- May 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- March 2013
- December 2012
- October 2012
- August 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- October 2011
- August 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
by: Ali Raza Syed
I welcome you all on the occasion of the launch of this extra-ordinary exhibition of the paintings, photographs, handicrafts and books depicting the beauty of the paradise on earth and the situations that have turned it a hell for its people. More than anybody else, one again, I am happy to express my gratitude to the host of this event, Mr. Sajjad Haider Karim who is the sole inspiration and basic strength behind this event. Indeed, he has proved himself as one of the most worthwhile and praiseworthy Pakistanis living in Europe.
As a native Kashmiri myself, I am always extremely proud of the great cultural heritage of Kashmir, which was made by the collective living of many religions including Budhism, Hinduism and Sufi Islam. I must say that it was the peaceful and trustful collective living that reflected itself at the time of partition as no single event of brutality was seen in Kashmir.
On the other hands, extremely peaceful, respectful and creative people of Kashmir had suffered long periods of dictatorial regimes during thousands of years of their history. Unfortunately, the larger part of the Kashmir is still undergoing sufferings of the worst injustice, torture, rape, humiliation and slavery perpetrated by Indian security forces and armies. The stories of misery are horrendous. In fact, it is shameful to every peace loving and humanist individual of the world. It demands all of us to stand up and struggle for the realising of their rights thorough all the peaceful and legal manners.
I am proud of the fact that this exhibition is one of such events. Without uttering many cliché words, these exhibitions depict the history and the present of hapless nation of Kashmir. The future, however, we have to make ourselves. We have to make this future with the help of humanist forces present in all the societies of the world. I feel satisfied to see that the region of Europe, represented by great institutions such as EU, is an example of the fact that positive thinking and sincere efforts can achieve remarkable goals. We have this glorious human heritage of EU at the back of our struggle for justice, peace and equality.
I am extremely thankful to Ms. Jamila Saghri who took pain to travel and exhibit here work of passion to all of us. Indeed, her work is the source of inspiration for all of us. And once again, I express my gratitude to distinguished MEPs, diplomats, intellectuals, scholars, journalists and peace activists that have giving us the honour of enjoying their presence here.
The people of Kashmir want and must have the freedom of movement, freedom to earn a decent livelihood, the freedom to educate their children, in short, they want their basic human rights including right to self determination.
The Vice President of European Union, Mrs. Baroness Catherine Ashton said that the Union was following the developments in Kashmir very closely. She was responding to a recent letter by the Chairman of the ICHD, Ali Raza Syed, which drew attention of the Union over the current critical situation in the Indian held Kashmir. In the letter, he had urged the Union to take serious notice of the situation in the Indian Held Kashmir especially recent killings of youth by the Indian forces.
She said that the Union had been a longstanding supporter for the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan with the involvement of Kashmiris themselves. Mrs.Ashton who is also high representative of the Union on external affairs and security policy said that the EU was aware of the situation and that the EU ambassadors in Delhi had held many visits to the vulnerable region. She said that they had developed over the years, a dialogue with Indian authorities over the human rights, which allowed raising any human rights related issues. She said that the EU was deeply committed to making the best possible use of that dialogue to advance cases of human rights in the region.
The ICHD demanded significant role of the EU institutions in the current situation of the Indian Held Kashmir especially related to the human rights violations. In a letter addressed to EU High Representative for foreign Affairs, Ms. Catherine Ashton, Vice President of EU Commission, Mrs. Viviane Reding, Chair Subcommittee on Human Rights, Ms. Heidi Hautala and EU parliament Chair of the delegation for relations with South Asia, Mrs, Jean Lambert, the ICHD urged active EU involvement in bringing the positive change in the circumstances that were shocking for every peace-loving citizen of the world.
“We are writing to express our concerns over the recent increase in human rights violations in Indian held Kashmir. We would urge the EU intervention in the affair”, wrote the ICHD in the letter. The letter also indicated the fresh statement of UN Secretary General in which Mr. Ban Ki moon described the situation as a security risk.
The letter further mentioned that, “the operations such as those carried out on the 25th of July 2010 lead to the deaths of Tariq Ahmad Dar and Farooq Ahmad Bhat in police custody. Their killings raise serious concerns and questions as we see this pattern repeated over the last year. We also bring to your notice that in the last three months the figures of young innocents targeted by the troops has reached over 100. The EU has the moral responsibility to play a role to stop the killings of innocent unarmed Kashmiri youth”.
Meanwhile, the ICHD chairman, Ali Raza Syed, in his statement said that appalling human rights abuses and atrocities had been committed against the civilians. He said that according to recently published Human Rights report, between 1989 and 2010, the number of Kashmiris killed at the hands of Indian security forces stood at 93,274. He said that the actual number could be much higher considering the lack of the right to information and speech in the Kashmir. The facts and figures show the reality. For example, there had been 6969 custodial killings, over 107,351 children had been orphaned, 22,728 women had been widowed and 9920 women had been gang raped during the period. He said that thousands of Kashmiris had been arrested on fake charges and a large number of houses and other buildings were devastated.
He said that the discovery of 2900 unnamed mass graves in the three districts of the occupied territory in the recent years had proved that all of these innocent people were killed in the different fake encounters by the Indian army. “The current situation shows that freedom movement of Kashmir is taken up by the Kashmiri youth and they are not ready to accept continuation of occupation of their homeland by the Indian forces. The youth started to protest in the streets over the Indian atrocities but Indian forces started to conduct crackdown against the innocent and peaceful demonstrators” said Ali Raza Syed.
Campaigning for truth and justice
by: Marjan Lucas
Before engaging in support to the lobby for truth & justice of the families of the disappeared in Kashmir, I was working – for over a decade – with the survivors of the Srebrenica-genocide of 1995 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Anno 2012, so almost two decades after the war in Bosnia, most of the ca. 10.000 disappeared and killed persons have been identified by name, place of birth, sex and age, profession and hobbies. Years before, their remains were dumped in, and revealed from mass graves on the slopes of Bosnian forests but their families could finally bury them in the cemetery of Potocari, close the small town of Srebrenica and in the region where the massacre took place in 1995, despite UN surveillance. The Potocari Cemetery is nowadays an open-air-memorial-centre: a place to mourn the dead, and to reconcile the living.
Families of the Bosnian disappeared persons persisted in their struggle for truth and justice despite political discouragement, if not harsh obstruction, by national and international power enters. However, international donors, e.g. the Dutch government, granted millions of dollars to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) for DNA analyses to identify of the remains of the victims in Srebrenica and set up judicial investigations. The survivors’ truth- & justice campaign did produce results indeed.
The Kashmiri families of the disappeared, organised in local NGO’s as e.g. the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), show a likewise persistence and courage in their own specific struggle for justice and truth. Kashmiri human rights defenders and civil society activists reported to have revealed 2.000 unmarked graves, in detail described in ‘Buried Evidence ‘(2009) and ‘Facts Underground’ (2008). They want the remains in these unmarked graves to be identified and to analyse if, and if yes how many, of these corpses are the remains of the 8.000 enforced disappeared as previously registered by lawyers as Advocate Parvez Imroz c.s.
And yes, of course: the plight of the Bosnian victims is a different story then the one of the relatives of the enforced disappeared persons in Kashmir. But what is similar for all of them is their need to know the truth and that perpetrators of crimes will not be simply set free. And that a past and presence of fear and injustice, can be transformed in a future of justice and peace.
But, how far from that future are the Kashmiri i.c. the families of the disappeared and the human rights defenders who revealed the mass graves? A milestone is that India acknowledges indeed the existence of the thousands of bodies in the thousands of unmarked graves. However: India strongly refuses identification. Why? What does India fear for? And can Europe play a role? This week here in Brussels, a seminar is planned to elaborate on this issue.
Let’s meet again then.
As for now, I wish you well and hope (and am sure) you enjoy this unique event!
I welcome you and thank you all for giving us a positive response to our request of receiving your attention to our humble deliberations. In fact, the sole purpose behind this press briefing is to inform Pakistani nation about our efforts towards attaining international attention and support for the cause of right to self determination for Kashmiris of IJK. We have no big claims. But we can proudly say that our banner, International Council for Human Development (ICHD) and Kashmir Council-EU is today the face of the Kashmiris just struggle in Europe.
Needless to say, the European Union is so full of lobbyists from all across the world that it is very difficult to attain the attention from parliamentarians, policy and opinion makers, think tanks, civil society institutions, and above all, the general masses and media. This daunting task is possible only through transparency, honesty, spotless integrity and undeniable justness of the cause. I am extremely contented to say that above-mentioned virtues constitute the values of our organization. We are a self-financed group of human rights activists and peace lovers. We are struggling only with the confidence in the justness of our cause.
I can count many of our events during last three years that became the milestones of our struggle but here, considering the limited time that we have, I will mentioned only few of our recent activities that symbolize the nature and pattern of our past and future journey. In fact, we are lobbying at the highest levels of the European Union, we are pleading at the highest levels of the international human rights organizations and we are building awareness at the highest level of European academia. And through local media, we are making inroads into the general masses as well. This multi-layered approach is reflected through are activities.
For example, we started an unprecedented and unique campaign; One-Million Signature Campaign in 2011. As evident from the title, this campaign has set the target of receiving one million signatures of the European citizens for bringing the Kashmir at the agenda of EU. I feel immense pride to tell that we have already received around half of the targeted signatures. This happened only through the relentless efforts from our volunteers and friends especially of Kashmiri and Pakistani origins. We took our camps of numerous big cities of Europe. We contacted human rights organizations, social forums, trade associations, lawyer’s bodies, students, teachers, commuters and general masses. And in all this, we received immense support from the local European human rights activists and local European media. Today, this campaign resounds in every heart and mind of Kashmiri and Pakistani Diaspora.
Our recent Kashmir-EU week in the European Parliament was fourth event of its kind. This event is an example of our consistent advocacy and lobbying in the highest levels of the decision making forums of the EU. The Kashmir-EU week included high-level debates and dialogues including an exhibition, in EU parliament, of arts, crafts and intellectual resources from and about Kashmir. For painting exhibition, Ms. Jamila Saghri sent her works from Pakistan. Intellectuals, writers and researchers like Laura Schuurman came from Beijing University to attend the seminar. The acclaimed activists including Farooq Siddiqui came from Canada, well known passionate researcher and activist, Marjan Lucas came from Holland and policy analyst Sadia Mir came from UK. And amongst parliamentarians, there were Jean Lambert, MEP, Ivo Vajgl, MEP,
Tunne Kelam, MEP Timothy Kirkophe MEP and members of the committee of foreign affairs, Human Rights sub committee and Sajjad Haider Karim MEP, the host of the event. In fact, I must say that, it was astonishing even for us to see how passionately and clearheadedly those influential personalities spoke in favor of Kashmiris. I am in no mood to claim that these events shall give freedom to Kashmir but I will certainly claims that these are very important steps towards the achievement of our goal. We have a long journey ahead but every journey is consists of small steps and these steps constitute the real story of any struggle.
The third layer of our awareness building efforts is at the level of European academia that had been ignored by all of us for many decades. In fact, the real fight for the international influence is fought in the academia. Last month, we organized first ever symposium in the great university of Leuven, on the topic of Kashmir languishing under the brutal forces of India. I will not narrate here the story of how powerful Indian lobby did its best to get this event canceled or failed. But I will tell with my head high that we succeeded in doing one of the best organized symposium attended by a large number of students and media from different countries. The symposium was organized by the ICHD, Pakistani Students Forum and Politika International. Again, our friends Marjan Lucas, Sadia Mir, Gie Goris, the scholar on South Asia affairs and editor of the MO magazine and myself addressed the students. In the future, we shall definitely organize such events in other major universities of the Europe.
Even under duress, the IJK media gives huge coverage to our activities, which reflect how the look towards us to carry their aspirations, demands and dreams to the international agenda. The AJK media is always our strength as we are wielded in one single passion for truth and justice. But my real thanks go to the Pakistani electronic and print media. I must say that in the short time span of just three years, the Pakistani media has fought our war more than us. In fact, ICHD cannot exaggerate its gratitude to the Pakistani media. On behalf of our volunteers, supporters and fellow workers, I thank you all for magnifying our voice at unprecedented levels.
In the end, I have a little request to the present government. Being peace activists, we plead for the peace in South Asia and we make it the corner stone for our argument for the Kashmiri’s right to self determination. We are very happy that India and Pakistan are again coming closer and trying to sort out their conflicts on the table. We request you that in this fervor of friendship, please don’t forget the cornerstone of your struggle of last seven decades. Please don’t forget thousands of martyrs, thousands of rapes, murders and disappearances. And please don’t forget that Pakistan is the great support of hope for us, Kashmiris. I hope that the present government shall realize what I am saying on behalf of millions of my fellow Kashmiris at the both sides of the borders. I must say that we should not lose hope and trust in the justness of our cause and we should not abandon our historic struggle for this. Today, if Scottish people can achieve their goals, then Kashmiris also have the same rights as equal human beings.
On the International Human Rights Day (10th of December 2012), ICHD issued a statement in the favour of UNESCO decision to appoint Malala Yusafzai as advisor to enhance the level of education to the girls of Pakistan. The ICHD termed Malala as the hero of Pakistan fighting against the ignorance and religious extremism. At the other hand, the ICHD, in the same statement, expressed grave concerns over the recently launched report by the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared Persons (APDP).
Attending the UNESCO event for Malala, at the eve of international human rights day, Ali Raza Syed endorsed the words of the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari as saying that the people of Pakistan needed a progressive country with complete constitutional guarantees. He said that the International Human Rights day reminded every human rights activist that the struggle for a just and peaceful world was an international obligation irrespective of the nationality or religion. He said that the women and children of the conflict ridden regions were living under great stress while paying huge costs for supporting the demands of their rights. He said a Pakistani child; Malala had showed a path for everybody to follow.
“The presence of the UNESCO head, prime minister of France, president of Pakistan, amongst other high level dignitaries, to appreciate and acknowledge the great vision of a Pakistani child proves the fact that the great nation of Pakistan is a progressive nation that believes in human rights including right to education for all. This is an achievement of all the peace loving Pakistanis and their friends in the world”, said Ali Raza. Speaking about the ongoing struggle of his organisation, he said that Kashmiris were suffering from great injustice and human right violations at the hands of Indian security forces. He said that the children in Indian Held Kashmir were living under duress and fear of life while pursuing their educational careers. He stressed upon the international community to work together in order to free the people of Kashmir from the oppression and suppression.
In support of his arguments, he referred to the recently launched report by the Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian Held Kashmir in collaboration with Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). He said the report had proven beyond doubts that the Indian security forces, including high ranking officials, had been given complete impunity for the brutal acts like murders. He said a cursory look at the details of the report reflected the lawlessness in the IHK. He said that according to the report 500 army and police personals had been named as the perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity. He said that the report was not an allegation since it was based on the evidences gathered from the government documents. “Out of 214 cases, a list emerges of 500 individual perpetrators, which include 235 army personals, 123 paramilitary personals, 111 Jammu and Kashmir police personals and 31 government backed militants”, said Ali Raza.
He criticised the Indian state as saying that many of the perpetrators were rewarded with medals and promotions. He said that the culture of impunity to the security forces had been instrumental in unabated violence on the people of IHK. He vowed that his organisation shall support the human rights activists of the world in denouncing such atrocities and demanding the Indian state to take legal action against the perpetrators.
At Leuven University on 29th of October 2012
Leuvan (30 October 2012):
The Pakistan Students Forum, Politika International and International Council for Human Development (ICHD) organised a symposium and exhibition on Kashmir conflict on 29th of December 2012 at one of the university auditoriums. A large number of students from different departments and nationalities attended the event, which was addressed by Marjan Lucas (expert on Kashmir affairs), Sadia Mir (policy analyst and ecologist), Gie Goris (scholar on South Asia and editor weekly MO), Caron Dannielle (member of Belgian parliament) and Ali Raza Syed (chairperson ICHD). The symposium was moderated by Ali Shirazi, a phd student and former Pakistani president of the students union of Leuven University.
Ali Shirazi said that the objective of the symposium was to build awareness about one of the most sensitive regions of the world. He said that it was an unbiased debate, which did not have any objective of siding with one party to the conflict. He introduced the panellists and invited them to speak.
Marjan Lucas started her deliberations by denouncing the fact that Kashmir was an unfinished agenda of the decolonisation of India. She said that improper and incomplete decolonisation was at the root of the outstanding conflict. Giving a brief history of the conflict, she said that it was started with the partition in 1947 and international debate and resolutions of UN promised the Kashmiris that there would be a referendum to seek the will of the Kashmiri people. She said that after more than six decades the Kashmiris were still excluded from the decision making processes.
Talking about Kashmiris struggle for the independence, she said that the indigenous movement of 90 taught Kashmiris the vital lesson that the violence is not the solution to any conflict. She said that Indian state should also learn this lesson as it has deployed 700, 000 strong forces for a population of 5 million. She lamented the fact that the human rights violations including rape, murders and disappearances were daily routine in the Kashmir.
The civil society is paralysed under the draconian laws imposed by the state. She pointed out the fact that the indigenous struggle of Kashmiris was high jacked by the militant organisations like Lashkar e Tayyab supported by Pakistani secret agencies. These militants introduced other kind of violence in the region and the civil society was crushed between the violence of army and violence of militants.
She welcomed the peaceful activities and awareness building measures taken by the organisations like ICHD. She especially pointed out the One Million Signature Campaign as a timely and right campaign. She said that the human rights activists and peace lovers should keep the Kashmir issue on the agenda of the international community, which, according to her, was a vital strength to gain justice for the Kashmiris. Answering a question, she said that the presence of 30,000 US army, in Afghanistan, was seen as a problem but 700,000 strong Indian force in a small piece of land of 5 million people was taken for granted. Talking about the economy of Kashmir, she said that the foreigner or Indian tourists were allowed to go to Kashmir but the Kashmiri diaspora was not able to visit their homeland.
Sadia Mir recounted her experience of working for the UN policy mechanisms. She particularly pointed out the issue of environmental degradation, which was neglected by the international community. She said that the environmental degradation of Kashmir did not come on the agenda of even the environmentalist lobbies despite the fact that it was vital to the entire region of South Asia. She pointed out the pollution of the rivers and Dal lake of Kashmir. She said that the Dal Lake was shrinking at the rate, which was unparalleled in the world. She said that the deforestation was going on unabatedly at a horrible rate.
She told the audience that the Peer Panjal mountain range had only 18% of its forests. She said that the occurrence of flash floods was one outcome of the rapid deforestation of Kashmir. Answering a question, she said that tourism is vital to the Kashmiri economy but it did not give the viable and sustainable economic structure to the Kashmiris. She suggested that the Kashmiris resources and the original skills of their people should be explored and developed as the bases of the national economy of Kashmir. She said that revival of the tourism or Bollywood movies did not prove that the Kashmiris had abandoned their right to self-determination.
Gie Goris said that the simplifications were the political tool to confuse the outstanding issues and conflicts. She said that the Kashmir was generally taken as only the valley of Kashmir while it was in fact the Jammu and Kashmir; the princely state at the time of partition. He referred to his talk with the grandson of the Maharaja of Kashmir, Karan Singh who told him that the Kashmir was already untenable at the time of partition since one part related to Budhism, one with Hinduism and one with Islam.
He said that AJK was more related to Punjab than to mainstream Kashmir. He said that violence was not a viable solution to the Kashmir conflict. He said referendum was the only solution but UN resolutions did not include the third option of the independence for Kashmiris. He said in case of the referendum, Laddakh and Jammu shall vote for India, Gilgit and AJK for Pakistan and Valley might go for the independence. He emphasised upon the fact that the political way out was the only solution and that the violence, from any side, was a tool to complicate the issue. He said that the militants were patronised and trained by the ISI, which derailed the indigenous movement of the Kashmiris. He said Kashmiris rejected the violence but they caught up in the two kinds of violence by militants and army. He supported the demand that the Indian army should go back to the barracks. He said that the question of nationalism was also complicated issue in Kashmir since Kashmiris should acknowledge the fact that there were many identities in the Kashmir. Answering a question, he said that the decrease in the Pakistan supported militancy was, at one hand, failure of the Pakistani establishment and, at the other, it was success of the Indian state, which resorted to violence but never gave in.
Caron Danielle said that the Kashmir had a special place in her heart as she had visited the beautiful region many times. She said that Kashmiris were friendly and loving people but there were security issues that crippled their collective lives. She said that Kashmiris had suffered so much and now it was time to give them the solution. She said the just solution to Kashmir was important for the entire region of South Asia as 4 out of 5 main rivers originated from Kashmir.
Ali Raza Syed said the event, in its essence, was a peace initiative directed towards seeking the resolution of a conflict that has lethal potential to develop into a threat to the existence of entire South Asia. This way, he said that they were gathered here as an effort to safe the collective future of the planet earth and human race as many leading think tanks and peace organisations have termed the Kashmir as the nuclear flashpoint of South Asia.
He said he was very delighted to welcome the audience on behalf of organisers and volunteers of this symposium at one of the best and oldest universities of the world. He was delighted also to see some of the most capable youth of Pakistan had taken initiative in this regard. He said that symposium and exhibition was something they wished for years and still, they hoped to see that happening in all the major universities of the world. He said it was the only way to win the hearts and minds of the opinion makers of this world, which were so occupied by narrow strategic interests and engagements.
He said it was only a start for us since they had a long journey ahead. He said he believed that they shall continue marching towards the destiny if they continued having trust of the true humanists and transparent international forums. Talking about one million signature campaign, he said that he believed that they would achieve their goal of bringing the conflict to the agenda of EU parliament. He said that he believed that they would wield the human rights advocates, peace promoters and activists of the world around them. He said their trust in human conscience was unshakable.