Development and fundamental rights
Text of speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Conference arranged by Interfaith International at the UN Human Rights Comission on 13 March 2009. Topic of the conference is: UN Millennium Development Programme 2008, Pakistan and its Peripheries including Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan.
Mr Chairman Friends and colleagues aslamo alaykam and good afternoon.
I want to thank Dr Charles Graves, Secretary General Interfaith International for arranging this conference and providing me this opportunity to express my views.
Before me there were some very interesting and informative presentations. Dr Nazir Gilani, Abbas Butt and Munawer Laghari among others made important points.
Dr Gilani has eloquently explained the legal and constitutional situation with regard to State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is true that the Maharajah of Kashmir made a treaty with the government of India which is known as ‘accession treaty’, which to us is provisional and has to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in an impartial plebiscite.
It is also true that the Maharajah made a treaty with government of Pakistan which is known as ‘Standstill Agreement’. The Maharaja government wanted to enter a similar agreement with government of India, but India wanted to discuss matters in more details. The Standstill Agreement provided Pakistan with a legal position in Jammu and Kashmir, but the government of Pakistan violated terms of this agreement by blockading the supplies and by invading the state territory with help of tribesmen.
Dr Gilani is right that it was tribal invasion which forced the Maharaja of Kashmir to seek help and accede to India. Furthermore that the Indian army came to Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with terms of this treaty to ‘save life, honour and property of the people’; and that there is no such treaty with regard to presence of Pakistani army inside the State territory. Basis of presence of the Pakistani troops inside Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan is under terms of UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolutions.
Friends and colleagues
All that is true – it is the legal position with regard to treaties with India and Pakistan, and presence of troops of both countries. Indian army moved in to Jammu and Kashmir to ‘save life, honour and property’ of the people; but we need to ask ourselves, is that what they are doing there. Are they not involved in human rights violations?
Similarly on the Pakistani side of Jammu and Kashmir there are human rights violations taking place, and Abbas Butt has provided horrifying stories about human rights situation in the Neelam Valley of Azad Kashmir. Early on Wajhat Mirza from Gilgit and Baltistan explained the situation of human rights in that region of the State which is very regrettable. This region is legal and constitutional part of the State, and is under direct control of Pakistan; and unfortunately this is the least developed part of the state with very minimal respect for human rights and rule of law.
I also want to share a story about a young man who was part of a peaceful protest march organised by NSF from Muzaffarabad to Gilgit and Baltistan to show solidarity with people who have been neglected for so long. This story is narrated by a famous Kashmiri writer Saeed Asad in his new book ‘Unity March’ (Wahdat March) published from Mirpur in December 2008. He writes:
‘Due to bad weather, rain, storm and dark the marchers endured serious problems which resulted in death and injury of some of them. Some people developed pneumonia and other serious ailments. Their clothes were wet and weather was extremely cold. They had no medicine, no dry or warm clothes or tents. After mammoth struggle they came back on foot to Kel where they tried to get help from the military personnel’.
On page 98 of the book he writes: ‘They blatantly refused to provide medical help and showed they callous and cruel attitude. They said how could we help someone who speaks against us, referring to chanting and slogans of the marchers which they made against the Pakistani army while going through the area early on’.
Army is not only trained to fight and kill, they are also trained to help and rescue as well; but on this occasion armed personnel of Islamic Republic of Pakistan refused to help a dying Kashmiri youth because he spoke against their rule and attitude in the Neelam Valley. They even refused to provide an ambulance that the injured and dying youths could be taken to Muzaffarabad for treatment.
Frustrated, injured and exhausted NSF stalwarts had to wait for a public transport to take the injured and sick people back to Muzaffarabad, which took them 11 hours to reach Muzaafarabad. By that time health of Raja Behzad deteriorated. From Muzaffarabad, he was taken to Islamabad which is another three hours journey. Young Raja Behzad lost his life there. Doctors in Islamabad commented that if he had received medical help on time his life could have been saved.
It is common courtesy that when people see someone in distress or injured, people extend helping hand, especially when some one’s life is in danger; but unfortunately this young man lost his life because those who were in position to help him refused to do so. His only ‘crime’ was that he wanted united and independent Jammu and Kashmir; and this was disliked by those who rule us there.
My question is, did this young man had right to life or not? Did he have a right to be treated and get medicine or not? He was refused help because he went to show solidarity with his countrymen which are forcibly divided and deprived of basic human rights. He was not carrying any gun or behaving aggressively. It was a peaceful march but those who rule us in this part of the world did not approve of this as it demonstrated Kashmiri nationalism.
Right to life and right to development are fundamental human rights, but this right is not respected everywhere. Some areas are deliberately kept underdeveloped and basic communication facilities are not provided in order to keep people under control. This is also the situation in the Neelam Valley and some other areas near the LOC.
Development brings jobs, economic independence, stability and prosperity. This does not suite people with vested interest. It is easy for the authorities to control and oppress people who are uneducated and economically depended.
Development cannot take place in a country which is divided by force, a country which is politically unstable, a country which has no peace, a country which has very corrupt system and lacks transparency. No one would like to invest in a country which has poor judicial system, and in which even Chief Justice is looking for justice.
Mr Abbas Butt has rightly pointed out that people who promote the cause of united and independent Jammu and Kashmir are at times castigated as an ‘Indian agents’, and intimidated on the Pakistani side of LOC. This practise must stop, as it violates our fundamental rights and terms of the UNCIP resolutions.
As I pointed out earlier the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir made a treaty with government of India which has to be ratified by the people of the State. In view of legal and constitutional experts people of Jammu and Kashmir can ratify that treaty; they can reject it or renegotiate the terms of that treaty because it is not final yet.
As for Pakistan is concerned the treaty which the government of Jammu and Kashmir had with Pakistan was violated, and Pakistan’s presence inside the State territory is under UNCIP (United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan) resolutions. Under the terms of the UNCIP Kashmiris are permitted to propagate pro Pakistan, pro India or pro Independence ideologies; and no one should treat them unfairly because of this.
Those who try to link the Kashmir dispute with the Two Nations Theory are twisting facts, as it was not applicable to the Princely States including Kashmir. These people want to give Kashmir dispute a religious character in a society which is multi religious and multi ethnic. It must be pointed out that Kashmir dispute is political in nature and religion has no role in it. END
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: email@example.com
To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com