stated that the US could not impose any solutions to the Kashmir issue, he rather encouraged India and Pakistan to reduce tensions by themselves in the interests of the two countries, the region and that of the US. He stated that the US, in turn, would assist in any way in reducing these tensions. This statement may indicate a show of support for India as that nation has always held the position that no outside forces be involved in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute, despite requests from Pakistan for a US involvement in negotiations. Since both countries are of strategic value to the US, its position on the Kashmir issue is essentially one of a ‘hands-off policy’ and it is clearly exercising a strategic balancing act in order not to offend either side.

This position was further reiterated recently by State Department spokesperson Marie Harf who stated that India and Pakistan need to improve their bilateral relations and that the two countries need to establish better relations and work together on the Kashmir issue, further stating that the US remains concerned about the issues of peace and stability in the region (without getting directly involved). The US has therefore ruled out any mediation on the Kashmir dispute.

It can clearly be seen that the US has time and again held a neutral and balanced position on the Kashmir issue, maintaining that India and Pakistan are ultimately responsible for ceasing their tensions. This will most likely continue to be the US’s position on Kashmir, unless of course the situation between India and Pakistan deteriorates to a point that will cause significant damage to the US’s strategic interests or if the region attracts a large number of multi-national terrorists, who pose a direct threat to the US.

British Kashmiris Identity, Politics and Inclusion, Shams Rehman

British Kashmiris Identity, Politics and Inclusion, Shams Rehman

Publicity Secretary Kashmir National Identity Campaign (KNIC)

On 3rd March 2014, Simon Danczuk , MP for Rochdale asked the for the inclusion of Kashmiri category in national census and other data collection systems to be able to address the issues and challenges facing Kashmiri community in Britain including deprivation, under representation, discrimination and injustices. 

While no significance was given to this adjournment debate in British Media or in any other Asian media, GEO News, a Pakistani channel reported the demand for Kashmiri inclusion as a ‘shosha’. Literally shosha means circumflex but actually connoting in public narrative, especially in Urdu, Punjabi and Pahari-Pothohari languages and communities as something inferior and farcical. The accompanying report by the GEO reporter included two interviews both asking for Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The Jang Newspaper that also has some lower level reporters of  (azad) Kashmiri background carried out surveys and claimed that majority of Kashmiris want Kashmir to become part of Pakistan rather than independent. One Kashmiri from Luton was reported as claiming that in a recent election in Azad Kashmir one pro-independence Kashmiri party got only few dozen votes and pro-Pakistani parties got the most votes therefore it is evident that Kashmiris want to join Pakistan. Then there were statements by other Kashmiris who claimed that Pakistanis have suppressed Kashmiris in Pakistani occupied Kashmiri and majority will vote for independence in any free and fair referendum. Only Wahid Akbar, a former councillor and mayor of Luton stated that recognition of Kashmiris in Britain will enable relevant departments and services to have more reliable data about Kashmiris and will be beneficial for Kashmiris. His views were included at the end of the report as a lone voice.

What is this demand for recognition of Kashmiris in Britain? Why Kashmiri? Don’t they have Pakistani passports? Did not they come to Britain as compensation to them by Pakistan government for building of Mangla Dam?  Is this not a ploy to divide Muslims in Britain? After all we all are Muslims and must not indulge into ethnicities and divisive identities. So be a British Muslim.

These are some of the questions and instructions I have received from different people at different times during the campaign for Kashmiri recognition in Britain. For me this campaign was started within few months of arriving to Britain in 1988. The venue was Oldham Racial Equality Council where I was invited to a community meeting only to make the meeting quorate.  First item on the agenda was the name of the community centre which was proposed as ‘Pakistani Community Centre’. I objected that majority of those in the meeting were from ‘Azad’ Kashmir hence Kashmiris so centre should be called Kashmiri Community Centre. Of course I did not understand the community and voluntary sectors resource allocation mechanism and the ethnic monitoring system.

Leaving the story of my personal journey aside, I went on to find out more about Racial Equality and Equal Opportunities. Presented below is the background and context in which the campaign for Kashmiri recognition was initiated. As you can see the demand for inclusion of Kashmiris has been raised in the context of ‘celebrating diversity promoting cohesion’ which means that if differences of people on the basis of which they are discriminated against are recognised and appropriate information and support is provided to individuals and communities who are lagging behind then they can be empowered to play a more active, healthy and positive role in the wider society. In this context let’s have a quick look at how the ‘identity landscape’ of Britain gradually became diverse and colourful.

Identification and labelling of immigrants has been through several changes and transformations. Initially they were simply immigrants or migrants. Then they became ‘coloured’ or blacks before asserting Afro-Caribbean, Asian and Muslim umbrella identities to distinguish distinct histories and needs. Constant campaigns by the non-white and excluded white i.e. Irish minorities brought about the laws against racism and discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity long before the inclusion of ethnic question in the national census in 1991. Here different groups of Afro-Caribbean background were recognised under the Black umbrella identity and different groups from South Asia under the umbrella identity of Asian. In the Asian category the choice included to tick Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi as defined groups and ‘Any other Asian’ for those who did not fall in these categories. 
According to the Office of National Statistics:
The census provides information on housing and population that government needs to develop policies, and to plan and run public services such as health and education. The data are also widely used by academics, businesses, voluntary organisations and the public. At the moment, the census is the only method of providing this information.
With the inclusion of ‘ethnic questions’ data about the conditions and achievements of different ethnic minorities also became available. It is this data that is used for buds for resources and services for different communities in different geographic and service areas.

This whole process if studied closely would show that after the initial radical politics against racism and equality in the streets, the identity politics was taken inside the corridors of policy making and development planning at local and national levels of governance by the newly emerging middle classes of ethnic minorities. They became the policy advisors for the relevant departments on implementation of equality agenda following the Racial Equality Laws and Racial Equality and Equal Opportunities infrastructure.

Most of the labour migration from South Asia to Britain occurred mainly from Mirpur (Kashmir), Sylhet (Bangladesh) Gujarat and Jalandhar (India) and Attock and Pothohar (Pakistan). While I have no academic study at hand to consult, it is general observation however, that the Asians who managed to gain access to policy and advisory positions in the local and national government offices  were predominantly from the urban middle class background and not from the rural areas of South Asia which form the majority within British South Asians. Since there is not only a serious lack of interaction between rural and urban regions of South Asia due to acute class disparities and cultural diversity is usually suppressed rather than celebrated which is more so in Pakistan than India, these earlier ‘representatives’ of South Asian communities within British structure made ‘representation’ with in this South Asian context rather than practicing the diversity and equality agenda of changing British society during 1970s and 80s. This ‘nationalist’ approach caused suffering for majorities within British South Asians turning them into invisible minorities.

While the equality agenda was for the inclusion of excluded and marginalised minorities in the British society, the inclusion of ethnic question in 1991 census within the context of ‘nation-state’ made it impossible for marginalised South Asians to gain access to appropriate resources, services and opportunities required for their empowerment and participation. Within these excluded and marginalised communities, the community that suffered relatively more and still suffering is the British Kashmiri community.

British Kashmiris are currently estimated around one million. Apart from about three hundred families of Kashmiris from the Valley of Kashmir in the Indian administered Kashmir, the rest of British Kashmiris originate from the Pakistani administered Kashmir. They speak Pahari language (also known as Mirpuri in Britain) and are over represented in the inner city areas across Britain with over 100,000 in Birmingham, about 70,000 in Bradford, 30,000 in Leeds, 20,000 in Luton and largest or significant minority in dozens of other British towns including, Manchester, Rochdale, Oldham, Halifax, Kirklees, Keighley, Burnley, Preston, Blackburn, Bolton, Derby, Sheffield, Nottingham and several other towns.

 The traces of Kashmiri labour migration to Britain go back to the mid-19th century when some workers left Merchant Navy ships where they worked in the coal rooms with above 60 temperature and found work as vendors and peddlers in different coastal towns of Britain.  Through these early connections many more came after the First and Second World Wars which they fought in British colonial armies and lot more came to meet the post war labour shortage in Britain. By the end of 1960s when the ancient city of Mirpur was submerged in Mangla Dam Lake the Kashmiri migration to Britain was developed into a ‘Chain Process’. 1970s was the decade of the arrival of families and from 1980s onwards of the spouses and grandparents.  Today fourth and fifth generations of Kashmiris are growing up in Britain.

Despite being one of the largest linguistic and cultural communities within South Asians, the specific linguistic and cultural aspects of British Kashmiris remained least recognised hence unaddressed. Especially in terms of language, Pahari (also described as Mirpuri) was not recognised as one if the languages of interpreting till recently. Information about the achievements and barriers in different departments remain unavailable and Kashmiris are not included in the equality impact assessment at different levels and spheres of the British society.
It was in this context that some Kashmiris who after gaining access to white collar jobs and having some understanding of the equality and diversity issues discussed this issue initially in Kashmiri Workers Association (KWA) and later formed the Kashmir National Identity Campaign (KNIC) in 1999. Representatives of different Kashmiri political and community groups were invited along with some academics and local government officers and politicians.

The campaign clearly spelled out although lack of Kashmiri recognition in Britain is a direct result of Kashmir being not an independent country otherwise Kashmiri category would have been included without any campaign as Bangladeshi was done, the purpose of the campaign remains recognition and inclusion of Kashmiris for enhancing their status and capacity as community in Britain and not to make it an issue of the self-determination in Kashmir.  That issue is being raised and projected by scores of Kashmiri organisation across Britain and KNIC is not part of that political campaign. For KNIC Kashmiris who support the ideas of Kashmir’s accession to India or Pakistan are as much Kashmiris as those who strive for independent Kashmir.

However one Pakistani newspaper ran counter campaign against the inclusion of Kashmiris in British system and we learnt from reliable sources that staff of this Pakistani newspaper was told not to publish advertisements of the KNIC regarding 2001 census on the grounds that if Kashmiris get recognised in Britain, the Pakistanis will reduce to a tiny minority. In our view it is this suppressive behaviour that spreads negativity and incite some Pakistanis against the Kashmiri recognition.

While the national census did not recognise Kashmiris fully in 2001 census the campaign has managed to achieve recognition in nearly two dozen local authorities. However, the local Kashmiris in these councils failed to use recognition for their benefits in terms of equality, inclusion and representation. No research is available but it is general understanding that Kashmiris who have managed to gain access to higher positions in British political parties depend on Pakistani embassy and consulates and always try to tow the Pakistani line on Kashmir and Kashmiris to be accepted and respected. 

What is the campaign for?
The latest adjournment debate in House of Commons by Simon Danzczuk , MP for Rochdale has certainly brought the issue of Kashmiri inclusion back on equality agenda in Britain. However, once again a private Pakistani Channel associated with the same paper which ran a campaign against  the recognition  and inclusion of Kashmiris has described the demand by Simon for inclusion of Kashmiris in national census as ‘Shosha’. Field reporters of the channel and associated paper many of whom are of Kashmiri origin are accused of distorting the demand only to please their bosses. However, it is very likely that they genuinely have not understood the purpose of this campaign and wrongly linked it with the issue of Kashmiri self-determination.

This campaign is for rights of Kashmiris in Britain as British citizens and has no direct link with the determination of political future of Kashmir. It is about equality and inclusion and not about self-determination. As per self-determination, Kashmiris in and outside of Kashmiri can vote whichever option they like. However, there is a complimentary link between the Identity Campaign and Self Determination Campaign that if Kashmiris or recognised as Kashmiris in Britain and counted in the ethnic monitoring data it will be easy for them to vote in the future of Kashmir when and IF an opportunity was provided.

With regards to being divisive for Muslim community two pints are important to be aware of. Firstly, there is a separate question in the census form on religion where religions are listed including Islam so there is no clash between ethnic and religious identities. Secondly, there were two new categories were included in 2011, one was Gypsy travellers and other was Arab.
In conclusion, the whole purpose of Kashmiri recognition campaign is for British Kashmiris to get what they are entitled to as British citizens like all other diaspora communities do and is not against Indian or Pakistani communities. It is entirely up to those British Kashmiris who are inside the British governance system to work closely with parliamentarians, councillors, officers  as well as with the Indian and Pakistani community representatives to gain greater recognition for Kashmiri community to enhance the equality and inclusion of British Kashmiri community.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Pakistan- where did it all go wrong?

Pakistan- where did it all go wrong?

It was only during the British period that the politics of division were fostered and encouraged to prolong colonial rule. And the politics of division worked so effectively that its viral effect continues to be felt even after India’s partition into two independent states

Will they or won’t they? I am referring here to reports about a peace dialogue between the Pakistan government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Its very formulation appears to put the TTP and the Pakistani state on virtually an equal footing. It seems to invest TTP with the power to declare or not declare ceasefire(s) as between two state entities. In other words, even without any recognised territorial sovereignty, the TTP has seemingly acquired the attributes of a state within a state in Pakistan.

This might seem like legal nit-picking but it is important in the bigger scheme of things because this is how people progressively will start to see TTP as a normal political rather than terrorist organisation, so much so that the Pakistani state is keen to sup with it, thus conferring on it a legitimacy that has evaded it so far. In any case, the TTP cannot really be interested in any kind of peace dialogue when it is still engaged in killing people, even if it is blaming other militant group(s). Both images cannot be right at the same time. Besides the country’s civilian government, there is another institution that is most concerned with the TTP’s dangerous antics and activities and that is the country’s armed forces. It is true that the military is part of the state and its government but, as we know, it has considerable autonomy and the task of dealing with TTP terrorism that viciously targets its personnel and institutions. While it might not like the state conferring legitimacy on the TTP by seeking talks while the TTP is killing soldiers, it still remains the only properly trained and disciplined force able to prevent the TTP from wrecking the state. Therefore, the Pakistani state still exists because the army stands between it and the TTP.

How did it all come to this? For answers it might be necessary to delve into contemporary history and the starting point is the creation of Pakistan to provide security and equality for its predominantly Muslim population. In essence, it was a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims. The new state, however, failed to create a state of mind to go with it. India’s natural largeness and its perceived hostility to the new state of Pakistan simply transformed internal divisions of a united India into external enmity between two states. It wasn’t always like that. Historically, during the Mughal period a political, social and cultural system evolved that, for the most part, worked quite effectively. It was only during the British period that the politics of division were fostered and encouraged to prolong colonial rule. And the politics of division worked so effectively that its viral effect continues to be felt even after India’s partition into two independent states. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan still felt insecure vis-√†-vis its bigger neighbour, needing external political and military support. It so happened that a Cold War was raging at the time between the US and Soviet-led blocs. The US was keen to enlist India to its side but from his very first state visit to the US, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru showed he was averse to Cold War politics.

Against the backdrop of deteriorating India-Pakistan relations, Pakistan became a US ally with a view to strengthening its position against India. The religion Islam, in a broad sense, was the glue that bound Pakistan. A predominantly Hindu-populated India was seen as a threat to its security.

Therefore, much of its national energies were directed to meeting this perceived threat, which is not to suggest that there weren’t elements in India hostile to Pakistan’s existence. However, because of India’s religious, cultural and regional diversity, it was not possible to make Pakistan the central issue in the country’s policies all the time. Even when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was leading a coalition government at the Centre, it didn’t have the electoral luxury of promoting or imposing Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) on different regions and communities, because of the imperative of keeping the coalition together. With an estimated 140 million Muslims in India and their electoral weight, as well as the need to accommodate the heterogeneity of ethnic and regional differences, it was very difficult for even the hardline BJP to go haywire, though it did happen at times. This idea of an unbridgeable chasm between the Hindus and Muslims of the subcontinent was largely a British creation to prolong colonial rule. It might be recalled that the 1857 Mutiny (regarded by some as a war of independence) saw remarkable unity of purpose among Indian soldiers.

With the British Crown taking over India’s administration from the East India Company in 1858, the Muslims were the first to feel its wrath, as the failed mutiny was intended to restore the dethroned Mughal (Muslim) ruler. Several decades later, starting early in the twentieth century, when the nationalist movement began, the British played the diabolical card of dividing the country’s two major communities to perpetuate their own rule, which eventually resulted in the partition of the subcontinent, and the state of Pakistan. Ever since, virtually all of Pakistan’s energies in domestic and international affairs have been expended and subsumed in preparing the country to meet a perceived Indian threat to its security. It has resulted in a distortion of Pakistan’s priorities in nation-building for the country’s development, such as creating a positive national ethos to harness people’s energies, creating employment opportunities, and building and strengthening national institutions to create a culture of stability. Ever since its creation, Pakistan has seemed like a country in crisis, often to meet a perceived Indian threat. The result has been a culture of militancy with the old Hindu-Muslim internal divide resurrected externally. Both civilian governments, as and when they have existed, and the military were preoccupied with the ‘Indian threat’. When Soviet troops were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, there were enough Mujahideen and militants to turn against India in Kashmir, with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other agencies deeply involved. The 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai was, by many accounts, one recent example. What one is trying to point out here is three-fold. First, that a preoccupation with a perceived Indian threat skewed project Pakistan and continues to do so today, even though the greater threat to the Pakistani state is from militants and terrorists it trained and encouraged as a force multiplier against India.

Second, that these very extremists and terrorists, who were supposed to protect Pakistan from an Indian ‘threat’, have turned on the Pakistani state and military. And third, the Pakistani state is now seeking to legitimise these very elements, like the TTP, by starting a dialogue with them. What the framework of this dialogue will be and what it will achieve, if it starts and gets anywhere, is still a mystery.

Pakistan giving in to military diktats on trade, India says

Pakistan giving in to military diktats on trade, India says
NEW DELHI: UPA II will perhaps best be remembered for a series of financial scams and the so called policy paralysis but as it prepares to sign off, it is now hobbled by its Pakistan policy.

Stung by what India sees as Pakistan's refusal to allow any concession to the outgoing government for normalizing trade relations, senior government sources here told TOI Islamabad's policy over the issue was being dictated by Pakistan's military establishment. They said the upcoming elections are now certain to mark the termination of the idea that trade can lead to peaceful relations between the 2 countries.

"The several recent flip flops made by the Nawaz Sharif government on the issue has greatly reduced the its credibility with Indian negotiators who have concluded that in addition to political and security policy, the Pakistan government does not even have the ability to go against the Pakistan military dictates on issues related to economic reforms," said a top government official, in a reaction to Sharif's comment Monday that MFN status to India has been delayed because of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

In fact, the bureaucracy is feeling increasingly let down because it was always sceptical about going out of its way to better trade relations with Pakistan. With PM Manmohan Singh and his office showing an "extraordinary commitment" to improving trade relations, it allowed itself to be pushed and prodded.

After the 2 countries agreed to the September 2012 Road Map for improving trade, many thought Pakistan had at least temporarily moved away from its top-down approach in dealing with India. Things have now turned so bad that Indian interlocutors have lost interest in the idea that trade can provide the basis for constructing a lasting framework for "peaceful, friendly and cooperative" ties with the present Pakistan government. "It will take another 1-2 years before the new Government in New Delhi settles down and contemplates a long term visionary policy towards Pakistan," said the source, adding that even in the minds of the Pakistan business establishment there is a sense of a missed opportunity.

India believes that it is Pakistan PM advisor on foreign affairs Sartaz Aziz who has advised Sharif to not give any concession to the outgoing UPA government. According to the government, Islamabad has invoked the false idea of Pakistan-specific "nontariff barriers" that have been erected by India. Pakistan shared its list of 185 items of export interest to it, as officials said, India readily indicated it would provide SAFTA Tariff concessions on these tariff lines on an accelerated implementation schedule.

While Sharif had initially decided to move rapidly on the September 2012 Road Map, his government made a "U-turn'' late 2013 after arriving at the conclusion that trade normalization was too much of a concession to the outgoing Congress government. In the beginning of 2014, it again signalled it was ready to implement the road map.

"With much persistence, and false promises of announcing the opening of Wagah-Attari, Pakistan insisted on Commerce Secretary level discussions to work out the new accelerated time lines. However at the meeting (held on the margins of the SAARC Business Leaders Conference 15-16 January), Pakistan backtracked, returning to the position that this was too much of a concession to an outgoing Indian government," said an official, adding that commencing trade in electricity and gas with India to alleviate Pakistan's power problem was supposed to jump start this process.

India believes that the Sharif government has played right into the hands of its security establishment despite Pakistan's economic managers realizing that preferential access to the Indian market would greatly ease Pakistan's foreign exchange constraint, as well as provide much needed stimulus to its export industries and by implications its whole economy.

They have, officials said here, often advised their political masters that Pakistan should adopt the approach Sri Lanka has been using since the signing of the FTA with India - derive full economic benefits from the Free Trade Agreement, while pursuing political and security agendas separately.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pakistani involvement in bombing of Indian Embassy in Kabul proved

Pakistani involvement in bombing of Indian Embassy in Kabul proved
The role of Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence in the 2008 suicide car bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan is back in focus because of revelations in a new book, which says the attack was sanctioned and monitored by senior officials of the spy agency. 

US and Afghan intelligence intercepted phone calls from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials in Pakistan, hearing them plan the attack with militants in Kabul days before the bombing on July 7, 2008.

At the time, intelligence officials monitoring the phone calls did not know what was being planned, but a high-level ISI operative's involvement in promoting a terrorist attack was clear, says The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004, by journalist Carlotta Gall.
The evidence was so compelling that the US administration dispatched then CIA deputy chief Stephen Kappes to Islamabad to remonstrate with the Pakistanis. But the bomber struck before Kappes reached Pakistan, according to excerpts from the book.

Investigators found the bomber's cellphone in the wreckage of his explosives-laden car. They tracked down his Afghan collaborator in Kabul, a man who provided logistics for the attack. 

In the book, released next month, Gall writes that the collaborator was in direct contact with Pakistan by telephone, and the number he called was that of a high-level ISI official in Peshawar. The official had sufficient seniority that he reported directly to ISI headquarters in Islamabad, according to the book.
Reports of an ISI role in the attack on the Indian mission in Kabul had also emerged weeks after the suicide bombing. At the time, sources had said an analysis of the explosives used in the attack by forensic experts of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan had concluded that they originated from the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) in the northern Pakistani city of Wah.

It is no small coincidence that some of the grenades used in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were also traced back to the POF unit in Wah. The grenades were manufactured by POF under licence from an Austrian firm.

American officials also said at the time of the Kabul bombing that members of the Haqqani network, which is based in the North Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan, were involved in the attack. The suicide attack killed 58 people, including defence attaché Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta, Indian Foreign Service officer V. Venkateswara Rao, two Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel, and injured over 140.

Due to the alerts from US and Afghan intelligence, security at the Indian Embassy was strengthened before the attack. The suicide bomber struck just as the mission's main gate was opened to let in a car carrying Brigadier Mehta and the IFS officer.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised Pakistan's role in the attack with his then counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a SAARC summit in Colombo in August 2008. After initially agreeing to look into India's concerns, Pakistan later contended there was "no evidence" of ISI's involvement in the attack.

Gall writes in her book that the bombing of the Indian Embassy was not a "subtle attack needling an old foe" and the plan was to send "a message not just to India but to the 42 countries that were contributing to the NATO-led international force to rebuild Afghanistan".

Her book has already created a furore in Pakistan after an excerpt carried recently in The New York Times stated that the ISI ran a special desk to handle Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a US raid in Abbottabad in May 2011.

The book also claims there was regular correspondence between bin Laden and Pakistani jihadi leaders like Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.Pakistan denies these claims.

Bitter facts about Choudihry Rehmat Ali

Bitter facts about Choudihry Rehmat Ali

1.    Choudhry Rehmat Ali was the first person to coin the word Pakistan in his booklet, ‘Now or Never, We are to Live or Perish for Ever’.

2.    This booklet was published from the Cambridge University on 28 January 1933, and he presented it to Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

3.    Mohammed Ali Jinnah after reading it called it ‘a fool’s dream’.

4.    Mohammed Ali Jinnah reiterated that he would continue with his mission of forging a unity between Muslims and non Muslims.

5.    Later on Mohammed Ali Jinnah championed the cause of Pakistan, but abandoned it for a short period when he accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946.

6.    After creation of Pakistan, in April 1948, Choudhry Rehmat Ali also moved to Pakistan – a land of his dream.

7.    However, he soon developed some differences with the Muslim League government; and he was ordered by the government to leave Pakistan.

8.    He left Pakistan in October 1948 and settled in England, where he died on 3 February 1951.

9.    No one was there to even take responsibility for his funeral. This duty was performed by a Professor of the Cambridge University and he was buried on 20 February in a grave yard on New Market Road, Cambridge.