Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Joint effort is required to eradicate terrorism, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Joint effort is required to eradicate terrorism
Dr Shabir Choudhry       17 December 2014

Kashmir National Party leader Dr Shabir Choudhry very strongly condemned inhuman massacre of innocent school children in Peshawar. No religion and no civilised person can justify this gruesome attack which was designed to kill hundreds of school children.

Dr Shabir Choudhry said, KNP leaders and members share pain and suffering of the families and the Pakistani nation; and strongly urge the government and political parties to set aside their differences and eradicate extremism and terrorism. We pray Almighty to grant highest status to all those who lost their lives and give strength to the families to overcome this trauma.

KNP leader said contemporary history fails to provide any example where so many innocent school children were systematically slaughtered to satisfy their inhuman and evil designs.
However, it is encouraging to note that the Pakistani nation as a whole; and particularly political and military leadership is on one page; and they have expressed their determination to fight terrorism with intention of eradicating it.

It is also heartening to note that the Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi also condemned this brutal act and offered condolences, he said, “My heart goes out to everyone who lost their loved ones today. We share their pain & offer our deepest condolences.” To pay respect to the victims and to share pain with the suffering families and the Pakistani nation, the Indian Parliament and schools in India observed two minutes silence.

Dr Shabir Choudhry said this goodwill gesture should be welcomed by the Pakistani government and the Pakistani government; and both countries should work out strategies to counter threat of extremism and terrorism. Whether we like it or not, fact is both countries are victims of extremism and terrorism, and this threat is becoming more dangerous and serious, therefore, it is imperative that both countries forget bitterness of the past and cooperate with each other to eradicate terrorism.

Dr Shabir Choudhry, who is Head of Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, said I hope the Pakistani establishment will abandon its past policy of good Taliban and bad Taliban; and pursue Nawaz Sharif’s policy in which he says: "We have resolved to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated". END

Dr Shabir Choudhry, Head of Diplomatic Committee Kashmir National Party.


Monday, 15 December 2014

A missing State, by Naseer Memon

A missing State, by Naseer Memon
The News, Political Economy section,
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has once again pleaded the government of Pakistan to ratify “international convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance”, and shun the barbaric practice of enforced disappearances and killings of compatriots.
Recent torrent of abduction and killing of political workers has once again brought Pakistan in the limelight.

HRCP and other civil society organisations have criticised the government and the law enforcement agencies for perpetrating these crimes against citizens.

The convention that was adopted by the on December 20, 2006 and entered into force on December 23, 2010, explicitly says no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance. It also trashes stereotype excuses by succinctly saying “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”

The convention also demands the states shall guarantee the relatives or the victims’ counsel have access to the responsible authorities. It also seeks a commitment to disclose the whereabouts of persons deprived of liberty, including, in the event of a transfer to another place.

So far, 94 states have signed the convention and 43 have ratified it. Pitiably, the United States and United Kingdom refused to sign the convention on flimsy grounds. India is the only country in SAARC region that has signed the aforementioned convention but not yet ratified. Pakistan is also among the countries that have not yet signed the convention to eschew a cardinal international commitment. Before that, the General Assembly of the United Nations also adopted declaration on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance in its resolution 47/133 of December 18, 1992.

South Asian countries have a gruesome track record of trampling movements for political rights, often dubbing them as insurgencies. While some of the movements pronounce armed struggle as a strategy to achieve their goals, the peaceful ones are not spared either.

At times, atrocious means adopted by law enforcement agencies compel peaceful political movements to violent recourse. It happens in countries with fragile democracies, where the state apparatus adopts repressive than saner political options.

Dismemberment of Pakistan in 1973, series of uprisings in Balochistan, unremitting conflict in Kashmir, suppressed Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka are some of the regional examples to mention.
Pakistan is among the countries that have not yet signed the convention to protect its citizens from enforced disappearances. However, the country is signatory to some other instruments that forbid such crimes to be committed by a state against its citizens.

A delegation of the United Nations working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances visited Pakistan in September 2012. During the visit, the working group received information on cases of enforced disappearances and studied the measures adopted by the state to prevent enforced disappearances. The figures communicated to the group ranged from less than a hundred to thousands.Pakistan’s own constitution guarantees the right to fair trial.

Article 10-A says, “in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process.” Law enforcement agencies, however, violate such clauses of constitution on the pretext of protecting an incognito national interest. During the past 10 years, parts of the country have witnessed incessant disappearances and killings at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

The report of the group highlighted the plight of tormented families who were threatened; that if they did file a case, their loved ones will be harmed, or another member of their family would be abducted. Similarly, witnesses and lawyers supporting the victims were threatened with dire consequences.

While enforced disappearances and custodial killings are rampant, the state response in Pakistan has been inadequate. Only cosmetic measures have been taken to mollify the enraged human rights bodies.

In April 2008, former law minister, Farooq Naik, stated that the government was collecting details of disappeared persons and promised that all would be released. In April 2010, the Interior Ministry set up a committee to investigate the fate of the disappeared persons. In March 2011, the Supreme Court decided to institute a specific body to deal with cases of enforced disappearances.

In May 2012, the statute of the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) was also adopted by the Parliament. Notifications of these committees are gathering dust in official shelves and no findings have been made public.

Unabated abductions and killings of political workers spread to Sindh too. Courts were made repeated requests to produce the missing persons. They at times accused state actors to be involved in such incidents. But they were responded to with dumping of mutilated bodies.

The law enforcement agencies always denied these charges. The overall futility of the law and justice structure is evident from the fact that in spite of thousands of disappearances and genocidal killings on ethnic and sectarian grounds, hardly any felons has been convicted.

The UN working group reported with alarm that impunity is dangerously corrosive to the rule of law in Pakistan. The report quoting some officials mentioned that criminals, terrorists or militants from armed groups enjoyed a great impunity because, even when investigations were initiated against them, they managed to get out of them, by using threats against the police, the judges or witnesses. There were hints that this might explain why some law enforcement or intelligence agents might have resorted to illegal practices such as enforced disappearances.

Apathy and indifference of successive governments is starkly evident. Responding a question on recent incidents of extrajudicial killings in Sindh, a federal minister callously remarked that it is a provincial matter whereas the chief minister of Sindh stood aloof by saying that nationalists are politicising dead bodies. This cavalier attitude of the government would only rub salt on the wounds of victims.

Article 13(1) of the “UN declaration on the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance” provides that whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that an enforced disappearance has been committed, the State shall promptly refer the matter to a competent and independent State authority for investigation, even if there has been no formal complaint. No measure shall be taken to curtail or impede the investigation. Hence the State cannot be absolved of its responsibility to protect lives of citizens even if its law enforcement arms pretend their innocence.

The country ranked fourth on the human rights risk index ought to adopt serious strategies to repair its image. Immune to all kinds of ignominies, the government rather embarked on a retrogressive “Protection of Pakistan Act” that actually extends a license for extrajudicial killings and illegal detentions. Such scruffy laws are likely to be used as brinkmanship tool against movements for political rights particularly in Sindh and Balochistan, where cold blooded murders are frequently committed. These laws are certainly not intended to curb terrorism in the country where banned faith-based elements with dubious trajectory freely operate, sometimes under official patronage.

At the moment when the anti-terrorism law was being promulgated, the government was imploring terrorist outfits for talks. It sufficiently unmasks the real design behind such legislative masterpieces.

An anemic image of the country on the human rights front merits drastic overhaul. A most pertinent step would be to ratify and implement international convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance. Missing persons signify nothing but a missing state.

Elections in Kashmir Draw Long Lines of Voters, By GARDINER HARRIS and SAMEER YASIR

Elections in Kashmir Draw Long Lines of Voters,    

Kashmir’s state elections continued on Sunday as voting took place in the state’s summer capital, Srinagar, with unusually long lines at polling places.

Turnout neared 50 percent, election officials said. That was by far the highest level since an insurgency that began in 1989 turned the city into a ghost town on Election Day, with few people venturing out of their homes to vote.
But the rise of Narendra Modi, now India’s prime minister, has scrambled the electoral calculus across the country. Voters in Srinagar, like others in Kashmir in recent weeks, put aside the issue of Kashmiri independence to ensure that Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party of Hindu nationalists did not triumph in state assembly districts in the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir Valley.
 “We are voting to stop the B.J.P. from coming to power and for local development,” said Asif Lone, 32, of Srinagar, as he stood in line to vote. “This vote should not be considered as a solution of the Kashmir issue.”
Although activists of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, a separatist group that has long boycotted elections, marched and shouted anti-election slogans, most people ignored them.
Kashmir’s upper-caste Hindus, most of whom now live in New Delhi and Jammu after being driven out of the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s by extremist groups, are still allowed to vote in Kashmir’s elections. And many Muslims here feared that if they continued to refuse to vote, the Hindus, known as Pandits, would provide a comfortable margin of victory in several districts to the resurgent B.J.P., which has long had a difficult relationship with Muslims, said Noor Mohammad Baba, a professor of political science at the University of Kashmir.
“People might have thought that if they did not vote, the B.J.P. would benefit,” Mr. Baba said.
But Sheikh Zaffar Ahmad, 35, stood on his balcony on the second floor of his home and watched voters line up at a voting booth near his home. Mr. Ahmad’s brother was killed during the insurgency, and the sight of so many people voting in an election sponsored by India left him with mixed feelings.
“These lines don’t signify any betrayal, but an understanding that people must vote to help the local parties instead of the B.J.P.,” said Mr. Ahmad, who refused to vote. “But I hope people do not forget the thousands we have lost in the last 25 years.”
There is one more round of voting scheduled. Results are expected before the end of the year.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Watch live TV debate: Azad Kashmir government – Is it promoting a Kashmir cause or hindering it?

Guests thus week are: Wahid Kashir and Sajid Janjua

Watch live TV debate: Another March on Islamabad on 30 Nov- what is the game plan; and what are implications for the region

Watch live TV debate: Another March on Islamabad on 30 Nov- what is the game plan; and what are implications for the region.
Guests: Akram Kaimkhani and Hafiz Tariq Mehmood

Watch live TV debate on India Pakistan relations and Kashmir after SAARC Kathmandu Conference

Watch how Arif Shahid became a big threat to Pakistani establishment