Archive for the ‘ Kashmir ’ Category

Indian Inquiry Confirms Graves in Kashmir Hold More Than 2,000 Unidentified Bodies

As Reported by The Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India — Hundreds of unmarked graves in Kashmir hold more than 2,000 bullet-riddled bodies that may include innocent victims, despite police claims that they were militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan territory, according to an Indian government report.

The report — following a three-year investigation launched amid allegations of rights abuses by the army, paramilitary and police — is the first official acknowledgment that civilians killed in the two-decade conflict may have been buried in unmarked graves.

It stops short of confirming that suspicion, long alleged by rights groups, but says “there is every possibility that … various unmarked graves at 38 places of north Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of locals.”

Previously, officials have insisted that all the bodies were of militant fighters, as claimed by police when they were handed over to villages for burial.

The report says 2,156 unidentified bodies were found in single and mass graves in three northern mountainous regions, while 574 other bodies found in the graves have been identified as local residents.

The findings by the Jammu-Kashmir State Human Rights Commission are likely to deepen cynicism in restive Kashmir, where anti-India sentiment runs deep and most people want independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars since 1947 for control of the territory, which is divided between them. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel fighters, but Pakistan says it only offers moral and diplomatic support for their cause.

Rebel groups began fighting in 1989 against Indian rule, and more than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and subsequent Indian crackdowns. Most have been civilians.

Rights groups have said some 8,000 people have disappeared, and accused government forces of staging gunbattles to cover up killings. The groups also say suspected rebels have been arrested and never heard from again.

The state government has countered that most of the missing were likely Kashmiri youths who crossed into Pakistan for weapons training.

In 2008, a rights group reported unmarked graves in 55 villages across the northern regions of Baramulla, Bandipore and Handwara, after which researchers and other groups reported finding thousands of single and mass graves without markers.

Indian officials set up the commission to investigate and also began a separate police investigation, the findings of which have yet to be released.

The commission’s 17-page report also urged DNA profiling to identify the bodies, saying the matter should be “investigated thoroughly by an impartial agency.”

The head of a local rights group welcomed the report as vindicating its research into the graves.

“Security agencies accused us of maligning the image of the armed forces,” said Pervez Imroz of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice. Now, “we will seek judicial intervention if the government fails to implement the report’s recommendations.”


We Are Not All CIA Agents

By Michael Kugelman for The Express Tribune

Wondering about America’s latest reason for being unhappy with Pakistan? Look no further than the case of aid worker Warren Weinstein, the US citizen recently abducted from his residence in Lahore. I am not suggesting that Americans resent the fact that Pakistanis kidnapped Weinstein. Many of us (though by no means all of us) understand that abductions of Americans in Pakistan are very rare and realise that those Pakistanis who relish the thought of kidnapping Americans constitute a small percentage of the population.

What I am suggesting is that Americans are upset with what Pakistanis are saying about Weinstein. It is striking how quickly some Pakistanis have proclaimed that Weinstein is a CIA agent (and to be fair, a number of Americans are making the same assumption). An American in Pakistan doing aid work in the tribal areas? Wearing the native dress? And spending so much time in the country? Clearly the hallmark traits of a spy, they conclude. Never mind his advanced age (how many near-septuagenarian spooks are prowling around Pakistan?), or the fact that he was living quite conspicuously in a large home in an affluent area of Lahore. Also striking is who is making these accusations. One expects such views from the likes of Shireen Mazari, who famously had an altercation with a western-looking man in a restaurant when he inadvertently bumped into her chair, referring to him as a “bloody CIA agent”. Or from those impressionable masses who fall prey to the anti-American narratives propagated by school textbooks, mullahs and the media.

However, it is quite another matter to see readers of this newspaper — who, by virtue of their English-language aptitude and willingness to read The Express Tribune, are not narrow-minded ideologues — posting good-riddance comments about Weinstein and his presumed CIA bonafides.
Yes, Americans in Pakistan have been and are connected to security contractor firms and intelligence agencies. Yes, many of the alleged conspiracy theories about CIA agents crawling around the country have been proven true; Washington has sometimes emerged with egg on its face after prevaricating about the intelligence affiliations of its citizens stationed in Pakistan.

And, yes, ‘development work’ can be code for spy craft. Nonetheless, to reflexively assume that any American in the country is tied to the CIA is not only unfair, but also insulting — because it sweepingly dismisses the highly beneficial work done by many Americans in the country, such as, presumably, Weinstein himself. Just as there are Pakistanis who admire America (albeit not necessarily its foreign policies), there are Americans — with and without government affiliations — who hold Pakistan in high esteem and who dedicate their lives to making positive contributions there. Some may single out school-building superstar Greg Mortenson; I would cite the likes of the somewhat lesser-known (and therefore more typical) case of Todd Shea — a musician by training who, moved by televised images of suffering in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake, travelled to Pakistan to provide relief aid. Shea has been there ever since; he now runs a hospital in a remote part of Kashmir.

There are other Todd Sheas in Pakistan. They may not want their stories publicised, but they are there, serving as healthcare trainers, conducting research on drone strikes’ impacts on civilians and helping promote women’s rights. Some work for NGOs, others represent non-intelligence agencies of the US government and others still — perhaps the most honourable of them all — act as volunteers and represent only themselves.

Pakistanis often lament, and rightly so, how so many of their most humanitarian and peace-loving citizens — from Abdul Sattar Edhi to Shehzad Roy — are relative unknowns in the US. Americans are equally justified for being indignant about the lack of recognition accorded to the selfless work of their countrymen in Pakistan — work that has little to do with cloaks and daggers and much more to do with benevolence and social upliftment.

India and Pakistan, Talking

As reported by The New York Times

With a relationship as combustible as that between India and Pakistan, it’s progress just to get the two sides in a room. Last week’s meeting was better. Their foreign ministers announced modest, but very welcome, agreements concerning the bitterly disputed region of Kashmir.

They promised to double the number of days when cross-border trade between the two parts of Kashmir — one controlled by India, the other by Pakistan — is allowed and to expand and expedite travel permits for Kashmiris who want to cross the border for family visits, tourism and religious purposes. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two over Kashmir. Even these small steps could help chip away at their visceral mistrust.

Three weeks ago, some doubted the meeting would even happen after three explosions ripped through Mumbai, killing 24 people. The Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed 160 people were blamed on Pakistani terrorists and sent relations with India into the deep freeze. So far, suspicion for the recent attacks has fallen on Indian terrorists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India deserves huge credit for staying engaged despite Pakistan’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 horrors. And he deserves credit for not shooting first and asking questions later after the recent attacks.

We wish we could say the same of Pakistan’s leaders. Before there can be a true reconciliation, and stability in the region, Pakistan’s Army must realize that using militants to try to counter Indian influence in Kashmir and Afghanistan is self-destructive — and that homegrown extremism, not India, is the real threat to Pakistan’s survival.

India and Pakistan have more to talk about, including cooperation on water, expanded trade and their joint stake in a stable Afghanistan. President Obama’s drawdown of American troops will go easier if India and Pakistan are part of the solution, not fighting over the spoils. New Delhi insists that it will accept no outside mediation. Washington needs to keep pressing the two to work together.

The United States and its allies are planning a conference in Bonn in December and hope to rally international support for a broad regional strategy that includes a peace deal for Afghanistan, trade agreements and ambitious energy projects. India and Pakistan need to be full participants. The payoff could be huge if their leaders muster the courage to resolve their differences.

Why My Father Hated India

By Aatish Taseer for The Wall Street Journal

Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.

Iqbal’s vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India’s Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.

This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.

But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.

In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.

Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.

But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.

Pakistan’s existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.

Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.

But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.

As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet’s utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.

The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” against India.

In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba’s 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.

The army’s duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.

This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country’s wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.

The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India’s sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal’s unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father’s tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.

This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan’s obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness.

—Mr. Taseer is the author of “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands.” His second novel, “Noon,” will be published in the U.S. in September

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Aatish Taseer’s brutally honest and forthright column is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.  As a Pakistani American, I find a lot of truth in what he is saying, no matter how ill received it may be back in Pakistan, I feel that Aatish does make some good points and it was well worth sharing with you readers.

Pakistan’s Glamorous New Foreign Minister Wows India

By Robert Zeliger for Foreign Policy

She’s young, stylish, sharp and pretty, and Indians are falling for her. Yep, it seems that Pakistan’s new 34-year-old foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has accomplished what years of tense diplomacy haven’t been able to — create some genuine goodwill between the two constantly sparring nations. In her first official visit today to India since taking over the foreign ministry last week, Khar met with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna. The two agreed to boost security, trade, transportation, travel, and cultural links between the countries — in what analysts called some of the most productive talks between the two sides since Pakistani militants killed 166 people in Mumbai three years ago. But it’s her youth and glamour that are credited with creating a “fresh start atmosphere.” She later met with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

But who really cares what happened behind closed doors. More importantly: she got high marks for wearing Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, classic pearl and diamond jewelry, a blue designer dress, and toting an Hermes Birkin bag. And thus ladies and gentleman, a glamour icon is born. We give it three months before Vogue comes calling… wait, maybe two.

Indian papers and news programs today gushed over Khar, praising her beauty and style. The Times of India headlined their front page story: “Pak Puts On Its Best Face.” The Navbharat Times said the country was “sweating over model-like minister.” The Mail Today said she had brought a “Glam touch to Indo-Pak talks” and asked, “Who says politicians can’t be chic?” These are not the usual superlatives Pakistani diplomats are used to getting in the Indian press.

Of course, not everything was picture perfect. The Indian press did attack her for meeting with a Kashmiri separatist group later in the day.

But overall, it was hard not to sense the generational shift as Khar spoke about “a new generation of Indians and Pakistanis [who] will see a relationship that will hopefully be much different from the one that has been experienced in the last two decades” after meeting with the Indian foreign minister who — through no fault of his own, save for his misfortune of being born 79 years ago — did totally look like her grandfather.

As Seema Goswami, a leading Indian social commentator, put it, “She’s incredibly young pretty, glamorous and has no fear of appearing flash. She wore pearls when she arrived and diamonds for the talks. We’re so obsessed with her designer bag and clothes that we forget she first held talks with the Hurriyat [Kashmiri separatists]. She could be Pakistan’s new weapon of mass destruction.”

Can Pakistan Understand China?

By Khaled Ahmed for the South Asian News Agency

We look at South Asia as a region where we will hold India accountable for its injustices and force it to cede Kashmir to us. We have jihad as our guiding doctrine. Justice demands that we be the agents of instability. We are the revisionists determined to change the status quo.

India is too big, so we think China should do the job of cutting India down to size. India believes this strange figment of our imagination and criticises China for partly giving Pakistan its military muscle, the sort of thing the US used to do in the past. But was the US able to make Pakistan win against India? Was Kashmir ceded to Pakistan by an India felled and writhing on the ground?

Some in the US think of China as a global rival, but eight American presidents one after the other have resisted the old instinct of looking at the world through military goggles and have treated China instead as a ‘strangely behaving’ trading partner. And one person who doesn’t want America to think in terms of military equations is Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger, in his latest book On China (The Penguin Press 2011), tells us things about China that we have ignored in our decades of ‘all-weather’ friendship. He says the Chinese mind hates policies of instability and disharmony. It did not grab Hong Kong but waited for the British lease on it to run out. Seeing Portugal in decline, India didn’t wait in the case of Goa; China waited in the case of Macao.

The presiding philosopher in China is Confucius who, unlike Machiavelli, was concerned more with the cultivation of social harmony than with the machinations of power (p.15). For him, mankind’s central spiritual task was to recreate proper order, already on the verge of being lost. Spiritual fulfilment was a task not so much of revelation as patient recovery of forgotten principles of self-restraint (p.14).

China doesn’t want victory, therefore it doesn’t go to war. The philosopher of China’s realpolitik is Sun Tzu who has written Art of War. According to Kissinger, “A turbulent history has taught Chinese leaders that not every problem has a solution and that too great an emphasis on total mastery over specific events could upset the harmony of the universe. There were too many potential enemies for the empire ever to live in total security. If China’s fate was relative security, it also implied relative insecurity — the need to learn the grammar of over a dozen neighbouring states with significantly different histories and aspirations” (p.23).

On the other hand, the western tradition prizes the decisive clash of forces emphasising feats of heroism. The Chinese ideal stresses subtlety, indirection and the patient accumulation of relative advantage. Writes Kissinger: “Chinese thinkers developed strategic thought that placed a premium on victory through psychological advantage and preached the avoidance of direct conflict” (p.35).

Kissinger gives us another contrast: “Chinese diplomacy has learned from millennia of experience that, in international issues, each apparent solution is generally an admission ticket to a new set of related problems. Hence Chinese diplomats consider continuity of relationships an important task and perhaps more important than formal documents. By comparison, American diplomacy tends to segment issues into self-contained units to be dealt with on their own merits” (p.245).

India is intellectually better placed to understand China than jihad-obsessed, warlike Pakistan. After India lost Aksai Chin to China in 1962, it could have become revisionist like Pakistan and fought losing wars to regain the territory, but it decided that Aksai Chin was strategically ‘unimportant’. Today, it hopes to take its bilateral trade with China to $200 billion while Pakistan languishes at $9 billion.

Pak, India Talks to Mark New Beginning

By Hameed Shaheen for The Pakistan Observer

The outcome from the forthcoming July 26-27 talks between Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and India in New Delhi is expected to usher in a new beginning in the bilateral relations of both countries. The optimism is hyped by the recent statements of Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani describing India as “most important neighbour” and a recent TV interview of Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupuma Rao displaying growing realization of her country for the continuity of dialogue with Pakistan. Much before these scheduled talks Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ms Hina Rabbani Khar is sure to be upgraded to full minister status.

Prior to the 2-day Delhi meetings of the Foreign Ministers on July 26-27, 2011, Foreign Secretaries of both countries will meet on July 25, 2011, in New Delhi to fine tune recommendations of two separate technical groups on trans-Kashmir trade and travel CBMS and nukes CBMs.

The additional trans-Kashmir travel and trade CBMs likely to be announced at the conclusion of the Foreign Ministers meeting on July 27, 2011, are opening of Skardu-Kargil passengers bus service, increasing the current run of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service from weekly to bi-weekly duration and upping trading days from 2-day per week to 4-day a week besides making it bankable trade.

The expert level panel from both countries consisting of Ms Sehra H Akberi, DG South Asia of Pakistan and Y K Sinha JS from India is likely meet by middle of next week in Delhi.

Kashmiris strongly demand opening of Sialkot-Suchet Garh railway service for trading Sialkot industrial products to occupied Jammu and beyond. In pre-1947 era the major business market and education center of Jammu was Sialkot.

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