Sunday, 14 September 2014

Extremism religious intolerance and human rights, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in Geneva during 27th Session of the UN Human Rights session.

Extremism religious intolerance and human rights, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in Geneva during 27th Session of the UN Human Rights session.    
12 September 2014
Mr Chairman

Peaceful co existence, tolerance and religious pluralism is cornerstone of Islamic faith, yet we see innocent people, Muslims and non Muslims killed in name of Islam in Pakistan and in many other countries around the globe. Holy Quran asserts:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error;” (2:256); however, despite this clear message of Quran forced conversions are taking place in Pakistan and lives of non Muslims are made hell.

Although Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan used name of religion to rally people behind him to create Pakistan; but after he accomplished his mission of dividing India and dividing Muslims of the Sub Continent he rejected religious intolerance. In his speech of February, 1948, Mr Jinnah asserted:

“Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.”

Source: Religious extremism in Pakistan, by Wasimul Haque
Mr Chairman
Despite this clear vision about the Pakistani society, it is unfortunate that the religious intolerance and hatred has spread in every sector of the Pakistani society, and in a country that was apparently created for Muslims, now even Muslims don’t feels safe here.

Critics may point out that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and religious hatred; but it is also true that the Pakistani establishment nourished, promoted and exported religious intolerance and terrorism. Their policy of promoting jihad and religious hatred in to other countries has come to haunt them; and one can only blame the Pakistani policy makers and religious groups for this.

In Pakistan, ‘Protection of Pakistan Ordinance’ was passed in 2013, which provided sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies. To human rights organisations and ordinary citizens this is a licence to abuse powers in various parts of Pakistan, so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, as no member of law enforcement agencies could ever be held responsible for their actions

Knowing the history and practise of the Pakistani law enforcing agencies they will use these unchecked powers to target nationalists seeking freedom from oppressive rule of Islamabad; and in this regard people of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir could specifically become their victims.

Furthermore, religious intolerance is becoming very serious threat in Pakistan and areas under their illegal control, for example, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Fanatic religious groups are not only harassing and intimidating other ethnic groups they are practically forcing people to convert to their version of Islam; and in some cases killing people and burning their houses.

On 9 June 2014, a group of 300 Shia Hazara Pilgrims who returned from Iran were attacked soon after they entered Pakistan. Heavily armed militants from Sunni Islamist group Jaish –Ul Islam stormed their hotel in Taftan and killed at least 30 innocent people that included 9 women and a child.

There is a long and sad history of targeting followers of Shia sect which is about 20 percent of the Pakistani population. They, like other ethnic minorities, are systematically hunted and killed, their houses and businesses burnt and destroyed.

Shias and other minorities in Gilgit Baltistan also face the same fate. Rulers in this area deliberately and systematically promote religious intolerance and hatred to divide people, which make the task of ruling this important region easier for Islamabad. People in Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir are denied of their fundamental rights.

Islamabad deliberately violated State Subject Laws and settled Pakistanis in Gilgit Baltistan to the detriment of the local people who are becoming a minority in certain areas. They are trying to provide some kind of legal cover to their illegal occupation of this region, which could change fundamental character of the Kashmir dispute.

Just like what they did in Gilgit Baltistan, now Islamabad has started violating State Subject Laws in so called Azad Kashmir; and increasingly people from Pakistan are allowed to settle in various parts of Azad Kashmir; and this policy will create enormous problems for us in future.

Mr Chairman

People of forcibly divided State of Jammu and Kashmir are denied their fundamental rights, and suffering on both sides of the Line of Control. Natural disaster in the form of very disastrous flood has enormously added to our miseries and problems. We appreciate the efforts to help the flood victims, but much more needs to be done.

Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi, on humanitarian grounds offered to help victims of the flood on the Pakistani side of the divide. It is normal practise that neighbours and other countries help victims of the natural disasters.

At the time of earth quake in Pakistani controlled Kashmir in 2005, the international community very generously sent help for the people through government of Pakistan. It is sad that most of the aid ended up elsewhere and Azad Kashmiri victims of the earthquake did not get what they were supposed to get. Thousands of people are still living in camps and are not yet rehabilitated.

It must be pointed out that as a direct result of the earthquake, lives of many Pakistani soldiers were in serious danger, and they could only be saved from the Indian side of the Line of Control. The Pakistan army allowed the Indian army to cross the LOC and save lives of the Pakistani army men. But when the Indian army expressed their desire to help and save lives of the civilians, Pakistani military officials flatly denied this on pretext of security. This attitude of senior Pakistani army officers shows that lives of ‘bloody civilians’ of Azad Kashmir were not important to them.

That aside, It is difficult to comprehend why offer of help from Prime Minister of India was rejected. India is a party to the Kashmir dispute; and has an important role in the region and beyond. Despite our differences on various issues with India and Pakistan, it is important to help each other when there is a natural disaster, because it is human duty; and it helps people to understand each other and brings communities close to each other.

So called Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, Choudhry Abdul Majeed, rejected this offer of help from India. We know that he does not have powers to take decisions of this nature. He was told by Islamabad what to do and what to say. What we need to understand is that Islamabad has huge economic problems; and they have millions of flood victims in their own country.

Above all they have a begging bowl in their hand and are not in a position to practically help us. If they don’t have sufficient resources to feed their own people, rehabilitate the flood victims in their own country; how on earth they will help flood victims of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan?

We can put our egos and political differences aside, and learn to cooperate with each other whenever there is a natural disaster. A starving man needs food, no matter who provides that. Religion of a donor is immaterial to the people who desperately need food, clean water, medicine and shelter. Suffering people, sick and old, and homeless families desperately need help; they are not interested in the size of ego of leaders, and political rights and wrongs. For once, we can leave politics and blame game aside, and make a joint effort to help the suffering people.

Mr Chairman,

To conclude I want to emphasis that struggle of people belonging to the State of Jammu and Kashmir is to regain their lost sovereignty, a sovereignty which they attained on 16 August 1947. We are not interested in any kind of accession. To accede or form some kind of union with another country is a right endowed to nation states. Our first priority is to achieve that goal; and we can think about our future relationship with India and Pakistan once we become an independent country.

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

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