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Kashmiri Americans demonstrate near White House

Hundreds of Kashmiri Americans and friends of Kashmir staged a huge demonstration in front of the White House. Raising slogans: “Indian Forces: Out of Kashmir”, “No justice: No Peace” , “Freedom for all: Freedom for Kashmir”, “India State of Fear: Not Fair”, demonstrators urged the United States to help persuade India and Pakistan to initiate peace process along with the leadership of the people of Kashmir. India has defied United Nations Security Council resolutions for more than 71 years because she knows Kashmiris will never vote in her favor. Kashmir dispute is about the right of self-determination of the people of Jammu & Kashmir. The people should be the makers of their destiny and not an alien power – India. Given a chance, Kashmiris could be instrumental to encourage peace and stability not only in the subcontinent but in Afghanistan as well. As many experts of international relations now publicly say that the key to peace and stability in Afghanistan lies in Kashmir. Indian army is responsible for many untold atrocities but one thing is quite clear that she could not break the will of the people for their right of self-determination.India has defied United Nations Security Council resolutions for more than 71 years because she knows Kashmiris will never vote in her favor.

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Afghan peace process in disarray

President Trump is tasting the real power these days. Taliban have the military prowess to attack the places of their liking at the timing of their choosing. In the diplomacy domain, Taliban dictate the venue and agenda. And when they meet Americans, they field Guantanamo hardened Taliban negotiators to stare in the eyes of top American diplomats. Of late, peace talks between Taliban and US officials were cancelled over agenda disagreement. Senior Taliban members based in Afghanistan said “both sides have agreed to not meet.” Three meetings have already taken place between Taliban leaders and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December. Reports last month about US President Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan has triggered uncertainty. However, Afghan peace process is in disarray.Interestingly, as an afterthought, the US has taken a step back from the earlier hype of pulling out 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. An Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) representative has declared that if Taliban insist on not meeting Afghan government delegation, then, HPC won’t participate in Saudi Arabia session of talks. With these firmly grounded irritants and posturing, Afghan peace my not just be around the corner.

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Afghan peace process oscillations

The Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban before the Afghan presidential elections, for which new schedule shall be announced in due course. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued. Afghan peace process in a a state of perpetual oscillations. Taliban, say the presence of international forces in Afghanistan is the main obstacle to peace. Even as the peace process gathers momentum, fighting has continued with heavy casualties on both sides. President Ashraf Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated that Afghan government had not taken part directly in the talks, however a team from Kabul met US and Saudi officials in the UAE. Pakistan Foreign office welcomed a new round of talks between the Afghan Taliban and other international stakeholders: “Along with international community and other stakeholders, Pakistan is committed to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” said FO Spokesperson on Twitter: “Talks are being held in UAE. We hope this will end bloodshed in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region.” Notwithstanding the optimism, Afghan peace may stay elusive unless occupation forces offer concrete concessions including firm timeframe for the departure of last foreign soldier and substantial restructuring of Afghan constitution.

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Afghan peace process: Evolving Scenarios

The Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban before the Afghan presidential elections, for which new schedule shall be announced in due course. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued. Prime Minister Imran Khan, publicly took credit for facilitating the “peace talks,” and reiterated that his country “will do everything within its power” to further the Afghan peace process. The US spokesperson said a recent letter from President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Imran Khan "emphasized that Pakistan’s assistance with the Afghan peace process is fundamental to building an enduring US Pakistan partnership.” He added: “We welcome any actions the Pakistani government takes to advance security, stability and cooperation in South Asia, including the fostering of negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghans”. Apparently it may appear that Afghan peace process is on fast track.

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Afghan peace process on fast track!

America is abdicating its obligation of bringing a responsible end to “wrong wars”, it has decided to pull out its troops from Syria and Afghanistan. A lot has happened with regard to evolving Afghan peace process during 2018, most of the activity is not yet in public domain. Hopefully, Pakistan government would stand on its feet firmly to safeguard its core national interests; and would not buckle under American pressure to offer strategic concessions in exchange for paltry gains like previous governments which had to deal with earlier portions of Afghan crisis. Americans are in an indecent hurry, this should not tailspin Pakistan into a state of panic. With recent American trend of walking away from earlier international treaties, they can no longer be trusted with new ones. Pakistan should insist for appropriate international guarantees, both within and outside UNSC framework. Alongside, all six immediate neighbours of Afghanistan should be made part of the evolving peace agreement. There should be a multilateral mechanism to oversee the implementation of agreement leading to transfer of control of Afghanistan’s destiny to Afghan people through a UN supervised presidential and parliamentary elections in which Taliban also participate as a political entity. Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban by April next year or before the Afghan presidential elections. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued.

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Civil and Military judicial systems: Need for bridging the gap

Military judicial systems, the World over, are known for delivering swift, speedy and credible justice during extraordinary times. Especially so when the routine of the run judicial system is unable to deliver justice due to any of the accepted multiple genuine reasons. Post 9/11 setting threw up such extraordinary environment when circumstances had rendered the normal judicial channels ineffective, particularly when it came to punishing hard core terrorists. This situation prevailed for about fifteen years and none of the terrorist was awarded meaningful penalty for heinous crimes, it was often observed that those arrested on these accounts were promptly granted bail and were repeatedly caught committing same crimes again and again. Under these conditions National Action Plan was formulated to counter terrorism and military courts were setup for a limited time. These courts served the purpose and award of meaningful punishments to had core terrorists helped in quelling the waves of terrorism promptly.Military courts were established for two years and during this period civil judiciary was expected to fix its weaknesses and be able to re-takeover the task. However, it failed to do so, so the military courts were asked to carry out the task for another two years; this period is to end in January 2019. However, civilian courts are still no better than what they were in January 2015. It is yet another testimony of the lack of faith in the country’s criminal justice system and the sheer ineptness of political system to reform it. Reasons that led to setting up of military courts continue to persist. And it goes to the credit of swift action by military courts alongside military operations that terrorism is on its fag end. Certainly Army’s Judge Advocate General’s team will have to answer many question, as to why pointed out technical gaps and procedural voids were not plugged-in during the trial proceedings. While at the same time, PHC bench needs to account for basing such decision mainly on technicalities, while mainly ignoring the substance matter, and that too in case of heinous crimes. There are many rungs between capital punishments and outright acquittal and one does not have to go berserk to jump straight from capital punishment to acquittal option without preferring to choose from whole assortment of lower degree punishments. Under the circumstances remanding the case for retrial should have been a win-win situation for all sides. Hopefully, a worthwhile solution would be found out. Army needs to undertake capacity enhancement of its JAG branch to avoid recurrences. And PHC should avoid outright choking of one of the parliament approved and constitutionally established judicial sub-system.

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UK Parliamentary Group’s Report on Jammu and Kashmir

The Report of the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPKG), on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, has detailed severe Indian human rights atrocities in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). It echoes many of the findings of the UN OHCHR Report on Jammu and Kashmir already published and is critical of the human rights atrocities being committed with impunity by Indian occupation forces in IoK, especially the use of pellet guns, draconian laws including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA). The report also mentions presence of unmarked graves in IoK and enforced disappearances, which confirm the humanitarian emergency in IoK.

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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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