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Geneva Conference on Afghanistan: A cart and horse dilemma

The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, was co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and the UN “to renew their partnership and cooperation for Afghanistan’s peace, prosperity and self-reliance”. Meet was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organizations, and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media. The Geneva Conference was a midway review between two pledging conferences: the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (2016) and the next pledging conference expected to be held in 2020. While Afghan leadership was looking for peace in Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, back home there were two back to back raids raids on occupation forces, two on the US and one on the UK assets. Four Americans soldiers were killed, taking the number to 12 during this year; more than 2,200 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11. Since the start of 2015, when Afghan forces assumed lead in combative operations, 58 Americans have been killed, as compared to 30,000 Afghan police and soldiers. At least twelve people were killed after a massive blast outside a British security company’s compound in Kabul on November 28; the attack claimed by Taliban was the latest violence to target the Afghan capital. Blast was a car bomb targeting a compound which houses G4S, a private British security company, in east Kabul. Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh told AFP “10 dead, 19 wounded have been evacuated from site,” he did not mention victims’ nationalities. Attack came just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the militant group, as the United Nations (UN) renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the insurgents. And on November 20, at least 55 people were killed when a bomber blew himself up in the middle of a banquet hall in one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan this year. The violence came as the Taliban intensify pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts towards talks. If Khalilzad's effort also fizzles out, then Presidential elections may be put off. 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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Time to create Rakhine as a Muslim State for Rohingyas

Myanmar insists that Rohingyas are interlopers from Bangladesh despite most of them living for generations in western Rakhine state of Myanmar, they have long been denied basic political rights and liberties. Bangladesh does not accept that Rohingyas have a Bengali lineage. Anthropologists believe that Rohingya roots trace back to Saudi Arabia, who migrated to Myanmar (Burma) around 7th & 8th century AC. Except Bangladesh and Myanmar who think such a return as a good idea, there are hardly any buyers of such forced eviction. United Nations doesn’t want forced eviction to happen. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned that forcing the first batch of about 2,200 Rohingya living in refugee camps to ground zero of mass violence against the minority Muslim group would be a “clear violation” of core international legal principles. Human Rights groups have called the move “dangerous and premature.” A number of Human Rights groups say “they are shocked”. Even the people who will be affected the most, Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, are upset that their future, once again, is being decided without their input.So far Aung Suu Kyi’s leadership performance has been derisive. No one expected governing to be easy for her, as country’s leader. Her election had ended more than a half-century of military rule; yet the hegemony has not retrieved; and Bonapartism is galore. In pursuit of her over ambitious political objectives, she has been used and discredited by Junta. Suu Kyi had declared ending the long-running ethnic insurgencies that have torn the country apart as her top priority, but her lacklustre peace effort has proved ineffective. Ever since fighting between government forces and ethnic groups has been spiralling up. Though World has been shocked by reports that the military has carried out atrocities, including rape and murder, against the Rohingya, Aung Suu has said little on the matter and done even lesser. Her government’s growing suppression of speech on the Internet seems perverse for a onetime democracy icon who spent 15 years under house arrest. No wonders her popularity is on decline. Growth has slowed and foreign investment has dipped significantly. Suu Kyi faces daunting challenges. In rebuilding the country, she must overcome decades of mismanagement and profiteering by previous military governments that enriched the generals and their cronies and brought the economy to its knees. The biggest stain on Suu Kyi’s record may be her government’s brutal treatment of the Rohingya, and her tepid response to it. Prevailing World order is known for acting very fast in Muslim versus non-Muslim conflicts where outcome is likely to benefit non-Muslims. And it shows criminal negligence when Muslims are likely to gain through political settlement of any such conflict. When pushed too hard, conflict is settled in a way that it’s a paralytic outcome, ensuring mitigation of equitable advantage to Muslim faction of population. Some of the conflicts like Kashmir and Palestine are deliberately kept on back burners as their settlement would benefit Muslim segment of respective population. Myanmar’s Rohingya conflict also falls in “let ferment” category. Likewise is the situation about Afghan and Yemen crisis, as well as simmering Middle East and North African Muslim countries. Muslims are right to assume that current World Order has not served them a fair deal; and unless there is a significant change in its format, Muslims will continue to be marginalised at state, community and individual levels. But the billion dollar question is that how long the current World Political Order would take to assume ownership of Myanmar crisis? Time has already reached for declaring Rakhine as a sovereign State where Rohingyas could live peacefully and practice their religion peacefully.

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Indian brutalities in Occupied Kashmir: A failure of the UN

Pakistan has always pursued the matter at the UN. Kashmir issue was raised at international level five times in 10 days preceding the Black Day. Human Rights violations of the Kashmiri people have been repeatedly documented by independent human rights observers, the most significant among them being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who issued a report in June on the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). Pakistan has endorsed the Report’s recommendations. And has renewed its call for the UN to set up a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ (COI) to investigate the grave human rights violations in IoK, as recommended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We endorse the report’s recommendations that a UN Inquiry Commission be constituted to investigate and redress the gross violations of the human rights of the Kashmiri people,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi recently told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural questions. British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julie Ward has said human rights violations in IoK are a matter of great concern for the British people as well as the whole world. Ward said the occupied valley is the most militarized area in the world where human rights violations by the occupying forces happen on a daily basis and have sadly become part of the local population’s day-to-day life. “Pellet guns are used indiscriminately against protesters and bystanders during street demonstrations. The Indian army appears to be particularly targeting the eyes of the victims, which ends up in blindness in many cases”. Ward has raised the issue of human rights violations many a time. “I have also spoken twice in the UN Human Rights Council on the issue of women victims of violence in Kashmir. The latest developments in the valley are of particular concern for those who are worried about women rights,” she said. The Kashmir issue is very much alive at the UN and will remain alive until it is resolved according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir and UN Resolutions. Though the BJP government is ready to go to any lengths to suppress the popular uprising for freedom. However, it would never succeed in suppressing the Kashmiri freedom. The dark night that began on 27 October 1947, with India sending occupation forces continues; but while India could physically and illegally occupy territory it could not occupy hearts and minds. Brave people of Kashmir have resisted occupation for over 70 years and continue to do so. Pakistan has reaffirmed that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will remain on the UN agenda until the Kashmiri people are allowed to exercise their will, according to the agreed method prescribed by the Security Council. Right to self-determination is sanctified in the very foundations of the United Nations. Yet, for countless people, the promise of freedom remains elusive. Three principles circumscribe the methodology for expression of right of self-determination: the right must be exercised freely and without the threat or use of coercion or repression; the right must not and cannot lapse with the passage of time; and, the legitimate struggle of peoples to self-determination must not be obfuscated or eclipsed by efforts to conflate it with terrorism.

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What is India hiding in Kashmir?

“Human rights violations in Kashmir perpetrated by Indian army with legal immunity dwarf in scale the violations that provoked international humanitarian action in other international disputes. Human rights violations in Kashmir have been documented by all international and neutral human rights organization. Very recently, it was also documented in the United Nations report issued by the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The High Commissioner urged India to allow the United Nations delegation to visit Kashmir to asses the situation. But India does not allow such a delegation to visit Kashmir. It clearly shows that India has something to hide. May be, India does not want the world powers to know the following: tens of thousands indiscriminately slaughtered and countless rapes, abductions, custodial disappearances, arbitrary detentions, arsons, and brutal suppression of peaceful political protest,” this was conveyed in a message to the conference attendees of Pakistani American Society of New York (PASNY) by Syed Ali Geelani, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian army is involved in serious war crimes. They open fire on unarmed civilians at their will because they have been given immunity under draconian laws, like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. (AFSPA). We demand an inquiry into these war crimes by a neutral agency, like the United Nations, Mr. Geelani added. He insisted that the movement in Kashmir is indigenous, popular and people’s movement and rejected the notion that it is Pakistan sponsored. Speaking as a guest speaker, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum reminded the audience of the injustice, tyranny and inhumanity of the Indian military as it occupies Kashmir. He cautioned that at this moment in our historic struggle for self-determination, the Kashmiri people with poise, confidence and unity are taking their inalienable struggle in a new direction of non-violence and peaceful agitation.

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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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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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War of words must stop between New Delhi & Islamabad

Mail From Dusseldorf, Germany: by Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai The history affirms that almost all international conflicts were resolved not in the battlefield but on the negotiating table. The people of Kashmir were heartened to know that foreign ministers of India & Pakistan have shown their willingness to meet in New York during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. But their dreams were shattered when Government of India unexpectedly announced the cancellation of talks. The leadership of both India and Pakistan must show their statesmanship for the sake of peace and security of the region and beyond. The reckless statement of Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, “We need to take stern action to avenge the barbarism that terrorists and the Pakistan Army have been carrying out. Yes, it is time to give it back to them in the same coin…But I think the other side must also feel the same pain” was immature and will not pave the way for a better understanding between these two neighboring countries. Such rhetoric needs to stop. We are mindful that the United Nations as well as the world powers urge both India and Pakistan to initiate talks to resolve their differences. But if there is no change in the mindset, outlook and thought processes, then to expect breakthrough in talks is to ask for a miracle.

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The UN should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs in Kashmir

Mail from Washington: by Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai Kashmir is one of the most idyllic setting in the world. A picturesque valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kashmir is a natural paradise. The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates back 1931 when the people of Kashmir, both Hindus and Muslims initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (Ruler) to have their own indigenous rule in Kashmir. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capitol, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character. Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. It was agreed upon by the Governments of India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu & Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite By adopting a number of resolutions from 1948 to 1962 reaffirming the principle of free choice for the people of Kashmir, the Security Council – and, therefore the United Nations – has assumed a moral responsibility to ensure that conditions in Kashmir will permit the exercise of that choice. To disown that responsibility would expose the world organization to the charge of making hollow promises and, indeed, deceiving a population which is larger than that of many Members of the United Nations individually. The people of Kashmir never lost hope either in the United Nations as the custodian of human rights, or in their demand to exercise the right of self-determination. The scale of the popular backing of the 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 and major towns in the Valley 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. Article 35 A also bars foreigners to buy the land or to acquire immovable property, etc. in the State. The Joint Resistance Leadership and other legal, religious and business fraternities believe 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 August 27, 2018. In response to the peaceful and massive demonstrations, much inhumanity, continuous violations of basic rights, frequent massacres, constant fear, hunger and misery – these are the gifts of Indian occupation to the people of Kashmir. For the populous South Asian subcontinent, the Kashmir situation entails recurrent possibility of disaster and nuclear war. There is a way to bring these atrocities to an end. The way is that the Secretary General of the United Nations uses its moral and legal authority to reinvoke peaceful dialogue between the Governments of India & Pakistan along with the legitimate representatives of the people of Kashmir for the final settlement of the dispute. The Charter of the United Nations empowers the Secretary General of the United Nations to bring any matter which may threaten the maintenance of internal peace and security to the attention of the Security Council. In consistence with the universally accepted principle that no situation should be allowed to escalate to a point of no return and that the United Nations should not remain passive in the face of human wrongs being committed on a vast scale, the people of Kashmir expect the Secretary General will not hesitate to exercise his discretion and put the Kashmir issue on the active international agenda. Should the Secretary General feel that the factual data at his disposal does not justify the use of his power under Article 99 of the UN Charter, we respectfully propose that the Secretary General urgently dispatch a special representative of high international standing to India and Pakistan who should visit both parts of Kashmir and report back to the Security Council the facts of the situation. In fact, ‘United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights’ has also recommended to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir to assess the situation there. If India feels that it has nothing to hide, it should welcome such action. We feel confident that the Secretary General of the United Nations will not encourage any party to an international dispute which has been taken cognizance of by the United Nations to circumvent and rebuff the world organization. It should be one thing for the United Nations to remain inactive if an alternative and credible peace process were in motion. It is another when not even the beginning of an effort towards arriving at a settlement bilaterally between the parties or through mediation by friendly governments is visible. To put it plainly, the present situation is that the United Nations is allowing its resolutions to be dishonored and the people of Kashmir to be condemned to systematic destruction. The people of Kashmir deserve better.

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India and its colonial and antidemocratic ways in Kashmir

Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai This is an opportunity to explore a vexing but significant topic in the field of human rights: the Right of Self-determination. The right of self-determination has been celebrated for ages. It is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes. The concept played a significant part in the post-world war I settlement, leading for example to plebiscite in a number of disputed border areas, even though no reference was made to self-determination in the League of Nations Covenant. In 1945 the establishment of the United Nations gave a new dimension to the principle of self-determination. It was made one of the objectives which the UN would seek to achieve, along with equal rights of all nations. The principle of self-determination and the maintenance of international peace and security are inseparable. For example, the denial of this right to self-determination to the people of Kashmir has brought two neighboring countries in South Asia – India and Pakistan – to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Although, the applicability of the principle of the self-determination to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. It was upheld equally by India and Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute was brought before the Security Council. Since, on the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign states, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the territory of either, the two countries entered into an agreement to allow its people to exercise their right of self-determination under impartial auspices and in conditions free from coercion from either side. The idea that the dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people, which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite, was the common ground taken by both Pakistan and India. It was supported without any dissent by the United Nations Security Council and prominently championed by the United States, Britain and other democratic states. It became a matter of controversy only after India realized that she could not win the people’s vote. It seems to me that when everything is considered, the case for Kashmiri self-determination is overwhelming if historical practice and simple justice are consulted. What is anguishing and dumbfounding to me is not that the world powers resist sending troops to Kashmir to vindicate self-determination at the risk of warring with India. After all, nations are not agents of altruism. What is frustrating and confounding is that world powers withhold even the moral boost of officially proclaiming the right of self-determination for 22 million Kashmiris in accord with Security Council plebiscite resolutions it heartily approved and have never disavowed. Professor Korbel proved prophetic. India’s insolence has provoked more than 70 years of horrifying conflict in Kashmir, war between India and Pakistan, a nuclear arms and missile race in South Asia, and human rights violations on a scale vastly more gruesome than witnessed by CNN broadcasting in Kosovo, and East Timor, all of which triggered international intervention. In the last twenty-nine years alone, approximately 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces with impunity have perpetrated more than 100,000 killings, coupled with countless incidents of torture, rape, custodial disappearances, arson, plunder, abduction, arbitrary detentions, and savage repression of peaceful political protest and freedom of expression. India always persisted in its colonial and antidemocratic ways in Kashmir. British historian, Bertrand Russell said in 1964, “The high idealism of the Indian government in international matters breaks down completely when confronted with the question of Kashmir.” Jay Prakash Narayan who was known as ‘The Second Gandhi of India’ confided to Indira Gandhi, in 1960: “We profess democracy but rule by force in Kashmir” He added that [The Kashmir] problem exists not because Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir, but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people.” Dr. Shri Prakash, an Indian writer & scholar in his book, ‘Twenty Tumultuous Years Insights in to Indian Polity’ on page 568 writes, “The Kashmiri anger actually began with the mass rigging of elections in 1987. There is no use putting life in a corpse. Kashmiri leaders from Farooq Abdullah downwards have lost their credibility , they are totally irrelevant.” We know it now that the fraudulent elections in 1987 extinguished the last flicker of hope among Kashmiris that India would bow to a free and fair plebiscite as ordained by the Security Council. The cure for counterfeit elections in Kashmir, however, is not more of the same, but providing the genuine democratic article. Thus, the people of Kashmir are eager to participate in the impending elections if they are conducted with the trapping of free and fair choice, conducted, monitored and supervised by a neutral agency like the United Nations. The status of East Timor was resolved in 1999 by a free and fair vote of the East Timorese. The same, championed by the United States and the European Union happened in Kosovo, Montenegro and Southern Sudan. The solution of Kashmir’s indigenous upheaval is no different. The irresponsible coveting of dignity, liberty and pride that comes with self-determination knows no territorial or regional or religious boundaries. The world powers should take a leaf from the statement made on June 15, 1962 by American representative to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson ” … The best approach is to take for a point of departure the area of common ground which exists between the parties. I refer of course to the resolutions which were accepted by both parties and which in essence provide for demilitarization of the territory and a plebiscite whereby the population may freely decide the future status of Jammu and Kashmir.” Taking into consideration the above facts, I propose: The demilitarization of the State of Jammu & Kashmir on either side of the Cease-fire Line; Creating an atmosphere of peace and security; iii. Conducting of an election by an international and neutral agency, i.e., the United Nations; Mandating that the elected officials will negotiate a final settlement of the Kashmir conflict with India and Pakistan; Satisfying the democratic principles, the rule of law, and security for every inhabitant of Kashmir, irrespective of their religious and regional affiliations in reaching to any solution. In conclusion, a sincere and serious effort towards a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute must squarely deal with the realities of the situation and fully respond to the people’s rights involved in it. Indeed, any process that ignores the wishes of the people of Kashmir and is designed to sidetrack the United Nations will not only prove to be an exercise in futility but can also cause incalculable human and political damage.

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