HRCP’s rejoinder

HRCP’s rejoinder
2 September 2009

With regard to a letter titled “HRCP?” published in The Nation on September 2, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan would like to set the record straight.

HRCP cannot help but notice the extremely selective perusal of newspapers by the writer. HRCP has consistently raised its voice against Taliban atrocities in Swat, even when it was deemed extremely dangerous to speak against them.

HRCP would like to draw attention to literally dozens of public statements it has made regarding Taliban atrocities in Swat. In August 2008, HRCP wrote to the prime minister and the NWFP chief minister urging them to address the alarming human rights abuses in Swat and referred to Taliban as criminals and terrorists when people, and even the government, chose not to openly oppose the Taliban.

In September 2008, HRCP had urged the need for using effective force to fight terrorism in Swat.

In January 2009, it demanded the government take action instead of “fiddling as Swat burns”.

HRCP was one of the few organizations to openly criticise April 13 – the day when the National Assembly was scared by Taliban threats into backing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation for Malakand Division – calling it “a day of ignominious capitulation”.

On February 20, HRCP had publicly expressed outrage for the so-called truce between the government and Swat Taliban.

On April 5, the HRCP had openly stated that Pakistan and Taliban could not co-exist. On April 4, HRCP was at the forefront of organising a demonstration in Lahore to assert the people’s will to resist and defeat the terrorists.

The statements can be accessed at HRCP’s blog: hrcpblog.wordpress.com
HRCP was at the forefront of organising demonstrations against the flogging of the woman in Swat that the writer has referred to, as well as to oppose terrorism.

As for human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), HRCP would like to state the obvious – that it is a organization with a mandate to work on human rights within Pakistan, but is quite satisfied with the excellent work being done by a number organizations in both Pakistan and India on the human rights situation in IHK.

The HRCP report that refers to mass graves in Swat also covers atrocities by the Taliban and the civilian population’s plight. In that report, HRCP has pointed out the mass killings and instead of assigning blame asked the government to conduct a transparent inquiry to determine responsibility.

HRCP reiterates that it believes in the protection of rights of all individuals, whether they are suspected militants, ordinary citizens, or indeed even criminals.

While HRCP appreciates fair criticism, it expects that those criticising its work would make at least some effort to get their facts right.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Kashmiri leaders urge resumption of Indo-Pak talks

Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, 11 Temple Road, Lahore

United Centre for Peace, 5 Temple Road, Lahore

Press Release

Dated 31 August, 2009

Kashmiri leaders urge resumption of Indo-Pak talks

Lahore, August 31: The leaders of all political parties of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have called upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately resume talks to solve the Kashmir issue on the basis of the peoples’ rights of self-determination and incurability of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A press release issued after the AJK political leaders meeting said:

Eminent Kashmiri leaders representing all major political parties of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Northern Areas met at Islamabad on 27-8-09 to resume their discussions for a peaceful solution of the Kashmir issue.  The political developments since their last meeting on August 28, 2007 followed by their meeting with Foreign Minister of Pakistan on September 20, 2007 were discussed.  The leaders noted with great concern the lack of progress in the negotiations between the government of Pakistan and India on matters vital for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and urged the two governments to resume the stalled talks without delay.

The leaders reaffirmed:

THAT the people of Jammu and Kashmir firmly stand to achieve their right of self determination,

THAT in the exercise of their said right of self-determination they reiterate the demand that the former State shall remain indivisible, geographically, politically and constitutionally,

THAT the right of self-determination also entitles them to sit with the representatives of the governments of Pakistan and India to conclude such arrangements as will adequately meet national security concerns of Pakistan and India,

The leaders exchanged views about the nature of the future State of Jammu and Kashmir and decided to take the necessary steps to explore the views of the government of Pakistan.  They also decided to extend invitation to the leaders of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian held areas of the former State.

The representatives of the people of the Former State of Jammu and Kashmir urged the two governments to open without delay all points on the Line of Control and all roads and paths including the Kargil Skardu and Mirpur Jammu (Mnawar Akhnur) road for traffic and commerce.

The leaders of all the political showed deep concerned at the continued senseless violence against the innocent people of the State adding to the horrendous toll of lives during the past nineteen years,

The following attended the meeting:

Ch. Muhammad Latif Akbar, Secretary-general PPP-AJK and minister of finance in the Government of AJK

Sardar Khalid Ibrahim Khan (MLA in the last four assemblies) President, Jamu Kashmir Peoples Party, AJK

Mr. Abdul Majeed Malick, Chief Justice (r) AJK, President, Jammu Kashmir Liberation League

Mr Aman-ullah Khan, Supreme Head, JKLF, B-144 Satellite Town, Murree Road, Rawalpindi

Justice(r) Syed Sharif Hussain Bokhari President, Kashmir Action Committee

Mr. Munir Hussain Chaudhry, Advocate President, Pakistan Peoples Party (SB) AJK

MrWajahat Hassan Mirza, Chairman APNA

Mr Nur-ul-Bari, Naib Amir Jamat-e-Islami

Mr Ianayatullah Shimali, Chairman, Gilgit Baltastan National Alliance

Dr Najeeb Khan Naqi, former minister Ajk representing the Muslim Conference AJK

The meeting was facilitated by Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy and United Centre for Peace that were represented by Dr. Mubashir Hasan.

CSOs’ Joint Statement

A large group of civil society organisations and concerned citizens of Pakistan have called upon the governments of India and Pakistan both to resist any temptation of violating one another’s territorial integrity. These organizations have demanded that both governments must give priority to: elimination of poverty, provision of food, shelter and jobs to all, ensure security of life and guarantee essentials such as water, gas, electricity and social services. As for terrorism it will be overcome by better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. This may well be done through the composite dialogue that must be resumed forthwith. At the same time, the joint statement urges the Pakistan government not to miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation.

A joint statement issued by the CSOs says:

We condemn the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai and extend our heartfelt condolence and sympathy to the victim families. Likewise, we condole and sympathize with the victims of terrorism in Delhi, Kabul, Swat, other parts of NWFP and FATA. Pakistan’s civil society is alarmed at the loss of life, denial of education to girls and large-scale displacement of civilians in FATA and Swat. The militant groups are acting without any effective challenge by the government. Regrettably, there appears to be a total absence of a cohesive policy by the government of Pakistan to protect its own citizens or any strategy to challenge militant outfits that operate with impunity within and outside the country.

We regret that the media in both India and Pakistan failed to present the Mumbai outrage in a proper context and, instead, used the event to fuel hostility between the two countries. It aided warmongers on both sides to whip up a war hysteria. Quite ironically, terrorism, which should have brought India and Pakistan together to defend peace and people’s security, pushed them to the brink of a mutually destructive war. Confrontation between these two closest neighbours has never had such a puerile basis.

Mercifully, the tension between India and Pakistan seems to have abated somewhat and this is some relief. But the danger of an armed conflict persists and we call upon both the governments not to take peace for granted. Better understanding and constructive action rather than confrontation between states will discourage militant groups that are growing in strength in both countries. The government of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. It must not miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to this country than any other nation. India too must bear in mind that militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. They need to quickly compose their differences over ways of dealing with terrorism. This could be done through the composite dialogue that must resume forthwith because neither country can bear the cost of keeping defence forces on alert and suspension of normal peacetime duties.

We should also like to caution the government of Pakistan against lapsing into its traditional complacency with the disappearance of the war clouds. Blinking at the existence of terrorist outfits within the country, some open and others disguised, will amount to self-annihilation and greater isolation from the comity of nations. The state’s commitment to root out terrorist groups must be total. It must ensure, as far as possible, that Pakistan is not even accused of allowing cross-border terrorism by any group, alien or indigenous. But everything must be done within the canons of law and justice. Killing of innocents and extra-legal excesses will not end terrorism. They will only fuel it.

Islamabad must also repudiate the suggestion that its firmness in the ongoing standoff with India has contributed to national cohesion, revived the Kashmir issue, and enriched the national coffers. Nobody can forget the cost paid by the country for unity behind Yahya Khan in his war on fellow Pakistanis, for the financial windfall during Zia’s agency for the Afghan war, and for the ‘revival’ of the Kashmir issue through adventurism is Kargil. The hazards of living in a make-believe environment are all too clear.

Success neither in the fight against terrorism nor in defending the nation’s integrity can be guaranteed by arms alone. The way to end the abuse of belief for politics or for terrorism, there being little difference between the two, is going to be long and hard. The task cannot be accomplished without the whole-hearted support of a fully informed and wide-awake society. The returns on investment in people’s food security, education, shelter, health cover, creation of adequately rewarding employment for both men and women and ensuring regular supply of water, gas, petrol and electric power will be infinitely higher than on resources expended on guns and explosives. This can be best achieved through regional cooperation and trade liberalisation.

It is these pre-requisites to national unity, solidarity, and survival that we urge the state to address and the people shall not fail it. Pakistan can beat off all challenges but only through people’s fully mobilized power.

Peace activists disturbed over Kashmir violence

Press Release, August 26

 

Peace activists disturbed over Kashmir violence

 

A meeting held by leading human rights activists at Lahore on 26th August, 2008, expressed serious concerns at the developments taking place in Srinagar and Jummu. The participants denounced the arrest of Kashmiri leaders Mr. Yasin Malik, Mir waiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Gilani. They called for their immediate release. In addition the participant endorsed the Washington Declaration signed by peace activists concerned with the region. They called upon South Asian human rights activists to play a role in reaching reconciliation and rights in the region.

 

The participants unanimously endorsed the following.

  1. That the people of Jammu and Kashmir are central to the India-Pakistan peace process and representative dialogue and affirms that a sustainable and just solution of the Kashmir dispute can be achieved only through democratically established procedures for ascertaining the will of the people of the state  (as existing on 14/15 August 1947).
  2. That, in the context of the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh’s pledge for zero tolerance of human rights abuses, an independent and credible investigative commission should be set up to probe human rights abuses including the issue of mass graves recently discovered in the state.
  3. That the pace of India-Pakistan dialogue, particularly in relation to Jammu and Kashmir should be accelerated and given a realistic time frame. The dialogue should be inclusive and Kashmiris should be an integral part of this process.
  4. Urges that more Kashmir specific confidence buildings measures should be adopted, which will help in conquering fear and creating a congenial environment for a positive forward movement.
  5. Demand that all political prisoners languishing in jails, interrogation centres and detained under emergency laws should be immediately released.
  6. Demand that all draconian laws should be withdrawn and peoples’ fundamental freedoms and basic rights should be restored.
  7. Urges that all those elements who have tried to vitiate and communalize the state’s polity need to be identified and punished. While welcoming the withdrawal of the order to transfer land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, the conference condemns all efforts to communalize the situation.
  8. Demands that all internally and externally displaced people of Jammu and Kashmir, including Kashmiri Pandits, should be facilitated to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

 

Dr. Mubashir Hasan

Mr. I.A. Rehman

Asma Jahangir

Iqbal Haider

Salima Hashmi

Dr. Mehdi Hasan

Mr. Hassain Naqi

Hina Jilani

Zohra Yousaf

Shahtaj Qizilbash

Kamran Arif

Farooq Tariq

Nadeem Anthony

Munizae Jahangir