By Dr Shabir Choudhry
21 March 2012
Like always, Geneva was lively and full of interesting activities during 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The session started on 26th February and will end on 23 March 2012. Most of activities related to NGOs take place during second and third week; but NGO representatives normally stay there between five to ten days and take part in various meetings and interact with human rights activists from various countries.
Somehow, some people of Jammu and Kashmir erroneously feel that the UN Human Rights Council has nothing else to do but to discuss Kashmir dispute; and resolve it in accordance with views of these people, some of whom have poor understanding of the Kashmir dispute and misplaced loyalty, as they are more loyal to their neighbours than their motherland. They don’t appreciate that there are hundreds of other disputes and issues which people are concerned about; and the UN mechanism is utilised to address some of those issues.
People of Jammu and Kashmir need to understand that the Kashmir dispute has lost its importance in the UN, because of non implementation of the UNCIP Resolutions, and Pakistani governments were the main hurdle in that. They also need to understand that the Kashmir dispute has not been discussed in the UN Security Council for many years. Although the UNCIP Resolutions are there, and Pakistani officials from time to time pay lip service to them as well; but fact is that for the International Community term of reference on Kashmir dispute is the Simla Agreement, according to which governments of India and Pakistan will decide future of Jammu and Kashmir. In other words, despite so much suffering and miseries we people of Jammu and Kashmir are not even considered a party to the dispute; and both India and Pakistan always make sure that we stay away from the negotiating table.
Anyhow, Abbas Butt and I reached Geneva on 7th March and stayed there until 16th March; and met many old friends and took part in numerous official and unofficial meetings. It would not be possible to discuss everything or give details of every meeting; however, it would be pertinent to provide summary of some aspects of the activities.
There was, as always, a large delegation from Pakistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir with two new faces - Farzana Yaqub, daughter of President of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Tayba Bashir. Unlike some others, Abbas Butt and I have some comfort level with all members of the pro Pakistan Kashmiri delegation; and we frequently and frankly exchange views on various issues related to Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan. Of course, we differ over various issues and over strategies to deal with issues that confront us. Positive thing is that we are all realising that we people of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir must have pro people agenda and agree on some minimum programme to promote a Kashmiri interest.
Sardar Shaukat Kashmiri, as always, was very active and had a number of his party leaders present, including Nasir Aziz, Jamil Maqsood and Ishaq Khan. They arranged a seminar, in which I was also among the speakers. I have already circulated my speech delivered in a seminar arranged by Shaukat Kashmiri with title of ‘Human Rights situation in Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistani Administrated Kashmir’.
After the speeches started the interactive dialogue in which people from the audience directed questions to the panelists. During this session Mehran Baloch, a Balochi leader who is fighting for independence of Balochistan took the floor. Mehran Baloch is a good speaker and presents his views logically. After giving a long list of misdeeds related to Pakistan’s secret agency Inter Services Intelligence; and linking Pakistan with global terrorism and terrorist events in various parts of India and Afghanistan, he requested the UN to ‘suspend Pakistan’s membership of the UN’ and ‘declare ISI as a terrorist organisation’.
Mehran Baloch’s views were liked by some and they applauded by clapping; but there were many who were shocked to hear this suggestion. Perhaps it was the first time that a delegate attending a session of the UN Human Rights Council, so eloquently put a case against government of Pakistan and its secret agency ISI; and requested suspension of Pakistan’s membership to the UN.
Balochi struggle for independence is alleged to have support from India and other countries. Mehran Baloch, while talking on this subject said his people were being killed; and they have no option but to fight for their independence. He said to save life, dignity and honour of his people; he will even welcome help from swine.
A few days before that the Balochi people, who had a strong delegation in Geneva arranged a demonstration against Pakistan and held a few seminars on issue of Balochistan and Human Rights abuses committed by the Pakistani troops. I was unable to attend the demonstration due to other commitments, but managed to attend one seminar. Pakistan, due to its follies and policy of resolving political issues with a barrel of gun has made Balochistan an international issue; and if immediate attention is not paid to resolve this issue, it can get out of control and bring disaster to the entire region.
From the platform of International OCAPROCE, Abbas Butt and I arranged a seminar on 15th March 2012 at 4pm. We had a rich panel that consisted of the following speakers: Princess Micheline Makou Djouma Chairperson of International OCAPROCE; Prof. Alfred de Zayas, International Institute of Diplomatic Relation in Geneva; Dr. Shabir Choudhry, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs, London; Francois SCHMITT, Representative of OMAEP; Shaukat Kashmiri, Chairman, United Kashmir Peoples National Party and Dr Riyaz Punjabi, former Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University.
As it is not always possible to bring in Kashmir dispute in every seminar or directly hold seminars in name of Kashmir, so we have to be tactful and hold seminars with a general theme, and then try to bring in Kashmir dispute and human rights abuses. Title of our seminar was: ‘Terrorism and its consequences on the global economy’. My speech with the title of ‘Terrorism and its impact on global economy’ has already been circulated and appreciated by many.
Abbas Butt was moderator of this seminar; and he handled the proceedings of a difficult topic very well. We were pleased with the quality of speeches and the subsequent interactive dialogue. All the panelists agreed that terrorism must be opposed in its all manifestations; and that disputes should be resolved through a process of dialogue. Some panelists emphasised that states sponsoring terrorism must be held accountable for their actions.
In the same afternoon there were many other seminars held in the same building, but the seminar that attracted me was the one organized by a Pakistani lobby, and title of the seminar was: ‘Democracy and right of self determination’. One leaflet distributed to publicize the event stated that apart from Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Prime Minister of Pakistani Administered Kashmir, Chaudhry Abdul Majid will also address the seminar. However, later on we were told that the Prime Minister, known as a puppet of Islamabad and President Zardari of Pakistan cannot attend the seminar due to some ‘technical difficulties’.
I wanted to listen to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and see if his speech was any different to the speech he delivered in the same building last year. Barrister Abdul Majid Tramboo was moderator of this seminar. I said to him that due to responsibilities related to our own seminar, I cannot stay here for too long; and if he could call Mirwaiz as the first speaker. I stayed there for one hour and Mirwaiz was not called to speak and I had to leave the seminar.
A number of people have asked me what Mirwaiz said this time. As I did not hear his speech (although we frankly exchanged views before the seminar) I cannot say or write anything about it. However, a press release issued by Kashmir Centre Brussels stated one very important point; and that is related to ‘international mediation’. Despite the fact that the Simla Agreement has made the Kashmir dispute bilateral in nature, in the past APHC insisted on International mediation to resolve the Kashmir dispute. In this seminar, Mirwaiz announced to say good bye to that demand to ‘hasten the progress towards a progressive talks’. He, however, demanded inclusion of the Kashmiris in future talks.
One wonders why he has abandoned his demand of mediation. Is that his own initiative, or like always, it is a move promoted by powerful party from outside the borders of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, who is going to represent people of Jammu and Kashmir? APHC, even when it was united did not represent people of Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir; and what mandate does a divided APHC has to represent people of Jammu and Kashmir at the negotiation table? I think we need to put our house in order; and agree on some principles before asking a seat at the negotiation table.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.