Dawn Editorial 14 November 2019

IHK suffocation

IT is a grim milestone. Tuesday marked the 100th day of the siege of India-held Kashmir, after New Delhi clamped down on the region and did away with its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution.
Read: Occupied Kashmir marks 100 days of annexation
Since then, life has become a nightmare for the Kashmiris, as they have been living under constant lockdown, their routines disrupted by the heavy hand of the Indian establishment.
The matter was raised during a Senate session in Islamabad on Tuesday, with lawmakers questioning the UN’s relative silence where the suffering of Kashmiris is concerned. Former Senate chairman Farooq Naek urged the government to approach the International Court of Justice over the matter, while the leader of the opposition in the upper house, Raja Zafarul Haq, condemned the inaction of the international community over Kashmir.
In the occupied region itself, journalists held a small silent demonstration in Srinagar to protest the blockade of the internet in IHK, and the crippling effect it has had on unfettered reporting from the region.
“The authorities have treated journalists […] as potential troublemakers and choked journalism in the process,” one media person said at the protest. Indeed, Kashmiri journalists must be commended for their brave protest in the face of Indian brutality.
India’s lockdown has affected people from all walks of life in IHK.
Mothers lament that their sons have been picked up in midnight raids by New Delhi’s enforcers; schools and colleges have been shut, paralysing educational activities; trade and business have taken a similar hit; even religious occasions, such as Muharram and Eid, have not been spared as Kashmiris have been denied the opportunity to freely observe rituals.
Is this how a democracy — which India claims to be — behaves?
However, despite 100 days of suffocation, the Kashmiri spirit for azadi remains undeterred. However much India brackets the Kashmiri desire for autonomy and freedom with militancy, it is clear that the held region’s people will not give up their democratic demand for self-determination, as New Delhi’s brutal tactics for decades have failed to snuff out their courage and spirit of resistance.
Pakistan has made a major effort to raise a voice for the Kashmir cause across the globe, and many conscientious people have spoken up for the rights of the besieged region. In fact, activists within India have also questioned their government’s appalling tactics in IHK.
India can continue its brutal approach in the region for another 100 days but the result is unlikely to be different, as Kashmiris will not start treating their oppressors as their benefactors. Instead of this failed approach, India must immediately lift the siege of Kashmir and listen to what its people have to say. The BJP-led government must understand this is not a conquered territory, but a region with its own unique history and culture that cannot be subjugated.


‘B’ is for blockade

MAULANA Fazlur Rehman has finally come up with his ‘Plan B’ that involves staging blockades of highways and even branch and intra-city roads across the country.
Frustrated by the lack of sufficient notice he received after besieging Islamabad about two weeks ago, the maulana had been hurling all kinds of veiled and not-so subtle warnings about the perils of his demands not being entertained. Since this was not the first time he was pressing for a bargain, the more favoured view predicted that he would finally have to make a reluctant return after being unable to find the right patrons and backers for his cause.
Maybe Wednesday’s announcement of the JUI-F’s new map will still be looked upon as a face-saving exercise by many. The problem is, what if the maulana really means it? He has already shown that he accepts and rejects advice at his own convenience and has sufficiently exhibited a mind free from any reasonable limits for anyone to take him and his Plan B lightly. His protest may be entering an extremely sensitive area and the JUI-F chief could find himself in a corner with no escape.
According to the declarations from the dharna stage, Plan B is to begin in the afternoon today. It entails moving the sit-in to a place on Peshawar Road close to the Motorway. However, rally leaders have indicated that a few of the vital arteries connecting cities, people, businesses and livelihoods are already in the process of being blocked.
A highway around Jacobabad was said to have been already closed and the Motorway has been marked for a forcible blockade near Rohri and Sukkur. Likewise, the highway between Rawalpindi and Peshawar was to be closed by protesters today. The JUI-F threatens to expand the measures to paralyse all manner of movement on the national road network, and the plan, if carried out, could have devastating effects on daily life.
Unless it is a bluff or a face-saving gimmick that some believe it will turn out to be, these events show an inclination for violent confrontation. Accolades, that are not always his due, have often been lavished on Maulana Fazlur Rehman for his politics. Right here on this route to a head-on clash with his power rivals, he must ponder and take all responsibility before he is moved by the fires burning inside him to attempt anything too adventurous.


Dysfunctional NCHR

FOR a government that is very vocal about human rights elsewhere in the world, the fact that the National Commission for Human Rights has not been functioning for the past six months should be downright embarrassing. The tenure of the chairman and six out of seven members of the NCHR expired on May 30, but the present government, amidst all its tall claims of upholding the rights of citizens, appears to be dragging its feet on new appointments. The PTI government’s year in power has been marred by bureaucratic delays or mismanagement, especially in KP and Punjab; the situation also exposes the serious lapses on part of the federal human rights ministry. Since its formation, the commission has played a key role in investigating human rights abuses in the country. For some time now, the NCHR had been looking into NAB’s alleged misuse of powers, and this unusual delay in the appointment of its members reflects badly on the government’s promises of across-the-board accountability while also giving credence to criticism that NAB is being used for political victimisation.
On the other hand, the PTI-led government has been so caught up with the ongoing political turmoil that major incidents of human rights abuses in the country have not received the kind of attention they deserve other than the customary statements issued via Twitter. Be it incidents of police brutality in Punjab, the sexual abuse of young boys in Kasur, the Tezgam tragedy, the Balochistan University harassment scandal or people dying due to the shortage of rabies vaccine, the response by the federal government has been lackadaisical at best. It would be useful for the government to recall that one of the hallmarks of an ideal society is its justice system; the present state of affairs with regard to human rights in the country is contrary to many of the tall claims the PTI has made before and after coming to power. It is time for the government to stop the talk, and walk the walk.


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