Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Dr Shabir Choudhry seeks help from UN Secretary General

Your Excellency, the UN Secretary General BAN Ki – moon

01 September 2016

Your Excellency, I appreciate your concern about human rights abuses in Kashmir. However, many people are still waiting to see what concrete steps your Excellency is planning to take to alleviate misery of the suffering Kashmiri people.

Your Excellency, whereas, the focus of attention has always been human rights abuses in Kashmir administered by India; people of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir living under Pakistani administration also continue to suffer since 1947.

It is possible that some may think that life, liberty and human rights of people of the Valley of Kashmir is more valuable than the poor souls living on the Pakistani side of the divide; however, we strongly feel that we are not a second class citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, and our honour, liberty and life is equally valuable.

Your Excellency I want to draw your attention to the UNCIP Resolution of 5 January 1949, section 7 reads:
All authorities within the State of Jammu and Kashmir will undertake to ensure in collaboration with the Plebiscite Administrator that:
(a) There is no threat, coercion or intimidation, bribery or other undue influence on the voters in plebiscite;

(b) No restrictions are placed on legitimate political activity throughout the State. All subjects of the State, regardless of creed, caste or party, shall be safe and free in expressing their views and in voting on the question of the accession of the State to India or Pakistan. There shall be freedom of the Press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit’;

Your Excellency, as you know, this Resolution and the UN Charter protects my fundamental rights, yet I am victimised by government of Pakistan because of my political views and political activities. Pakistan has banned my books which criticise Pakistan’s Kashmir policy, and oppose forces of extremism, violence, religious intolerance and hatred.

I actively, but peacefully promote fundamental human rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir, and help to create conducive environment in which people of Jammu and Kashmir feel safe to express their sentiments about the future of the forcibly divided State of Jammu and Kashmir. Government of Pakistan and their agencies do not appreciate what I do and they have unleashed a systematic campaign against me. I have become a victim of the Pakistani secret agencies who have made life very difficult for me.

They have influenced the system and blocked renewal of my Identity card. Application for the renewal was made on 12 June 2015. My father died on 29 September 2015, and because of issues related to non issuance of the NIC, I could not travel to Azad Kashmir (of course via Pakistan) with the dead body of my father where he was put to rest in our native village.

In Pakistan and Azad Kashmir without a valid National Identity Card or a NADRA Card one can face enormous problems; and one could face imprisonment too. Without this ID card I and my family faced, and continue to face serious problems related to inheritance of my late father’s property and bank balance. 
Denial of ID Card results in curbing of my following rights:
1/ Right to travel to my homeland;
2/ Right to bank, as my banks are froze;
3/ Right to meet my friends and relatives;
4/ Right to visit a grave of my late father;
5 Right to buy a property;
6/ Right to sell a property
7/ Right to inherit my father’s property etc.

Apart from that, and despite my rights, Pakistani secret agencies have activated their system, which has unleashed vicious and malicious propaganda against me to:
  • Defame me;
  • Alienate me from friends and family;
  • Hurt me financially; and
  • Pressurize me in hope that I will buckle under this hate campaign and family and friends pressure?
Urgent Appeal, reference: AHRC-UAC-150-2015 on December 30, 2015. The Urgent appeal stated:
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the National Database and Registration authority (NADRA), a state regulatory body, has refused to renew the National Identification card of Dr. Shabir Choudhry, allegedly on the instruction of the intelligence agencies. Dr. Shabir Choudhry, a Pakistani citizen, is a well known intellectual of the Kashmiri cause and prolific writer, and has courageously given voice to the struggle of Kashmiris on both side of the India-Pakistan border.

Dr. Choudhry was unable to travel to Pakistan to bury his father and attend his last rituals and is also facing extreme difficulty in obtaining his inheritance or power of attorney of the property left by his deceased father. The renewal application has been pending with NADRA since 12 June 2015. The embassy of Pakistan has been non cooperative in the matter, despite being approached repeatedly by the victim. No reason is given for the delay while the high commissioner and First Secretary Counsellor Section, of Pakistan High Commission London have been non committal in the matter. The victim was informed by the concerned authorities that his application was blocked for an unspecified reason.

(A complete copy of the Urgent appeal is attached for your consideration.)

The Asian Human Rights Commission wrote a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of the Human Rights of Migrants and UN High Commissioner for Refugees calling for their intervention into this matter. It is sad to note that I have not heard anything from them in this matter.

Your Excellency, I need your help in this matter, not only for my sake, but also for the sake of tens of thousands of other Kashmiri people who are suffering and do not know what to do. Also Your Excellency’s intervention in this matter will send a clear message that this breach of fundamental human rights will not be accepted by the UN and the world community.

I hope that Your Excellency will help me to highlight my case and support me in my fight against injustice. Below are details of my ID Card and ref number:
Tracking no for my application is: 503501064937; and my expired NIC no is: 811022-823762-1
Your Excellency, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Dr Shabir Choudhry

Saturday, 27 August 2016

CPEC confronts terrorism, BY DR AHMAD RASHID MALIK

CPEC confronts terrorism, BY DR AHMAD RASHID MALIK
How to make CPEC safe of terrorism is the biggest challenge. The CPEC has a long route of 3000 km from Gwadar to Kashgar, which means it requires unprecedented level of security and massive counter-terrorism measures at the highest level. Some say that Government has misplaced perceptions of its counter-terrorism measures and strategies and it has over-played its successes since 2013. Critics are referring to the debate in the National Assembly that took place on 10 August.
The road to security is still bumpy and much has to be done. They are India-Afghan centric notions of insecurity but Government’s counter-terrorism decision-makers should also look into the role of the third-party/parties with those having keen interests in Balochistan and CPEC to sabotage the multi-billion project.
The arrest of Kalbushan Yadav ahead of the Indo-Iranian pact of Chabahar should and must be an eye-opener but much has not been brought out after the initial reports were made. His direct involvement on Iran’s soil against Pakistan must not be treated as a mystery and an isolated event of RAW’s activities. It looks that after his arrest, no success was made and matter has gone into routine investigation business, which should not be the case.
The Quetta carnage of 8 August is yet another eye-opener. The blast killed 70 people and injured more than 125. While speaking to a high level security meeting in Quetta the same day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hinted out that enemies were “dismayed of the CPEC”.  He asked the army to take action against terrorists. The Army Chief General Raheel Sharif categorically said that the Quetta blast was made to sabotage CPEC. He said that Quetta attack was an attack on CPEC. The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) termed it a bid to destabilize CPEC projects.
In May, a blast hit the van of a Chinese engineer in Karachi. Although he was saved, the purpose was to create havoc against the life of Chinese workers participating in CPEC projects. The terrorist actions against Chinese workers were started right after the completion of the Gwadar Port. The Quetta blast did not target Chinese workers but it aimed at creating a general atmosphere against the CPEC as Balochistan is home to CPEC projects. Over 1300 km (or, a quarter of CPEC road connectivity) rests in Balochistan with Gwadar Port and Air Port as key to these projects.
Conspiracy theory cannot be ruled out. There are interests of regional players and big powers. There could be a number of possibilities of terrorist attack in Quetta. The India-Iran nexus has not been much explored by law enforcing authorities. Iran has its right to use Chabahar and to cooperate with India. One has to see if the Chabahar Pact has no implications for Pakistan’s security interests. The reports in Indian media are alarming.
Kalbushan Yadav’s case would largely determine the impacts of Chabahar on Pakistan. There is an Afghan connection and its NDS activities in Balochistan. There is a collaboration between NDS and RAW and this collaboration targets CPEC projects. Pakistan has to make efforts to expose the NDS-Raw nexus.
Another possibility could be China’s home gown East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Some of its elements might still be hiding inside Pakistan and in neighboring countries and they might be used to disrupt the CPEC projects by anti-CPEC elements.
The fourth factor could be role of the extra-regional powers and their allies in the Gulf that could be upset by the building of the Gwadar Port as it might damage their maritime commercial interests. All these involvements present the presence of the maritime great game in Gwadar to upset Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean.
The Quetta carnage and any terrorist attack in the country are interrelated with the CPEC. The Government should not “take full credit for decreasing terrorism” since June 2014 when Zarb-e-Azb was launched to take military action instead of talking to terrorists after the attack on the Karachi Jinnah International Air Port.
Terrorists have re-grouped themselves after their bankers were eliminated in South and North Waziristan and in other parts of the FATA area. Now they have specialised targets with their changed strategies. So far they have inflicted lost of losses deep inside in the country. They have attacked military bases, educational institutions, public parks, busses and railways and religious processions etc.
The Government should not take the “credit for lesser evils” compared to previous killings. Terrorism is terrorism. It is bad in all forms – more or less. To say that they have decreased terrorism shows the signs of a defeated mind. Terrorism should be rooted out completely without any consideration. It is equally bad to compare the number of terrorist-related killings to the previous regimes and compare it with the on-going regime. Do they know that this point squaring is dreadful and highly demoralised? They should refrain from doing so.
To politely remind the Government, there were attacks on air base at Badabair, naval dockyard in Karachi, and air ports at Karachi and Quetta during this regime and other military and security installations including Peshawar Army School, Bacha Khan University in Charsada and Ismails killings in Karachi. Imambargahs and churches were also targeted.
There are killings and high target people were killed even during 2013-16. Major-General Sanaullah Niazi lost his life in September 2013 in Swat. Punjab Interior Minister Shuja Khanzada lost his life in August 2014 in Attock and notable Qawal Amjad Sabri was shot dead in Karachi in June and so was SP Chaudhary Aslam who lost his life in Karachi January 2014. Now we have Quetta hospital blast. Government should not take “credit for lesser evils”. It should take actions against terrorists. Otherwise, they know the result better than these analyses.
The Quetta blast asks many questions. How many terrorists were apprehended and brought to the gallows so far? Is our counter-terrorist policy successful? How many terrorists were brought to the Military Courts for justice? Only 40 of them were brought to the Military Courts. Is just 36 number of hanging is enough to end terrorism in the country when over 80,000 lost their lives, says a report of the international physicians organisations? There are no flaws in the National Action Plan (NAP)? All is good is not a good policy. Senses should work more effectively than policies. It is as simple.
There should be no “praise” or “hate- game” as for the role of agencies and law enforcers are concerned. They are Government functionaries and their task is to eliminate terrorism. It is natural that people criticise their role when such inhuman incidents take place. Should they praise the Interior Ministry that only 70 people were killed? Let’s be sensible to such critical national catastrophes.

Modi stumps Pak again- Govt announces enhanced compensation for terror victims, PoK residents can apply too

Modi stumps Pak again- Govt announces enhanced compensation for terror victims, PoK residents can apply too
The Centre today announced enhanced compensation for civilian victims of terror and said that Pakistan Occupied Kashmiris could apply too.
Kamaljit Kaur Sandhu  by Yashaswani Sehrawat
New Delhi, August 24, 2016 |
·         1
Centre announces enhanced compensation for terror victims.
·         Say Pakistan Occupied Kashmiris could claim too.
·         Compensation increased from Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.
The Modi government has announced enhanced compensation for civilian victims of terror and have said that Pakistan Occupied Kashmiris, who are also our people, can claim this compensation too.
This comes days after Narendra Modi raised the issue of Balochistan, Gilgit and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in his Independence Day speech.
Minister of state for PMO, Jitendra Singh, announced compensation for civilian victims and said "Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmiris are an important part of India and they can also claim such a compensation."

He said, "By the virtue of the Constitution of India, rules also apply in that part of the country which is occupied by Pakistan. Those residents are also our people and are victims of similar condition."

The statement comes after Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Modi, gave its approval to enhance the grant of compensation to the civilian victims under the scheme titled "Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/ Communal/Left Wing Extremist (LWE), Cross Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory".

The compensation had been increased from Rs 3 lakhs to Rs 5 lakhs.
1.    For the first time, civilian victims of cross border firing along the Indo-Pak border will be given a compensation of Rs 5 lakh similar to those who die due to terrorism or LWE violence.
2.    The decision to give compensation to the victims of cross border firing and enhancing the amount was taken by the government today.

3.    From now on, any civilian who dies anywhere in the country due to terror attack, LWE violence, firing from across the border, shelling or IED explosion will be given Rs5 lakh as compensation uniformly.

4.    The amount will be given to the next of kin of the victim.
5.    Rs 5 lakh will also be given to those who receive 50 per cent or more disability or incapacitation due to the same reasons.

6.    The compensation amount will be given subject to the condition that no employment has been provided to any of the family members of the victims by state or Central Government.
7.    So far, the government has disbursed Rs 35.89 crore as compensation to civilian victims since the inception of this scheme first came in 2008.

From China with live - Chinese city hotels asked to turn away people from five Muslim countries

BEIJING: Police have ordered some low-end hotels in the Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou not to allow guests from five Muslim-majority countries to stay, though China’s foreign ministry said it had never heard of the policy.
Three hotels with rooms costing about $23 a night said they had received police notices as early as March, telling them to turn away people from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan.
“I’m not clear about the reason. We just can’t take them,” one hotel worker said by telephone.
The notice appears only to apply to chea­per hotels at the bottom of the price scale.
All of the five countries have been beset by terrorist attacks in the past few years, or in the case of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been in states of war.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said on Friday the rule appeared to be a security measure coinciding with a development forum being held in Guangzhou this week, and also ahead of next week’s G20 summit in Hangzhou, though the two cities are more than 1,000km apart.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he was not aware that such an order had been issued in Guangzhou. “I’ve never heard that there is this policy being followed in China,” Lu told a daily news briefing.
“Moreover, as far as China is concerned, our policy in principle is that we encourage people from China and other countries to have friendly exchanges and are willing to provide various convenient policies in this regard.”
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2016

Friday, 26 August 2016

Gilgit leader seeks UN help to break free from Pakistan

Gilgit leader seeks UN help to break free from Pakistan
Pakistan Telegraph (ANI) Monday 22nd August, 2016

Brussels (Belgium), Aug. 22 (ANI): Taking a strong exception to "grave" human rights situation in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB), Balawaristan National Front (BNF) chairman Abdul Hamid Khan has appealed to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the U.N., and the European Union (EU) to exert pressure on Pakistan to end the "illegal occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan" and withdraw its civilians and forces by fulfilling its obligations to the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions - which, he says, is the first step to "establish local authority".

In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last month, the BNF chairman, who is living in political asylum here, urged: "The U.N. should also ask Pakistan to end its illegal occupation of Chitral and Shenaki Kohistan (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), allowing the local people to rule their motherland as their birth right."

"If Pakistani atrocities against indigenous people continue uncontrolled, South Asia and rest of the civilised world, eventually, will have to face serious environmental and geopolitical consequences, besides human catastrophe, warned Khan, adding that two-million people of this disputed land have no way out, but expect and request

Your Excellency to intervene.

Presenting facts to buttress the grave human rights situation in Gilgit-Baltistan, the northernmost administrative territory, under Pakistan's illegal occupation, Khan claimed, "PoGB has been neglected by the U.N. since it had passed the UNCIP resolution on April 28, 1949, which asked Pakistan to withdraw its citizens and military within the period of three months.

"Due to this negligence on the part of U.N., Pakistan got emboldened to increase its violation of UNCIP-stated resolutions and committed more and more atrocities against two-million people of PoGB on one side, and raised hue and cry after sending its terrorists against the innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir on the other."
"Needless to mention that the whole Jammu and Kashmir issue, including PoGB, is political and not religious one under Pakistan's "illegal occupation," he added.

The BNF chairman then went on to present some excerpts derived from the official records of the UNSC on Gilgit-Baltistan and Jammu and Kashmir, under the UNCIP, which states: "All persons (other than citizens of the state), who on or since August15, 1947 have entered it for other than lawful purposes, shall be required to leave the state; there is no threat, coercion or intimidation, bribery or other undue influence on the voters in the plebiscite; no restrictions are placed on legitimate political activity throughout the state. There shall be freedom of press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the state, including freedom of lawful entry and exit; all political prisoners are released; minorities in all parts of the State are accorded adequate protection; and there is no victimisation."

Khan further said UNCIP Truce Terms also provided that "they should be without prejudice to the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the State of Jammu and Kashmir".

Quoting 177 Part III of the truce terms, which contained various general provisions, he said it established that "the territory evacuated by the Pakistan troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the commission.

"However, instead of initiating an immediate withdrawal of its citizens and forces, Pakistan has settled its citizens and multiplied its military personnel in the region by thousands of times more. Further, the people of PoGB have no right of vote in the 21st century. This is the plight of U.N.-declared disputed Gilgit-Baltistan under Pakistani illegal occupation, where political leaders are being treated as terrorists and real terrorists are actually free to torture and even kill political and religious opponents, who dare not to obey the enslaving orders of the occupying forces and their intelligence agencies," he alleged.

Khan contended that Pakistani laws cannot be legitimately applied to those who are not even Pakistani citizens by international law and by Pakistan's own constitution.
Alleging that there is no freedom of speech, right to peaceful political assembly, right to free travel and political activities, the BNF chairman claimed, "Nationalist political parties, which do not follow the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) guidelines are not allowed to perform political activities. Issuing death threats and intimidation to politically-affiliated human rights activists in the region has become a daily routine of the Pakistani occupation regime.

"Instead of releasing innocent detainees, who have no criminal records, Pakistan arrests, tortures and imprisons hundreds of political and religious activists and awards them death sentences and life imprisonments without giving them any access to a fair and lawful judicial system (like high court and Supreme Court). Occupation regime forces are awarded and promoted if they kill any indigenous person on religious or political basis."
Accusing Pakistan of violating territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the State of Jammu and Kashmir by giving 2,500 Sq mile area of Shimshaal, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan to China in 1963 to construct the Karakoram Highway (KKH) for its own military benefits, Khan said alleged that Pakistan annexed areas of PoGB bordering with Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, Chitral and Kohistan.

He also accused Pakistan of hatching a conspiracy to sell out the whole Gilgit-Baltistan to China under the pretext of China Pakistan Economical Corridor (CPEC) without taking the U.N. or the people of Gilgit-Baltistan into confidence.

"All the natural resources, including mines (Uranium and Gold etc.), forest and water resources and land have been snatched from the people by force and given to Pakistani citizens, Pakistani Army, ISI and Chinese by violating the UNSC resolutions," he alleged.

At the end, he stated, "Two-million people of this disputed land have no way out, but expect and request Your Excellency to intervene." (ANI)

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A message for Gilgit Baltistan, by Senge Hasnan Sering

A message for Gilgit Baltistan, by Senge Hasnan Sering 
Prime Minister Modi’s recent statements could help end the troubled region’s long international isolation.  August 24, 2016
The fact that the Indian Constitution recognises the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as its citizens is often lost in the continuing stalemate in Kashmir

At the all-party conference in New Delhi, and later in his August 15 Independence Day address to the nation, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, referred to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). On both occasions, Modi also talked about human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Balochistan. His statement came a day after Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, dedicated his country’s Independence Day celebrations to the freedom of Kashmir from Indian rule.

PM Modi’s statement was well-received by Indian political parties including the Indian National Congress. The current Bangladesh government and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai supported the statement, causing concern in Pakistan’s leadership circles. On Thursday, August 19, India announced a five-point agenda to resume talks with Pakistan, one of which proposes a discussion on the vacation of Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK.

Pakistan has responded to India’s approach with staged demonstrations in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan condemning Modi. As expected, Gilgit-Baltistan’s assembly on Friday passed a resolution against the Indian Prime Minister’s statement.
The president of Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Gilgit-Baltisan chapter, reiterated that despite systematic and widespread human rights violations and neglect, the majority of the people of this disputed region would still opt to become Pakistani citizens. In Skardu, teachers brought students as young as six-year-old to the streets to raise anti-India slogans, which points to state indoctrination against the neighbouring country. One government official, Shams Mir, while addressing a rally in Gilgit, vowed to turn the protesting children into suicide bombers against India.

Instead of building colleges and universities in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s establishment keeps the region’s students ignorant by spreading myths and uses them as foot soldiers against India, USA and Afghanistan. Distorting the worldview of children is creating a damaged collective psyche with lasting implications for Gilgit-Baltistan and its neighbours. Equally responsible are the local teachers who promote the colonial policy of political indoctrination and incitement to violence, and squander the opportunity to educate students about the constitutional framework, or the lack thereof, which bars Gilgit-Baltistan from becoming a part of Pakistan.

It is telling that no locals organised a procession against the Pakistani establishment which repeatedly refuses to accept Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of the country. While Pakistani occupiers expect the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to spew venom against India, they shamelessly block basic constitutional rights enjoyed by the people of Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu to the locals.

Our leadership could serve Gilgit-Baltistan and its people better by exposing Pakistan’s illegal occupation, as well the military and its apparatus of terror networks which have massacred thousands of people in the name of religion and burned our villages to alter local demography through force. Similarly, real patriotism would be to condemn and protest against Pakistani rulers for illegally transferring thousands of kilometres of Gilgit-Baltistan’s land to China which originally belongs to the Hunza and Shigar districts.

Pakistani media might not agree with this assessment, but the majority of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would expect their elected representatives to expose the culprits in the government and military who incarcerate our youth for demanding rights, loot our natural resources, encroach upon our private lands to build the China-led economic corridor (CPEC), hurt local cultural identity and national character through a policy of assimilation and block our trade routes towards Ladakh to impose economic isolation and dependence. Such policies only expose the double standards of Pakistan’s rulers who routinely advocate better trade relations with India through Punjab.

The fact that the Indian Constitution recognises the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as its citizens is often lost in the continuing stalemate in Kashmir. The failure on the part of previous Indian governments to address this crucial reality and engage the people of Gilgit-Baltistan has in many ways led to the continued impasse in the region. The statement of PM Modi is in keeping with his constitutional duty as head of the government and provides a fresh opportunity to resolve a conflict that is holding back the entire region.

The international community must recognise that Pakistan’s interference in the engagement between the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Indian government and UN staff puts it in conflict with the UN mechanisms which it so often cites.

UN resolutions call on Pakistan to withdraw from the occupied regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur and Muzaffarabad (PoK) and India to engage with stakeholders, which must include the leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan. If India wants to see resolution on this long-standing regional issue, it must directly engage the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and implement confidence-building measures (CBMs) specific to Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan. At the same time, the activists of Gilgit-Baltistan should not hesitate from contacting the leadership in Jammu and Ladakh to iron out misunderstandings.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan must realise that Modi is ending Gilgit-Baltistan’s long international isolation. The statement by itself does not show a policy change but Modi’s message is clear: Gilgit-Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir are all equal stakeholders and the issue cannot be solved by focusing on Kashmir alone. It is a positive sign that India is advancing a policy to address the region’s constitutional question by bringing Gilgit-Baltistan on par with Kashmir at the negotiating table.

The writer is the Washington DC-based Director of the Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, a diaspora group formed in 2010 to raise awareness of rights violations in the G-B region.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Balochistan - The Troubled Heart of the CPEC, By Usman Shahid

Balochistan - The Troubled Heart of the CPEC
By Usman Shahid August 23, 2016
China’s push to materialize its “One Belt, One Road” dream in South Asia demands empirical study of the political role Beijing envisages in the region, especially in Pakistan. China’s western neighbor, Pakistan, was one of the the first countries where China began its OBOR project, under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a series of projects that stands to connect the Asian giant to Central Asia and Europe in the long run. CPEC will connect China’s largest province, Xinjiang, with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan, the largest and most impoverished province of Pakistan. Balochistan has been under attack by separatists, insurgents, and Islamic militants – now including the Islamic State (ISIS) – for over a decade.
Insurgency and armed conflicts in Balochistan are not a new phenomenon. The violence dates back to late 19th century when Balochistan came under the administration of the British empire. During the early 20th century, Balochistan strove to become a “British free” region; later on, it was forcibly annexed by newly founded Pakistan in 1948. The inhabitants of the mineral rich area, constituting one-third of Pakistan’s total area of 800,000 square kilometers, are still striving for provincial autonomy as promised by the father of the nation and the constitution of Pakistan. However, continuous suppression by the federal government through military might has turned this quest into a separatist movement. (For a quick understanding of the recent conflict, readers may want to read “The Balochistan Conflict: 10 key points” published by the Times of India.)
Today, the main questions that arise from the continue violence are twofold. Who is causing the unrest? And who will benefit?
Violence in Balochistan: A Conspiracy Against CPEC?
In February 2013, Pakistan awarded operational contract of Gwadar port to China amid American pressure to look for alternatives. This port is a linchpin for China’s dream of OBOR, providing the Maritime Silk Road with a link to the Arabian Sea. The port at the mouth of the Persian Gulf provides China with the shortest route to the oil rich Middle East, Africa, and most of the Western hemisphere. Gwadar will have the estimated capability to handle to 19 million tons of crude oil per year, which will be sent to China after being refined at the port.
The attraction of Gwadar port is the main reason for China to build a 2,000 km of road and rail infrastructure worth $10.63 billion in Pakistan, stretching from Gwadar to eventually connect with Kasghar. Moreover, a network of gas pipelines will be set up to finally connect Pakistan with Iran. Tehran has already completed its part, as per a 2013 deal, and is waiting for Pakistan to finish its section. This was originally envisioned as a so-called peace pipeline among Iran, Pakistan, and India but it now seems China will replace India and feed its energy hungry industry with Iranian gas.
India greatly opposes the proposed CPEC route and development at Gwadar port mainly for two reasons. First, the planned route passes through the controversial territories of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir between India-China and India-Pakistan respectively. Second, India fears that Gwadar will double as a Chinese naval base. Despite clarifications from China and Pakistan that the port will be used only for economic purposes, India is still wary of developments in Gwadar, fearing that it will give the Chinese navy access to Indian Ocean.
Mirroring previous statements, India’s foreign minister in a recent meeting with her Chinese counterpart stressed that India would “resolutely oppose” CPEC because it passes through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which India claims to be its territory. Last year, India’s prime minister termed the corridor “unacceptable” for the same reason.
As a substitute to Gwadar, India has invested in Iran’s Chabahar port, just 72 km from its rival port. In May 2016, India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed a trade corridor deal giving India land access to Central Asia from Chabahar, bypassing Pakistan. The closest land route for India to access Central Asia is to the west, through Pakistan; however despite many bilateral efforts the two countries have yet to reach an agreement that would allow Indian trucks on Pakistani soil. Therefore, as an alternate though longer route, India will access Iran’s Chabahar from the sea, and from there its goods will enter Afghanistan and eventually Central Asia and Russia. Moreover, Afghanistan will now have access to Indian Ocean, which was not possible without passing through Pakistan earlier.
What do these grand geopolitical plans have to do with Balochistan’s militant and separatist movements? According to Pakistani officials, everything. Andrew Small, in his book The China-Pakistan Axis, maintains that the biggest concern for the Chinese is growing terrorism in the region, especially in its most trusted ally Pakistan, where Beijing has agreed to invest $46 billion for CPEC. That means a rise in violence may be the most effective way to scare Beijing off the ambitious plan. And Islamabad has repeatedly accused India and other foes of CPEC of fomenting attacks with just that goal in mind.
On August 8, a blast in Balochistan’s capital, Quetta, killed at least 95 people. The same day Pakistan’s prime minister and army chief visited the injured and labeled the attack an attempt to sabotage CPEC in an official statement. Balochistan’s chief minister accused India’s intelligence agency RAW of being behind the attack whereas national media linked the bombing to “India backed Afghanistan.”
However, Islamabad offered no statement regarding an official document issued in July, which stated that1,000 bullet ridden corpses were found in Balochistan during last six years. This discrepancy gives a clear indications of what concerns government the most in the province.
The Pakistani government claims that Baloch separatists receive training in camps in Afghanistan established by India. Balochistan also borders the tribal area of Pakistan, where forces are combating Islamic terrorists with their own links to Afghanistan.
Historically, the separatist and anti-state elements in Balochistan have also been linked to Afghanistan and India. In 1970s, Afghan President Daoud Khan established militant camps in his country to train Baloch separatists. This continued to be the case until President Hamid Karzai’s government, when he assured Islamabad that Afghan soil would not be used against their neighbor. However, Pakistan continuously accused the Indian embassy in Afghanistan of funding militants against Pakistan. The recent wave of terrorism in Balochistan has brought this blame game back.
The Pakistani leadership has publicly accused India and Afghanistan of involvement in insurgency and terrorism in Balochistan for decades. Interestingly, now it has also linked such activities to Iran, whose Sistan province borders Balochistan. The only land route that connects both countries travels through these regions. Pakistan is not happy with growing bilateral ties between its old rival India and old friend Iran, especially given the potential impact on CPEC.
On March 25, while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was on his maiden foreign visit to Pakistan, law enforcement agencies disclosed the arrest of an alleged RAW spy, Kulbhushan Yadav. Pakistani authorities claimed Yadav had entered Pakistan from Iran and was actually arrested on March 3. The Indian government admitted that Yadav was a former naval officer, but denied any involvement with him. Pakistan’s government claimed that he was an “Indian spy” assigned to sabotage CPEC, especially Gwadar port. However, both Iran and Pakistan clarified that the incident would not derail friendly ties between the two, saying the case would be probed and both sides would cooperate. Despite all the optimistic statements from the foreign offices of both countries, the Iranian president’s visit ended in vain.
Pakistan asserts that India is bent on sabotaging CPEC by funding and training anti-state elements in Balochistan. The claim is supported by India’s official concern over CPEC and a potential Chinese naval base in Gwadar to ensure Chinese maritime hegemony in Indian Ocean. On India’s 70th independence day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi added fuel to the fire. In his address to the nation, Modi said that Kashmiris and Balochs alike have thanked him for raising concerns regarding human rights violations by the Pakistani state in these territories. Pakistan termed the remarks as a proof of Indian meddling in its territory.
The U.S. and Balochistan
The U.S. Congress has also expressed concerns regarding human rights violations in Balochistan, making Pakistan wary of an intrusion into the Islamic Republic’s internal matters. Further, on the geopolitical stage, the United States is more supportive of India’s “Look East” policy than China’s OBOR and in past, Washington had proposed its own “New Silk Road” connecting South and Central Asia.
The U.S. House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs convened a congressional hearing on Balochistan on February 8, 2012. At the hearing, it was argued that Balochistan is under siege by the federal government and rights of the Balochs are restricted. Pakistan’s military was also accused of using “American arms” against their own people in Balochistan. The event’s chair, Dana Rohrabacher, has advocated for self-determination in Balochistan, even up to independence. As a result, Pakistan decried the Congressional hearing as direct interference in its internal affairs.
Given the U.S. track record of meddling in the internal affairs of many countries under the guise of human rights, Islamabad assumes that the U.S. agenda in Balochistan is far greater that just human rights violations. The United States, as a stabilizer of the balance of power in Asia, has backed India as a potential competitor with China. The rivalry visibly surfaced when U.S.-backed India failed in its bid to be included in Nuclear Suppliers Group over Chinese opposition. India held China solely responsible for its failure.
Decades ago, the looming threat of Soviet expansion in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean convinced Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to offer President Richard Nixon the chance to establish a U.S. naval base at Gwadar. The idea was also supported by China. But apparently Washington could not understand the importance of the port — until China took it over. The port will open gateways for China to destinations where the United States is already present or intends to maintain its hegemony, including Central Asia and the Gulf States.
What Needs to Be Done?
Among all the speculations, apprehensions, assumptions, and accusations, Balochistan remains at the center. For a successful CPEC and a peaceful South Asian region, Balochistan’s importance has grown beyond all estimates. It is in the best interest of all stakeholders, especially the host country, to sensibly deal with the prevailing circumstances in Balochistan.
In the words of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi: “If ‘One Belt, One Road’ is like a symphony involving and benefiting every country, then construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the sweet melody of the symphony’s first movement.”
If this “sweet melody” is to entertain all, all stakeholders must make peace in Balochistan their mutual responsibility.
Usman Shahid is a Lahore based academic and regional policy analyst. He is co-author of the book Indo Pak People to People Contact: A Victim of National Insecurities.