Time to take Kashmir back to world stage: President of AJK

            By Anadolu Agency staff</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - President of Pakistan-administrated Kashmir (PaK) Sardar Masood Khan called upon the international community to focus on the Kashmir conflict, as people in the region are suffering for decades.</p>    <p>In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in Ankara, Khan spoke on security issues, humanitarian conditions and the role of international community, besides emphasizing to launch humanitarian diplomacy which Turkey has been practicing in different regions, to ameliorate sufferings of people.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>AA: Kashmir is one of the reasons that India and Pakistan are engaged in political and military conflict since 1947. What are the basic dynamics of the conflict?</p>    <p>Sardar Masood Khan (SMK): Basic dynamics have remained the same since 1947. There has been repression from decades. Recent phase has been a catastrophic chapter for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Few people know that after the (February 14) Pulwama attack followed by military exchanges between India and Pakistan on February 26 and 27, India has intensified its cordon and search operations (CASOs). Genuine leadership in the region is behind bars. Through its National Investigation Agency (NIA), political leaders and activists are being persecuted. So, it is a hell for the Kashmiris, if I would like to put it very simply. The situation is grim and gruesome. Indian leaders have also used oppression in Kashmir as a fodder in their election campaign, particularly by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi. He has showcased repression against Kashmiris as a strong point of his party to solicit votes. This is one aspect.</p>    <p>Other is that in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack and also military exchanges, India has taken hatred against Pakistan to higher levels never seen before. The Hindu extremists have orchestrated a campaign against Pakistan. In election rallies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has threatened to use nuclear weapons against Pakistan to wipe out it from the face of earth. This, I would call, is nuclear terrorism. Since1947, we are exploring a diplomatic space to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.</p>    <p>When international community became intensely interested in the situation of Jammu and Kashmir in February, they were more concerned about the security of the region. They wanted to prevent escalation so that India and Pakistan do not use nuclear weapons. So, they were more interested in security of the region. They, did not focus on the humanitarian crisis unfolding every day in Kashmir. They have not paid much attention to the cause of the tensions -- the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to grant right to self-determination or to end coercion against the people of Jammu and Kashmir.</p>  <p><br></p>    <p>AA: You mean that the ruling BJP as well as other parties are using this issue as part of political agenda to win elections.</p>    <p>SMK: Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. You know, they are selling hatred, violence against Muslims in Kashmir as a plus point to appeal to voters. So, hatred and violence are the latest currency which the BJP is using and it is not just the BJP, there is a network of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – patron or all Hindu nationalist organizations, including the BJP. Then there are other violent extremist organizations – Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) that spew venom. This family of violent extremists is pushing an agenda against the Kashmiris.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>AA: What kind of political solution can be applied to resolve the Kashmir conflict? What kind of a role, you suggest for the international community including Turkey? You have been alarming the world about a &quot;nuclear Armageddon&quot; with catastrophic consequences. Has it become impossible to resolve the Kashmir issue after India and Pakistan became nuclear powers?</p>    <p>SMK: A political solution is possible when all the parties to the dispute come to the negotiating table. Now, the people of Jammu and Kashmir and the state and people of Pakistan are ready for that process. The UN has not said “no”, although it has not implemented the resolutions that it passed back in the 1940s and 1950s. But it has not said “no” to a democratic and diplomatic process. There is only one country which is obstructing the process -- that is India. It has chosen the path of brutalizing the people of Jammu and Kashmir.</p>    <p>A solution is already on the table given by the UN Security Council (UNSC) when India had approached the world body. The solution was that a referendum, or a plebiscite, would be held under the auspices of the UN to ascertain wishes of people of Jammu and Kashmir.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>AA: Will plebiscite cover all regions of Kashmir?</p>    <p>SMK: The whole of Kashmir which include five regions that we have today -- Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, Ladakh, the Valley of Kashmir and Jammu.</p>    <p>This was the decision by the UNSC, consented by India and Pakistan and also accepted by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Other solutions can evolve, if all sides have a kind of engagement. Because India is blocking all sorts of engagement, we cannot have a quest for an alternate solution.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- Kashmir ‘not a bilateral issue’</p>    <p>Kashmir is not a bilateral issue and cannot be bilateralized. It is India’s preference to present it as a bilateral issue, a border dispute between India and Pakistan. But this is not a reality. The international community should focus on the Kashmir dispute, not just through a security prism and the consequences of a clash between India and Pakistan. But it should focus on the root cause -- the denial of the right to self-determination to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and gross violations of human rights. Unless you do that, at the official level, at the level of the UNSC, at the level of the capitals or the governments of the most powerful nations, this issue will continue to be a potent threat to the international peace and security. So, we need to involve the entire international community.</p>    <p>The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report last year (June 2018), which was followed by a similar report by the British parliament. Earlier in 2017 the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) produced a comprehensive report recording the human rights violations by the Indian occupation forces. Earlier this year, a hearing was conducted by the human rights committee of the European Parliament in Brussels.</p>    <p>So, these are positive steps in the right direction. But these steps are inadequate. The governments have to act on the recommendations of these reports and they have to invest their time, energy and political will, in ending repression in Kashmir and in developing mechanisms for the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- ‘Nuclear Armageddon’</p>    <p>If there is a nuclear exchange and some people may choose to call it a limited nuclear exchange, it would not remain confined to the region. The consequences will be dangerous not just for India and Pakistan, but for the entire world.</p>    <p>I have listed its consequences in various presentations. There would be a massive radiation which would affect 2.5 billion people in South Asia. Some 20 million people will die. There would be an outflow of refugees and economic migrants to many parts of the world including Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, the Gulf region, Central Asia, in all directions. There will be a nuclear winter. The climate change would affect the entire humankind.</p>    <p>So, I think it is responsibility of the international community to avert such a war. But to avert such a war, you have to address the root cause which is the dispute of Kashmir.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>AA: The conflict in Kashmir is not just related to politics, economy, and geopolitics, but it is also about humans. Can you tell us about the human dimension of the Kashmir conflict? </p>    <p>SMK: There is a humanitarian crisis in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. The people from the territory will tell you what happens to the population there. There are long curfews, cordon and search operations (CASOs), there is an information blockade and there is also the closure of main road between Srinagar and Jammu. Harassment, persecution, hunting down, insults, disruption of business and humiliations are order of the day. Sources of livelihood of people have been destroyed.</p>    <p>For instance, crops have been burnt, orchards have been brought down, houses and businesses have been razed to ground. There is a humanitarian crisis of a bigger magnitude. People have demonstrated the will to live with this continuing perennially unfolding humanitarian crisis.</p>  <p>I have been talking to the Turkish interlocutors and the humanitarian organizations. They said that they are ready to help the people of Kashmir to provide some relief to them but the Indian government does not agree to such offers. They want to tell the world that here is this territory where there are some terrorists and the Indian government or the Indian forces are fighting these terrorists, This is the biggest falsehood and the lie of our times.

AA: If and when, a plebiscite is held, will it be held across Line of Control (LOC)?

SMK: Yes, in the entire territory. I mean if a referendum is held in accordance with the UNSC resolutions, then the population of entire territory, all the five regions that I identified would participate in the referendum.

AA: When it (referendum) will happen?

SMK: Once India is ready.

AA: So, is this still on the table?

SMK: Our stance is that these resolutions are valid. India’s stance is that they held elections in the 1950s to set up a constituent assembly and those elections constituted the will of people. We do not agree, and the UNSC also does not agree. There are two resolutions passed by the Security Council. The last resolution number 122 clearly stipulates that actions taken by the constituent assembly or the elections held by the Indian and Kashmiri authorities is not a substitute to the UN-prescribed and UN-mandated referendum or plebiscite.

– ‘Quadrilateral dispute’

AA: You had been a career diplomat before becoming the president and you mentioned that the Kashmir issue does not resonate in the world capitals as the other disputes like Palestine. Why it is so? What is your government doing to generate interest of world capitals on the Kashmir dispute? Recently, India suspended trade activity across the Line of Control. They said it was being used to push drugs and arms. Why your government provided such an excuse to India? About your description of international nature of the Kashmir dispute, the 1972 Shimla Agreement, signed between India and Pakistan, has converted it into a bilateral dispute?

SMK: Kashmir dispute does not resonate abroad, as a serious conflict, because India has succeeded convincing the world that it is a bilateral issue. But it is not so. It is a trilateral dispute because it involves India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, a quadrilateral dispute as it involves the UN also. The most important party is the people — because they have to decide about their own future.

In good faith I would say, from 1972 to 1989, we did not go to the international community with vigor. And, even after the 1990s, Pakistan tried to engage India at the bilateral plain, to find a solution. That is why both countries had a series of meetings under the composite dialogue process. But they proved unproductive and to say counterproductive.

The stance that — the 1972 Shimla Agreement has made Kashmir a bilateral issue, is one of India’s fabrications. I have read the agreement; its preamble starts with the UN charter. They (India and Pakistan) talk about the bilateral contacts. In addition, they talk about their respective positions on the issues. They also talk about the final dispositions of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

I do not have text of the agreement in front of me. But I can tell you that it (Shimla Agreement) has not bilateralized the issue. I can go with you paragraph by paragraph and tell that this was not the intention of Pakistan at that time and this is not the interpretation that we subscribe to. And again, it is self-serving for India to say there is a bilateral issue. First, they reduced it to a bilateral matter and then when we go to Delhi or invite them to Islamabad, then they do not talk on Kashmir at all. So, this is just a manipulation. They do not sincerely believe that this is a bilateral issue either which needs resolution.

– Return to International Community

Since I assumed presidency in August 2016, I have been visiting different capitals. I have been talking to the leadership in Pakistan to persuade and convince them that we cannot get results out of a bilateral process which has proved to be a mirage. We must return to the international community because Kashmir dispute is quite essentially an international dispute. It cannot be resolved between New Delhi and Islamabad because India is not sincere. It does not cooperate with Pakistan in finding a just, lasting and an enduring solution.

Regarding trade across the LoC, let me clarify, India acts like the judge, the jury and the executioner. All of a sudden in the midst of their (2019) elections, they raised this issue that all these trucks carrying merchandise across the LoC, had some weapons and drugs. Why were they (Indian authorities) silent all these years? And, what were their border officials doing? So, we think this is one of ploys to demonize Pakistan and this fits into their approach to level allegations without any shred of evidence or proof. If there was a complaint, we could have investigated it jointly. When were the weapons loaded and by whom? Who had cleared them, Pakistani side or the Indian side? Were the officials complicit? Did it happen at all?

  • Kashmir after Indian elections

    AA: Kashmir issue is being used by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a tool to win elections, as you mentioned. What is the stance of other Indian political parties, say the opposition Congress? Is there any possibility that after Indian elections the dimension of the conflict will change? If Modi is reelected, what kind of actions he would take?

    SMK: The rhetoric chosen by Modi and his extremist affiliates has changed character of the Indian electorate. Even other parties in order to lure extremist Hindu votes are competing with Modi. This is a tragedy. This has happened in India recently. The space for a secular vote has shrunk as a result of extremist positions taken by Modi and his associates.

    The second thing is that Congress party in the past when it was in power, were no lily whites, as far as Kashmir goes. It was equally brutal and oppressive towards the people of Jammu Kashmir. The only difference is that the Modi government shows off its muscles. They call it a muscular policy.

    There is this “Doval doctrine”, put up by India’s current national security advisor Ajit Doval. It says kill Kashmiris, subject Kashmiris to an unbearable punishment, do not talk to the Kashmiri leadership, particularly Hurriyat [Conference] leadership, and third is, do not discuss Kashmir with Pakistan or do not engage Pakistan on Kashmir. This is exactly what is happening. They are pursuing this muscular policy, but the Congress was no less oppressive and brutal.

    – Peace diplomacy

    On what will happen after elections, I do not want to speculate. There are indications that Modi might well be reelected. If he is reelected, it doesn’t mean he would come back cleansed as far as Kashmir is concerned. There is possibility that he would continue to pursue his extremist, fundamentalist rhetoric against Muslims in India and against the Kashmiris and against the state of Pakistan. But you know, in international politics anything can happen. We don’t know what would be composition of the government after the (Indian) elections. As far as the people and the state of Pakistan are concerned, I would say they really want to invest in peace diplomacy. They want engagement at all levels, bilateral level but with sincerity. Kashmiris and Pakistan would welcome any third-party mediation. We would welcome if the UN particularly the UNSC becomes more active.

    AA: You are an experienced former diplomat. You worked in the UN representing Pakistan. How do you see international community’s position on Kashmir issue? Whether it is sincere? What do you think about that?

    SMK: I have been in the United Nations both in Geneva and New York. I have done multilateral diplomacy for decades. You know right now we have a barrier in front of us. Within the permanent five, which is the U.S., the U.K., and France are closely aligned with India. They would try to protect India in the UNSC and promote India’s interest. They are not ready to move forward on Kashmir.

    – Role of China

    There are other permanent members. China has offered mediation from time to time through informal channels or at least has tried to de-escalate situation between two countries, by offering good offices. But the offer has been rejected by India. My sense is that since the Kashmiri struggle is legitimate, people have given immense sacrifices, they have vowed to would get their freedom and the right to self-determination under all circumstances.

    My message to Kashmiris is, do not lose heart. My message to the international community is, do not let this crime continue under your eyes and under your watch. The Kashmiris would win their freedom in any case, but the international community should play its role to reduce their pain.

    AA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over past 5 years has been stressing need to reform the UN structure. There are 5 permanent members who could not solve problems be that Syria or Kashmir. What do you think about reformation of the UN?

    SMK: In fact, Turkey and Pakistan are comrades in a small group, which is called Uniting for Consensus (UfC) within the UN. And together both the countries have been pressing to reform the UNSC and the organization as a whole. And we firmly believe that the pact should not remain concentrated in the hands of only five permanent members. But we believe that there should be no new permanent members and we should democratize the UN structure. I strongly believe that the UN needs to be reformed and I think that the collective efforts of the UfC, Turkey and Pakistan would succeed. We would continue to move in that direction. We would continue to obstruct moves of creating new centers of privilege in the UN in the form of new permanent members.

    – Role of Turkey

    The second aspect is that we are grateful to the leadership of President Erdogan and Turkey. He has spoken to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the plight of Kashmiris, about the need to address the Jammu Kashmir dispute in accordance with wishes of Kashmiri people. We are also grateful to the President of Turkey for demonstrating leadership in regard to Kashmir in the OIC.

    I remember I was there in the (Pakistan) Parliament Hall in 2016 when President Erdogan spoke to the people of Pakistan and to the people of Jammu Kashmir. He said that Turkey felt pain of the people of Jammu Kashmir. He emphasized that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute should be resolved in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and through diplomacy. We are grateful to the nation of Turkey and its leadership. I have been talking to different audiences here in Istanbul and Ankara. I have suggested to them that since we have strong faith in Turkey, the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan would appreciate, if Turkey takes an initiative with India by trying to bring together all the stakeholders around a diplomatic table. India would, of course, say “no”, but Turkey and the international community should not take India’s “no” for an answer. But continue to persevere and persuade India to return to diplomacy, to come out of the state of denial — that the Kashmir dispute does not exist at all.

    – Humanitarian diplomacy

    I have also picked up a new term here, which is called, humanitarian diplomacy, which Turkey has been practicing it in different regions. Probably, the time is right for initiating humanitarian diplomacy on Kashmir also.

    There are also two levels, to which I have been referring to. One is hard-core top diplomacy, government to government, leadership to leadership, but then there is another type of diplomacy which can be people to people, think-tank to think-tank and at humanitarian organizations’ levels to create more space for consultation and conversation, between the stakeholders. We may find some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.

    AA: Modi has also promised to abrogate the article 370 of the Indian constitution. It means that they are going to change the demographics of Kashmir and then they will agree to hold a plebiscite? Are there any precautionary measures to be taken from your side?

    SMK: We cannot directly interfere in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. The people of Indian-occupied Kashmir themselves have reason against these moves and have been resisting such moves. But the Indian government is ruthless in pursuing its agenda. This article 370 is now an empty shell. I mean its real value is symbolic, not substantive because all these years its provisions have been diluted or eroded.

    The other provision — article 35A — which grants separate citizenship rights to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir, is important. It does not allow non-residents and citizens of India to make settlements in Kashmir. They want to attack and scuttle and eliminate this article. That would be a very serious move and we hope that this does not happen. I am told that even Hindus in Jammu and Buddhists in Ladakh are opposed to this move, because they too, have special privileges and they do not want to surrender them.

    So, my own sense is that yes, they are trying to change the demographic composition of the Indian-occupied Kashmir. They are settling the West Pakistani refugees and building illegal settlements for former armed personnel to manipulate with the statistics and the electoral constituencies. But I do not think that India has any intention of saying “yes” to a plebiscite at any stage even if they start to initiate these measures.

    AA: Let us suppose a plebiscite is held in Jammu Kashmir today and the outcome is a sovereign state of Kashmir. How would you take it and what would be your and the government of Pakistan’s response?

    SMK: If we would implement the resolution which is passed by the UNSC in 1950s, there is no third option. There are only two options, India or Pakistan. But a sovereign independent state will have to find a different formula. Under the present formula, this is not possible.

Kashmir politician from ruling Hindu party killed

             <p>By Zahid Rafiq</p>  <p>SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - Suspected militants in south Kashmir on Saturday night shot dead a Kashmiri politician associated with the ruling Indian Hindu nationalist party. </p>  <p>“Gul Mohammad Mir, a resident of Verinag, sustained critical gunshot injuries in the terrorist incident and was evacuated to a hospital for medical treatment where he succumbed to his wounds,” the region’s police said in a statement today. </p>  <p>Mir was district vice head of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Anantnag, and his killing comes at a time when Anantnag voters -- in four phases -- are casting ballots in the ongoing Indian parliamentary elections. On Monday, Anantnag’s Shopian and Pulwama districts will go to the polls.</p>  <p>Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP condemned the killing. “There is no place for such violence in our country. Condolences to his family and well-wishers,” Modi tweeted.</p>  <p>Mir’s killing also follows the killing of three Kashmiri militants including a top commander, Lateef Tiger, by Indian forces on Friday.</p>  <p>Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.</p>  <p>Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.</p>  <p>Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.</p>  <p>Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. </p>  <p>According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.</p>  

Kashmiri journalists seek release of imprisoned fellow

                            By Zahid Rafiq</p>    <p>SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - As the world marked the Press Freedom Day on Friday, journalists in Jammu and Kashmir gathered in the capital Srinagar, seeking release of their imprisoned fellow Asif Sultan.</p>    <p>Speaking on what they called increasing censorship by Indian authorities, the Kashmir Journalist’s Association said that Sultan’s incarceration reflected the growing threat that journalists are facing in the region. </p>    <p>“We have to walk a very thin line. One feels threatened from all sides as a journalist, and Asif Sultan’s incarceration is an everyday reminder to us of how dangerous this place is for journalists,” Moazum Mohammad, president of the association, told Anadolu Agency.</p>    <p>Sultan, an assistant editor of a local English language magazine Kashmir Narrator, was shown arrested by police on Aug. 31, 2018, but his family and editor say he had been kept in illegal detention for five days before the police showed his arrest.</p>    <p>“He is in prison because of journalism. There is no other reason for his imprisonment,” Showkat Motta, editor of Kashmir Narrator, told Anadolu Agency.</p>    <p>“I know him since he started as a journalist in 2010, and I can vouch for his integrity,” he added.</p>  <p>Motta said he anticipated a reaction from the authorities after his publication carried a long profile of slain militant leader Burhan Wani in July 2018, two years after Wani was killed.</p>    <p>“Immediately after the profile was published, I received emails from an unknown account portraying itself as an account of the police’s intelligence department. The email questioned the intent of the story, make an accusation that we were glorifying militancy in the region and sought replies from us. I knew what it was: intimidation by the authorities, without owning it up,” the editor of the magazine recalled.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- ‘Nothing but journalism’</p>    <p>“I thought they were going to arrest me. Though, the story was written by Asif (Sultan), I was his editor and he would never have done it without taking me on board. But, the police arrested Asif during a night raid at his home,” Motta says.</p>    <p>The profile, Motta says, was a well-researched piece that took Asif (Sultan) three months to report on.</p>    <p>“If you read that story you will realize that it is nothing but journalism,” he added.</p>    <p>Earlier this year, police submitted the charge sheet against Sultan in the court. The charge sheet names ten persons, including Asif Sultan, and accused them of sheltering militants who killed a police constable in a shootout at Batamaloo area of Srinagar.</p>    <p>“Police, while constantly maintaining that they had evidence of Asif’s complicity, have not produced any real evidence yet,” Motta said.</p>    <p>Motta has been following Sultan’s case with the police and the court, saying Sultan’s incarceration is about journalism and it is his responsibility as editor to fight for him.</p>    <p>At one hearing in the court, Asif appeared in a T-shirt that said “Journalism is not a crime”, a picture that became viral on social media in the region.</p>    <p>While international human rights groups -- including Amnesty International -- and journalist bodies like Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and International Federation of Journalists have condemned Sultan’s arrest, Motta said even securing his bail is an uphill task, as all they get at court hearings is a new date.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- ‘Dangerous edge’</p>    <p>The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG), a body of newspapers’ editors in Kashmir, has also been vocal in its condemnation of the arrest and also in the manner in which the case has been handled by the authorities.</p>    <p>“There has been no transparency in the procedure. There hasn’t even been a proper response from the government to all the questions raised by independent journalist and human right bodies,” Bashir Manzar, editor of Kashmir Images newspaper and general secretary of the Guild, told Anadolu Agency.</p>    <p>Manzar also said that journalists in the region were living on the “dangerous edge” and often paid for their work with their lives.</p>    <p>“While Asif is in prison and newspapers have been banned, their advertisements have been stopped to bring them to their knees, many of our colleagues have been killed. What could be worse than that?” Manzar said.</p>    <p>At least 18 journalists and media people have been reportedly killed in Kashmir while hundreds have been wounded over the past 30 years of conflict.</p>    <p>Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.</p>    <p>Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.</p>    <p>Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.</p>    <p>Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.</p>    <p>According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.</p>  <p> 

3 militants including top commander killed in Kashmir

By Zahid Rafiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Three Kashmiri militants, including a top commander, were killed by Indian forces on Friday morning in Shopian district of southern Kashmir. The killings come two days before the district goes to polls in the ongoing Indian parliamentary elections.

Indian paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) confirmed the killings and said they had recovered the bodies of the militants. One Indian army soldier was also wounded in the gunfight.

“The operation has concluded. Killed militants have been identified as Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Lateef Tiger, Tariq Molvi, and Sharik Ahmad Nengroo," the forces said in a statement.

Tiger was a close aide of Burhan Wani, a commander of the pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, whose killing in July 2016 sparked a massive rebellion and led to the resurgence of militancy in the region.

Tiger was the only surviving active militant from the original ‘Burhan group’ that included 12 militants. Only one of them, Tariq Pandith, who was arrested by Indian forces in 2016 and is incarcerated, survives.

The house in which the militants were ambushed was destroyed in the gunfight while two other houses were partially damaged.

As soon as news of the gun-battle and then the killings spread across the district, hundreds of people came out in protest, shouting slogans for independence and throwing stones at the Indian forces. Colleges and University campuses in south Kashmir were hurriedly shut down as students came out to join the demonstrations.

At least 14 civilian protesters have been reportedly wounded in the firing by Indian forces, with one civilian hospitalized with a bullet injury.

Mobile Internet service has been blocked in southern Kashmir and train services have also been suspended.

The Shopian district is going to polls on May 6 for Anantnag Lok Sabha (lower house) seat.

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

India-Pakistan war would be ‘nuclear Armageddon’

                                              By Mehmet Kara</p>    <p>ISTANBUL (AA) - A war between Pakistan and India would be “nuclear Armageddon” and the whole world would be affected, the head of Azad Jammu and Kashmir said Thursday.</p>  <p>“If there was a nuclear conflict between the two countries, 20 million people could die immediately,” Serdar Mesut Han said at a conference organized by Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). “Kashmir conflict should be resolved and peace should be established, we have no other options,” Han added.</p>  <p>He stressed that Kashmir is the reason for a political and military conflict between Pakistan and India since 1947, and said a permanent solution would stop these conflicts.</p>  <p>“The conflict in Kashmir is not only related to politics, economy and geopolitics, but it is also a human tragedy,” Han said and suggested that the UN and neighboring countries could contribute to the solution.

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

* Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

India tightens noose around Kashmiri leaders' families

            By Zahid Rafiq </p>  <p>SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - The families of pro-independence leaders in Jammu and Kashmir are being harassed by Indian authorities as a clampdown on the decades-old resistance movement in the region intensifies in the aftermath of a deadly bombing earlier this year. </p>  <p>Anees Shah, grandson of Kashmir's top resistance leader Syed Ali Geelani, has been summoned by India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday in the capital New Delhi for interrogation.</p>  <p>He works as a research officer at a conference center in Kashmir. His father, Altaf Ahmad Shah, has been jailed pending trial in New Delhi's Tihar prison for nearly two years.</p>  <p>“My grandfather is in politics. My father is in politics. But I have never been in active politics, and when the Indian government cannot break down my family through imprisonment, they come down at us,” Anees told Anadolu Agency. </p>  <p>His father and several other resistance leaders have been imprisoned in a 2017 case which accuses them of raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means for funding anti-India activities in Jammu and Kashmir.</p>  <p>“The NIA raided our house, they took all the documents, and they found nothing there. The case against my father is a flimsy one, but the point of it is only to harass us and weaken my family’s resolve,” he said.  </p>  <p>He went on to say that earlier, his uncles, sons of Syed Ali Geelani, were summoned by the investigation agency to answer questions and now they are coming for the grandchildren.</p>  <p>- 'Political targets'</p>  <p>The daughter of another incarcerated leader, Shabir Shah, has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the country's economic intelligence agency, in a money laundering and disproportionate assets case. </p>  <p>Last month, the directorate sealed Sabir Shah's home, which is in the name of his wife, taking away their rights to sell the property.</p>  <p>“Our home was built in 2005. My daughter who has been summoned to New Delhi was 5 years old then. What does she know about how we built the house, how we saved the money for it?” Bilquis Shah, wife of Shabir Shah, told Anadolu Agency. </p>  <p>Bilquis Shah, a medical doctor, says that their home is built on a piece of land gifted to her by her father, and she took a loan from the bank to build the house.  </p>  <p>“Anyone who sees the facts of the case can’t believe that my husband has been in prison for two years over it. But we know why he is in prison. Because of his politics. And I don’t complain about his arrest because he is doing what he must and the Indian government is imprisoning him for his politics,” she said. </p>  <p>“But there is a certain limit. Even prisoners have their rights. The Indian government is stooping too low by going after me, my sisters, my 19-year-old daughter.” </p>  <p>Their daughter, Sama, is studying in the U.K. Bilquis Shah says her daughter has exams and was unable to reach New Delhi for interrogation on April 18. </p>  <p>“I told the ED in a written response that my daughter was only 5 years old at the time of building the house and is studying for her exams, but they have sent out another summons for her.</p>  <p>“It shows to me how frustrated the Indian government is by its inability to suppress Kashmir’s movement for self-determination. I am sure they will now send a summons to my 16-year-old daughter as well,” she says. </p>  <p>- 'Terror funding'</p>  <p>The Indian government claims the raids and arrests are part of an investigation into a terror-funding case.</p>  <p>&quot;During the searches, NIA teams recovered incriminating documents including property papers, financial transactions receipts and bank account details. Electronic devices including laptops, e-tablets, mobile phones, pen drives, communication system and DVRs were also seized during the searches. Significantly, letterheads of different terrorist organizations as well as documents relating to recommendations for visa for admission in Pakistan educational institutions were found,” the NIA said in a statement Friday. </p>  <p>Last year, the NIA arrested two sons of militant group Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin. While Salahuddin is himself based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, his family lives in Jammu and Kashmir. One of the arrested sons worked in the state’s agriculture department while another worked as a laboratory assistant at a hospital. Both were arrested by the NIA in the same terror-funding case in which several pro-independence group Hurriyat leaders, including Altaf Shah, were arrested.</p>  <p>The crackdown has intensified following a suicide bombing in February that killed at least 40 Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir.</p>  <p>Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.</p>  <p>Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.</p>  <p>Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.</p>  <p>Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. </p>  <p>According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Detained Kashmiri leader ‘hospitalized’ in New Delhi

                By Zahid Rafiq </p>  <p> </p>  <p>SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - A Kashmiri leader, who was detained by Indian authorities last month, has been admitted to a hospital in the capital New Delhi after he fell ill, his party said on Saturday.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>In a statement, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) said Malik has been admitted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.</p>    <p>&quot;After getting court permission, his (Malik’s) lawyer was contacted by NIA [National Intelligence Agency] officials this morning and asked to come to the said hospital where the lawyer found that Malik was on a hunger strike,” the statement said. </p>  <p>“The JKLF chairman started his hunger strike against the callous approach of NIA, a day after he was shifted to New Delhi and handed over to the agency,&quot; it added.</p>  <p>Despite repeated attempts, India’s National Investigation Agency and hospital officials couldn't be reached for a comment.</p>    <p>Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, another Kashmir leader, also spoke about Malik’s condition and said no one was being allowed to meet him.</p>    <p>“Deeply disturbed by the sudden news about Yasin Malik being seriously ill and shifted to hospital in New Delhi. As no one is allowed to meet him details are not yet known. His safety and well being is the responsibility of the state under whose detention he is arrested,” Farooq said in a Twitter post. </p>  <p> </p>  <p>Malik was arrested in February and then slapped with a Public Safety Act -- which allows for anyone in Kashmir to be arrested for up to two years without a trial -- and imprisoned in Kot-Balwal prison in Jammu.</p>    <p>On April 9, India’s National Investigative Agency (NIA) brought Malik to New Delhi, where a court sent him into the NIA’s custody till April 22 for interrogation in connection with a “terror funding case”.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Malik’s organization was also banned by the Indian government last month.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Several other Kashmiri leaders have been arrested on same charges by the NIA and imprisoned in Indian capital New Delhi.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. </p>  <p> </p>  <p>According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

India suspends cross trade in disputed Kashmir

             By Zahid Rafiq</p>    <p>SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - India’s Home Ministry on Thursday ordered the suspension of cross trade with Pakistan-administered Kashmir in the disputed region.</p>    <p>The trade across the LOC (Line of Control) between the two parts of the Jammu and Kashmir was suspended, citing it a route for illegal activities of Pakistan-based elements.</p>    <p>“Cross LOC trade routes are being misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency etc,” the order said.</p>    <p>The cross-LOC trade was started in 2008 and was touted as the biggest Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.</p>    <p>While the trade has been stalled over the past month due to the construction work on the Kamran post bridge over which the vehicles from Jammu and Kashmir pass, the MHA order for now brings curtains down on the trade. </p>    <p>“During the ongoing investigations of certain cases by National Investigative Agency, it has been brought out that a significant number of trading concerns engaged in the LOC trade are being operated by persons closely associated with banned terrorist organizations involved in fielding terrorism/separatism,” the order said.</p>    <p>“Meanwhile a stricter regulatory and enforcement mechanism is being worked out and will be put in place in consultation with various agencies.”</p>    <p>The Kashmiri traders were surprised at the suspension.</p>    <p>“We should have been given prior notice. We have goods worth scores of rupees in godowns and in transit. It will be a huge blow for the traders,” Hilal Turki, chairman of the Cross LOC Traders Union, told Anadolu Agency.</p>    <p>Turki said that they would welcome any changes that would correct the lacunae in the trade but said that this sudden suspension would be a major blow to the trade and the traders.</p>    <p>Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.</p>    <p>Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir.</p>    <p>Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003. </p>  <p>Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. </p>    <p>According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Kashmir pellet guns injure eyes and minds: Study

             By Zahid Rafiq   <br>

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – At least 85% of the people blinded by Indian forces’ pellet guns in Kashmir also suffer psychiatric problems, according to a new study by the Government Medical College.

The study, titled “Psychiatric Morbidity in Pellet Injury Victims of Kashmir,” says that since the 2016 mass uprising in Kashmir, 325 pellet victims have been treated for psychiatric disorders at associated hospitals of the Government Medical College in the capital, Srinagar.

“85% of 380 pellet victims examined during this post-2016 uprising period were found to be suffering from various psychiatric disorders,” the study says.

While these numbers may sound alarming, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that most pellet gun victims do not visit psychiatrists.

While most avoid psychiatric consultation due to the taboo attached with psychiatry, other cite reasons from lack of money to lack of hope in medical intervention and severe depression.

“Most of the people associated with our organization have not seen a psychiatrist, and even those who have been often give up after a single visit,” said Mohammad Ashraf, chairperson of the Pellet Victims Welfare Trust, adding that though the pellets left him blind in one eye, he only visited the psychiatrist once.

According to figures from hospitals and doctors, several thousand people have been fully or partially blinded by Indian forces’ use of pellet guns on civilian demonstrations since 2010, when the guns were introduced.

In January 2018, the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the state legislative assembly that 6,221 people had been injured by the guns.

While human rights groups like Amnesty International and and Human Rights Watch have called for an end to the use of pellet guns — which have also killed scores of civilian demonstrators — India continues to use them, calling them “non-lethal.”

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Nationalism core election promise of India's Modi

                      By Ahmad Adil</p>    <p>CHANDIGARH, India (AA) - India’s ruling party on Monday made a number of promises in its election manifesto, including stripping special rights from the people of Jammu and Kashmir region.</p>    <p>The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) released the election manifesto titled “Sankalpit Bharat, Sashakt Bharat’ (Determined India, Empowered India) ahead of the first phase of voting of general elections.</p>    <p>“In the last five years, we have made all necessary efforts to ensure peace in Jammu and Kashmir through decisive actions and armed policy,” the manifesto read.</p>    <p>Kashmir’s special constitutional status prevents outsiders from buying property in the Muslim-majority region.</p>    <p>“The next five years are crucial because in 2022, we mark the 75th anniversary of our Independence. Generations of great women and men laid down their lives so that we could breathe the air of freedom. It is our sacred duty to create the India of their dreams,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in the manifesto.</p>    <p>The party also pledged to facilitate construction of a Temple of Ram at a disputed site in Ayodhya, where 16th century Babri mosque was demolished in 1992.</p>    <p>The manifesto said the party will “expeditiously complete the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and actively consider its extension to other states.” The NRC list is unique to Assam. It was first tabulated in 1951, four years after independence from British rule, to distinguish Indian citizens from illegal migrants from bordering Bangladesh, which was then part of Pakistan. </p>  <p>In 2015, the government began a process of updating the list. The new list includes only those people or their descendants who entered India till midnight of March 24, 1971, when Bangladesh became an independent state.</p>  <p><br>
  • 'Zero tolerance' policy on terrorism

The BJP has also vowed to continue the “policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against terrorism and extremism”.

The ruling party has also said that they are “committed to the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill for the protection of individuals of religious minority [non-Muslim] communities from neighboring countries escaping persecution.”

Activists and political parties say the bill violates the country's “secular constitution.”

The manifesto said the BJP will also make “efforts” to double farmers’ income by 2022.

The BJP manifesto said the party wants to make the country the world's third-largest economy by 2030.

“India was branded part of the as ‘fragile five’ in 2014 … we have already become the world’s sixth-largest economy and will soon be among the top five. We aspire to make India the third-largest economy of the world by 2030. This implies that we commit to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025 and $10 trillion economy by 2032,” the manifesto says.

India’s main opposition Congress party criticized the manifesto.

“For its 2019 manifesto, BJP has simply copy-pasted its 2014 manifesto & changed all previous deadlines from 2019 to 2022, 2032, 2047, 2097. Luckily they didn’t shift any deadlines to the next century,” senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said on Twitter.

“The difference between BJP manifesto and Congress manifesto can be seen firstly from the cover page. Ours has a crowd of people, and BJP manifesto has face of just one man. Instead of a manifesto BJP should have come out with a 'maafinama' [apology letter]," he added.

India’s general elections, which will be held in seven stages, begin on April 11.