Author: Samuel Baid Publication: The Free Press Journal Date: April 30, 2004 URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/300404-features.html
The focus of debates on Kashmir at the annual meetings of United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva (UNCHR) has certainly changed over the past about 10 years. Ten years ago the Commission heard mainly what the Pakistan funded non-government organizations (NGOs) had to parrot about the right of self-determination of Kashmiris in the part of Kashmir that is on the Indian side of the Line of Control (LOC) and India’s alleged violations of human rights.
One remembers the furore the Prime Minister of Pakistan kicked off in March 1994 when she moved a resolution on alleged violations of human rights in Kashmir. Ms. Bhutto had hoped that at least Muslim countries would support this resolution. Pakistan had to withdraw it because no support came from the Muslim countries. This was a serious setback to Pakistan’s diplomacy. But worse was the fact that since Pakistan was not willing to stop trans-LoC terrorism, it began to lose its credibility in the world community specially after the killing of some tourists in Kashmir in 1995 by Al Faran, which was really Pak-based Harkatul Ansar. The report of these killings came when the Sub-Commission of the UNCHR was in session in Geneva. The delegates were shocked. Some of them very vehemently spoke against demand, such as the right of self- determination when national boundaries had already been settled.
There were a number of young who had run away from occupied Kashmir. They also attended the session but were too afraid to tell the UNCHR about inhuman conditions in their part of Kashmir. They whispered to this writer that Kashmiris in “Azad” Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan were treated as serfs by Pakistan. Gilgit and Baltistan are parts of that region in occupied Kashmir, which Pakistan calls its Northern Areas but is not willing to give the locals any constitutional identity and civil rights. Any body protesting against this treatment would be called an Indian agent and then he would disappear, they said. They were not exaggerating. A Belgian human rights activist Ms. Claire Galez who had visited “Azad” Kashmir with the permission of Sardar Abdul Qayyum, had shocked delegates (in 1994) by her tales of human rights violations in “Azad” Kashmir. She told this writer that she had been threatened of dire consequences by some Pakistani supporters after she spoke out the truth before the delegates.
But Kashmiris from occupied Kashmir have taken some time to pluck courage and rubbish Pakistan’s demand for self-determination for them. At the 60th session of the UNCHR, which started on March 15 and finished on April 23, 2004, the Commission heard a number of representations from Kashmiris from occupied Kashmir. In his intervention on behalf of European Union of Public Relations, Mumtaz Khan said the demand for the right of self-determination for Kashmiris was hypocritical because Pakistan, through its imposed constitution of 1974, has already provided for pre-determination in favour of Pakistan. The said constitution says: “No person or political party in Azad Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State” accession to Pakistan.” He requested the Commission to examine the human rights situation in “Azad” Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. The Secretary General of International Kashmir Alliance (IKA) Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmir, who also intervened on behalf of the European Union of Public Relations gave details of human rights violations in occupied Kashmir where 4.2 million people lived in subjugation. He made the following points :
a) In these inaccessible areas, away from the gaze of the international community, the security forces and intelligence agencies of Pakistan continue to violate the locals’ human rights.
b) The people of occupied Kashmir are deliberately kept in illiteracy, ignorance, poverty and backwardness. These problems have been compounded by the infiltration of jehadi outfits by Pakistan. The students who go out to Pakistani cities for education get no job when they come back.
c) Despite so-called elections in “Azad” Kashmir, it is the Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police who are the defacto rulers.
d) Political workers are constantly persecuted.
e) There is no economic development.
f) No proper educational facilities.
g) The construction of the Mangla Dam rendered 100,000 people homeless. They have not yet been given any compensation. The state is denied royalty from this Dam.
h) The people of occupied Kashmir are forced to only listen to Pakistani propaganda on its official radio and TV.
i) The ISI has made Gilgit and Baltistan a safe haven for international terrorists. Speaking for Afro-Asian Peoples’ solidarity organization (AAPSO), Amir Shah said “Religious discrimination has been sought to be institutionalised by manipulating the school syllabus and deleting all references to the Shia tradition. Students protesting against the imposition of this biased syllabus have been beaten up and jailed.”
Gul Nawaz Khan who spoke on behalf of the Interfaith International related stories of atrocities on the population in Gilgit and Baltistan alleged that the Sunni majority in Pakistan had tried to “sunnise” education through its Ministry of Kashmir Affairs.
Human rights activists such as Haider Shah Rizvi and Basharat Shafi of Balwaristan National Front (BNF) have remained detained for more than one year on fabricated charges of sedition. Other prominent leaders such as Nawaz Khan Naji of Balwaristan National Front, Ghazi Anwar Khan of the Karakoram National Movement and Shafqat Ali Inqalabi of the Karakoram Students Organisation have also been subjected to intimidation and harassment and attempts made on their lives by Pakistani agencies. Similar views were expressed by Dr. Shabir Choudhry, spokesman of the International Kashmir Alliance and chairman of Diplomatic Committee, JKLF, UK and Europe who had recently visited Gilgit and Baltistan. The “Azad” Kashmir High Court in 1993 had ordered that Northern Areas be reverted to “Azad” Kashmir as they were not part of Pakistan.
This view was upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in May 1999. These judgments also called upon Pakistan to ensure that people of Northern Areas enjoy their fundamental rights, including right to be governed by their chosen representatives. But so far Pakistan has not shown any inclination to obey these orders.