Monday, 14 April 2014

Watch live TV debate Kashmiri struggle: Role of leaders of Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Watch live TV debate Kashmiri struggle: Role of leaders of Indian Occupied Kashmir.
My guests were Abbas Butt and Arshad Malik
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Alexandria Declaration on Women Rights in Islam

Alexandria Declaration on Women Rights in Islam
By Shari`ah Staff
Saturday, 12 April 2014 00:00
During the International conference, "Women's Issues: Towards a contemporary Islamic Ijtihad[1]", participants discussed the importance and significance of issuing a declaration that springs from cognitive and cultural grounds, and asserts legitimate rights of women.
The Conference - organized by the Bibliotheca Alexandria in collaboration with a number of civil society institutions during the period 10 - 11 March, 2014, maintained that participants produce a declaration that meets women’s aspirations for justice and equality, and acknowledges their creeds and cultural diversity.
This declaration is grounded on the sublime principles of Islamic Shari`ah, along with some genuine Ijtihad-based efforts, the rich sessions of the conference and the additional commentaries issued by a number of senior Shari`ah scholars in the Muslim world. It is also the joint fruit of discussions that took place under the auspices of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif throughout 2012-2013 involving number of Egyptian feminists and representatives of civil society institutions concerned with women rights.
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Moreover, this declaration includes fundamental principles and common denominators for social, economic, political and cultural rights in a manner that fits Muslim communities, and allows them to deal with women issues according to their different cultures, economic, and political conditions.
The declaration thus embraces the following issues
1.    Total rejection of the politicization of community issues or the exploitation of women's issues in the political struggle among the various societal powers. Therefore, the declaration calls for the necessity of addressing women's issues through nations’ and communities’ genuine needs and authenticated religious and scholarly knowledge, and social field studies.
2.    Stressing moderate values that are characteristic Islamic culture and its offshoot familial culture, and that are far from extremism and parochialism, which negatively bears on the set of family relationships, family's social and worldly choices, and hampers development and proper social change.
3.    The belief in equality, in terms of human soul, spirit, dignity, and joint responsibility for the universe, is an essential concept in the man-woman relationship in Islam.
4.    Ensuring that legislations related to women be of a harmonic and sympathetic societal rather than conflicting nature. This will serve to protect individual rights for the entire community, and on top of it are the individuals within the family, without discrimination. This is to be observed on condition of guarding the interest of the child, being the one having top priority in the development of such legislations.
5.    Tending to assert women participation in public space, and maintain equity between them and men in terms of dignity and human capacity, and prohibit viewing women in light of her bodily functions only.

Woman's rights and duties
First: Woman's human and social value
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·  Women status in Islam is based on equity between men and women, in the sense of their human nature, and as members in their communities and nations.
·  The relationship between man and woman is built on joint responsibility, where priority and preference are judged against the criterion of the word of truth and justice, since Almighty Allah (Exalted is He) says,
{The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and establish prayer and give Zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Those – Allah will have mercy upon them. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise} (At-Tawbah 9: 71).
·  Indeed, the principles of equality and joint responsibility, being the basis for understanding the relationship between the two sexes, and entrenchment of it in the nation are established through clear-cut Qur'anic verses, and therefore it is impermissible to either distort or restrict them.
·  The relationship between man and woman in Islam is one of inextricable organic and functional integration, and this is best manifested through the Glorious Qur'an's establishing a fixed and constant term in reference to the two sexes, namely "the two spouses". So, a wife is a spouse, just as a husband is a spouse too. And though it acknowledges diversity, the term - in the meantime - establishes a relationship of integration, and therefore it is sort of diversity that is not liable to dissolution or dissonance. Rather, its basis is correlation and integration. Such organic and functional integration should not be a means to deprive the child, male or female, of equal opportunities in terms of its upbringing.
·  If equality in terms of the human soul, spirit and dignity, and in terms of sharing responsibility for building the universe, represent essential concepts in the man-woman relationship in Islam, then the concept of guardianship [Qiwamah] assets wise responsibility. It also denotes "financial and humane commitment towards the family", and means that a husband undertakes providing the wife and the family with their moral and material needs, in a manner that ensures satisfying needs and providing a sense of tranquility and reassurance. This is meant to maintain man-woman shared responsibility, and not to establish an absolute authority of men (either husbands or fathers) for predominance over the wife and the children.
·  Woman has the right to life, dignity, free choice and fair treatment. She - as a human being - is also entitled, rather bound -  to properly invest the human moral and material capacities bestowed on her by Almighty Allah, knowing that she will be called to account for it on the Judgment Day. Besides, the state - being an embodiment of the nation's will - is required to facilitate that and pave the way for it, for both men and women alike.
·  A Muslim woman is a founding agent in the "social contract", according to which the Muslim nation is founded, through what is known as the "Women's Pledge", that was taken at the early stage of Islamic Da`wah. Such pledge was then propagated and turned into the basis for the common pledge between the Messenger (peace be upon him) and the rest of the Muslims, in line with Almighty Allah's (Exalted is He) saying,
{O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah, nor will they steal, nor will they commit unlawful sexual intercourse, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring forth a slander they have invented between their arms and legs, nor will they disobey you in what is right - then accept their pledge and ask forgiveness for them of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful} (Al-Mumtahanah 60: 12).
·  Finally, women have economic and political rights equal to that of men, given that the development of economic and political fields, functions, systems and roles mostly occur within the circle of Maslahah Mursalah,[2]that is neither approved nor abolished in the Shari`ah. Then, judgment of controversial issues in this regard is based on Ijtihad by established scholars, in terms of interpretation, illustration and inference of respective rulings. Such a constant historical and cultural process, in which the woman has the right to participate whenever she has respective competence and capacity.

Second: Women legal personality
·  Women are entitled to full legal capacity, and to have their own independent financial and legal accountability, and the right to full independent disposition of what they possess. 
·  Women have undisputed legal right to inheritance, and the state is bound to ensure woman's acquisition of their due share. Besides, scholars, wise men in the nation and opinion leaders should exert efforts to put an end to unjust mores and traditions that hamper the implementation of legal texts regarding woman's share in inheritance, which is described by Almighty Allah (Exalted is He) as "an obligatory share", and to develop legal guarantees that ensure it. 
·  The controversy stirred over women's share in inheritance, and the attempt to draw on it as evidence to women's inferiority in Islam is one fabricated by opponents and supporters alike, due to two points. The first is that it is impermissible to infer generalizations relating to woman's personality and status through particular rulings, like inheritance-related ones, especially that the Law-Giver (Glorified and Exalted is He) has settled the issue of women's status and of equality between men and women, through other uncontroversial, clear-cut texts. The second issue that the wisdom behind legislations is not based on rights alone, but on the total set of rights and duties. Accordingly, this set grounded on giving a man double the share of the woman in certain cases of inheritance, is intertwined with the supposition of man's binding responsibility to fully provide for the entire family and needy kindred. On the other hand, the woman's lesser share is coupled with her being discharged from any responsibility for supporting other family members financially. All this is an embodiment of the two values of justice and equality. For, equality does not necessarily mean similarity or uniformity in terms of particularities and details. Rather, it means balance in terms of right and duties, as is known in legal principles. It is a well-established fact in Islamic jurisprudence that a woman takes an equal share in inheritance like that of a man, gets even a bigger share than him, or gains a share while he takes nothing, in thirty cases. While, she gets half of the man’s share in three inheritance cases only.
·  A woman is competent to bear witness, though - regarding the details relating to its respective rulings - it is incorrect to claim that he testimony judged as weighing half of the man's, because such would represent an arbitrariness in perpetration of and inference from the Glorious Qur'an. It is noteworthy that there are considerable scholarly opinions that differentiate between giving testimonies and acquiring witnesses [when writing loans contracts]; while the former is considered legal evidence whether it is from one man, one woman, two men, two women, or a man and a woman, the latter is a legal concession for the creditor to highly secure his financial dues.
·  Indeed, the wisdom and default ruling regarding testimonies in general, is to maintain multiplicity, which guarantees integrity and wards off collusion, bias or error - i.e. forgetfulness -, that corrupt testimonies. Therefore, testimonies in cases of crimes are more binding on individuals than they are due rights and a judge may draw on the testimony of a woman or a child in family-related issues.

Third: Woman and the family
·  The family is the foundation and core of the community and it is a contractual, moral and material entity, which the state and the community should maintain all due measures and facilities that support and protect it.
·  The family is a contractual entity since it is a volitional relationship established through agreement. In this regard, the man and the woman have the free will to build or put an end to the family. Hence, it is founded according to established rulings in the Shari`ah, as expressed in clear-cut Qur'anic verses, and to the provision stipulated in the contract, the primary pillar of which is mutual consent and agreement. Here, documentation is meant to protect both parties’ rights and women rights in particular.
·  The family is founded on participation, consultation, justice, and mutual affection and mercy. And Almighty Allah (Exalted is He) has ordained that the man provide for the family as an obligation, given the woman's playing her natural role in giving birth to and caring for the children. So, spending on the woman and the child is a due right for them and an obligation on the man. This, however, does not mean confining the man and the woman to such enacted roles only, since each of them has several other roles to play.
·  The family is "also" a moral entity sanctified by Almighty Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), as He described the bond between the two spouses as a "solemn covenant". Hence, preservation of the entity of a family is among the grave tasks that should be maintained and guaranteed by the two spouses and their kindred, the community, religious and cultural scholars, and the media and all community and state institutions.
·  Family legislations based on Islamic teaching require more efforts for assimilation of sound Islamic family-related concepts and values. For, it has become urgent, due to current circumstances, to reassert it through legislations and through means of education and instruction. On top of such concepts areaffection and mercy, as concrete basis for the establishment and persistence of the family.
·  Almighty Allah (Exalted is He) has legalized divorce, Khul`[3] and other forms of separation as means for dissolution of marriage in case it becomes impossible to maintain the conjugal relationship, based on the legal rule that dictates,
{But if you fear that they will not keep [within] the limits of Allah, then there is no blame upon either of them concerning that by which she ransoms herself} (Al-Baqarah 2: 229).
Such ordinance is grounded on mutual agreement and understanding between the two spouses to terminate the conjugal relationship. Here, it is impermissible for the husbands to abuse their right to divorce, or to encroach upon the woman's legally established rights.
It is also necessary to legally codify arbitration principles in fixing marital problems and relevant juristic opinions in order to encounter divorce mess.
·  Indeed, moral and material care for the children is among the primary responsibilities of the family, and it is both a right and a duty for the parents as well as for the entire community. It is also a joint responsibility for both parents, which they should never cede or neglect. This right is legally regulated in line with the Shari`ah rules, on top of which comes the child interest, ahead of any other consideration.
·  Indeed, asserting and highlighting the moral and ethical dimension in family formation, through both culture and legislations, guarantees bringing the community gradually closer to the collective objectives of the Shari`ah, since Almighty Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) has enveloped such moral dimensions and denotations with a tight fence of preservation, describing it more than once in His Glorious Book as the limits of Allah.
·  The social importance of motherhood and the motherhood-fatherhood integration in bringing up the children and in caring for the family is asserted. This is coupled by affirming that the role of the woman in giving birth to children should not be a reason for social discrimination, and that bringing up the child in a balanced manner requires sharing responsibility by both the mother and the father.

Fourth: Woman and education
·  Education is a genuine right for women that has been both confirmed by holy texts and established by practice throughout different eras. Therefore, claims that Islam obliges women to enroll in certain fields of education that match their feminine nature or go along with their motherhood, stand invalid. Similarly, no proof that Islam prohibits women from enrollment in certain studies; hence, it is more of traditional thing than a religious teaching. 
·  Education is one of women's rights, and the state should strive to provide and maintain women access to education, without discrimination, and girls should be guaranteed necessary education that refines them both morally and materially without the family discriminating between boys and girls in this regards.
·  Concerned Islamic entities have a great role in stating correct Islamic teaching concerning women education, and acting against restrictive traditions. Also, they hold the responsibility of bridging the gap between men and women in the field of Islamic studies especially Fiqh and Qur’an interpretation, through adopting special informative projects to prepare qualified women in these fields.

Fifth: Woman and labor
·  Indeed, contemporary life style - in terms of its economic requirements, and as a result of education, - has compelled women to access employment. Here, joining work is an honest means of earning living, which is acknowledged in the religion, when it suits the conditions of the spouses and their children, as long as it is coupled with preservation of Islamic obligations and proprieties.
·  In this regards, the community and the state are entitled to a number of commitments; the first of which is that work is based on justice and equality of opportunities, especially for poor, needy, and breadwinning women. This is to be observed by operation of the principle of care and easement, and not just for the sheer purpose of equality, to protect families from collapse. Second, work rules should be facilitated for working women, familial harmony should be maintained regarding cooperation and collaboration in shouldering material and immaterial burdens, such as caring for parents and children.
·  It is the duty of the state towards the woman and the child, just as it is towards the man, when the means to earning living are blocked and in cases of unemployment or disability, to provide the sufficient levels of education, housing, and decent living; being an equal duty and a necessity grounded on the logic citizenship rights, not relief.

Sixth: Woman and personal security
·  Islam embraces an integrated vision for the human body (and all its organs), as a trust and responsibility - for which one is called to account - before Almighty Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He). Unfortunately, exploitation and aggression, in all its forms - including harassment and all forms of sexual abuse - against women, was and still is one of the major tragedies and plagues for humanity throughout history. And if the responsibility for protection of the human body from obscenities lies on the shoulders of the individual, it is - on the other hand - the responsibility of the community, too, especially under the new circumstances. Rather, it is one of the legal necessities (preservation of life, faith, honor, intellect and property), especially when transgression is coupled with the use of force or any of other strict circumstances. It is also one of the fundamental functions of the state (preservation of human sanctities).
·  Surely, the state should play an important role through legislations that are backed by the cultural system. It should also incriminate all forms of physical and sexual abuse of woman, from verbal harassment, through rape, to sex and child trafficking, in all its forms. Moreover, it should find out effective means to achieve this on ground so women can feel secure for themselves, either in residence or travel. For, such is their human, religious and national right.

Seventh: Woman and public action
·  Women have the right to assume public offices, whenever they have the qualifications required for such posts, and the state should maintain equal opportunities for both men and women. Here, it is well-known that qualified women had held similar positions during the early Islamic state, in educational and health fields, etc.
·  Women, also, have the right to join voluntary and service work, as well as public work, in a manner that fits their own conditions, potentials, talents and personal motives. For, voluntary work and public work are both rights and duties for men and women alike, to be achieved through one's wealth, knowledge and efforts. For, it is a collective obligation[4] for the entire community.
·  Finally, women have an inherent right in the community, and they are entitled to the right - duty - of offering advice, consultation and fair guardianship. Moreover, they are burdened with the Trust, and are assigned as a vicegerent on earth, just like men. All this compels women to participate in public action, as voters and candidates, so that they can communicate whatever they deem sound and proper, in terms of opinions, rights and public interests, to decision makers in the national community, as it should be consensual.
9-10 Jumada Al-Oula, 1435
10-11 March, 2014

Alexandria Declaration on Women Rights in Islam Ijtihad refers to juristic effort to infer expert legal rulings.
During the International conference,
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[2] Unrestricted public interest
[3] Divorce at the request of the wife in return for compensation to the husband.
[4] Collective obligation [Fard Kifayah] is an act that is obligatory for the Muslim community collectively - if it is sufficiently carried out by some members of the Muslim community, then other Muslims do not have to perform it; but if nobody takes it upon himself or herself to perform the act on behalf of the community, then all Muslims have failed (and will be punished).

Tony Blair 'Knew All About CIA Secret Kidnap Programme'

Tony Blair 'Knew All About CIA Secret Kidnap Programme'
Former British PM was 'fully briefed' on CIA's interrogation programme after Sept 11 attacks
By Peter Foster

"The Telegraph" - - Tony Blair knew in detail about the CIA’s secret kidnap and interrogation programme after the September 11 attacks and was kept informed “every step of the way” by MI6, a security source has told The Telegraph.
Mr Blair, the then prime minister, and Jack Straw, his foreign secretary, were fully briefed on CIA activities and were shown now infamous Bush administration legal opinions that declared “enhanced interrogation” techniques such as waterboarding and stress positions to be legal, the source said.

“The politicians took a very active interest indeed. They wanted to know everything. The Americans passed over the legal opinions saying that this was now 'legal’, and our politicians were aware of what was going on at the highest possible level.

“The politicians knew in detail about everything – the torture and the rendition. They could have said [to M16] 'stop it, do not get involved’, but at no time did they,” said the source, who has direct and detailed knowledge of the transatlantic relations during that period.

The claims come as Scotland Yard continues to investigate whether MI6 officers should face criminal charges for alleged complicity in the rendition of suspected terrorists, including two Libyan Islamists who were sent back in 2004 to Tripoli, where they were tortured.

The case was opened in January 2012 after documents recovered during the Libyan revolution appeared to show that Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and other agents had been complicit in the rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj, who was captured by the CIA with his pregnant wife and sent back to Libya.
Among the documents was a memo apparently signed by Sir Mark congratulating the then Libyan intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa, on the “safe arrival” of Mr Belhadj.

The Telegraph understands that MI6 has been forced to hand over top secret documents from that period to police and that senior officers who served at the time have been interviewed as part of the investigation. It is not known whether Mr Straw, who intelligence sources have indicated was fully briefed on the rendition, has also been interviewed by police.

The source’s claims echo those made publicly by Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, who said in a speech in 2012 that MI6’s cooperation with the CIA’s rendition programme was a “political” decision.

“Tony Blair absolutely knew, Dearlove was briefing him all the time. He was meticulous about keeping the politicians informed. Whether there was anything in writing, well that is a different matter,” added the source, who said it was laughable to suggest that the approval for British security services to cooperate with the CIA programme had been authorised by Mr Straw alone.

“The understanding at SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] was it was acting in the 'national interest’ and with clear political approval.

“SIS is not a rogue organisation. It would never do this kind of thing alone and without explicit authorisation; that is just not how it works.”

The British government has never formally admitted its role in rendition or officially apologised to victims, although it has paid out several multi-million pounds in “no fault” settlements to rendition victims and former Guant√°namo Bay inmates who sued for damages.

The claims against Mr Blair come as the US Senate voted this week to declassify a summary of a 6,300-page report into the CIA’s rendition programme in a move that legal experts say will put added pressure on the British government to come clean about its role.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat chairman of the committee that conducted the research, said the “shocking” report had “uncovered the facts” behind the secret programme and could be made public within 30 days following a security review by the White House and the CIA.

As well as the continuing criminal investigation, the British government, MI6 and Mr Straw are being sued by Mr Belhadj. In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph this week, Mr Belhadj said he was determined to pursue the British government through the courts for an apology and the truth about what happened to him – and what senior figures such as Mr Blair knew about it.

“When he was sitting in the tent with the dictator Gaddafi, I was facing torture at the hands of my own country’s [intelligence] services,” Mr Belhadj said by phone from Tripoli, referring to Mr Blair’s meeting with the Libyan leader in March 2004.

Mr Blair has never confirmed what he knew about the rendition programme, but has argued that Libya played a vital role in the “war on terror”. Mr Belhadj’s case was thrown out last December by a High Court judge who acknowledged that he had a “well-founded claim”, but declined to hear it, citing British government legal arguments that it would seriously damage US-UK relations.

It was decided that English courts had no jurisdiction over events that may have taken place in other countries.

However, legal experts said that the Obama administration decision to declassify its investigation into the torture programme seriously undermines the British government’s claim that all information relating to the case must still be kept secret or be heard in secret courts that were set up last year to hear such cases.

“The fact that President Obama himself has said that this report should be released only confirms that the UK now has no leg to stand on,” said Amrit Singh, a senior lawyer with the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative.

Mr Belhadj said: “In light of the publication of this report it appears that the British legal argument that my case cannot be discussed for fear of upsetting the Americans is actually just a pretext.

“It’s going to make it clear that the British government’s attempt to cover up the abuse that my wife and I suffered are not to do with national security but are to do with avoiding national embarrassment.”

A spokesman for Mr Blair said on Saturday night that he was travelling in Africa and not available for comment. In 2005, Mr Straw told the House of Commons there was ‘simply no truth’ in claims that the UK was involved in rendition, branding them ‘conspiracy theories’.



Wednesday, 9 April 2014

An open letter to the people of India on the Kashmir issue, Mir Waiz Umar Farooq

An open letter to the people of India on the Kashmir issue, Mir Waiz Umar Farooq
To the People of India,
Along with your votes, give your elected leadership the task of resolving the Kashmir Issue once and for all.
India’s elections have begun and you are exercising your votes to choose your new political representatives. Whoever you end up electing will be momentously placed to exercise real leadership and take the difficult decisions that are needed to shape a better course for the future of India and for peace in South Asia.
In this regard, there are two clear paths ahead, each with very different outcomes. Your newly elected representatives (those in power and those in opposition) could collectively resolve to take a bold and visionary break from the past and could work together to pursue a serious political and diplomatic effort to resolve the Kashmir issue. Alternatively, they could relinquish their collective leadership responsibilities and choose to follow the same old default policy approach that has allowed the Kashmir issue to fester for more than six decades now, placing the region on the dangerous trajectory that it is currently heading towards. Ultimately, the direction that the next elected leadership of India will take vis-√†-vis the Kashmir issue largely depends on all of you — the people of India — and on how effectively you can influence and support your political leaders to do what is both possible and necessary for peace.
Not an isolated issue
We urge you to recognise that the Kashmir issue is not a peripheral or isolated one. You must understand and become seized of this important matter. In the past we made many attempts to reach out to you personally and apprise you of the Kashmir issue and the grim situation on the ground, but all these efforts were thwarted by the use of brute force and hooliganism, and on many occasions we were manhandled. The Kashmir issue continues to destroy life and obliterate the rights and aspirations of our people in Kashmir who desire only to live free, peaceful and dignified lives. The continuation of this tragic conflict is also a direct threat to your interests and well-being as a people. In one way or another, this tragic conflict directly affects all the other issues that are currently being discussed and debated in the election season in India. You have a direct stake in seeing that a just and lasting resolution of the Kashmir issue is reached. The conflict is not only a threat to millions of Kashmiris, it is a serious hazard for the one billion-plus population of India and for the population of the entire region. There is no better time than now to press your representatives to exercise their leadership to resolve the Kashmir issue.
A peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue would unleash immense prosperity and economic benefits for India and for the entire South Asia Region. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing a political solution in Kashmir, successive governments in New Delhi have continued to waste your taxes and precious economic resources to pursue a militaristic policy on Kashmir. At huge economic and human cost, this approach represents a failed policy. It has only ended up deepening the conflict. Today, it should be a matter of great concern to all of you that India ranks 136 in the UN Human Development Index (HDI), but has distinguished itself as the world’s largest importer of arms by a huge margin. While India’s economic growth has slowed in the last few years, arms imports have increased by a phenomenal 111 per cent in the past five years. This is draining your economy, while filling the coffers of other countries that are benefiting as arms exporters.
Indeed, the Kashmir conflict is a direct threat to your prosperity. With more than 800 million people in India still living on less than $2 (Rs. 120) a day, surely the estimated $37-47 billion a year that goes as military expenditure (which is 2 to 2.5 per cent of GDP) could be put to much better use towards initiatives to lift more and more people out of poverty. If the Kashmir issue is resolved, not only would this costly arms race come to an end, it would open up the multipliers of economic cooperation and trade. Certainly, ensuring lasting peace and stability is the greatest foundation for your future prosperity, economic growth and development.
You must ask your leaders why after so many decades, military approaches have failed to resolve the Kashmir issue. Today, this conflict is a direct threat to the security and stability of the entire region. It is the main driver of militarisation and regional instability, and there is every possibility that the situation could escalate and worsen in the coming years. If the Government of India continues to avoid a political solution to the conflict, if it insists on the continuation of the same unjust and hegemonic approaches, it will spell disaster for the region. This beaten path has already proved to be a policy failure long back. Delaying a political solution has made the situation more insecure and unstable, and the conflict has only become more dangerous with time. Today, Kashmir stands as a potential nuclear flashpoint which could consume the lives of millions of people in an instant.
Engaging in a costly nuclear and conventional arms race with Pakistan and continuing to pursue militaristic approaches in Kashmir will only add to these dangers. You must ask your leaders whether these approaches are truly serving your interests. Allowing a dangerous political conflict like Kashmir to fester is no way to ensure the security of the Indian people, nor can it be a path to a stable future for the region. The Kashmir issue continues to keep all the parties bogged down in a state of perpetual hostility and distrust. In this way, conflict has become the biggest security threat to the region.
Not only is the continuation of the Kashmir issue a direct threat to your economic prosperity and security, we believe that you have a real moral stake in not letting your government continue to pursue what is a failed and unjust policy towards Kashmir. Kashmiris have legitimate rights and aspirations. Attempting to suppress the emotions and aspirations of millions of people by force is no way to address a political conflict. Widespread human rights abuses have taken place and grave injustices have been carried out against our people. Crushing the democratic right to protest and express political dissent, restricting free speech, persecuting entire sections of the population, foisting black laws and continuing to keep hundreds of thousands of military forces deployed for decades on end in Kashmir – surely this represents both a moral and political failure. There has to be an end to all of this.
Please put yourselves in the shoes of our people and try to see the conflict through their eyes. Talk to any common Kashmiri and he or she can share with you the direct pain, injustice and indignity that people continue to suffer as a result of the conflict. Surely, you have a direct moral stake in ensuring that your government takes the higher road on Kashmir towards peace. Kashmir is a human issue and it requires a political solution.
Path of statesmanship
For the sake of our children, we urgently need to resolve this dispute. Instead of a festering quagmire, we should hand over to our youth a chance to shape a peaceful, hopeful and prosperous future — for all parties concerned — for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, India, and Pakistan. We believe that every party must put forward serious efforts to resolve the conflict. For peace, many barriers and obstacles will have to be overcome. Furthermore, any lasting solution must be a just one, and that necessarily means recognising and upholding the Kashmiri people’s aspirations and right to self-determination. In this regard, we are seeking only what is due to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as a matter of legal, moral, and historical right. The solution will have to be acceptable to all parties – India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
For long, we have hoped that India’s leaders would tread precisely this type of an approach — the path of statesmanship. We expected that your Prime Ministers would take bold decisions that would go against conventional thinking to break the status quo and resolve the Kashmir issue. At various moments, both Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave us some reason to believe that an honourable and lasting solution could be achieved.
It was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who went to Lahore and declared from the base of Minar-e-Pakistan: “It is my dream and wish to resolve the Kashmir issue.” It was also Mr. Vajpayee who spoke of holding unconditional talks under the ambit of Insaniyat and vowed that India "shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past.” He proclaimed that India’s leadership would act as “bold and innovative designers of a future architecture of peace and prosperity for the entire South Asian region." Similarly, on many occasions, in 2004 and again in 2006 from Amritsar, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked quite boldly about engaging in an irreversible process of dialogue to reach a political solution on Kashmir.
Period of uncertainty
Unfortunately, these visions could not materialise and the attempts were not sustained. For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the first decade and a half of this century has only been one of continued uncertainty, human misery, unfulfilled promises, false hopes and failed efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue. Failure has bred cynicism and destroyed hope in Kashmir. The good intentions of your Prime Ministers aside, we regret that the peace initiatives proved to be too fragile and the process too vulnerable. Ultimately, these attempts were reversible. They failed to yield visible results and no progress was achieved towards addressing the underlying realities of the Kashmir issue. As a result, many in Kashmir have concluded that the Government of India is not sincere and has no desire to resolve the Kashmir issue. Today, many people are questioning whether the political path of dialogue and negotiation is the best way to seek their rights and ensure justice.
The Kashmir issue is where it has always been – unresolved and causing great harm, suffering and cost to all. Today, all of us continue to be held hostage to the past. In this regard, we must accept the fact that domestic politics in India has played a disabling role. It has held back leadership and statesmanship in India. Whenever parties find themselves out of power and in opposition they have tended to take hardline approaches on Kashmir. When ruling governments face domestic opposition, they become unable or unwilling to do what is necessary for peace.
Worse still, sitting governments even take hardline actions themselves that worsen the situation.
Observing all this, Kashmiris have now realised that it is not at all possible to expect any sitting Prime Minister in India (irrespective of the party they come from) to pursue peace on their own. Individual political will and personal determination have not been enough to move the process forward. Therefore, in order to resolve the Kashmir issue, your elected Prime Ministers need the consistent support of the opposition parties and they also need active support from all of you – the people of India.
Therefore, as citizens of India you have a vital role to play for peace in the region. Ultimately, visionary leadership and statesmanship in India will be enabled by your public wisdom and from your active support for peace. Whoever you vote for and whoever ends up forming the next government or sitting in the opposition, you must hold them accountable on the Kashmir issue. You must convince your elected leaders that the time has come to develop a peace process on Kashmir that is immune to domestic politics and power tussles.
The entire region is waiting for India to come forward for peace. There is already a broad political consensus in Jammu and Kashmir and in Pakistan that the Kashmir issue must be amicably resolved. Similarly, you must ask your leaders to develop a political consensus to resolve the issue. Let finding a solution to the Kashmir issue become a goal of all the parties to it.
In this direction, it is our sincere hope that you will raise your voices. You must press the elected leadership to rise above domestic politics and work towards India’s strategic and moral interests. Through your resounding support for safeguarding India’s interests in peace, prosperity and security and through your vocal support for justice, you can make a real impact. We hope that after the current election, those who are elected to power and those who are in opposition will all act in greater unison to move forward towards resolving the Kashmir issue.
There must be a serious, result-oriented and time-bound process of dialogue between the leadership of India and Pakistan, and of Jammu and Kashmir.
Let this process start sooner rather than later. Over an intensive period of one year, let all of the parties engage actively with one another. Let each party seriously consider whether they can find partners to end this conflict once and for all. We must all try our best and exhaust the possibilities to seek a peaceful solution. Perhaps together we will be able to find some way to take a historic step forward towards a real peace process.
We remain ready and willing to contribute positively and constructively towards this achievement.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
Chairman, All Parties Hurriyat Conference