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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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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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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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UNSG Report on Afghanistan

United Nations' Secretary General Mr António Guterres has submitted quarterly report on Afghanistan to the Security Council. According to the report, Afghanistan’s mainstream political parties and political movements have intensified their efforts ahead of October parliamentary elections with politicians insisting on reforms in the election system. Between 15 May and 15 August, UNAMA recorded a total of 5,800 security incidents. On the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the UN chief’s reported noted that the momentum in support of a peace process with the Taliban continued, aided by the increasingly active engagement of civil society and religious leaders calling for peace between government and the Taliban. In 2018, 178,002 people were newly displaced by conflict and the demand for trauma care for victims of war increased to 24,687 cases in 2018, an increase of 14 per cent compared with 2017. The report says that a total of 210,724 Afghan citizens, including spontaneous returnees, deportees and refugees, returned to Afghanistan during the reporting period. Former President Sibghat ullah Mujaddadi and a number of parliamentarians have called for the BSA to be assessed. They opined that the agreement has not been successful in the fight against insurgency. In the meanwhile, Taliban and the US are preparing for second round of their direct talks in Doha.

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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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Selective Assessments of Human Rights Status

These times are witnessing increasingly selective assessments regarding Human Rights status across the World. And slogan of Human Rights has become a tool for furthering hidden strategic objectives. In response to the letter, written by HRW Asia Director Brad Adams to Prime Minster Imran Khan, on August 24, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari responded: “I hope that you would also raise your voice against a massive human rights violations, carried out in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, Palestine and in some European States against Muslims citizens.” Minister also urged HRW to take up the issue of the violation of human rights by some European states against their Muslim citizens in the form of curtailing their right to practice their religion freely and in the form of abuse of Islam and its Prophet (PBUH), in direct contravention of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. “Since HRW claims to monitor human rights across the world, I would like to be informed on how you are ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states,” she added. She went on to ask that since the HRW claims to monitor human rights violations in over 90 countries, “I hope that would include the massive human rights violations being carried out as a matter of state policy by India in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Minister also said that she would like to be informed on how the NGO is “ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states”, which have seen an upsurge of xenophobia in recent years. Pakistan government would always welcome positive suggestions, but “an NGO’s institutional credibility will rest on its commitment to ensure human rights across the globe and not just in selective states.” She added. In a blatant violation freedom of information norms, India’s home ministry abruptly withdrew the security clearance granted to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network after a documentary on Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) was aired by the channel. Now, matter is under consideration at appellate level. According to Times of India, the report leading to this action had highlighted the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 and the brutal use of pellet guns against protesters amongst other Human Rights violations in IoK. Report was deemed by Indian government as biased. The Economic Times has added that “the television channel will be taken off air if the Home Ministry strikes down the review petition filed by Al Jazeera”. Moreover, Indian government has also rejected recent reports by Amnesty International and Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces in IoK. “Once again we find out that Kashmiris are the ones having to pay the price for the political battle”. In a related development, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), has “urged the Indian leadership to admit that human rights violations are taking place on their side of the Line of Control (LoC), and they must work with Pakistan to find a solution that puts the interests of Kashmiris first”. She said it is about time leaders in both India and Pakistan realized that Kashmiris are living in a conflict zone and suffering human rights violations. “They must understand and acknowledge this and ensure that human rights of these people are not violated anymore. It needs to happen right now… this should be about Kashmiris who are suffering.” When asked to comment on misuse of special powers given to the Indian military, Ganguly said that not only the UN but also other groups and commissions, including those, formed under the Indian government have also appealed to the government to repeal such laws. Commenting on the role rights groups like Amnesty and OHCHR could play to make India more accountable over Kashmir issue, especially when Modi government is targeting almost all minority ethnicities in the country, she commented that the voice of dissent should not become the political tool. “Unfortunately this is what happens way too often”. Commenting on increasing communal violence by pro-BJP vigilantes against religious minorities in the country, Ganguly said the environment of an extreme form of nationalism violates religious freedom. Prime Minster Imran Khan has recently said that little noteworthy progress has been made in the past to find a solution for the Kashmir issue. He said so while meeting Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi before assuming office, adding that through the UN resolutions on Kashmir a solution must be found for this intractable issue. Now an extraordinary situation is developing in IoK in the wake of BJP government’s attempts to abrogate Article 35-A of the constitution that grants special status to the occupied territory and its citizens. India is using all cheap tactics from brute use of force to political and constitutional aggression for forcing the occupied territory completely to its fold. The Kashmiri leadership has made it clear that they will fight with full resilience to foil the nefarious designs of India. Pakistan government must approach not only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but also the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to prevent the Indian government from going ahead with its plans of changing demographic nature of Jammu and Kashmir.

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