Saturday, 14 March 2015

HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN SOUTH ASIA, Dr Shabir Choudhry explained situation of human rights in Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, in a seminar during 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 13 March 2015

Dr Shabir Choudhry explained situation of human rights in Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, in a seminar during 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council on 13 March 2015
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaikam and very good morning to you all.
It is sad to note that human rights situation is not getting better in South Asia. Be it in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan or in other countries of the region, state and non state actors are committing human rights abuses. Extremism, violence and religious intolerance is increasing; and people are denied of their fundamental rights.
People in position of power can always protect their rights; but ordinary people in society suffer the most, especially in a society where there are weak state institutions and no equality or rule of law. In undemocratic countries laws could be there, but there is no implementation and people continue to suffer.
This is more so in countries like Pakistan which has democracy in name only; and they continue to sponsor extremist policies and use non state actors as proxies to advance their agenda. The UN urge states and I quote:
‘To promote a culture of peace, justice and human development, ethnic, national and religious tolerance, and respect for all religions, religious values, beliefs or cultures by establishing and encouraging, as appropriate, education and public awareness programmes involving all sectors of society’. Unquote

Instead of promoting a culture of peace, ethnic and religious tolerance, in Pakistan we witness a policy of promoting extremism, terrorism and religious intolerance, where members of religious minorities are persecuted by fanatic religious groups; and authorities cannot even provide protection to these people, or prosecute the culprits because of fear of reprisals.

In some cases, some officials think what has happened to these victims is somehow justified because they believe in a different God; and what they practise is different to what they believe and practise. They hold these views because their minds are conditioned due to many years of negative propaganda against religious minorities. In this case, countries like India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan etc could also be held responsible for injustice and persecution of religious minorities.

Mr Chairman

First responsibility of a government is to protect life, property and liberty of all its citizens. However, when state patronage is available to promote extremism and terrorism; and terrorist groups are regarded as holy warriors and strategic assets, then ordinary people suffer. Even people with high status in society could also pay a big price for following a religion which is at variance with fanatics who are pursuing policies that are against interests of the ruling elite.

We people of Jammu and Kashmir State are forcibly divided; and suffer on both sides of the divide. We suffer when Pakistani trained militant uses his gun; or when a member of the Indian Para - military forces uses his gun. We suffer when Pakistani army uses guns on Line Of Control; and we also suffer when the Indian army use their guns. We are sandwiched between two competing countries; hence we are forcibly divided, occupied and oppressed.

On the Indian side of the divide, at least, people can express their views. They can criticise New Delhi, condemn their policies, hold public meetings and rallies, throw stones at them and even burn their national flag. On the Pakistani side of the divide we cannot even protest peacefully.

It must be made clear that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed; and we people of the former Princely State will have the final say on future of Jammu and Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir are not part of Pakistan; and we must have every right to express our opinion on that, and protest against imperialist policies of Islamabad.

Leaders of an alliance called, All Parties National Alliance held a peaceful public meeting in Gilgit to protest against wrong policies of Islamabad. No one was carrying guns or stones. No one burnt a Pakistani flag or even used derogatory language against Pakistani rulers, yet 19 leaders who were present there were charged under seditions laws; among them include 3 leaders of Kashmir National Party.

Question is, if we are not legally part of Pakistan, and we feel we are occupied, then how could it be sedition to express our opinion on this matter?

Kashmir National Party leaders have decided to go back to Gilgit Baltistan in protest and challenge the authorities. It is possible that ruthless secret agencies and their proxies could eliminate these people or, at minimum, imprison them, just like they have jailed innocent people like Baba Jan on fake charges. Baba Jan and his colleagues were only demanding that people uprooted by floods should be rehabilitated. Authorities in this Pakistani colony did not like this, and they charged them for sedition and tried them in anti terrorist courts and imprisoned them.

Just imagine, a peaceful protest for rehabilitation of uprooted people is deemed as terrorism in this Pakistani colony; but killing of Salman Taseer, a Governor of Punjab by Mumtaz Qadri, a fanatic who was employed to protect his life, is not regarded as terrorism. How could one get justice and equality in a country like Pakistan, or anyone with common sense wish to accede to this country which has no future and with atrocious record on human rights?

Mr Chairman

Just like right of expression, a right to assemble and a right to travel is also a fundamental right. The authorities in Pakistan don’t allow this right to be exercised by those who criticise wrong policies of Pakistan which are designed to produce more extremists and terrorists. The prime example of this is in the case of Mr. Abdul Qadeer, known as Mama Qadeer, General Secretary of Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, Ms Farzana Majeed and one activist, Ms Faiqa Baloch from proceeding to New York, USA, to attend a conference on human rights violations in Balochistan and Sindh.

None of these people had any criminal record; nor they were required in any court of law, yet the democratic government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan abruptly put their names in the Exit Control List (ECL) without giving any reasons as to why they were put on ECL list.

When it comes to inequality and injustice no one can rival Pakistani officials; name of Faiqa Baloch was not included in the ECL, but she was also not allowed to travel to the USA. Message was loud and clear, how dare you go to the USA and talk about thousands of missing Balochi people, which will expose Pakistani policies in Balochistan and Sindh?

As I said earlier, Pakistani governments and their proxies have a great experience in creating extremisms and terrorists of future. By this heavy handedness and by application of Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and military courts, they will surely abuse fundamental human rights in various parts of Pakistan, in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan; however, it is certain that they will also create extremists and terrorists of future too.

Mr Chairman, I thank you.

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