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Indian AFSPA’s stratagem
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07 Jul 2010
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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was passed on September 11, 1958, by Parliament of India. It conferred special powers upon the Indian armed forces in locations specified as ‘disturbed area’ in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. In July 1990, it was also extended to Jammu and Kashmir.

AFSPA is one of the more draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament has passed in its 62 years of parliamentary history.

Under this act, all security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted powers to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order”.

According to AFSPA, the armed forces have powers to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “an assembly of five or more persons” or “on the possession of deadly weapons”; to arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force anyone who has committed certain offences or is suspected of having done so; and to enter and search any premises in order to make such arrests.

Thus, the enforcement of the AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting by security personnel. This legislation is sought to be justified by the Indian government on the plea that it is required to stop the northeast states from seceding from the Indian Union.

However, the ancient Kingdom of Manipur, which was not desirous of entering the Indian Union, after the departure of the British, reconstituted itself as a constitutional monarchy in 1947.

The Indian government, out of treachery, in 1949 invited the king to a meeting on the pretext of discussing the deteriorating law and order situation in the state at Shillong. Upon his arrival, the king was allegedly forced to sign under duress the merger agreement, the assembly was dissolved and Manipur was taken over by the Indian government, much to the chagrin of its people, who undertook an uprising, which was brutally suppressed.

Then the Naga’s story is equally pathetic. As early as 1929, the Naga National Council (NNC), aspiring for a common homeland and self-governance petitioned the Simon Commission, which was examining the feasibility of future of self-governance of India because the Nagas were not ready to become Indian subjects. The NNC proclaimed Nagaland’s independence. In retaliation, Indian authorities arrested the Naga leaders. An armed struggle ensued and there were large casualties on both sides. The AFSPA is certainly the product of this tension.

Similarly, in Assam, a fear of “immigrant invasion” was at the root of a student movement in the early 80s. The student leaders formed a political party called the Assam Gana Parisad (AGP) and contested state elections and won. In 1984, the Assam Accord was signed with the central government, which was never implemented.

The failure of the AGP to bring about change in the state of Assam fostered the growth of the armed and overtly secessionist United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). In the Lushai Hills of Assam in the early 60s, a famine broke out. A relief team cried out for help from the Government of India. When none was forthcoming, the relief team organised itself into the Mizo National Front (MNF) and called for an armed struggle, “to liberate Mizoram from Indian colonialism.”

In Indian-Occupied Kashmir, all norms of decency and civil behaviour have been set aside and AFSPA has enabled the Indian army to let loose a reign of terror on the hapless Kashmiris since it was invoked in 1990.

AFSPA is in direct contravention of both the Indian Constitution, as well as International laws. It violates Article 21 which is the ‘right to life’; Article 14 which guarantees equality before the law; Article 22 that protects against arrest and detention; and the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (“CrPC”) which establishes the procedure police officers are to follow for arrests, searches and seizures – a procedure which the army and other para-military are not trained to follow.

Under relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards there is no justification for such an act as the AFSPA. When India presented its second periodic report to the UN Human Rights Committee in 1991, members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA.

They questioned the constitutionality of the AFSPA under the Indian law and asked how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. No viable response was received.

On March 23, 2009, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Nav-anethem Pillay asked India to repeal AFSPA; she termed the law as outdated and colonial-era law that breaches contemporary international human rights standards. However, to date Indian brutality continues unabated while the Indian army continues to receive awards under false claims of gallantry at the cost of innocent lives.

The writer is a political and defence analyst.

Fruitless Pak-India talks
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30 Jun 2010
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Pakistan and India are talking again. The US has backed the ongoing talks between the two countries saying it is in their self-interest, and perhaps larger American interest to reduce tensions through dialogue. Indian Prime Minister Manm-ohan Singh, who is in Toronto for the G20 Summit, has expressed happiness over the successful talks between India and Pakistan.

He said that the talks between the neighbouring states should continue.

Earlier Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qur-eshi met Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who called on him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Mr Rehman Malik encountered his counterpart Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

However, in a nutshell all these talks for the sake of talks appear fruitless. The US is contented because it wants the tension between Pakistan and India to reduce so that Pakistan can spare additional troops for its western border in the war against terror, after withdrawing them from its eastern front.

Pakistan, of course, would like to hold talks and resolve all outstanding issues with India so that peace prevails but not at the cost of sovereignty.

Meanwhile, Indian obduracy unfortunately continues to prevail. On the eve of the meeting between the two Interior Ministers, India detained a Pakistan-bound ship on the pretext that it was carrying undeclared military hardware, including rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns.

The Panama-registered vessel MV Agean Glory sailed from Monrovia, Liberia, to Bangladesh via Mauritius. It then travelled to Calcutta. According to Indian police, the origin of the weapons was not immediately known.

The vessel offloaded civilian goods including a car at Diamond Harbor in the Bay of Bengal, near Calcutta, which also serves as a port for mountainous Nepal, a top police official Bhup-inder Singh told the media.

The authorities detained the ship on the plea that the clearing agent had not specified that the ship was carrying weapons. Hence this shows that India is hell bent upon browbeating Pakistan and is sparing no opportunity to pressurise it.

Moreover, the recent case of the proposed Pak-China nuclear energy deal is a case in point. The US has recently concluded a similar nuclear deal with India, which went for consideration before the 46 nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

However, China did not block the civil nuclear deal, as it was expecting that the US would likewise not place impediments in the Pak-China deal. Although Hillary Clinton visited China recently, she did not raise the issue of the Pak-China nuclear deal with her counterparts, thus, tacitly accepting it.

But as the NSG meeting at Christchurch in New Zealand drew closer, the Indian authorities started pestering the US to raise objections to the deal.

Towing the line, the US State Department spokesperson voiced America’s concerns over the deal, which China brushed aside by stating that the deal existed long before it joined the NSG in 2004.

That excludes the Pak-China nuclear deal from the purview of any obligations to the NSG. Moreover, China has stressed that the cooperation between the two countries (Pakistan and China) “in the area of civilian use of nuclear energy is totally for peaceful purpose.”

Not satisfied with the turn of events, the Indian premier has again tried to rub it in, by asking Pakistan to clarify its nuclear deal with China. Dr Singh, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You have had your Hyde Act 2006 and 123 Agreement, now stop trying to logjam the Pak-China deal which anyway would be under IAEA safeguards.

Anyway, let’s come back to the Malik-Chidambaram talks. Chidambaram is the first Indian Minister to visit Pakistan since the Mumbai mayhem. Despite this, he did not spare a single moment insisting that Pakistan take action against the militants, especially those linked to Mumbai attacks.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he publicly demanded that Pakistan put more suspects in the Mumbai attacks on trial. India, however, knows that Pakistan is itself a victim of terrorist attacks and now also has ample evidence of Indian involvement in the dastardly deeds being done in Balochistan.

Yet, Chid-ambaram had the temerity to come to Islamabad and demand the trial of more suspects in the Mumbai attacks, when it provides only flimsy evidence, which the free and fair judiciary of Pakistan throws out of the window.

At the same time, India is going full throttle in upping the ante against Pakistan. There came a barrage of reports, some in the media and others through US and British think-tanks, singing the same allegory: “ISI is supporting the Taliban.”

Matt Waldman, a former Oxfam employee, compiled a report for London School of Economics (LSE) and said the same in his report after interviewing a few handpicked Taliban commanders. Interestingly, RAND and a number of US media reports joined the chorus. However, the truth emerged after Afghan President Hamid Karzai ousted his Security Minster, as well as his Interior Minister, in an unexpected decision.

Karzai, who now realises the importance of Pakistan and is keen to open a dialogue with the Taliban, found his Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and National Directorate of Security Chief Amrullah Saleh to be the stumbling blocks in the process. Saleh is an ethnic Tajik, who was a member of the Northern Alliance, which was formed by India and has reportedly been on the payroll of RAW, is the real author of the LSE report; while Atmar, too, was a major critic of the reintegration of the Taliban into the police and the army.

The propounder of the theory that ISI funds, trains and arms the Taliban, should deliberate for a moment that would Pakistan army have its own surrogates attack the GHQ in which a serving Brigadier and Lieutenant Colonel were killed by the terrorists, who held a portion of the GHQ hostage for 24 hours. Thus, it is amply clear that the India – with US support – is permeating its venom and ill-will through whatever sources it can muster to destabilise Pakistan. Under the circumstances, talks at any level would be fruitless unless there is a will to resolve the issues.

The writer is a political and defence analyst.

When will wisdom prevail?
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21 Apr 2010
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S M Hali

Dr Manmohan Singh, who has generally been regarded as a suave and polished statesman, during his recent Washington yatra for the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) exposed the vulnerability of his position and the tremendous pressure of Hindu extremists he must be under. On the sidelines of the NSS, he called upon his host – the US president – who inquired regarding the prospects of Indo-Pak peace talks. Dr Singh, who only last year at Sharm El-Sheikh had made a joint declaration with his Pakistani counterpart PM Gilani that both India and Pakistan would return to the dialogue table and would not let terrorism derail the peace process, popped out the oft repeated lines that “until Pakistan brings the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice, India would not resume the peace talks.” Bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice has become such a cliché that repeating it is distasteful. However, despite Pakistan’s insistence and requests for the provision of concrete evidence, all the Indian Home Ministry has been able to come up with are Pakistani toothpaste tubes, milk cartons and cosmetics along with cell phone SIMs and alleged excerpts from monitored conversations.

Thus, India has not been able to come up with a single shred of evidence which will hold water in any court of justice, but Dr Singh deems it necessary to tell President Obama that “Pakistan is not cooperating with India in the Mumbai terror attack investigations.”
What else is to be expected out of the beleaguered Indian PM? If the international media is credible, on the sidelines of the NSS, Dr Singh also met his Canadian counterpart, PM Stephen Harper. and asked him “to monitor the activities of Canadian Sikhs,” who according to the Indian PM are “separatists”. What could be the rationale for a practising Sikh himself, to target members of his own faith?

Dr Singh may have been a brilliant economist but he is no politician. He is not the democratically elected PM of India, which professes itself to be the biggest democracy. The truth is that he was handpicked by Sonia Gandhi to head the government because she was unacceptable to “secular” India owing to her Italian origin. The PM was a compromise choice because none of the hardcore Brahmins were suitable owing to the petty politics of the Congress and severe in-fighting among the Brahmin parliamentarians. Although he is not elected from any constituency, yet Dr Singh is the head of the Lok Sabha. He knows that he dare not move even a hair’s breadth towards dissension because that would cause him to lose his prestigious seat. He has faced the wrath of the Indian parliamentarians on both sides of the divide after his sojourn in Sharm El-Sheikh, where he talked about resuming the Pak-India peace process. But, even before he went back, a furore broke out and to quell the rising storm of antagonism, Dr Singh had to backtrack on his words and eat a humble pie.

In a bid to please his masters, Dr Singh has stabbed his kinsmen in the back by negating his own history and labelling them as “separatists”.
It is well known that Sikhs had formed the first secular and sovereign South Asian state, which lasted from 1799 to 1849. Their struggle was to reclaim their right of a sovereign state, usurped by the British Imperialists on March 14, 1849. The Sikhs continued to struggle for their rights but in August 1947, to their horror, they discovered that they only had a change of masters. The new rulers, the Brahmin Hindus, not only deprived them of their rightful struggle but demoted them to minorities once again. However, their struggle continued sporadically that culminated in the brutal military Operation Blue Star of June, 1984, in which the Indian armed forces had taken a toll of more than 250,000 Sikhs.

The operation was conducted on the orders of then PM Indira Gandhi. Although militarily successful, the operation aroused immense controversy and the government’s justification for the timing and style of the attack are still under debate. Operation Blue Star was included in the Top 10 Political Disgraces by India Today because it coincided with a Sikh annual festival. Pilgrims were trapped inside the Gulden Temple when the operation began and as a result many were wounded and killed. The sad aspect is that the Indian Army assault was led by a Sikh, Major General Kuldip Singh Brar, who also brought disgrace to his community.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, Indira was assassinated on October 31, 1984, by her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh for the desecration of the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star. In a frenzy of madness, the Hindus set upon the Sikh community and massacred thousands in the genocide. Now a betrayal comes again in the shape of another Sikh, Dr Manmohan Singh, who should be answerable to the entire Sikh Diaspora for labelling them as “separatists”.

Under the circumstances, we Pakistanis can only question when will wisdom prevail for the pretenders of “secular” India, which claims to be the greatest “democracy”, if it has only feeble and petty excuses to offer to the US president for not returning to the dialogue table but has itself been constantly engaged in destabilising Pakistan.

The writer is a political and defence analyst.

From relationship to partnership
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31 Mar 2010
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Last week Washington hosted the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, whi-ch focused on building mutual trust and strengthening Pakistan’s socio-economic sector. At the end of the convention, a joint declaration underlined the need to elevate the dialogue to the ministerial level. Both sides recognised the need for addressing the trust deficit, which had heretofore plagued the erstwhile allies in combating the common enemy – terror.
Embedded in the counter terrorism relations has been the impediment of lack of mutual trust in intelligence sharing. This trust deficit gave rise to the oft parrot-like repetition of the “do more” mantra. The shoe has however moved to the other foot. The US has once again woken up to Pakistan’s importance, as the endgame in Afghanistan draws nearer. It is déjà vu for us since Pak-US relations have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. One day we are the “most allied ally” and the next we are the “most sanctioned” one, depending on whether we are serving the US purpose or not. We have traversed this path before and been jilted too many times to be dazzled by the bonhomie and candour witnessed in the Pak-US strategic dialogue of March 24-25.

The fact that Pak-US ties have progressed from a relationship to a partnership may be a matter of rejoicing in some quarters but there is cause for concern for a few that not a single significant accord was signed at the conclusion of the strategic dialogue.

As a nation we are very whi-msical. We pin our hopes on every summit and get depressed at the non-fulfilment of our aspirations. Diplomacy and statesmanship necessitate pra-gmatism and understanding of the functioning of other governments.

True that Pakistan has regained its importance in the US calculus of the endgame in Afghanistan; it had done its homework in presenting its 57-page wish list prior to the strategic dialogue. Its primary economic concern is the energy and investment sector. So with the US pledging to help Pakistan meet its needs thr-ough its Signature Energy Pro-gramme, there is mounting optimism in Islamabad, which is beset by a severe energy crisis causing unprecedented power outages with the worst yet to come as the searing heat of summer approaches.

Additionally, by furthering investment opportunities as part of the Bilateral Investment Treaty agenda, Pakistan hopes to gain enhanced US market access for its products. The US has also promised to speed efforts for the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones legislation. However, the fruition of these schemes would be consequential to intense encounters of the Policy Steering Committee, established to address political, security and economic specifics of mutual concern and approval of its recommendations by both houses of the US Parliament, which could take weeks to months.

In this context, there is some solace in the fact that Pakistan’s grievances over what it perceives as continuous criticism, non-acknowledgement and lack of appreciation from the US of its (Pakistan’s) efforts have been finally addressed. Instead of the usual reprimands, occasional rap on the knuckles and demands of “do more”, the US Secretary of State praised Islamabad for its efforts to check militancy and acknowledged the need to move beyond past misunderstandings.

The war on terror has taken a huge toll of over 5,000 lives comprising Pakistan army’s gallant soldiers and innocent civilians but earned respect for its leadership at the Pentagon as well as at the Capitol Hill. Not only is financial military aid indispensable for continuing the operations against extremists in the tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan also needs vital counterinsurgency equipment. The current dispensation in the US administration appears to be cognisant of Pakistan’s urgent needs. While the operative word here is ‘urgency’, bureaucratic red-tape must yield to expediency. The window of opportunity is rather narrow. But with the announcement of the date for withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, the mid-term (November 2, 2010) US Congressional and Gubernatorial elections to elect 435 members of the US House of Representatives, 36 new members of the Senate and 38 governors vis-à-vis the declining popularity graph of the Democrats, the Obama administration is desperately in need of a success story in Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan can play a key role in the US game plan because the interests of the two converge.

Netting key Afghan Taliban leaders within the country, offering security training to the Afghan forces and political support to Kabul for negotiations with insurgents, and decimating the miscreants in Pakistan, has opened fresh vistas and a new phase in Pak-US relations. It is imperative that the US develops and strengthens Pakistan to assume its rightful place in the region and deliver on its promise of the fulfilment of its capacity-building goals. Needless to say, Pakistan on its part will have to play its cards carefully. It should have learnt lessons from the past and instead of letting history repeat itself, the Pakistani decision-makers must make a cogent representation of their case to ensure that the transition of the relationship to a partnership is long-term, secure and devoid of dictations on Pakistan’s domestic policies or even external affairs.

The importance the US decision-makers are attaching to a resolution of the Afghan imbroglio can be gauged from the swift but top secret six-hour visit President Barack Obama made in the dead of the night to Kabul. It was his first in-person view as commander-in-chief of the war he dramatically escalated. The trip comes nearly a year after he made a secretive visit to Iraq. His one-on-one with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meeting with the Afghan cabinet and address to the US troops, speak volumes for the resolve of the US president not to endanger the lives of more Americans. If Pakistan can lend a helping hand, so be it for it would be to ensure a safety net for us too. However, Pakistan must be treated with due regard to its distinction and dignity as an equal partner.

The writer is a political and defence analyst.

Muhlet Khetam Ho Rehi Hai?
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03 Feb 2010
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Article Published In JANG By Syed Anwer Qedwai
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