Tuesday, 28 July 2015

India Pakistan Cross - LoC Trade A Low Hanging Fruit That Can Deliver

India Pakistan Cross - LoC Trade A Low Hanging Fruit That Can Deliver
By Afaq Hussain and Shakti Sinha*
The people of Kashmir are hopeful the PDP-BJP government, in power in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, will take up local concerns at the national level. The “Agenda for Alliance” released by the state government in March spoke about many issues, including political and developmental concerns. We would argue that one important issue deserves more detailed attention — the largely unexplored subject of “Cross-LoC Trade”.
In 2008, barter trade commenced across the Line of Control as part of a Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan. The measure is considered one of the most significant CBMs taken by the two countries in recent history. This was expected to enhance economic cooperation between the two sides of Kashmir and eventually between India and Pakistan. Though initially this trade was in the limelight and did serve its purpose, but over the last few years its benefits seem to have been clouded by other “considerations”. It is of utmost importance that government looks into cross-LoC trade from the lens of the Valley, for them to make astute policies that would deliver politically, socially and economically.
In recent years, the term LoC has often being referred to as Line of Commerce and even Line of Cooperation. This is not surprising as trade volumes have shown a substantial increase despite trade being on barter terms, lack of proper communication channels, absence of a banking system, dearth of legal enforcement of contracts and, limited number of trade days and tradable goods. LoC trade has expanded from US$0.3 million in 2008-09 to $97.2 million in 2011-12.
There is a need to build on this since the potential is immense. Interaction with traders bears this out. There is tremendous zeal amongst people on both sides to further cross-LoC linkages. Trade across the LoC would serve as a source of employment, especially for the local youth. Such linkages would also offer Kashmiris an opportunity to reunite and associate with family members and friends, despite being on opposing sides of the LoC line. The development of cross-LoC trade should, thus, be a major priority of the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) alliance as this trade offers a host of economic prospects to the state, in terms of employment generation, revenue generation and contributions to state GDP.
In addition to basic measures, increasing the number of vehicles, increasing the tradable commodities, promoting tourism and travel, fostering communication amongst people from both sides, encouraging greater stakeholder engagement — required to give LoC trade a boost, it is important to retain and preserve the character of the initiative. Conferences, consultations and talks focused on promoting cross-LoC trade usually dwell on the aforementioned measures but overlook the need to make the people of Kashmir feel that the government recognises the importance of this trade. The optics of such recognition cannot be underestimated.
Undoubtedly, the six-decade-long Kashmir dispute has had tremendous human and economic cost. Cross-LoC trade deserves serious and immediate attention because the short and long term impact of trade across divided Jammu and Kashmir would have major implications for the region. Based on repeated interactions with numerous stakeholders, it becomes clear that if both national governments give this trade proper attention and focus, it has the potential to reap positive economic benefits to the state and, in the long run, to the two nations.
At a geo-strategic and micro level, the importance of LoC trade needs to be understood in the context of the free flow of trade raising prosperity levels of people on both sides of the LoC and enabling them to become key stakeholders in the peace process. At a macro level, the governments can use this as a means of mitigating the long drawn out conflict in the region. Economic benefits have always served as a means of powerful conflict resolution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emphasizing the importance of trade and greater regional integration. The LoC trade fits in completely with his agenda. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on the same page in recognising the importance of bilateral trade. Despite the recent flare-up on the LoC, the need to build on the Ufa summit is important. A peaceful border and neighbourhood will ultimately help the development agenda of India.
Governments on both sides should use the prospering cross-LoC trade to provide the much-needed boost to the presently latent India-Pakistan relationship. It would call for courage and imagination. Recent developments in the larger neighbourhood, particularly on the subcontinent’s northwest, offers both hope and challenge. Stated positions would have to be discarded and agility shown both in taking advantage of unexpected openings and in countering adverse trends. Strengthening cross-LoC trade is a relatively low-hanging fruit that would deliver domestically and externally.
*Afaq Hussain is Director and Shakti Sinha is Chair – Policy Research Group Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic Fundamentals, New Delhi. They can be reached at editor@spsinida.in

Asia’s New Geopolitics Takes Shape Around India, Japan and Australia

Asia’s New Geopolitics Takes Shape Around India, Japan and Australia
Japan, India, and Australia will be instrumental in determining Asia’s fate in the 21st century.
New configurations in Asian geopolitics are emerging thick and fast. Last month saw the initiative of a new trilateral involving India, Japan, and Australia when Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar met his Australian counterpart and the Japanese vice foreign minister. Japan will also be a part of bilateral India-U.S. annual naval exercises–the Malabar–slated to be held over the next few months. Though Japan has participated in these exercises in the past as well, this will be only the second time when Japan will join these exercises in the geostrategically critical Indian Ocean region.
There is a growing convergence in the region now that the strategic framework of the Indo-Pacific remains the best way forward to manage the rapidly shifting contours of Asia. Proposed first by Japan and adopted with enthusiasm by Australia under the Tony Abbott government, in particular, the framework has gained considerable currency, with even the U.S. now increasingly articulating the need for it. Though China views the framework with suspicion, many in China are acknowledging that the Indo-Pacific has emerged as a critical regional space for India and China needs to synchronize its policies across the Indian Ocean region and the Pacific.
These developments underscore the changing regional configuration in the Indo-Pacific on account of China’s aggressive foreign policy posture as well as a new seriousness in India’s own China policy. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to Japan and Australia has been a significant part of his government’s foreign policy so far as strong security ties with Tokyo and Canberra are now viewed as vital by Delhi.
China’s increasing diplomatic and economic influence, coupled with domestic nationalistic demands, has led to an adjustment of its military power and the adoption of a bolder and more proactive foreign policy. From China’s unilateral decision in 2013 to extend its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a contested maritime area in the East China Sea overlapping with the already existing Japanese ADIZ to announcing new fishing regulations for Hainan province in January 2014 to ensure that all foreign vessels need fishing permits from Hainan authorities to operate in more than half of South China Sea, the list of assertive moves has been growing in recent years. China’s land reclamation work in the Spratly Islands has been the most dramatic affirmation of Beijing’s desire to change the ground realities in the region in its favor. This has generated apprehensions about a growing void in the region to balance China’s growing dominance.
With the U.S. consumed by its own domestic vulnerabilities and never ending crises in the Middle East, regional powers such as India, Japan, and Australia have been more proactive than in the past in managing this turbulence. The new trilaterals emerging in Asia go beyond past attempts at rudimentary joint military exercises. In December 2013, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted its first bilateral maritime exercise with the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean Region. With growing strategic convergence between the two, in 2014 India invited the JMSDF to participate in the annual Malabar exercises with the U.S. Navy in the Pacific waters.
India and Japan have an institutionalized trilateral strategic dialogue partnership with the United States, initiated in 2011. Maintaining a balance of power in the Asian-Pacific as well as maritime security in the Indo-Pacific waters has become an important element of this dialogue. A similar dialogue exists between the U.S., Japan, and Australia. And now a new trilateral involving India, Japan, and Australia has joined these initiatives, which can potentially to transform into a ‘quad’ of democracies in the Indo-Pacific region. The roots of this potential partnership were laid as early as late-2004, when navies from the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia collaborated in tsunami relief operations all across the Indian Ocean.
Japan was one of the earliest vocal supporters of such initiatives. In 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his earlier stint as prime minister, lobbied for Asia’s democracies to come together in a ‘quadrilateral.’ This was also actively supported by the United States. Such an initiative resulted in a five nation naval exercise in Bay of Bengal in September 2007. However, China, perceiving a possible ganging-up of Asia’s democracies, issued demarches to New Delhi and Canberra, causing this initiative to lose steam, since both Australia and New Delhi felt it unwise to provoke China. However, as China becomes more aggressive in the region, there are signs that India and Australia may be warming up to the idea again.
The uncertainty of Chinese power and intentions in the region as well as the future of American commitment to maintaining the balance of power in Asia rank high in the strategic thinking of regional powers. This rapidly evolving regional geopolitics is forcing Asia’s middle powers – India, Japan and Australia – to devise alternative strategies for balancing China. Though still continuing their security partnership with the United States, these powers are actively hedging against the possibility of America’s failure to eventually balance China’s growing power. Asia’s geopolitical space is undergoing a transformation. While China’s rise is the biggest story still unfolding, other powers are also recalibrating and their influence will be of equal, if not greater, consequence in shaping the future of global politics in the Asia-Pacific.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Pakistan’s sedition sweep in Gilgit Baltistan, Umar Farooq

Pakistan’s sedition sweep in Gilgit Baltistan, Umar Farooq | 20 Jul 2015 
Dozens of activists have been charged with sedition for calling for greater self-rule in the mountainous region.
Gilgit, Pakistan -  The Pakistani government appears to be cracking down on dissent in Gilgit-Baltistan, a mountainous region of vital importance to Pakistan's alliance with China.
Since last October, more than 50 activists have been charged with sedition for calling for greater self-rule in the region, which is controlled by Pakistan but claimed by India.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China, Afghanistan, and Kashmir, has not been granted full constitutional status by Islamabad - meaning that it is not an official province, and that its residents cannot vote in national elections.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was given a red-carpet welcome when he visited Pakistan this April.
The two countries signed a series of memoranda to build highways, power plants, gas pipelines, and an expansion of the port of Gwadar on the Indian Ocean, which Beijing hopes will become a major outlet for its burgeoning manufacturing industry.
China is expected to pour more than $46bn into the projects, which are the largest foreign investment that cash-strapped Pakistan has ever seen.  

Islamabad and Beijing have had a military alliance since the 1960s, when the countries' armies built the Karakoram Highway connecting China's western Xinjiang province with Gilgit-Baltistan, which was called the Northern Areas until 2009.
Pakistan has used the region to launch several offensives in an attempt to wrest control of Indian-held territory in neighbouring Kashmir.

In 1963, Pakistan ceded part of the region to China - much to the chagrin of India, which has fought a war with Beijing over control of the area.

India maintains that Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Kashmir, and belongs to it. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions have called for a plebiscite in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir to determine their political status, and a small contingent of international military observers maintain a presence in Gilgit and Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
A trade route for China
Throughout its conflict with India, Pakistan has found China to be its only local ally, and India has long accused the two countries of building the Karakoram Highway to allow the movement of troops in the region. 

The highway will become the main artery for the planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of roads for transporting Chinese goods through Pakistan.
These development plans, argue activists in Gilgit-Baltistan, is why Islamabad is anxious to squelch dissent from residents of the region.

"China wants to send its goods through here, and Pakistan is looking for its own benefits," claimed Baba Jan, one of hundreds of political activists in Gilgit-Baltistan who have found themselves at the centre of the government crackdown in the region.
I hold a Pakistani ID card, but I cannot vote for people in parliament. I cannot become prime minister or a member of parliament. I do not fit the description of a citizen, according to the constitution.
Israr-ud-din Israr, HRC
Last year, Jan was among 12 people who were given multiple life sentences by a special anti-terrorism court, which was set up to prosecute the Taliban and al-Qaeda, for charges that include sedition against the state.

The sentences came in response to protests that took place in the town of Aliabad in 2012, which criticised Islamabad for not following through on promises to provide aid to those displaced by a landslide a year earlier.
Police killed two men trying to disperse the protesters, triggering riots in which residents burned down dozens of government buildings in the region. Jan and more than 100 others were arrested, and Islamabad initially threatened to prosecute all of them in anti-terrorism courts for sedition.

"There is a fundamental right to protest in Pakistan, but it is not being given to us," Jan told Al Jazeera from his prison cell in the city of Gakuch, where he is awaiting a ruling in an appeals court.
"We were never violent. We just stood in the road and talked to people," Jan said.
This June, Jan ran his election campaign for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly from his prison cell, coming in second place.

The polls drew criticism from India, which called them "an attempt by Pakistan to camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation of the region".
Pakistan, in turn, levelled the same charges against India, saying troops maintained an "illegal hold" on its portion of neighbouring Kashmir, and that polls there were "sham elections" held "at gunpoint" that violated UN resolutions maintaining the region was disputed territory. 

More than 400 candidates stood for election last month to the 24-seat assembly, which has no powers to legislate important matters like how the region's natural resources are used, or how trade with neighbouring China is conducted.

A central issue was the new China corridor, which Jan, along with a handful of other activists who ran for the assembly, see as a slight to locals.
"They should have asked people what they want," said Jan. "Our environment will be destroyed. The local people were not given any option to give their input." 

Naeem, a truck driver in Gilgit, was also unhappy about the plan. "What are we going to get from this deal? We can't even control our own border. Pakistan will collect customs from China, and it will go to Islamabad."
'Making chutney' 
In the lead-up to the polls, more than 50 activists were arrested and charged with sedition, said Israr-ud-din Israr, the local representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan .
Israr argued that the charge of sedition itself makes no sense in Gilgit-Baltistan, since Pakistan's constitution makes no mention of the region, and in international fora Islamabad maintains that the region is part of the dispute with India over Kashmir.

Because of its disputed nature, Giglit-Baltistan has not been made a province, so the only laws that apply there are those extended by the prime minister.

Spokespeople for the Pakistani prime minister's office and the foreign ministry did not respond to queries from Al Jazeera. The Ministry of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs, which manages the region, refused to give a comment also, as did local officials, including the District Commissioner, the highest local officer.

"How can there be sedition here?" asked Israr. 
"I hold a Pakistani ID card, but I cannot vote for people in parliament. I cannot become prime minister or a member of parliament. I do not fit the description of a citizen, according to the constitution," Israr stated. 
Kashmir's economy shattered by conflict
Last October, Israr and nine others were charged with sedition after they led a march to the UN observer's office in Gilgit to deliver a letter calling for the organisation to look into the arrest of Bab Jan and other activists, whom they termed "political prisoners". 

The case against Israr and the others was thrown out by an appeals court, but the campaign picked up steam.
This February, 19 people who spoke at a seminar in Gilgit entitled "Gilgit-Baltistan in Light of the Kashmir Dispute" were arrested and  charged with sedition, because they referred to the region as a "disputed" territory.   

This June, eight activists were 
 beaten and arrested  by police as they attempted to deliver a letter to the UN observers in Gilgit calling the planned elections "illegal", and demanding a plebiscite be held to determine the region's political status. 

"India and Pakistan are making chutney with us," said Jan. "No one cares about the people here, their economy, their real problems."
Source: Al Jazeera

Eastern CPEC route unfeasible -report

By Shahbaz Rana    July 26, 2015
By preferring a route that passes through Punjab and Sindh rather than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the federal government is artificially inflating the cost of the China-Pakistan economic corridor, to the point where it may become economically unviable, claims a report studying the matter issued by the Balochistan government.
The report, titled “China Pakistan Economic Corridor: The Route Controversy”, addresses what Quetta feels is Islamabad’s lack of consistency on the matter, and its failure to take into account the needs and desires of all federating units of the country. The matter could get politically inconvenient for the federal government, since Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch’s National Party is an ally of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz.
However, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal claims that the report is one-sided and did not take into account the views of what he feels is the main stakeholder in CPEC: the federal government.
The report was prepared by the chief minister’s Policy Reform Unit, headed by economist Kaiser Bengali. It analyses the viability of the three CPEC routes based on three parameters: population density, total area under cultivation along the routes and total production of four major crops. These parameters become the base for determining the cost of land acquisition and displacement of population, the socio economic benefits and the environmental impact.
Pakistan has identified three routes for Chinese cargo: the eastern alignment (passing mainly through central Punjab and Sindh), the central route (passing partly through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and hitherto unconnected parts of Punjab and Sindh) and the western alignment (passing through the relatively underdeveloped areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan).
The provincial government claimed that “despite denials the route has been changed to pass through central Punjab”, Islamabad is primarily focusing on the eastern corridor.
The districts along the preferred eastern route are the most densely populated, having large swathes of land under cultivation and is the main source of production of four major crops, according to the report. All these factors will increase the construction cost. By comparison, the western route is thinly populated and the land is mainly barren.
The comparison between the three routes implies that the eastern route is economically unviable, claims the report.
By selecting the eastern route, the government is trading off today’s security risks with provincial discord and political instability in the future, the report stated.
However, Iqbal said that the central route was the shortest one. “The eastern alignment part of Peshawar-Karachi motorway serves the major markets, industrial areas and most populated centres of the country,” said Iqbal. He said the CPEC concept is not to create a “container-in, container-out” economy but rather help make the country a regional manufacturing hub.
The report argues that the pre-existing sections are likely to save time and cost are not tenable, as most sections will have to be widened and re-laid to cater to the volume and load of the traffic.
CPEC trail
The report finds the traces of the CPEC in the mid-2000s when the Planning Commission made a presentation to the then-president Pervez Musharraf and prime minister Shaukat Aziz. It was then called the “Trade, Energy, Transport and Industrial Corridor”. The Musharraf Administration had identified the central route for creating surface transport connectivity between Gwadar and Kashgar in China.
The report also challenged the government’s claim that it will build all the three alignments. “The resources to build all three routes are not available and China would certainly not allocate resources to pander to political disagreements in Pakistan,” it added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2015.

Roof of the World rebels against Pakistan, Aljazeera

Roof of the World rebels against Pakistan, Aljazeera
Gilgit, Pakistan - Escalating protests in villages perched on the "Roof of the World" - a mountainous territory disputed between Pakistan and India - have exposed deep animosity towards Islamabad.

After 67 years of control by the Pakistani government, many local people want the country to either accept them as a new province - or grant them independence.
Pakistan's authorities have responded to the unrest - sparked by poor public services and anger at corruption - with a brutal crackdown.

"The problem is in the system - it's a colonial system. The laws come from Islamabad and we have to live under them," Nazir Ahmed, a local lawyer who helped organise the protests, told Al Jazeera.

'Massive corruption'
The two hundred thousand residents of Ghizer district now have an ambulance, a crucial service in a region where the nearest hospital is a precarious five hour drive along narrow roads hugging cliff faces thousands of feet above fast-moving rivers.

Two weeks ago, hundreds of residents converged to besiege government offices, demanding that officials provide an ambulance and basic medical facilities.
Ghizer has no surgeon or gynaecologist, and just one female health worker.

Similar unrest has erupted in villages across Gilgit-Baltistan in protests that began with calls for an end to government corruption.

"There is massive corruption, and no one here is answerable," said Ahmed, who adds that the struggle for better medical facilities is just the beginning.

The protests have been met with a brutal crackdown by authorities, who are using special courts to prosecute 'terrorists' and who have jailed hundreds on charges of sedition and 'terrorism'.

In April, hundreds of thousands of protesters held an 11-day sit-in in Gilgit's legislative assembly after Islamabad threatened to end a wheat subsidy established in 1972 to match a similar package in India-administered Kashmir.
The protesters won back the subsidy but their other demands, including self-rule for Gilgit-Baltistan, have yet to be met.

"Pakistan is seeking that the United Nations solve the Kashmir dispute, and is unwilling to officially integrate Gilgit-Baltistan into its political system," said Ahsan Ali, the head of the Gilgit-Baltistan High Court Bar Association, and an expert on constitutional law in the region.
Disputed territory
The Roof of the World is part of a pre-1947 Kashmir, claimed by Pakistan and India and home to the only land route to the Indian Ocean for Pakistan's closest ally in the region, China.
The territory is home to 12 of the 30 highest peaks on Earth, and its massive glaciers are the source of water for most of the Indian subcontinent.
Since independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought several wars over the status of Gilgit-Baltistan - part of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir - and the rest of disputed Kashmir to its east.
According to binding resolutions from the UN, a plebiscite is to be held to determine whether the region is to join India or Pakistan, or become an independent state, but this has yet to happen, leaving millions in legal limbo.
Pakistan has not constitutionally integrated Gilgit-Baltistan into its political system because it believes the area could one day prejudice the plebiscite vote to settle the Kashmir dispute with India.
This legislative assembly...we feel is powerless. All the power is in Islamabad. Until this [Advisory] Council in Islamabad, which has all the power... until their power is transferred to the [Legislative] Assembly here, we feel the problems here cannot be solved.
Afrasiab Khan Khattak, Senator and head of Senatorial committee on Human Rights
No taxation without representation
Ghizer district is an unlikely place to find such animosity towards Islamabad as it is the home to 12,000 soldiers in an elite division that specialises in high-altitude warfare.

Nearly 500 have died fighting India since 1999, manning border posts in the highest battlefield on earth.

Islamabad has also spent billions of dollars building infrastructure in the area like the Karakoram highway, which links remote mountain communities and provides a reliable land route to China.

Yet locals receive no revenue from customs duties with China, or the sales tax collected by Pakistan, which generates up to $550m in annual revenue and is destined entirely for Islamabad.

The Awami Action Committee (AAC), a coalition of 23 religious and political groups behind the current protests, is demanding that there be "no taxation without representation".
Stretching 28,000 square miles, and home to 2 million people, the region is not even mentioned in Pakistan's constitution, a fact that irks young activists like Sajjid Rana, 19, who says textbooks only refer to it as "the land of glaciers".

If Gilgit-Baltistan gained self-rule, Rana would like to see it become a crossroads for trade between India and Central Asia, as it was for thousands of years before its western and eastern borders were closed under Islamabad's foreign policy priorities.

"A lot of people care about the region, but no one cares about the people," Shabbir Hakimi, a Shia-cleric who helped mobilise thousands for the April sit-ins, told Al Jazeera.
"As Muslims, we care about Kashmir, but give us our rights, make us like Kashmir, or let us go altogether."

Unlike the rest of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which has its own constitution, democratically-elected legislature, and independent judiciary, Gilgit-Baltistan was long governed by a federally-appointed civil servant who could impose collective punishment on local tribes.
In 2009, Islamabad granted the territory largely symbolic autonomy under a Legislative Assembly whose members are elected, and an Advisory Council, most of whose members are selected by the federal government.
"Islamabad is basically running the show," said Nawaz Khan Naji, an elected member of the 33-seat Legislative Assembly. "We have stacks of resolutions we have passed that have not been acted upon."

In 2012, the Legislative Assembly passed a resolution asking for Gilgit-Baltistan to be turned into a province, but the Advisory Council, headed by the Pakistani prime minister, ignored it.
Likewise key powers over trade, tourism and natural resources remain effectively under Islamabad's control and judges in Gilgit-Baltistan are appointed and dismissed at the discretion of a federal minister.

"We call it a 21st-century colony," said Israr-ud-Din Israr of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
"All powers are with Pakistan, and we cannot make laws ourselves, for our own interests."
"This legislative assembly...we feel is powerless," Senator Afrasiab Khan Khattak, who heads a Senatorial committee on Human Rights, told reporters after a fact-finding trip to Gilgit-Baltistan in April.  
"All the power is in Islamabad.  Until this [Advisory] Council in Islamabad, which has all the power... until their power is transferred to the [Legislative] Assembly here, we feel the problems here cannot be solved."
Pakistani Taliban claim attack on foreigners in Gilgit-Baltistan
Harsh crackdown
The narrow roads throughout Gilgit-Baltistan are littered with checkpoints, manned by paramilitary soldiers and police who question all travellers.
In April, police climbed the cliffs overlooking the narrow highway near the village of Sikandarabad to drop giant boulders on to the roadway in an unsuccessful attempt to keep protesters from reaching the Gilgit sit in.

But blocked roads are not the only obstacle protesters face, with special courts set up to prosecute 'terrorism' suspects now being used against political activists.

Picturesque Ghizer river, from which the valley and district take their names. [Umar Farooq / Al Jazeera]
More than 250 people have been tried in the anti-terrorism courts, alongside the 300 or so political cases that have been held in conventional criminal courts.

Iftikhar Hussain, 34, has been in a Gilgit city prison awaiting trial in an anti-terrorism court for nearly three years, even though the special courts are required to sentence convicts within 90 days of an arrest.

He is one of 36 men charged with 'terrorism' and 'sedition' stemming from a 2011 protest by locals demanding compensation promised to them by Pakistan after a massive landslide had destroyed their villages.
When police trying to clear the protest killed two men, riots erupted across the entire region and locals destroyed more than 17 government buildings including police stations.

Hussain, who says he was not involved in the riots, was one of more than 100 people arrested. Most of the other suspects arrested with Hussain have been released.
He says that for nearly a month he was tortured by investigators who included officers from Pakistan's intelligence agencies.
"We always raised our voices over local problems in our areas, simple things," says Hussain, who is a member of the Karakoram National Movement, a party advocating for self-rule.

"They don't like this, so they call it sedition."
As always authorities deny having tortured Hussain.
"[Hussain] is accused of serious violent crimes, " a senior Gilgit District police officer, who declined to be named, told Al Jazeera when asked about the allegations. "He was not tortured," he stated.
Source: Aljazeera