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History should not imprison the future of Kashmir

Human rights work in tandem with Kashmir peace initiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights promotes peace is discredited by all history, including that of Kashmir. The denial of freedom of speech, association, religion, due process, equal justice, and self-determination in Kashmir has sabotaged peace, not boosted its chances. Ditto in the past for East Timor, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Southern Sudan and etc. The people of Kashmir no less demand dignity and respect than do other peoples. History should not imprison the future, but neither can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations. A brief chronicling of Kashmir’s history will enlighten understanding of its current plight and viable solutions.India’s so-called “democracy” in Kashmir resembles Myanmar’s patently bogus democracy. The recent nationwide Panchayat (local bodies) elections are emblematic. Let me review the stunning voter boycott statistics from Srinagar and its surroundings on October 15, 2018. The Economic Times reported on October 18, 2018 that when the time for voting had ended, the turnout for the final phase of elections, which was held only for two municipal bodies in Kashmir, remained low as usual at 4.2 per cent. These boycott figures are not aberrational but typical. They represent a stunning vote of no confidence by the Kashmiri people in their current illegal governance by India. The peace process and human rights in Kashmir cannot be separated. They will succeed or fail together. We hope we can count on the moral suasion and conscience of the world leaders to push success forward.

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Pakistan asks America to keep its troops in Afghanistan till stability

In a clear departure from its earlier position, Pakistan has cautioned against the US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without first achieving the complete peace and security in the country. “Pakistan has been reiterating that the US forces should stay in Afghanistan till the achievement of complete peace and stability,” Foreign office spokesperson said at the weekly briefing on October 18. “I would like to draw your attention to the chaos in the aftermath of the withdrawal of USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] in the late 1980s. The region cannot afford anything similar, at this time,” he added. Provincial governor, Police and Intelligence chiefs were assassinated in an attack in Kandahar province while the top American commander in Afghanistan General Austin Miller narrowly escaped. Probably, it was an inside job. Over thirty percent polling stations are not likely to open due to violence during October 20 parliamentary polls. Afghanistan is undoubtedly in a chaos, and Pakistan's concerns about post US pullout are not unfounded. May be Pakistan is anticipating a sudden pullout by President Trump. Whatever, the people of Pakistan need to be taken into confidence over this change of stance.

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Need for Reconciliation with Justice: Babri Demolition and aftermath

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court in a 2-1 majority verdict refused to refer the Dr. Faruqui verdict to Constitution bench. This said verdict had stated that Mosque in not an essential part of Islamic practice. In recent judgment the dissenter judge felt that matter needs to be referred to the seven judge Constitution bench. There was a feeling that “mosque not being a part of essential Islamic practice” might have had an impact on the 2010 Allahabad Court verdict which had divided the Babri mosque land into three parts, Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akahada. The argument in favor of the Faruqui case was that Namaz can be offered in an open place as well so mosque is not an essential part of Islamic practice. On the other side the argument is; worldwide there are so many mosques, why are mosques there if this is not a part of Islamic practice? Surely this point did deserve a deeper consideration as it has larger implication on the society. Now the path is paved for the hearing of the land dispute related to Ayodhya case. Though the Allahabad High Court had divided the land into three parts, the basis of that were not the land records but the faith of large number of Hindus; that Lord Ram was born there. How do we solve land disputes; through land records or through the faith of the people? This faith has been an outcome of the political campaign for Ram temple orchestrated by RSS combine, led initially by VHP and later by BJP. Can this faith determine the direction of our judicial system? As far as claims of Ram Temple having been destroyed there over five centuries ago is very doubtful. One recalls that the time when Ram Temple is supposed to have been demolished, one of the biggest devotees of Lord Ram, Goswami Tulsi Das, was living in Ayodhya. He never recorded it in any of his writings. On the contrary Tulsi Das, in one of his couplets writes that he can very well live in a mosque. The faith that Lord Ram was born there has been constructed over a period of time, intensified during last few decades. Nation witnessed the journalists being beaten and their cameras being broken when they were recording the act of crime. Surely, the crime of demolition must be punished. Second; the land dispute needs to be sorted out on the basis of land records. The land has been in possession of Sunni Waqf Board from centuries. In 1885, the Court did not permit the Hindus for Construction of Chabutara (platform), in the land adjoining the mosque. Even now the land records should be clear on the issue. There are attempts by some to bring in ‘Peaceful solution’ ‘out of Court settlement’ to the issue. Some of these initiatives are totally articulating what RSS combine wants. They are asking Muslims to forgo their claim on the land to let the temple come up there. In lieu of that they will be given the land to build the mosque somewhere else. There are also threats that through a legislation of the Parliament a Temple will be constructed there, when BJP gets suitable majority. Reconciliation is a process where both parties are listened to and with some ‘give and take’ issue is undertaken for resolution. This formula to give up all the land for temple construction is very high handed attempt to brow beat the Muslims into a total submission. What we need is an honest attempt to punish the guilty and abide the law to solve the problem. There can’t be peace without justice. The crime of Babri demolition is being presented as ‘Hindu Shaurya Divas’ (Hindu Bravery Day) by RSS combine. As such it a shame for our democracy! It is an outcome of the divisive communal politics, throwing our society in to dark abyss of stagnation and diversion. Our core issues relate to bread, butter, shelter and employment. The RSS combine has built its social and political strength around emotive issues like Ram Temple and Holy Cow at the cost of the genuine issues of society. We do need to built hospitals and schools; we do need to build industries for giving employment. Ayodhya issue coming up at the time of forthcoming elections is so unfortunate. Rather than discussing the core issues of society, what will at center stage will be the question of Temple and Mosque! How we as a nation can bring back the people’s agenda should be the central concerns for all those committed to march towards society with equality as the central focus.

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Contemporary INGOs: Hegemonic Proxies

When governments abdicate their basic responsibilities towards their people in terms of disaster management, healthcare, education, nutrition etc, the void is filled by NGOs and INGOs, and then host country has to bend backward to accommodate these entities. Hence, it is necessary that beside scrutinizing the INGOs, government of Pakistan takes essential steps to fill the capacity gaps in disaster management, health, education, social security etc.Modern warfare is characterized by calculated ambiguity, controlled chaos and perplexing complexity. It is envisaged that the future hybrid conflict in the region shall be fought by the foreign sponsored non-state actors and inserted proxies under the overall goal of influence operations so as to achieving the strategic end state rather than conventional military to military conflicts. It is no secret that some International Non-government organisations (INGOs) harbour foreign agents working against the interests of the host country with or without the knowledge or complicity of their parent organisation. Such INGOs provide an excellent cover for clandestine activity by hostile foreign agencies such as intelligence-gathering and subversion in the country in which they operate. International organizations and selected NGOs offer diversity of means available for international coercion. Non state actors will continue to play an important role in the future. Due to the technological advancement and globalization, a number of non-state actors and groups, transnational networks and even think tanks have influence against nation states or certain parts of it. Pakistan has asked 18 (INGOs) to wind up their operations within 60 days. During surveillance of these INGOs, it was revealed that they were involved in suspicious activities. They were doing things which were beyond their given mandate. Certain foreign funded organisations which were conducting surveys, were routinely sharing their data with hostile agencies. Some of the INGOs were also operating near sensitive installations.So far 145 INGOs have applied for registration. During scrutiny it was revealed that 63 INGOs are working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity. Ministry of Interior served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing their operation in the country; out of these, 18 filed representation against the decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position. Their appeals were unanimously regretted by a special committee constituted for the said purpose. Forty INGOs have not even bothered to get themselves registered and they continue to, work. Legal action against such INGOs is being contemplated.

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What to believe in: RSS Words or deeds?

Post form India: Ram Puniyani. Do organizations say what they intend to do? Not necessarily. This came out clearly from the three long lectures by RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. The event was supposed to be a dialogue, but the maximum of dialogue one could see was his answering few questions at the end of lectures. This normal practice of answering the questions was underlined strongly, as probably this must have been novel thing for this organization. So has RSS changed? In case of most of the organizations, they should be judged by their actions, or by the outcome of activities and the programs of the organizations which come into being due to RSS ideology. That’s what will tell us the true character, real agenda of RSS and help us assess why a pleasant face is being presented now? One must say that RSS, as it has got renewed confidence during last four years is now trying to spread its net by mouthing liberal language. This velvet glow is the contribution of Mr. Bhagwat to the deepening divide created in the society due to the all round work of the progeny of RSS, which while sounding independent is totally loyal to the trainings it got while attending shakha baudhhiks. So we know that when the Jansangh component of Janata Party was asked to severe its links with RSS, they preferred to break the party and reemerge as BJP. So the late Prime Minister Vajpayee in Staten Island, while talking in front of NRI Indians reaffirmed his primary loyalty to RSS. Its respect of Indian Constitution is a sham as; for Indian Constitution; we are a secular democratic India, in contrast to Hindu nation, the soul of RSS agenda.

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Do we need NACTA?

Expectations from National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) had all along been unrealistic; it was over-projected as panacea for all societal shortfalls leading to mushrooming of terrorism. NACTA, for years, has been marred by a dearth of human resource. During the heat of counter terrorism operations, this entity often came under severe criticism for its inaction. NACTA never spoke for itself, at least publically, and found safety in silence. As on September 30, 2017, NACTA was a parking place for 47 (BPS17-22) officers and 90 personnel (BPS1-16). And recruitment of 53 core personnel and 198 (BPS 1-19) was under process. Now, once counter terrorism activities are nearing their fag end, another revival of NACTA is being attempted. Since its inception, there has been a tussle between the Prime Minister’s Office and the interior ministry over operational control of NACTA. Prime Minister has reportedly decided to retain control over Authority. It is a good decision because countering terrorism is a multi-disciplinary activity and interior ministry alone cannot handle it. Other problem is that law and order is a provincial subject and NACAT neither has its provincial extensions nor has control over provincial counter terrorism departments. And unless rules of business are amended, in the role of authority, NACTA would invariably come in conflict with federal and provincial interior ministries. Viable options are: have provincial extensions of NACTA and amend the rules of business governing working relationships between federal and provincial law ministries, create a provision to have countering extremism and terrorism as common responsibility of federation and provinces; Or, disband NACTA at federal level and devolve its functions to provincial NACTAs; Or, reconfigure NACTA from Authority to Commission format with a mandate to define horizons for counter terrorism effort and perform an advisory role to federal and provincial interior ministries. Whatever model is adopted, there is a need to change its composition from an extension of police department and give it a look of a body with national representation. It should have a Chairperson, and slot should be filled by a person of national repute. Beside other tasks it should act as a think tank mandated to keep an eye on all factors leading to mind-set of violence and extremism within segments of Pakistani society; and give viable recommendations for preventing it well before reaching terrorism threshold.

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Talks Can Diffuse the Tension Between India & Pakistan

There was a high level of optimism when India and Pakistan announced on September 20, 2018 to meet in New York on the sidelines of the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But the dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of these talks. Major international and neutral human rights agencies have documented harrowing human rights violations committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces. The draconian laws, like ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) grants virtual legal immunity to any type of war crimes against humanity perpetrated in Kashmir. Human rights atrocities committed against civilian population are commonplace, world powers need to endorse the recommendations of the report submitted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights for an impartial investigation about the situation in Kashmir.

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Statement by Foreign Minister at the 73rd Session of the UNGA

Statement by Foreign Minister  at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly: 29 September 2018 Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I begin by felicitating Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces upon her election as President of the General Assembly.  The stewardship of this session by an accomplished leader of her ranking and stature,would undoubtedly …

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Turns and Twists of Afghan Peace

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said on September 17 that some politicians were pushing for the review of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US in pursuit of their own interests. “They once again brought it up for debate for their personal objectives; I don’t think that this will help the security situation of our country. In the wake of a sharp increase in fatalities among security forces in numerous provinces, a number of parliamentarians had called for the BSA to be assessed. They said the agreement has not been successful in the fight against insurgency; and the US has failed to enforce the agreement when it comes to the mobilization of Afghan Security and Defence Forces (ANDSF). The call by Afghanistan’s influential politicians and some political parties to review the BSA with the US has been met with mixed reactions by the Afghan government, members of parliament and political experts. Among those who defend the BSA is General Abdul Raziq, the police chief of southern Kandahar province who said that the BSA had been approved by over 5,000 members of the Loya Jirga who represented the people of Afghanistan from all provinces. Sustained direct Taliban-US talks are the current reality of Afghan peace process, though to the chagrin of Afghan government who had been insisting to remain the front face of peace negotiations. At least for now, it is Taliban steered peace course. Latest inputs indicate that Taliban are preparing to send a delegation for further talks with the US officials about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, this would be the second round where Taliban are likely to put forward substantive proposals. Supposedly lot of mileage was covered during three sessions of the first round. Taliban are ready for a second round, possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchanges, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said Taliban officials in separate interviews. Whether or not the peace talks will gain momentum in the midst of increasing violence in Kabul remains an open question. Negotiating peace, reconstruction and a stable polity in Afghanistan amid a raging violent conflict continues to be an uphill accomplishment. First vice-president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, aptly said on September 13 that the ongoing war in Afghanistan was “in no one’s interest and called for a responsible end to the conflict”. Afghan peace should not be lost in processes.

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UN Can Stop Carnage in Kashmir

Dr. Ghulam N. Mir, President, World Kashmir Awareness Forum expressed his anguish and grief over the continued killing by Indian forces in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. He lamented the passive role of the United Nations towards the loss of human life in Kashmir, and urged both the world body and the United States Administration to help stop the carnage in Kashmir. He said that a just and lasting settlement of the dispute is possible only through tripartite negotiations between the Governments of India and Pakistan and the legitimate leadership of the people of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Mir was speaking on the subject of, “Kashmir: tale of Subjugation & Resistance” during the 55th Convention of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that was held in Houston, Texas.Dr. Mir underscored that the scale of the popular uprising in Kashmir can be judged from the established fact, that on many occasions during the month of July-August 2018, virtually the entire population of Srinagar came out on the streets in an unparalleled demonstrations to protest the attempt by the Government of India to scrap the Article 35 A of the Indian constitution which gives the special rights and privileges to the state subject of Jammu and Kashmir. He said that the abrogation of this constitutional provision is a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. However, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearting of Article 35-A till January 2019. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum said, “Could there be any tragedy more despicable for a people than to see their homeland, once known as paradise on earth, turn into hell? Where peace once reigned and communal harmony prevailed. The once evergreen valleys and snow-capped mountains have been marred by blood. How long will India be allowed to go on killing the people of Kashmir and denying them their fundamental right of self-determination is a question which the international community has to address?” Ms. Hedaya Saadi, of Seattle, Washington said the people of Kashmir have suffered long and needlessly because of this brutal conflict. They demand and they deserve peace. Peace in the region of South Asia remains elusive because of the Kashmir dispute. The inalienable right to self-determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter and promised to the people of Kashmir by the international community, continues to be denied. She said that the whole world knows the magnitude of carnages committed by Indian army in Kashmir but they have yet to utter a word of condemnation.

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