Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Will Pakistan empower people of Azad Kashmir? Dr Shabir Choudhry

Will Pakistan empower people of Azad Kashmir?
Dr Shabir Choudhry    London, 20 February 2018

A full-blown debate on Act 74 with many dimensions is raging in Azad Kashmiri political circles and on social media. Some people are even wrongly portraying that they are the first one to oppose the Act 74; or demand its abolition. They give this impression that as a result of their opposition, Islamabad has decided to rescind the Act 74 or Kashmir Council. This is not true.

It is historical fact that the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front were the first to oppose the Act 74 in 1970s in very difficult time. From platform of JKLF, I and many other leaders like Amanullah Khan, Zubair Ansari, Afzal Jatalvi and others systematically opposed the ACT 74 in 1980s. Abbas Butt, Zubair Ansari and I opposed it from the platform of Kashmir National Party, after we left the JKLF and established the new party. We also opposed this unjust and imperialist Act from different platforms and in various national and international conferences in the past decades.

This is not to say that some other political parties have not opposed the Act 74. I, for one, will acknowledge valuable contribution of other nationalist parties, especially UKPNP, NAP and others.

Is Pakistan going to empower people of Azad Kashmir?
Some people are praising Raja Farooq Haider that because of his struggle, Pakistan will abolish Act 74 or abolish Kashmir Council; and empower people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Before we analyse what Pakistan can give us or wants to give us, we need to current relationship between Pakistan and so called Azad Kashmir.

In my considered view, which is based on irrefutable evidence; and is shared by other true nationals, relationship between Azad Kashmir and Pakistan is that of occupier and occupied. Pakistan’s policies with regard to Jammu and Kashmir have been imperial in nature; and have been camouflaged in name of religion to hoodwink people.

An imperial country does not empower occupied people. They exploit their resources; and systematically create a class of collaborators to serve and protect their interests. Occupiers and imperialists enslave people, mentally and physically, by use of massive propaganda; and by depriving them access to their history, culture and appropriate education.

We people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan need to understand that a country that can’t or is unwilling to empower their own people, will NEVER empower us, who are not legally part of Pakistan.

There is a long history of denial of fundamental rights to people of East Pakistan and other provinces like Balochistan and Sindh. Those Pakistanis who complained or openly exposed Pakistani policies were castigated as traitors and agents of India and imprisoned and killed. I have no time to explain what happened to people of East Pakistan in their long struggle to become Bangladeshis; and how many millions died and how many thousand women were raped.

One thing must be understood that our motherland is occupied by three countries, namely Pakistan, India and China; and Pakistan was the first country that attacked us on 22 October 1947, with intention of occupying us. By keeping this relationship in mind, we can presume what is in store for us.

Those who have any illusions in mind with regard to our relationship with Pakistan should remember what was said to Farooq Haider, when he expressed his opinion on the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and questioned rationale of accession to Pakistan. He was systematically attacked and defamed on Pakistani media. Some called him a traitor; and others used extremely objectionable language against an elected Prime Minister of an area which is not legally part of Pakistan. Some even said that we should send one Hawaldar to arrest him and bring him to Islamabad. This statement sums up our relationship with Pakistan.

What can Pakistan give us?

In view of the above relationship, what can Pakistan give people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir to ‘empower them’. With each administrative structure Pakistan enacted for us, Pakistani hold on the territory was strengthened. Before the Act 74, there was Act 70. It is beyond the scope of this short article to compare the two Acts or the previous Acts like Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government Act 1964, Act 1968; or Rules of Business of 1952 and 1957. However, suffice to say that with Act 74, the Pakistani hold on Azad Kashmir became even stronger.

We are called Azad, but there is very little our elected or selected government can do without the permission of Rulers and agencies of Pakistan. Political and administrative hold of the Pakistani parties in Azad Kashmir is almost complete. We cannot even select candidates for elections.

The last gift from Islamabad in the form administrative structure was given to us in 1974, a document prepared by the Pakistan Law Minister Abdul Hafeez Pirzada. Our ‘empowered and liberated’ Assembly Members signed the document without even reading it because Pirzada Sahib had no time to wait. His mother was unwell and wanted to go back to Islamabad with a signed document.

After 44 years of political struggle, we hear that something new is being considered. My fear is what is coming, may not be good for us. They may change a title, or put a new label on the bottle by curtailing more powers.

The educational, legal and political system prevailing in Azad Kashmir, only produces more mental slaves of Pakistan. Pakistan has the following institutions that control Azad Kashmir; and without their consent no Prime Minister of Pakistan can give any more rights to people of Azad Kashmir. It is practically not in his power to do it.
1.   General Head Quarters;
2.   Inter-Services Intelligence;
3.   Military Intelligence;
4.   Intelligence Bureau (more than 12 other agencies);
5.   General Officer Commanding, Murree;
6.   Prime Minister of Pakistan;
7.   Minister of Kashmir Affairs;  
8.   Kashmir Council;
9.   Chief Secretary;
10.               Inspector General Police;
11.               Finance Secretary
12.               Accountant General

All the above are Pakistanis; and treat Azad Kashmir as a conquered territory. Which one of the above will voluntarily relinquish his powers to empower people of Azad Kashmir?

Apart from undeniable consent of the above institutions and individuals, those who practically rule Pakistan, will have to take other matters into consideration, for example, implications of the CPEC. What are the Chinese concerns with regard to Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir; and how to satisfy them. In my opinion, Chinese demand would be to end this ambiguity related to the legal status of these areas.

In view of the above scenario what can we practically get. May be a new lollypop or a new and beautiful label with old wine; or maybe they change the bottle to make us think that we have got something new. For example, if they change name of the Kashmir Council to Senate, or something else with some other cosmetic changes, will we be happy?

Remember, imperial powers give with one hand, and take back with both hands. Imperial powers do not relinquish their hold voluntarily to gratify people of their colony. When they find it difficult to keep their control, they pass on the power to their proxies who have been set up and nourished for this purpose that they can serve their interests after they leave. In my view, for Pakistan that stage has not arrived in Azad Kashmir, if anything, their hold on this territory is stronger than ever, hence nothing substantial is coming our way.

The writer is Chairman of South Asia Watch, London, and author of many books on Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Jihadism after the Caliphate speech of General Qamar Javed Bajwa

Jihadism after the Caliphate speech of General Qamar Javed Bajwa

Full text of Pakistan COAS address at MSC Germany on 17 Feb 2018
"Bissmillah Irrakhman Nirraheem"

Respected Panel Members, Excellences', Ladies & Gentlemen! Good Evening

Ø It is my proud privilege today to be addressing this august gathering, on a subject of critical importance to all of us. Let me first offer my sincere thanks and gratitude for this opportunity Ladies and Gentleman, I will make no pretence about my intellectual credentials. But may I humbly say that I have the honour of commanding an Army, which has achieved great successes, against violent extremism and terrorism, of course at a huge cost and sacrifice. My perspective would therefore be, that of a soldier and not of an intellectual

Ø Let me say from the outset, that, the present Jihadism is a misnomer. Jihad is a highly evolved concept that underlines myriad struggles against tyranny of all types. Muslims are taught that control of self is the most elevated form of Jihad. There is also a saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) that 'the best of Jihad is a word of truth in the face of a tyrant ruler'. On the other hand, 'Qitaal', or aspect of 'armed jihad' comes at the lowest end of the spectrum of actions and beliefs that comprise the concept of jihad and can only be sanctioned by a State authority and nobody else.

Ø However, there is no denying the fact, that a powerful concept such as jihad, can easily be misused for propagating extremism or terrorism. Particularly, as many Muslims, world over, are not only feeling alienated, but disowned, targeted and devoid of positive expression. Same is true for the concept of caliphate which is more of a nostalgic response rather than actual possibility for most Muslims.

Ladies & Gentlemen!

Ø In Pakistan, the notion of caliphate has not found any traction, but jihad has definitely been used to radicalize fairly large tracts of population. However, this phenomenon is not a recent creation or started after 9/11. The Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Therefore, we all are responsible for making the world population in general and Muslim population in particular, hostage to this extremist ideology.

Ø Times have surely changed since the noon of March 10, 1982, when, President Ronald Reagan, dedicated the March 22nd launch of the Columbia Space Shuttle to the valiant Afghan Mujahedeens or Jihadis and termed their struggle against the Soviet occupation forces as a representation of `man's highest aspirations for freedom'

Ø When I was young, Pakistan was as normal a country as any other on the earth. Jacqueline Kennedy flew to Karachi, the Beatles visited us, Queen Elizabeth went to the Khyber pass to chat with the tribesmen. We were a favourite tourism destination for many. We were hosting world cups of hockey and cricket, besides many other multi-national events. World Bank termed Pakistan in 1963 as one of the most progressive and dynamic developing country in Asia

Ø The seventies were nothing less than a disaster for us, but even the separation of the Eastern part of our country and the political upheavals thereafter, did not change the society as deeply as the events of 1979, the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution happened, next door. It was only then that we started learning that we were not only Muslims, but were Sunnis and Shias. It was also the time that we were drawn to conviction of fighting Soviet invasion and also challenging communist ideology

Ø With the able intellectual assistance of free world, a syllabus was designed in one of the Western University for Madrassahs wherein jihad was fed to young minds in a concentrated dose without context or explanation. An exception was created, using a 'self defence' clause to justify declaration of jihad by Non State Actors. Young men were recruited from all over the world, radicalized and then left and disowned after they had delivered us, the success.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ø I apologize for a long lesson on history, but while it is history for you, it is still very much a live issue for us back home, as fairly large no of people are radicalized, armed and empowered politically and ideologically. They cannot be wished away, just because we don’t like them any more. We are harvesting what we sowed 40 years back. So it will be a while before this scourge is eliminated in totality – but first, let’s stop calling it Jihadism as it is nothing else but terrorism. With this rather long context, let me now come to the story of Pakistan’s struggle against extremism, terrorism and so called Jihadism

Ø Pakistan Army has waged a relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism, at a monumental human and material cost:-
§ Over 35,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives
§ Over 48,000 are critically wounded or disabled
§ Financial cost exceeding US $ 250 Billion – only a fraction of which is actually shared by our global partners

Ø Today, I can say with pride and conviction that there are no organized terrorist camps on our side of the border. However, presence of terrorists of various hues and colours cannot be ruled out. We still have their active and sleeper cells, who are hiding in mountains, border towns and 54 refugee camps, besides some major towns and cities.

Ø For your information, out of the last 131 terrorist attacks in our border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan. We understand their predicament therefore we do not blame them, but instability in Afghanistan is also hurting us badly – and it is happening despite the presence of the most powerful alliance in Kabul.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ø Unfortunately, Afghanistan, success of 2003 was lost when resources were pulled out prematurely for war in Iraq. Today, after spending more than 1.4 Trillion, the situation can best be described as a stalemate. But to my reckoning the cause of stalemate is not only the Haqqani Network or TTA, as they had almost been defeated 13 years ago; it was the pursuit of a wrong strategy which led to their resurrection. Let me say that the popular assertion of TTA not being defeated in totality due to presence of part of their leadership in Pakistan, is not correct or whole truth. We defeated Al-Qaeda, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamat-ul-Ahrar, while their safe heavens still exist in Afghanistan at a mere fraction of resources employed on the other side of the border. Now instead of blame games, it is time for NATO and allies to conduct an audit and introspection to find out causes for this stalemate.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ø In our war against terror, military operations were not the only thing that we conducted. We realized very early that the complex problem of violent extremism could not be handled through military operations only. First and foremost, we generated public opinion to defeat the terrorists’ narrative. We also formulated the National Action Plan, aimed at fighting terrorism and gradually rooting out extremism. We launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad in 2017, we the aim of:

§ Firstly, targeted kinetic and enhanced law enforcement operations to locate and destroy the residual terrorist presence across the country

§ Second prong of our campaign, comprises supporting the National Action Plan, that involves better prosecution, policing, education reforms, along with curbing terror financing and hate speech

§ Equally important is our information prong aimed at discrediting the terrorist ideology including the misuse of the terms like Jihad and Caliphate. Most recently, 1854 eminent Pakistani religious scholars, representing all schools of thoughts within Islam, teamed up to issue a resounding fatwa against violence, extremism and terrorism in the name of religion. Called the Message of Pakistan, it bans suicide bombing and jihad, other than the one sanctioned by the State.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ø Our successes have been made possible by the collective resolve and resilience of our entire nation. However, we are far from done. It is my sincere belief that Pakistan’s lasting domestic peace hinges on peace and stability in Afghanistan, therefore, despite our limited resources, we are trying our best to export peace to our Neighbours in the west. Please remember, at times our efforts are curtailed by capacity and not by will.

Ø Pakistan and Afghanistan are sovereign countries. Both countries have a right to peace and progress. However, this will only be possible if our respective soils are not used against each other. In this regard, two aspects are important:-

· Firstly we still have nearly 2.7 Million Afghan refugees in our country, whose concentrations are routinely used by TTA and Haqqani Network to recruit, morph and melt. It is time for these refugees to be repatriated with dignity. It is the only way we can ensure that no one is misusing our hospitality and soil for mischief in Afghanistan. This is possible at a fraction of the cost of war in Afghanistan, which is currently around $ 46 Billion per year.

· Secondly, our border with Afghanistan is highly porous. We have unilaterally taken many steps to ensure proper management of this border. We gave raised tens of new border specific units, built hundreds of new border 8 Full text of Pakistan COAS address at MSC Germany on 17 Feb 2018 surveillance forts and have started the process of fencing 2300 Kilometers of the border. We are putting scanners and biometrics at border terminals to ensure that while common Afghans are facilitated, miscreants and terrorists are prevented or arrested.

Ø Furthermore, we are fully committed to the international consensus, that political reconciliation is the only solution to Afghan issue. While we are actively supporting the new US strategy in the region, based primarily on kinetic approach, we are not leaving any stone unturned to try and do our best in bringing the parties of the conflict on the negotiation table. Ladies and Gentlemen! Despite the seeming frustration, very few countries have achieved as much success that we have in our war against terror. With over 1100 Al-Qaeda operatives killed and other 600 handed over to US, Pakistan is instrumental in disruption and decimation of Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the struggle continues as the threat is morphing. Intelligence agencies of multiple countries have confirmed the on-going relocation of fleeing Daesh fighters to Afghanistan. Being worst-hit by perennial instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan has legitimate concerns about this new threat joining the roster of

Over 20 terror outfits. So far we have been successful in denying any foothold to Daesh in Pakistan, but we are very concerned about its unchecked growth in the neighborhood. We need to counter the threat much more proactively through collaboration and cooperation.

Ø The war against terrorism and extremism will take some time before the world is free of it, therefor we all have to be patient and remain steadfast. We need to first counter terrorist’ narrative with a superior narrative before breaking their back. Unfortunately, we have not done enough in this regard. Finally, trust, cooperation and sharing will work, scapegoating won’t. To conclude, Let me say that terrorists thrive on our divisions and feed on our inability to come together against them. I humbly call upon all of you, to deny them these chinks in our collective armour. Please realize that it’s a global problem and needs a global approach. Lack of focus and commitment and individual efforts won’t take us anywhere. I thank you