Monday, 18 September 2017

Right of expression and right of self - determination under threat. Speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry

Right of expression and right of self - determination under threat.
Speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar in the UN Human Rights Council’s 36th Session in Geneva on 18 September 2017.

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaikam and good afternoon.

Pakistan still claims to champion right of self - determination of people of Jammu and Kashmir; however, it is sad to note that Pakistani governments have systematically curbed our right of expression and right of self - determination.

It is strange that despite, Pakistan’s atrocious record of opposing and flouting people of Jammu and Kashmir’s right of self - determination, some innocent and misguided people continue to believe that Islamabad espouse their right of self - determination. This bitter fact exhibits that systematic negative propaganda; and use of religion as a foreign policy tool has helped Pakistan to advance its agenda on Jammu and Kashmir and in the region.

Pakistan and their foot soldiers continue to silence those voices that oppose Pakistan’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir. Already they hold a world record in banning more than a dozen books in one day. Anyone, selling or storing these books, which include my books as well, will suffer serious consequences, including 70,000 Rupees fine and imprisonment.

As if that was not enough, Pakistan has now started banning publication of newspapers in so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. On 24 August 2017, Urdu daily ‘Mjadla’ published a survey report, which a British researcher conducted in Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Ten thousand local people took part in this survey, and more than 70 percent said they wanted independence.

The puppet government of Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir, after publication of this survey report, sealed the offices of daily Mjadla to send the message to all concerned that people of this region do not have a right of expression. This blatant attack on the right of expression of citizens, and the freedom of press must be condemned.

We demand Pakistan to honour its obligations assumed under the UNCIP Resolutions; and direct their foot soldiers to respect democratic norms and fundamental rights of the citizens. It is sad to note that Pakistan has betrayed people of Jammu and Kashmir; and their policies have only added to the problems and suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan, contrary to their declared policy, in practice is only prepared to give people of Jammu and Kashmir one choice, that is accession to Pakistan. Anyone who oppose this policy is castigated as anti - Pakistan, Indian agent and a traitor. How can one be a ‘traitor’ for loving his motherland and protecting its integrity and national interest?

United Nations Security Council Resolutions clearly demand both India and Pakistan to protect right of expression and other fundamental rights of people of forcibly divided Jammu and Kashmir State. How sad that those who struggle for unification and independence of this divided state and want to protect its dignity and honour are portrayed as traitors by those who occupy us. Those who agree to become foot soldiers of the occupying forces are presented as patriots to fool innocent people who suffer on both sides of the divide.

Mr Chairman
Sadly, situation in Gilgit and Baltistan is even worse. Not only right of expression is curbed, journalists are attacked and political workers are arrested and charged with treason and put in jails. It is a common practise that forces of occupation harass, intimidate and even kidnap political workers. Some of these political workers are charged with treason and put in jails.

Mr Chairman
It is extraordinary that as a result of an agreement, Indian and Chinese soldiers do not carry guns on the Line of Actual Control. Only senior officers are allowed to carry guns; however, they are strictly ordered that guns should point towards ground. No soldier is even allowed to punch another soldier.

On the Line of Control separating Indian and Pakistani troops, it is free for all – soldiers of both countries use all sorts of conventional weapons. Both countries frequently exchange fire on the LOC, in which people of Jammu and Kashmir get killed on both sides. Although, Pakistani media and their foot soldiers make us believe that only Indian bombs kill people; and Pakistani bombs don’t kill civilians.

It is also bizarre that if a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir is killed by an Indian bullet, the victim is a martyr; however, if a person is killed by a Pakistani bullet then he is a traitor. Does the Pakistani establishment really think that we citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are fools?

I am also among those people who have suffered because of Pakistan’s atrocious policies on Jammu and Kashmir. Just because I oppose Pakistan’s Jammu and Kashmir policy, and expose their designs of promoting extremism, terrorism, religious intolerance and hatred, they have targeted me with their multi prong strategy. On one hand, they have blocked my ID Card which is essential to life in Pakistan and areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by them, and have frozen my bank accounts; on the other hand, they have directed their foot soldiers to defame me and attack me in political and social circles by circulating false stories.

To conclude, Mr Chairman
I must emphasise that the entire Jammu and Kashmir State is disputed; and people suffer on both sides of the divide. Use of gun can only add to our problems. Our struggle is political in nature; and religion is a personal matter of citizens. New Delhi and Islamabad cannot impose a solution on us; only people of Jammu and Kashmir can determine the future of our mother land. In area of Jammu and Kashmir, where I live, is occupied by Pakistan; and here we are denied of our fundamental rights. The Pakistani establishment, their media and foot soldiers urge us to fight against India; and say nothing about Pakistan.

This will not happen; and we will continue our struggle on this side of the divide. It is for the people of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by India to decide how to oppose that occupation. I will support them, but I expect them to give me the same right to oppose the country that occupies me and curb our fundamental rights.

Also, I want to strongly condemn gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Myanmar government. When is the international Community and so called Muslim Umma going to wake up?

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Am I anti Pakistan? Dr Shabir Choudhry

Am I anti Pakistan? Dr Shabir Choudhry
Am I anti Pakistan? No, I am not.
Political culture in Pakistan is strange to say the least. Those who abrogate constitution of the country and impose martial law are projected as patriots; and those who criticise them are perceived as anti - Pakistan. With this kind of mind-set, there is very little space for genuine pro-democracy, pro – people and pro country political activists.

There are some misguided people who erroneously criticise me too. They are, either influenced by nefarious propaganda of those whom I expose, or because of their inability to differentiate between critics of wrong doings of Pakistani governments; and those who are anti – Pakistan.

All good people challenge wrong doings
Time and again, I hear from these people that I am anti Pakistan. Yes, I criticise wrong doings of Pakistan because these wrong doings hurt people of Pakistan, people of Jammu and Kashmir; and endanger peace and stability of the region. It is my democratic right to hold an opinion and express it; even Pakistani constitution allows that. May be those who castigate us erroneously believe that they are above the constitution, as to them it is only a piece of paper.

If you see a wrong doing taking place in a place where you live, and you choose to remain quiet; it clearly means you wish that wrong doing to continue. Maybe you want it to continue because you like it or enjoy it; or maybe it benefits you politically and economically.

However, if you criticise it you may draw attention of those who are in a position to stop it or change this wrong doing, or reform their policies. State quo, benefits those who established it. All those who want to change the status quo are perceived as enemies by those who benefit from the status quo. With their power and influence they unleash fake stories and activate their propaganda machinery to oppose these ‘enemies’ of their business or interest.

All Prophets, other good people and revolutionaries challenged the status quo during their time. In doing this, they suffered because supporters of the Status quo had power to inflict pain and suffering on them.

To me, those who seek reforms by criticising the wrong doings are sincere people and well - wishers of that society. Real enemies are those who want the wrong doings to continue. Dozens of innocent very young boys and girls became victims of pornography in Sialkot, Pakistan. This wrong doing was abhorred by some people with conscience and, and these brave people exposed them. Were they enemies of Pakistan? Did they commit a crime by exposing these culprits? Or they were well-wishers of the society, and they wanted this evil practice to stop.

Does anyone know what happened to those responsible for this heinous crime? May be their skins were saved by those who were benefitting from this crime.
Jihadi warriors and extremist groups
Many years ago, I started writing and openly opposing this policy of sending jihadi warriors to Jammu and Kashmir. I even spoke to some senior people who were responsible for this. I told them that this policy of sending armed men, especially those who were not citizens of Jammu and Kashmir was providing India with a propaganda stick that Pakistan was creating ‘instability and exporting terrorism’.

My fear was that it will tarnish the struggle, as it will look a Pakistani agenda to ‘bleed India’; and will damage our cause and result in more bloodshed. Moreover, I thought these groups will impose their will on the Pakistani and societies of Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the divide.

I was accused of being ‘anti Pakistan, ‘anti Jihad’, ‘anti Islam’ and ‘pro India’. In view of what the world community is saying to Pakistan about Jihadi groups, and in view of what mayhem they have caused to the Pakistani and Jammu and Kashmir society, tell me who was wrong and who was anti Pakistan. Was I anti Pakistan who cautioned them and spoke against this policy; or those who formulated this policy and continued with it even though it caused bloodshed in Pakistan and in Jammu and Kashmir?

There are growing number of people who believe that Mohammed Ali Jinnah was killed; and so was Fatima Jinnah, his sister. If it is true, those responsible for this, were they anti Pakistan or Pakistan?

1.   Those who got first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, killed, were they anti Pakistan or pro Pakistan?

2.   What about those who toppled the civilian governments in 1950s, abrogated the 1956 constitution and imposed a Martial law, were they anti Pakistan or pro Pakistan?

3.   What about those who violated a Standstill Agreement with Jammu and Kashmir government and arranged an attack in name of jihad on Jammu and Kashmir to capture it? This attack resulted in deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people, rapes of women, forced division of Jammu and Kashmir, and first direct war between India and Pakistan. Were they pro Pakistan or anti Pakistan as that action caused damage to Pakistan, its reputation and death and destruction.
4.   What about those who launched ill planned ‘Operation Gibraltar’, which led to second India Pakistan war and death of thousands of Pakistani and citizens of Jammu and Kashmir; and embittered the relationship with India and many other countries? Were they anti Pakistan or loyal Pakistanis?

5.   What about those who refused to honour the verdict of people in the elections of 1970, and attacked people of East Pakistan, killed Lakhs of innocent people and raped women. This operation not only gave bad name to Pakistan, but it also resulted in worst surrender in history of world, were these people pro Pakistan or anti Pakistan?

6.   What about those who imposed Martial law in 1977, and hanged an elected Prime Minister? Were they anti Pakistan or pro Pakistan?

7.   Those who imposed draconian laws and curbed fundamental rights of citizens, promoted sectarianism and violence in name of religion, were they pro Pakistan or anti Pakistan?
8.   What about those who were part of conspiracies to get General Zia Ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto killed, were they pro Pakistan or anti-Pakistan?
9.   What about those who created Taliban and exported militancy in Afghanistan and searched for a strategic depth? This policy also harmed Pakistan’s interests and defamed Pakistan as a country ‘harbouring terrorism’. Were they all pro Pakistan?

10.                 What about General Musharaf who toppled the elected Prime Minister and imposed Martial law in 1999; and gave Pakistani air bases to Americans that they can kill Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Was that pro Pakistan act or anti Pakistan act?

Why is it that when people in uniform are part of wrong doings they are protected; and people are also tight lipped about it; and when civilians criticise their wrong and harmful acts they are projected as enemies of the state and ‘agents’?
Why I oppose wrong policies of Pakistan?
Pakistani obsession to capture Jammu and Kashmir at any cost is bleeding citizens of Jammu and Kashmir state. They train and arm militants, and send them to Jammu and Kashmir in name of jihad; and promote extremism and intolerance there. This is dividing people on religious lines and bleeding them.

Apart from that, area of the State where I come from is occupied by Pakistan. They deny us of our fundamental rights, and exploit our resources. They ban my books and books of other Kashmiri nationalists. They also ban newspapers and maps; and harass and intimidate people. They have blocked my ID card, and deny me a right to visit my homeland, visit a grave of my father and graves of other relatives. They have frozen my bank accounts. Am I not even entitled to speak against this injustice and denial of fundamental rights?

Writer is a political analyst, and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.