EU Kashmir report and basic rights of Kashmiri people.
Dr Shabir Choudhry 22 April 2007
It appears the storm has passed and generators which started blowing hot air from various cities of the world soon after the emergence of Emma Nicholson’s controversial Kashmir report, have been switched off - or at least slowed down. But the fight or struggle over this is not over yet. In view of many it is a lull before yet another storm, which will be different from the previous one, as those who were behind this campaign have very ‘fertile’ and ‘innovatory’ mind and they will not let it go that easily.
In any case the report has not passed its all stages yet. After very lively debates and amendments from various individuals the report has become very comprehensive, balanced, more pro people and pro peace. It is because of this the EU Foreign Affairs Committee passed it almost unanimously. But the report has to pass its final and crucial stage when it goes before the plenary session of the EU Parliament in the third week of May.
It is still possible to put forward more amendments, and I hope that more pro people and pro democracy amendments are brought forward. It is believed that anti report lobby or more appropriately anti Emma Nicholson lobby will reorganise its troops and give it another shot at the report. Those who are behind this lobby their animosity and memory in this regard is like that of an elephant- they don’t forget and forgive their presumed ‘enemies’.
They will deal with Emma Nicholson differently but those who supported Emma Nicholson and are not fortunate enough to be members of any Parliament will become victims of their wrath; and some reports suggest that the process has already started in some places. It is precisely this kind of process and behaviour, which Emma Nicholson has opposed in her report, and consequently she was portrayed as a ‘villain’ and ‘enemy of the Kashmiri people’. Thank Allah thinking people of Kashmir can differentiate between a friend and a foe.
A few days ago I spoke to a senior Pakistani journalist in Islamabad on the issue of Pakistani Chief Justice who is seeking justice for himself, as those in power are determined to bulldoze all those institutions, groups and individuals who can challenge their power and policy of encroachment. This trend has to be reversed, I said to my friend. If they cannot give justice and basic human rights to their own people, then how could they care and give rights to people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.
My friend agreed with my contention and said, ‘Now he understands why true Kashmiri nationalist don’t want to accede to Pakistan’. He highly appreciated the hard work done by Emma Nicholson, and added that this is the best thing which has come up after a few decades on the Kashmir dispute. He said he has very carefully studied the report and feels that if it is implemented in letter and spirit it has potential for providing an acceptable solution to this dispute.
He was of the view that India and Pakistan should abandon old thinking and old strategies to get Kashmir as that has only added to the problems of Kashmiris. Because of the struggle over Kashmir people of India and Pakistan have also suffered, in fact, the entire region has suffered. Whether we make borders irrelevant or grant people of Jammu and Kashmir some kind of independence, that is something which could be discussed and agreed between the three parties; but we must agree not to resort to violence and hold the process of friendship hostage to the Kashmir dispute.
It was encouraging to hear this from a Pakistani nationalist. Normal attitude of most Pakistanis is to find ‘conspiracy’ in everything and instead of accepting their shortfalls or their blunders, will shift the blame to Zionist lobby, Hindu lobby or American lobby. Pakistani agencies have ‘contracted’ out some writers, political activists and ‘intellectuals’ who will always support and reinforce this view - point. Their aim is not to inform people or formulate pro people policy, but to mislead, hide facts and protect those who hold reins of power.
We freedom loving and thinking Kashmiris and all those who love democracy, basic human rights and pluralistic society must be aware of this trend. We also need to understand that even after the passage of this report the fight for basic rights of the Kashmiri people will not be over, although it will take a new shape and will get a big boost.
In London Dr Nazir Gilani organised a reception in honour of Baroness Emma Nicholson in which he said: Kashmiri people have suffered more than enough and we need your support and support of all those who believe in basic human rights and liberal democracy to help us end our suffering and misery.
I totally agree with this, we need maximum support from all those who believe in basic human rights and liberal democracy. We need to educate people of Pakistan and India that Kashmir does not belong to either of them and that unnecessary fight over future status of the State is not in the interest of any party to the dispute. Furthermore they cannot establish peace and stability in South Asia and promote democracy by trampling basic rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
General Musharaf claims to be brave and project himself as pro people and pro democracy. He needs to understand that bravery is not only in pulling the trigger or coercing the masses with the power that he holds, but to accept the ground realities and to formulate policies which can empower people, provide them basic human rights and provide peace and security to the region.
He has at last acknowledged that "Kashmiris are the main party affected by the dispute", but he is not willing to make this main party and most victimized party to be part of the peace process. What right has he got to decide future of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and say that they cannot become independent? Some Kashmiri leaders have rightly questioned his credibility and authority to speak on behalf of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Syed Ali Geelani Chairman of one faction of Hurriyat Conference said, "Pakistan president has no right to accept or reject things on behalf of Kashmiri people". Shabir Ahmad Shah said that it could be the "viewpoint" or "proposal" of Pakistan President, not necessarily acceptable to the people of Kashmir. "Pak President has given many proposals on Kashmir. It can be just one among them. But it is ultimately, the people of Kashmir who have to decided about their future".
Javaid Mir, the chairman of a faction of pro independence JKLF said that the "independence" was the slogan of the people of Kashmir. "They (people) are the final authority of their destination. Nobody else is authorised to speak or decide on their behalf". He further said, "When we started our movement (militancy) in 1988, then Pakistan President General Zia-ul-Haque supported the idea of independent Kashmir. General Musharaf is reversing the policy of his predecessors."
I request the EU Parliament to accept more amendments which grant people of Kashmir their inherent and fundamental human rights on both sides of the LOC. In this regard rights of people of Gilgit and Baltistan and so - called Azad Kashmir must not be ignored. Whereas people of Indian side of Kashmir and Azad Kashmir have made some progress in getting human rights, people of Gilgit and Baltistan are far behind and we must work hard to ensure that at least they get what people of Azad Kashmir have.
With regard to Azad Kashmir some people are only aware of this fact that we don’t have full political rights, they also need to make note of the following:
Azad Kashmir Assembly, which is tamed and loyal to Pakistan can be dismissed by Islamabad under Section 56;
It has no right to legislate on 52 items;
Section 57 sub section 2 of Act 1974 declares that ‘No Court, including the (Supreme Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir) and the High Court, shall call into question or permit to be called in to question, the validity of this Act (1974) (or act to amend it);
Prime Minister of Pakistan has power to appoint five Pakistanis to the Kashmir Council which ultimately takes all major decisions about Azad Kashmir;
He is also Chairman of Kashmir Council and has power to fill in four top posts in Azad Kashmir by Pakistani nationals, for example IG Police, Chief Secretary, Accountant General and Finance Secretary;
President, Prime Minister and all Assembly Members before they take their positions have to swear that: ‘I will remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan’.
All this is at variance with our basic human rights and State Subject law. I request Baroness Emma Nicholson and other EMPs who believe in liberal democracy and basic human rights to consider the above, and introduce amendments that we people get some relief. Apart from that India and Pakistan must be urged to make the Kashmiris part of the peace process, as they will not accept any decision imposed on them.
Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org