Saturday, December 23, 2006


Honeymoon is over - DR Ahuja

Global human rights groups, which mollycoddled Pakistan all along, are now singing a different tune

The international community is finally calling Pakistan's bluff on Jammu & Kashmir. There is growing realisation that the Indian part of Kashmir and the so-called "Azad Kashmir" are poles apart in terms of the social, political and economic freedoms. While Pakistan continues to blabber on the same old UN resolutions and manufactures "atrocities" by Indians in Jammu & Kashmir, the world community is increasingly seeing through the haze thrown by Pakistan.

Let us look at two different reports released by highly independent international institutions. The first in the series is the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) which has devoted substantial sections to the J&K issue. It was released in September this year. The second is the EU draft report, Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects, released in November 2006.

The EU draft report on Jammu & Kashmir has rattled Pakistan. Islamabad has since mobilised all its PR might to counter the report and is known to be seeking amendments using diplomatic backchannels. To understand the reasons why the report has shaken General Pervez Musharraf, and others in the pecking order, we need to take a closer look at its contents.

The report is divided under six headings which includes 44 paragraphs: A preamble, an introduction, "Impact of last year's earthquake in Kashmir", "Political situation in the region", and finally, "Response (of Pakistan and India) to the earthquake and Confidence Building Measures between the two countries". For a moment, let's just ignore the subjective parts in the report and consider the facts mentioned therein. By nature, facts are facts and therefore can only be refuted for their veracity, never from the standpoint of whether they are pro-India or pro-Pakistan.

In its preamble, the report says: "The people of J&K, in particular Azad Kashmir, suffer from extreme poverty and neglect... lack of democratic structures and major deficiencies in the rule of law and justice." Can Pakistan digest the report which says, "Relations between two countries involve a dimension of international terrorism." Of course, Islamabad only admits to providing only "moral support" to jihadis.

In para 2, the report says: "India is the world's largest democracy and has a functioning democracy at the local level, whereas Pakistan still has to show that it is respecting democratic principles in a great many areas." It is anybody's guess that the military-ruled country would willingly admit that there are hardly any democratic institutions in Pakistan, leave alone the "free" (azad) part of Kashmir.

Pakistan can possibly argue that it is not entirely impossible for a military-ruled country to respect democratic institutions. The closest that Pakistan comes to being a democracy is hosting a debate which is now raging in the country on Gen Musharraf's duty to shed his uniform to fight elections. The obvious response to that is the citing of the historic precedent: No dictator has been known to shed his uniforms - be it Kim Jong Il of North Korea or Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

On the political aspiration of the Kashmiri people, the report expressed its regret (para 17) that Pakistan has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir PoK). Can this be denied?

The report list facts such as "Continuing absence of Kashmiri representation in the Pakistan National Assembly; the fact that PoK is governed through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad; that Pakistan officials dominate the Kashmir Council and that the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Accountant-General and the Finance Secretary are all from Pakistan.

The report abhors the provision in the 1974 Interim Constitution which forbids any political activity that is not in accordance with the doctrine of Jammu & Kashmir as part of Pakistan and obliges any candidate for a parliamentary seat in PoK to sign a declaration of loyalty to that effect. There is concern expressed over the fact that the Gilgit-Baltistan region enjoys no form of democratic representation whatsoever. None of the above facts are deniable.

The report is more candid on the role played by the trio of jihadis-ISI-military in quake relief. It says, "Initially hesitant reaction to the disaster by the Pakistani military created a needs vacuum in the immediate aftermath, which was exploited by militant organisations on the ground, such as the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the renamed Lakshar-e-Tayyeba (declared a terrorist organisation and, as such, banned by the Musharraf Government in 2002), who swiftly became de facto providers of food, lodging, schooling for children and welfare for widows.

Finally, concern was expressed over the fact that terrorism has bolstered the credibility of such polarising groups in the eyes of the people, "further undermining any potential for genuine democratic representation".

The EU report was preceded by a 156-page report on the human rights situation in J&K, Everyone Lives in Fear - Patterns of Impunity in Jammu & Kashmir. The New York-based HRW said, "There is considerable evidence that over many years Pakistan has provided Kashmiri militants with training, weapons, funding and sanctuary."

It said, "Under pressure from the US after 9/11, Pakistan banned several militant groups including Jaish-e-Mohommed and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. But these groups continue to operate after changing their names. Pakistan remains accountable for abuses committed by militants that it has armed and trained".

The 71-page report by HRW on PoK, With Friends Like These: Human Rights Violations in Azad Kashmir, quotes a Muzaffarabad resident, Mir Afzal Suleri, as saying: "Pakistan says they are our friends and India is our enemy. I agree India is our enemy, but with friends like these, who needs enemies"? It said: " Though the level of infiltration had decreased substantially since 2004, there have been no indications that the Pakistani military or terror groups had decided to abandon infiltration as policy."

Last year's devastating earthquake in the region was used as "an opportunity to craft a new image for the terror groups rather than as an opportunity to disband them". Charities linked to terror groups took a high profile in relief work after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people in October 2005. Huge funds received from donor countries were diverted to terror groups like LeT, JeM and Hizbul Mujahideen.

(The writer is a former Chief of Bureau, The Tribune)
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