Archive for September 2010

The Political Oppression in Azaad Kashmir

Azad Kashmir has its own constitution, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act of 1974, and a locally chosen parliamentary form of government. The constitution allows for many of the structures that comprise a self-governing state, including a legislative assembly elected through periodic elections, a prime minister who commands the majority in the assembly, an indirectly elected president, an independent judiciary, and local government institutions.

But these provisions are hollow. Under Section 56 of the Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act (which was drafted by the Federal Ministries of Law and Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad), the Pakistani government can dismiss any elected government in Azad Kashmir irrespective of the support it may enjoy in the AJK Legislative Assembly. The Interim Constitution Act provides for two executive forums – the Azad Kashmir Government in Muzaffarabad and the Azad Kashmir Council in Islamabad.

The latter body, presided over by the prime minister of Pakistan, exercises paramount authority over the AJK Legislative Assembly, which cannot challenge decisions of the council. The council is under the numerical control of the federal government in Islamabad, as in addition to the Pakistani prime minister it comprises six other federal ministers, the minister of Kashmir affairs as the ex-officio member, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, and six Azad Kashmir members elected by the Legislative Assembly.The interim constitution act lists fifty-two subjects – virtually everything of any importance – that are under the jurisdiction of the Azad Kashmir Council, which has been described as the "supra power" by the Azad Kashmir High Court. Its decisions are final and not subject to judicial review.

“The document referred to as the constitution of Azad Kashmir is a sham. It's a biased document. These laws and practices are in contradiction to the pledges made by the government to the international community and the U.N. On the one hand, the PakistanKashmir. The stance and the legislation are simply irreconcilable” government says that U.N. Security Council resolutions must apply. On the other, the constitution prohibits it. We have been and are being persecuted – through arbitrary arrests, torture, curbs on movement, and by being barred from seeking higher education or employment – for simply demanding a third or even a second option for Kashmir" says Shamshad Hussain Khan, an Azad Kashmir Supreme Court lawyer on the constitutional framework of Azaad Kashmir.

The Elections are merely eyewash as the Constitutional head is made in Pakistan with the backing of the intelligence and the military. As the Clause in the laws governing quotes”

No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State's accession to Pakistan

It means that a person who is not subscribing the view to choose Independence of Kashmir or even acceding to India will not be able to contest any public office. While as the Pakistan Government wants the Kashmiris to be given the right to self determination

Muhammad Saeed Asad, a Kashmiri nationalist, is the author of numerous books on Kashmiri affairs, and is employed as a social welfare officer in the Azad Kashmir Ministry of Social Welfare and Women's Development when he is not under suspension for writing books to which the government objects. In 2002, he was suspended for writing a book on the Mangla Dam that questioned Pakistan's right to water sources originating in Kashmir. Pakistan has banned three books written by Saeed Asad for being "anti-state and an attempt to promote nationalist feelings amongst Kashmiris." These include Shaur-e-Farda, banned in 1996, which comprises letters written by Maqbool Butt to his friends and relatives over a span of two decades (Maqbool Butt, founder of the JKLF, is a central figure in the Kashmiri nationalist movement.).

No person in Azad Kashmir can be appointed to any government job, including the judiciary, unless he or she expresses loyalty to the concept of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. The oath of office for the president, prime minister, speaker, member of the legislative assembly or the Azad Kashmir Council also incorporates the following statement: "I will remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to Pakistan

The Human Rights Watch/Asia Says: Power in Azad Kashmir is exercised primarily through the Pakistani army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, just outside Islamabad, and its corps commander based in the hill station of Murree, two hours by road from Muzaffarabad. It is widely understood in Pakistan and privately admitted by virtually all politicians from Azad Kashmir that the corps commander in Murree is known to summon the Azad Kashmir prime minister, president and other government officials regularly to outline the military's views on all political and governance issues in the territory.

A former president of Azad Kashmir described the situation as "[g]overnment of Azad Kashmir, by the Pakistanis, for Pakistan." He also pointed to the striking continuity of the "old princely system" under British rule because of Islamabad's "viceroy" role generally and the maintenance of the traditional biradarisystem locally.

A continuing source of political tension between Kashmiris and Pakistan is over the Mangla Dam project, which affects the waters of the Jhelum and Poonch rivers before they flow into Punjab in Pakistan. Particularly affected is the relatively well-off Mirpuri community in Azad Kashmir (see above), which has increasingly felt a sense of discrimination and economic exploitation by Pakistan because of the project. In a 1991 article, Roger Ballard of the U.K.'s Manchester University explained why:

To Pakistan Mangla is a vital asset which brings many benefits... Mangla is thus critical to the success of the Pakistani economy as a whole. Yet despite the great benefits which Mangla has brought to everyone in Pakistan proper, those unfortunate enough to live immediately upstream of the dam have had... to bear the brunt of its environmental costs.

The debate around the Mangla Dam, though beyond the scope of this report, is notable because of the central role it has played in shaping the Mirpuri disconnect from Pakistan. Pakistan argues that the construction of the Mangla Dam is a consequence of the 1961 Indus Basin treaty between India and Pakistan with the World Bank acting as guarantor. The Azad Kashmiris, particularly the Mirpuris, argue that water is a Kashmiri natural resource commandeered by the Pakistani state to the disadvantage of Kashmiris. This is a key issue fueling calls for Kashmiri independence. The acrimony over the dam continues in Mirpur as the dam is currently being raised.

Chaudhary Arif, the convener of the Mangla Dam Action Committee, a protest group formed to demand better compensation for those affected by the Mangla Dam, told Human Rights Watch,

“Water is our natural resource. Arabs have oil, the Baloch have minerals. Kashmir has water. All of Pakistan uses our water. In the process, there remain acute water shortages in Mirpur from where we can see the dam feeding the palatial homes of Islamabad. Meanwhile, water-borne disease is on the rise in Mirpur and other parts of Kashmir due to scarce water here. We have been uprooted from our homes, not paid adequate compensation and denied royalty while Pakistan and India steal our natural wealth. This is the worst kind of exploitation and colonization”

Excerpts from (With Friends Like These. by The Human Rights Watch)

Kashmir : The History of Exploitation

After the Dogras became masters of Kashmir subsequent to the notorious Treaty of Amritsar, Kashmiri Muslims were living a life of abject poverty, ignorance disease and above all oppression. Considering Kashmir as his purchased property, the Maharaja levied tax on everything save air and water. Even the office of the grave digger was taxed. The Muslims had to pay taxes even for the maintenance of temples (Mandri) and for the support of the Hindu priests (Ashgal). These taxes were only to be paid by the Muslims while as the Hindus were exempted from paying these taxes. Further the Muslims were subjected to inhuman forced labour (Begaar) resulting in untold miseries both to the individual and to his family. In most of the cases the person forced to undertake ‘Begaar’ could not endure the harsh weather and the hardships and so died unknown unwept and unsung in a far off place. The condition of the Muslim peasants was even worse. They not only had to feed the revenue officials but also had to provide for the needs of their relatives and friends. To extract land revenue from the poor peasants, the use of nettle (locally called soi) in summer and of plunging the defaulting tax payer into cold water in winter were the most notorious methods of torture (E.F.Knight). The condition of the shawl weavers and other artisans was no better. Crippled by excessive and exorbitant taxes, they were forced to flee their home and hearth. As a result of such horrendous state of affairs, the people of the valley were experiencing a misery at its worst. At the start of year 1929, all the sections of the Kashmiri society were seething with discontent. Sir Albon Banerjee, the Prime Minister of Kashmir till he resigned in 1929 because of the policies of the Maharaja portrayed the state of affairs on 15th March 1929, thus, “Jammu and Kashmir State is labouring under many disadvantages, with a large Muslim population absolutely illiterate, labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages, and practically governed like dumb driven cattle. There is no touch between the government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances. The administration has at present little or no sympathy with the people’s wants and grievances”. As the breeze of Western education started blowing across the valley, muslims though much later than the Kashmiri pandits started pursuing education. Dogras discouraged education among muslims partly out of political consideration and partly out the religious bias they possessed against all sections of the Muslims community. Meanwhile a batch of young men fired with the spark of freedom and enthused with nationalistic emotions returned to the valley in 1931, after receiving higher education in Aligarh and other Indian Universities. The Kashmiri Pundits who not only constituted the bureaucracy but also formed the dormant majority of the landed aristocracy made it difficult for these educated Muslims to get menial jobs not to talk of prestigious ones. Though the Muslims constituted 80% of the total population of the state, yet their share in government services was simply nominal. Even as late as 1931 one finds the share of Muslims in the state services not more than 15%.Though some lucky few succeeded in securing some petty positions for themselves but not without much difficulty. Late Sheikh Abdullah was one among them and despite being an MSc chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University was appointed as a junior teacher in Srinagar high school for Rs 60 per month, though many of the contemporary gazetted officers were mere matriculates and unbelievably one Rajput head of the department was so illiterate as to imprint his thumb impression on official documents. The stage was therefore all set for these educated but unemployed young men to play their part and act as beacon lights to the hapless Kashmiri nation. Kh Ghulam Ahmad Ashai along with Maulvi Abdullah Vakil, Kh Saddin Shawl and Maulvi Ateequllah began to organize these educated young men and opened a “Reading Room” in downtown Srinagar. parently the Reading Room was a place to read newspapers, magazines and books but in fact, it acted as a rendezvous wherein these educated men held deliberations upon the contemporary socio-political and economic issues confronting the Kashmiri Muslims. Lengthy discussions were held among the members of the party as to how they should get their grievances redressed and ameliorate the wretched conditions in which the Muslim masses were living. The “Reading Room” also managed to obtain statistics regarding Muslims in Government service and got them published in the newspapers of Lahore. Later these figures were also submitted to the “Glancy Commission”. They also submitted a memorandum to the Regency Council headed by Mr Wakefield. The “Reading Room” played a very pivotal role in Kashmir’s struggle for freedom. It not only educated the masses about their political rights but activated and brought them into active politics and political action. All the memoranda and petitions submitted by the “Reading Room” and later by Muslim conference were mostly drafted by Ashai Sahib. That was the backdrop in which the tragedy occurred. In 1931 certain deplorable incidents agitated the masses and compelled them take out processions and hold demonstrations against the Maharaja and his lackeys. What happened is history, but here we must know the landscape of the valley at the time it did. Firstly, the religious sentiments of the Muslims were hurt when in Jammu the Holy Quran was desecrated by a Dogra police officer and in another case a Maulvi while giving a sermon on Idd day was unreasonably stopped from giving the sermon. This created strong resentment among the Muslim masses and the Muslim leaders came out openly and delivered fiery speeches against the government. While co-operating with the Young Men’s Muslim Association of Jammu, the Reading Room Party distributed the posters exhorting the Muslims to take out processions and to observe hartals (Dr. M.Y.Ganai-Kashmiris Struggle for Independence). The disquiet among all the sections of the Kashmiri people was growing and had indeed reached the highest level. To elect the representatives of the Kashmiri Muslims who were expected to submit the grievances and demands of the community to the Maharaja at the suggestion of G.E.C Wakefield, Political Minister, a public meeting was called in the Khanqah-i- Maula on 21st June 1931. The Muslims of Srinagar nominated seven prominent workers as their spokesmen. They were Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah, Khawaja Ghulam Ahmad Ashai, Khawaja Saad-ud-din Shawl, Mirwaiz Ahmedullah Hamdani, Aga Sayyid Hussain Shah Jalali, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Munshi Shahab-ud-Din. It was at the end of this meeting that Abdul Qadeer, a young and brave pathan while delivering a highly charged lecture beckoned the masses to raze down the establishments of their oppressors. This lecture of Abdul Qadeer as was proved later gave a new direction to freedom struggle of Kashmir. Abdul Qadeer was arrested by the police next day on the charges of sedition and rebellion and ordered to be tried in the central jail on 13th July, 1931. Before the trial started a large but peaceful crowd gathered outside the prison wall to watch the proceedings of the trial. The masses were forced to agitate when few of their leaders were arrested without any reason. The Dogra soldiers who were looking for an opportunity to teach the Muslim subjects a lesson opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire on the peaceful onlookers killing 21 innocent and unarmed civilians that too without any warning. Many poor persons and innocent children were mercilessly killed and wounded. The local officers on spot did not even bother about giving any medical aid or showing any sympathy towards those wounded or killed in the incident. As the news of this massacre spread, gloom fell the whole valley. That was the day which laid the foundations of the struggle we are still going through Courtesy(Suhaib Mattoo)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and is tune is heard on the distant hillfor the caged bird sings of freedom The free bird thinks of another breeze an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.

An Interview with Salman Rushdie on Kashmir

"Shalimar the Clown" is set for the most part in Kashmir, and you did a lot of research for this book and on Kashmir in particular. Now, while it has been possible for you to go back and visit India on many occasions, you were not able to return to Kashmir? You mean visiting Al-Qaeda training camps? (laughs) No, I didn't do that. But I know a lot of people who have specialised in that subject over the years and who have been in that very strange borderline area, between Afghanistan and Pakistan, between Indian Kashmir and Pakistani Kashmir, so I had lots of people to give me guidance, information and tell me where to go to find yet more information. Yet the physical landscape of the place I know very well. I've been to Kashmir a lot in my life, on the Indian and on the Pakistani side. Like many Muslim families, my family was divided. One part of the family went to Pakistan, another part stayed in India. So like many Muslim families we were cut down in the middle. But that meant that during my childhood and as an adult I often visited Pakistan, because I had family all over the place. So I do know it. What I needed to do was to find out the things I didn't know, because I had not been in the terrorist training camps, although I know where they are on the map. And I know that they do exist, which the ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] tends to deny. I know who funds them and I know what groups are there. One of the major problems now in Kashmir on the Pakistani side is that many of the people in these camps are not Kashmiris. Some of them are Afghans, some of them are Arabs, some of them are Chechens, and it makes the problem much worse because these are people only committed to the jihad, they're not committed to the subject of Kashmir at all! I just thought that when I'm going to take on that subject, general knowledge will not do. I have to get as much knowledge as I can get and then allow imagination to take over. So I would strongly suggest not to read the book purely as journalism. But in general, in the spirit I would say it is a truthful portrait of what's going on there. The passages in which you describe the violence in Kashmir are among the most vivid and powerful in the book, and there seems to be a strong sense of anger underneath the surface of the narration. Yes! And the violence really is documentary, many of the cases referred to in the book about attacks on this village and that village and what happened there, etc. concerning attacks by both the Indian army and from jihadists. It is an attempt to say this really happened. The particular attack on the fictional village of Pachigam [Boonyi's and Shalimar's village], that, obviously, is dramatized and fictionalised. But many such things really have happened. The phrase of "crackdown" that the Indian army uses really is a euphemism of mass destruction. And rape. And brutalisation. That happens all the time. It's still happening now. And so, yes, I am angry about it! The decision to treat all Kashmiris as if they're potential terrorists is what has unleashed this, the kind of "holocaust" against the Kashmiri people. And we know ourselves, from most recent events in Europe, how important it is to resists treating all Muslims as if they're terrorists, but the Indian army has taken the decision to do the opposite of that, to actually decide that everybody is a potential combatant to treat them in that way. And the level of brutality is quite spectacular. And, frankly, without that the jihadists would have had very little response from the Kashmiri people who were not really traditionally interested in radical Islam. So now they're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and that's the tragedy of the place. In "Shalimar the Clown" you came up with the character of "The Iron Mullah"… Yes, I'm very fond of it. He is the only directly allegorical character in the book. And really what I was trying to do was say exactly that the attraction of the jihad in Kashmir arose out of the activities of the Indian army. One of the most obvious facts about Kashmir is the gigantic amount of military equipment that's there everywhere: tanks, trucks, howitzers, bazookas, huge arms depots, endless arms convoys which go up these little mountain roads for six hours at a time from one end of the convoy to the other - and God help you if you're stuck behind it (laughs), because there's no way to pass it. And a lot of the equipment, when it screws up, is thrown away, and there are all these dumps, and just the idea that all of the scrap metal coming to life and becoming the enemy of the tanks is a straight-forward allegory to say that one thing rises out of another. In this novel, which I think is not really allegorical, the Iron Mullah is an allegorical figure, and then I just started liking him, enjoying his horribleness. The two horrible people there in the Kashmir story are the Indian army general and the Iron Mullah, who are really two opposite sides of the same coin. Courtesy : Levis Gropp

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Still I Rise
You may write me down in history ...With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops. Weakened by my soulful cries. Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own back yard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise. Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.

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