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Extremism and religious intolerance must be opposed, Dr Shabir Choudhry

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Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Seminar held at the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 19 September 2016. Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslam o Alaikam Whenever forcibly divided State of Jammu and Kashmir is in news, it means there is trouble. There is bloodshed. There are incidents of torture and human rights abuses. Although focus of attention is the Valley of Kashmir because of violence, curfews and human rights abuses; but the fact is areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan are also witnessing growing incidents of human rights abuses. I condemn all these human rights abuses; and urge the authorities to respect fundamental human rights of all citizens of former Princely State Jammu and Kashmir. Also, I condemn extremism, terrorism and religious intolerance that result in human rights abuses and hatred. While Pakistani narrative on Kashmir is dominated by the army and jihadi groups, leaving very little space for the elected government of Nawaz Sharif to manoeuvre; it is also sad to note that extremists in India are also asserting and redefining Indian national agenda, which is making it difficult to have a sustained peace process. Mr Chairman A society in which people are killed in their mosques and other places of worship just because they belong to a different sect or a different religion is not a tolerant and healthy society. This kind of society, very often, faces civil war and chaos; and goes down because of burden of hate and anger. India and Pakistan had 55 summit level meetings, and all these meetings have not changed the reality of their relationship, which is poisoned with hate and abhorrence. They cannot resolve outstanding disputes when their minds and hearts are poisoned with hate and anger. There are people who claim to be human rights defenders and claim to know the UN system. However, these people conveniently remain quiet on the plight of non Muslim citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State. They remain quiet on suffering of the people of Gilgit Baltistan, and when false allegations of sedition are levelled against political activists of Gilgit Baltistan. They remain quiet when people of Balochistan are killed and tortured. They remain quiet when Christians are killed in Pakistan. They remain quiet when Hindus are targeted in Pakistan. They remain quiet when Ahmedis are hunted and killed in Pakistan. However, they get activated on click of a button when the issue is related to Muslims of Kashmir Valley. This selective human rights activity indicates that they are not true human rights activists; and they seem to be advancing a certain agenda, which may suit needs of some governments and organisations; but surely this kind of activity is not pro people or pro Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes I wonder if people of the Valley of Kashmir are the chosen people with special rights and privileges. Nearly everyone in Kashmir, Pakistani Occupied Kashmir and Pakistan is only concerned about their rights and well being. My friend and colleague Abbas Butt says, just like every Muslim is duty bound to recite name of Allah before he eats, similarly we have to talk of problems of the people of the Valley of Kashmir and condemn India before we even begin to submissively talk about the problems we face on the Pakistani side of the divide. I say, Do speak against India when India is wrong; however, don’t hesitate to speak out against wrong doings of Pakistan and their agencies. Don’t be afraid of opposing forces of extremism, terrorism and hatred, as that is the root cause of human rights abuses. No civilised government wants to kill civilians and torture them. It is a duty of every government to maintain law and order. It is their duty to ensure that terrorists and extremists do not disrupt peace and harass and intimidate citizens. Furthermore, it is also their duty to ensure that men in uniform do not abuse their power and commit human rights abuses. It is sad that Pakistani nationalism is not defined by its writers and thinkers; but it is defined by its military and fanatic religious scholars. At the time of Partition of India, Pakistan inherited only 17% of resources, but 33% of the British Indian Army. So since the creation of Pakistan, army has been a dominant reality of the Pakistani life; and they call the shots in every walk of the Pakistani life. For the peace and prosperity of Pakistan, the army should allow multiple narratives to emerge that all sections of the Pakistani society can help to formulate policies for the betterment of Pakistan. One wonders if Pakistan still needs to provide reasons for its existence; and use religion to justify rationale of Pakistan’s existence. Pakistan lost East Pakistan in 1971, but still shows its commitment to the Two Nations Theory. They have lived for 69 years without its jugular vein – Kashmir; and I am sure they can live without that in future too. So it is time to abandon policy of false nationalism. It is time to abandon the policy to capture Kashmir for the sake of peace and stability of the region. For this civilian writers and intellectuals have to come forward and assert themselves, because the military mindset can only think in certain manner, and their narrative no matter how sincere could be harmful to peace and prosperity of Pakistan Mr Chairman Pakistan needs to evaluate its policies and learn from the mistakes of the past. In real world there are no permanent friends or foes. Relationships are determined by shared values, economic and strategic interests. You cannot win friendship and goodwill of neighbours by exporting terrorism and threat of nuclear weapons. The Jammu and Kashmir dispute needs a change of heart and mind. Seventy years of hatred, dislike and anger is the main obstacle. Use of proxy war, extremism and terrorism as a foreign policy tool is proving to be counterproductive. Violence, extremism and terrorism have to end before any serious effort to resolve the Kashmir dispute is pursued. People of Jammu and Kashmir must get their fundamental rights on both sides of the divide, including a right of expression; and a right to assemble. Both governments must create conducive environment in which people of Jammu and Kashmir, principal party to the dispute could be part of the negotiation process. Chairman I thank you for your patience. Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

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