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Kashmir: Conflict in a Peaceful Valley

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

Kashmir: Conflict in a Peaceful Valley

Activists from the Jammu Kashmir Salvation Movement (J.K.S.M.) hold placards during a Feb. 23 demonstration in Srinagar, Kashmir, against alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces. (Photo: Rouf Bhat / AFP-Getty Images)

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, identified Kashmir as one of the world’s hot spots and bracketed it with contested regions such as the Balkans and Golan Heights during her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee last month.

Likewise, in an interview with Time magazine in November 2008, President Barack Obama stated that “working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” was one of the most “critical tasks” for his administration.

With worldwide attention once again focused on Kashmir, all major stakeholders in the region — Pakistan, India, Kashmiri separatists, religious extremists, and peacebuilders alike — are hoping that the renewed international spotlight can facilitate an end to the decades-long conflict that has resulted in over 80,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Contrary to widespread perceptions of a conflict-torn Kashmir, rife with military intervention and armed uprisings, the region remained relatively peaceful until a few decades ago when an armed struggle for separation from India started.

For the most part, Kashmir maintained a sense of communal harmony throughout the war in 1948, following Pakistan’s independence from British India in 1947. And although the Kashmiri region of Jammu was witness to the worst kind of massacre and exodus of Muslims to the neighboring areas of Pakistani-ruled Punjab during the war, this did not affect the daily life of most Kashmiris outside Jammu.

Kashmir is comprised of three distinct religions and regions — In Kashmir Valley, 98 percent of the population is Muslim; in Jammu, 60 percent of the population is Hindu; and in Ladakh, 49 percent is Buddhist. Kashmiris have always been proud of their diverse cultures, traditions and religions, with Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims living together in communal harmony. Even Gandhi lauded the Kashmiris for their peace-loving nature and called Kashmir “a ray of hope in the darkness.”

While the roots of the present conflict trace back to the time of partition, the more recent violent struggle began when Kashmiri Muslims, emboldened by the Afghan success in the fight against the Soviets, launched a similar movement against India in the late 1980’s.

The ensuing 18 years of armed revolt created religious divides where previously there were none, and caused 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus to flee the Valley. Eventually, however, the armed struggle waned, due to international pressure and decreased popular support for violent tactics in the wake of 9/11.

In 2008, mass uprisings in Kashmir began again when the Indian government proposed donating a large portion of Kashmiri land for a Hindu shrine. Kashmiri Muslims saw this as a plan to change the demographic of Kashmir, which would inevitably result in new Hindu settlements and began protesting against India. Despite some casualties, these protests remained largely peaceful.

On August 18, 2008, over half a million people took to the streets of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, and marched to the office of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) at the Sonawar settlement in Srinagar, to remind the world that the issue of Kashmir was still pending.

These mass protests attracted support from Indian civil society groups and attention from the international community. Kashmiri stakeholders, including militant groups, enthusiastically welcomed this renewed international interest in the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. Even Syed Salahudin, chief of Hizb ul Mujahideen (the Mujahideen Party), on behalf of the United Jihad Council — a group of several militant organizations — stated that Obama and Rice’s statements were encouraging in bringing about a resolution to the Kashmir conflict.

In addition, the recently-elected chief minister of Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, said in his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 5 that he wholeheartedly supported normalization between Islamabad and New Delhi, and publicly pledged that he would facilitate the settlement of the Kashmir issue.

While these non-violent demonstrations have attracted the world’s attention, given Obama’s recent acknowledgment of the conflict, words alone cannot help; concrete actions must be taken by the United States to facilitate lasting peace in the region.

As a first step, the Obama administration should appoint a special envoy to Kashmir. Indeed, the announcement was made at the end of January that the mandate of United States envoy to South Asia Richard Holbrooke would not include Kashmir, leaving the position open for someone else. This envoy should encourage India and Pakistan to include Kashmiri representatives in consultation, and promote dialogue between the two countries throughout the process.

By re-igniting the Pakistani-Indian peace process and engaging Kashmiris in dialogue — along with Pakistanis and Indians — the United States can provide assistance in resolving the Kashmir problem, which has thus far been a major hurdle in establishing peace in the region and fostering healthy relations between the two nuclear states.

Ershad Mahmud is a Kashmiri political analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Posted in Articles & Editorials, Conflict of Kashmir, File Record, Freedom Movements, Jammu and Kashmir (I.O.K.) | Comments Off on Kashmir: Conflict in a Peaceful Valley

*Islamabad's Kargil plot, Manu Pubby, Kashmir Live, June 13, 2009

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

New Delhi In the first account by a Pakistani military officer that
nails Islamabad’s lie on Kargil, a former pilot who was Director of
Operations of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during the 1999 conflict has
given a blow-by-blow account of the preparations undertaken by his
country’s Army that led to operations inside the Indian side of the
Line of Control.

Published in India in the latest issue of the Vayu Aerospace and Defence
Review magazine, PAF Air Commodore (retd) Kaiser Tufail, the man who
“interrogated” IAF Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa after his
MiG-27 crashed in PoK during a bombing run in the initial days of the
war, has laid bare the detailed Kargil plan by the Pakistan Army. He
says that the “Army trio” of General Pervez Musharraf, 10 Corps
Commander Lt Gen Mehmud Ahmad and Force Command Northern Areas commander
Maj Gen Javed Hasan “took no one into confidence, neither its
operational commanders, nor the heads of the other services”.

Tufail, a decorated fighter pilot who was in charge of air operations
during the war, has revealed that the Pak Army placed Stinger
shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles on hill tops, moved artillery guns
and ammunitions to posts that India had vacated during winter and drew
plans to cut off the strategic Drass-Kargil road to choke supplies to
the Siachen glacier.

Now based in Lahore, Tufail says the entire operation was planned by
Musharraf but had the tacit approval of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
who, after a presentation, said “`General sahib, Bismillah
karein’… not withstanding the denials we hear from him every new
moon.”

Recalling his meeting with top Army officers, including Lt Gen Mehmud
Ahmad who was commanding the Rawalpindi Corps, Tufail writes that the
Kargil plan was revealed on May 12, two weeks before India retaliated
with air strikes, when Ahmad briefed him and others on the operation.

“Come October, we shall walk in to Siachen — to mop up the dead
bodies of hundreds of Indians left hungry, out in the cold,” Ahmad
is quoted as having said during the briefing, adding that “I have
Stingers on every peak” to counter the threat of Indian air strikes
against Pakistani intruders.

“The target was a vulnerable section of Drass-Kargil road, whose
blocking would virtually cut off the crucial lifeline which carried the
bulk of supplies needed for daily consumption as well as annual winter
stocking in Leh-Siachen sector. He (Lt Gen Ahmad) was very hopeful that
this stratagem could choke off the Indians in the vital sector for up to
a month, after which monsoons would prevent vehicular movements and also
suspend airlift by IAF,” Tufail writes on details of the briefing.

Expressing surprise over the failure of Indian intelligence to detect
Pakistani movements that led to the occupation of Indian Army posts on
the heights of Kargil, Tufail says it was well known in Skardu, days
before operations were launched, that “something big is
imminent”.

“Helicopter flying activity was feverishly high as Army Aviation Mi
17s were busy moving artillery guns and ammunition to the posts that had
been vacated by the Indians during the winter season. Troops in battle
gear were to be seen all over the city. Interestingly, Army messes were
abuzz with war chatter amongst young officers. In retrospect, one
wonders how Indian intelligence agencies failed to read any such signs
many weeks before the operation unfolded,” Tufail writes.

Bringing out the disagreement between the Pak Army and Air Force on the
operations, Tufail writes that many senior PAF officers tried to explain
to the Army that Indian air strikes would wipe out bunkers occupied by
ground forces but these were dismissed by the Army after Lt General
Ahmad said “troops were well camouflaged and concealed and that IAF
pilots would not be able to pick out the posts from the air”.

“Perhaps it was the incredulousness of the whole thing that led Air
Commodore Abid Rao (Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations) to famously
quip, `After this operation, it’s going the be either a Court
Martial or Martial Law’ as we walked out of the briefing room.”

And for the first time, giving details of IAF success in bombing
Pakistani positions during the war, Tufail writes that round the clock
air attacks had made retention of posts by Pakistani infiltrators
“untenable”.

“The Mirage 2000s scored at least five successful laser guided bomb
hits on forward dumping sites and posts. During the last days of
operations which ended on 12 July, it was clear that delivery accuracy
had improved considerably, ” he writes.

Contrary to the Indian view that he was shot down, Tufail claims that
Flt Lt Nachiketa’s MiG-27 went down due to engine trouble
“caused by gas ingestion during high altitude strafing.” He
writes: “Flt Lt Nachiketa, who ejected and was apprehended, had a
tete-a-tete with this writer during an interesting
`interrogation’ session.”

He conceded that the PAF had trouble maintaining air patrols in the
region to deter Indian fighters as its F-16 mainstay was facing shortage
of supply parts due to American sanctions. “After one week of CAPs
(combat air patrols), the F-16 maintenance personnel indicated that war
reserves were being eaten into and the activity had the be
`rationalized’ , an euphemism for discontinuing it
altogether,” Tufail writes.

According to him, F-16 was the only fighter available with Pakistan to
counter India but it was decided to discontinue patrols in case its
services were needed during a full-blown war. “Those not aware of
the gravity of the F-16 operability problem under sanctions have
complained of the lack of cooperation by the PAF,” he writes.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

Posted in Articles & Editorials, Conflict of Kashmir | Comments Off on *Islamabad's Kargil plot, Manu Pubby, Kashmir Live, June 13, 2009

Army retreat from J&K will be suicidal

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

Army retreat from J&K will be suicidal

Ramesh Khazanchi Sunday June 14, 2009
The Times of India

Link – http://blogs. timesofindia. indiatimes. com/Hard- copy/entry/ it-s-a-war- keep

Kashmir, I admit, is my fixation, for I am a victim of its two-decade-long dalliance with death and destruction. The latest spark adding insult to injury is the reported acceptance by the Union home minister, P Chidambaram, of a proposal from the J&K state leadership seeking the suspension or revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA). However, even talk of its revocation could spell doom for the return of normalcy to the violence-ridden valley. Pakistan’s ruinous internecine battle within may have its ramifications across the LoC, not by chance but by design.

It was Chidambaram’s first visit to the valley after he became home minister. Let him lead by example. If he looks soft by the exterior, let it not be mistaken as a sign of weakness. Flexing the iron hand in the velvet glove, I believe, is the need of the hour. If financial wizardry is his forte, strategic planning ought to be his bible in his new role. It is far too pre-mature at this stage to even think of putting on hold the AFSPA let alone its revocation. In any case, the unified Command – which comprises the Army brass, the governor, the chief minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security – has to deliberate the issue before a decision in this regard is made.

Legend has it that Kashmir is the land of Kashyap rishi (seer), the eponymous saint who lent the ‘vahr’ (bowl-shaped) valley its name and identity, exterminated the ‘asuras’ (demons) who would devour the God-fearing aborigines. Mark, the first syllable is common to both – Kash-yap and Kash-mir. Born and brought up in the paradise-turned- cauldron, like tens of thousands of other Kashmiri Hindus – to be precise Kashmiri Pandits – I have been driven out of my motherland for no fault of mine by none other than the jihadis, brainwashed at a tender age by the scourge-on-earth – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s supra-constitutiona l ‘international- sabotage institution’.

Americans have realised it post 9/11 – much, much after we Indians fell victim to Pakistan’s machinations and the gory violence it unleashed in a bid to wrest control of the land which never was theirs. For 20 years we suffered at their hands in Punjab, and for the last two decades in Jammu & Kashmir in what is euphemistically termed a low-intensity conflict (LIC). What they failed to attain by outright aggression in 1947, ’65 and ’71, has been attempted by sowing the seeds of internal strife and secession.

Only the Cowboy has gone the whole hog after them as he has the wherewithal and the will to exterminate the scourge.

The grand old American democracy has introduced a plethora of all-encompassing legislation, including the Homeland Security Act and US Patriot Act, which permit the DNA profiling of people suspected of terrorist activity against the US or its interests and subjects abroad. That’s what nations are legitimately supposed to do to protect their territorial integrity and national sovereignty aimed at securing the life, liberty, business and property of its citizens and allies.

Alas, the weak-kneed Indian government has, unlike Americans, failed to stem the tide of home-grown militancy and Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the state. India, under whichever political dispensation at the Centre, has abysmally failed to turn the adversity into opportunity on many an occasion. The high point being Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure, although a godsend for us, we missed the bus again for we failed the nation by not declaring a full-fledged war on all fronts, including the western front and the Karachi harbour. What do we maintain for the Naval behemoth in the Arabian sea? Are we content in letting it be an augmentation of the Coast Guard? There we failed, too, in the wake of the enemy’s cloak-and-dagger operation when so-called non-state actors surreptitiously sailed across the high seas to carry out the 26/11 terrorist mission in Mumbai under explicit directions and logistic support by their agent-provocateur across the Radcliffe Line.

On November 27, 1997, then Chief Justice of India J S Verma and four other judges of the Supreme Court on a review petition of the AFSPA (in the context of the north-east) observed, “The power to make a law providing for deployment of the armed forces of the Union in aid of the civil power of a State does not include within its ambit the power to enact a law which would enable the armed forces of the Union to supplant or act as a substitute for the civil power in the State. The armed forces of the Union would operate in the State concerned in cooperation with the civil administration so that the situation which has necessitated the deployment of armed forces is effectively dealt with and normalcy is restored.”

It is explicit in the judgment that the Army will act “in aid of the civil administration of the state”… until “normalcy is restored.” Keeping in view the recent successful bids by the battle-hardened militants to infiltrate into the valley under heavy arms fire-cover provided by the Pakistan army coupled with the melting snow at the high mountain passes, the situation does not warrant any lowering of guard by the armed forces which alone are trained and equipped to fight the Talibanized insurgents. However, Rashtriya Rifles, which has borne the brunt of militant attacks and in turn broken the backbone of the insurgency in J&K, does act hand in hand with the state police and the paramilitary forces. In any case, it is the local police and the paramilitary forces which maintain security in Srinagar and its outskirts. The Army, to all intents and purposes, has since been ordered to the barracks. But any inference that the situation is fast returning to normal and warrants the revocation of the AFSPA would indeed be a retrograde step fraught with dire consequences.

The grand old American democracy has introduced a plethora of all-encompassing legislation, including the Homeland Security Act and US Patriot Act, which permit the DNA profiling of people suspected of terrorist activity against the US or its interests and subjects abroad. That’s what nations are legitimately supposed to do to protect their territorial integrity and national sovereignty aimed at securing the life, liberty, business and property of its citizens and allies.

Kashmir, I admit, is my fixation, for I am a victim of its two-decade-long dalliance with death and destruction. The latest spark adding insult to injury is the reported acceptance by the Union home minister, P Chidambaram, of a proposal from the J&K state leadership seeking the suspension or revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA). However, even talk of its revocation could spell doom for the return of normalcy to the violence-ridden valley. Pakistan’s ruinous internecine battle within may have its ramifications across the LoC, not by chance but by design.

It was Chidambaram’s first visit to the valley after he became home minister. Let him lead by example. If he looks soft by the exterior, let it not be mistaken as a sign of weakness. Flexing the iron hand in the velvet glove, I believe, is the need of the hour. If financial wizardry is his forte, strategic planning ought to be his bible in his new role. It is far too pre-mature at this stage to even think of putting on hold the AFSPA let alone its revocation. In any case, the unified Command – which comprises the Army brass, the governor, the chief minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security – has to deliberate the issue before a decision in this regard is made.

Legend has it that Kashmir is the land of Kashyap rishi (seer), the eponymous saint who lent the ‘va
hr’ (bowl-shaped) valley its name and identity, exterminated the ‘asuras’ (demons) who would devour the God-fearing aborigines. Mark, the first syllable is common to both – Kash-yap and Kash-mir. Born and brought up in the paradise-turned- cauldron, like tens of thousands of other Kashmiri Hindus – to be precise Kashmiri Pandits – I have been driven out of my motherland for no fault of mine by none other than the jihadis, brainwashed at a tender age by the scourge-on-earth – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s supra-constitutiona l ‘international- sabotage institution’.

Americans have realised it post 9/11 – much, much after we Indians fell victim to Pakistan’s machinations and the gory violence it unleashed in a bid to wrest control of the land which never was theirs. For 20 years we suffered at their hands in Punjab, and for the last two decades in Jammu & Kashmir in what is euphemistically termed a low-intensity conflict (LIC). What they failed to attain by outright aggression in 1947, ’65 and ’71, has been attempted by sowing the seeds of internal strife and secession.

Only the Cowboy has gone the whole hog after them as he has the wherewithal and the will to exterminate the scourge.

Alas, the weak-kneed Indian government has, unlike Americans, failed to stem the tide of home-grown militancy and Pakistan-sponsored insurgency in the state. India, under whichever political dispensation at the Centre, has abysmally failed to turn the adversity into opportunity on many an occasion. The high point being Pakistan’s Kargil misadventure, although a godsend for us, we missed the bus again for we failed the nation by not declaring a full-fledged war on all fronts, including the western front and the Karachi harbour. What do we maintain for the Naval behemoth in the Arabian sea? Are we content in letting it be an augmentation of the Coast Guard? There we failed, too, in the wake of the enemy’s cloak-and-dagger operation when so-called non-state actors surreptitiously sailed across the high seas to carry out the 26/11 terrorist mission in Mumbai under explicit directions and logistic support by their agent-provocateur across the Radcliffe Line.

On November 27, 1997, then Chief Justice of India J S Verma and four other judges of the Supreme Court on a review petition of the AFSPA (in the context of the north-east) observed, “The power to make a law providing for deployment of the armed forces of the Union in aid of the civil power of a State does not include within its ambit the power to enact a law which would enable the armed forces of the Union to supplant or act as a substitute for the civil power in the State. The armed forces of the Union would operate in the State concerned in cooperation with the civil administration so that the situation which has necessitated the deployment of armed forces is effectively dealt with and normalcy is restored.”

It is explicit in the judgment that the Army will act “in aid of the civil administration of the state”… until “normalcy is restored.” Keeping in view the recent successful bids by the battle-hardened militants to infiltrate into the valley under heavy arms fire-cover provided by the Pakistan army coupled with the melting snow at the high mountain passes, the situation does not warrant any lowering of guard by the armed forces which alone are trained and equipped to fight the Talibanized insurgents. However, Rashtriya Rifles, which has borne the brunt of militant attacks and in turn broken the backbone of the insurgency in J&K, does act hand in hand with the state police and the paramilitary forces. In any case, it is the local police and the paramilitary forces which maintain security in Srinagar and its outskirts. The Army, to all intents and purposes, has since been ordered to the barracks. But any inference that the situation is fast returning to normal and warrants the revocation of the AFSPA would indeed be a retrograde step fraught with dire consequences.

Posted in Articles & Editorials, Conflict of Kashmir, Future of Kashmir, Jammu and Kashmir (I.O.K.) | Comments Off on Army retreat from J&K will be suicidal

The US advice on Kashmir is lunacy, M.J. Akbar, The Times of India, 14 Jun 2009

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

If you want to sell arsenic, the kindest way to do so is to disguise it
as medicine heavily coated with sugar. There is nothing particularly new
about the proposal of an interim balm for the wounds of Kashmir,
demilitarization on both sides of the Line of Control. What is novel is
the heavy Washington endorsement of this Pakistan-promoted option.

This is not all. Unusually for a senior diplomat of a super power that
affects neutrality, US under secretary of state for political affairs,
William Burns, chose Delhi as the venue for a message designed to
disturb the equanimity of his hosts, when he said, “Any resolution of
Kashmir has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.
That must have been music to Islamabad’s ears.

Demilitarization sounds so sweetly reasonable, a definitive gesture of
de-escalation. The Obama administration is delighted by the prospect of
collateral benefit. This would release more Pak troops for the war
against Taliban. Pakistan has shifted some brigades from the Indian
border, but not from the Line of Control.

Self-interest may have blinded Washington to an obvious fallacy in this
“reasonable” formulation. In all three major Kashmir conflicts —
1947, 1965 and Kargil — Pakistan has used a two-tier strategy. A
surrogate force has served as a first line of offense. The Pakistani
term for them has been consistent; they have come in the guise of
“freedom fighters”. India called them “raiders” in 1947 and 1965, and
defines them as terrorists now. This surrogate force has expanded its
operations far beyond Kashmir, as the terrorist attacks on Mumbai
confirmed.

DMZs (De-Militarized Zones) would guarantee the security of Pakistan and
weaken India’s defences, since there is no suggestion that terrorist
militias are going to be “demilitarized” . Should the Indian army leave
the Kashmir valley to the mercy of well-organized, finely-trained,
generously-financed indiscriminate organisations? India has no
corresponding surrogate force, because it is a status-quo power; it
makes no claims on any neighbour’s territory. If America wants a DMZ
(De-Militarized Zone) in India they will first have to ensure a DTZ
(De-Terrorised Zone) in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan may have a common problem in terrorism, but they do
not have terrorists in common. Those who have inflicted havoc already in
India, and those who intend to do so in future, are safe in their havens
in Lahore and Multan and Karachi. Pakistan’s ambivalence on terrorism
was exposed yet again by the release of Prof Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed,
emir of Jamaat ud Dawa, from house arrest on June 6. It needed an
official sanction by the UN Security Council to send him into soft
detention. The government’s duplicity was evident in the frailty of the
case against him. The Lahore High Court, which ordered his release,
discovered that Pakistan had not even placed al-Qaeda on its list of
terrorist organizations.

Islamabad may have taken action against militants in the Frontier who
pose a threat to Pakistan, but it continues to mollycoddle those who
threaten India.

Islamabad’s leverage has risen in Obama’s Washington for good reasons.
America may have outsourced flat-world, high-tech jobs to soft-power
India. But America has outsourced a full-scale Af-Pak war to Pakistan.

Rewards for India come in corporate balance sheets and middle-class
jobs. Compensation for Pakistan comes in billions of dollars for the
army (as much as $5 billion of which has been diverted, so far, to the
purchase of conventional weapons meant primarily for use against India)
and much more in aid and soft-loans. Pakistan believes that money is
insufficient. It wants the bonus of political rewards. It expects a
Pak-US nuclear pact, not because it is in need of fuel for peaceful or
martial purposes, but in order to quasi-legitimize its status as a
nuclear power. Islamabad also wants some settlement on Kashmir that it
can sell to its people as a victory.

Former president Pervez Musharraf may be out of circulation but ideas
that jumped out of his box a few years ago are back in play. He has just
given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he suggests that India and
Pakistan were close to an agreement over his proposals:
“demilitarization of the disputed area, self-governance and a mutual
overwatch.” Delhi insisted on the conversion of the Line of Control into
a formal border, but the thought that the two countries came close has
given Washington reason to believe that it can now pressurize Delhi to
make some concession, perhaps by agreeing to make the Line of Control
“irrelevant” by “opening transit routes”.

There is great danger in this “soft border” thesis. How can you have a
“soft border” unless both sides recognize it as a border? Moreover, what
does the phrase “mutual overwatch” mean? Both would dilute symbols of
Indian sovereignty in Kashmir.

Musharraf, who sounds bored by his new routine of bridge with friends at
his flat in London, says he is ready to broker a peace deal.

The search for peace might prove to be tougher than starting a war in
Kargil.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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Kashmir resolution essential to defeat Taliban: Lord Ahmed

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

LONDON, June 13 (APP)-

Leading British Muslim lawmaker Lord Nazir Ahmed has asserted that resolving the Kashmir issue is a prerequisite to defeating the Taliban
in the NWFP. Taking part in a discussion on ‘Pakistan at a cross-roads’ organised by the South Asia and Middle East Forum at the House of
Commons last night, he said “seven years of war on terror and the US and NATO led forces have pushed the Al-Qaeda and foreign fighters into
the tribal areas of Pakistan. This is the main reason for the continued terrorism within Pakistan.”  Praising Pakistan armed forces, Lord Ahmed said, “Pakistan army is fighting well-trained, well-armed and well-financed terrorist organisations, which are united under the umbrella of ‘Tehreek-a-Taliban’ in the Swat Valley.

Unfortunately the collateral damage from recent fighting in the region and US drone attacks has caused a considerable amount of civilian casualties, and has now brought about a problem of winning the hearts and minds of the local people.”

Lord Ahmed warned the parliamentarians and NGOs present at the event that if the 2.5 to three million internally displaced people are not looked after and fed properly, then this may become a fertile breeding ground for terrorism.

“That is why it is imperative that European governments give more aid to the Government of Pakistan, to avert a humanitarian crisis.”

The British legislator further said that although the Pakistani people have been supporting this war against the Tehreek-a-Taliban, the public opinion could change if the internally displaced people are not treated well or looked

after.

He was of the view that the response to the present humanitarian crisis has been very slow as compared to the support and aid provided during 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Lord Nazir Ahmed spoke of his confidence about the Pakistan Army’s ability to defeat the terrorists and militants, however, he added until the Kashmir issue is resolved, the  Army will never be able to concentrate on the western

border fully.

“Therefore it is incumbent of the European and international communities to ensure that the issue of Kashmir is resolved.”

Earlier, Lord Ahmed also spoke at the British-Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Geneva, where he highlighted the plight of the IDPs in Pakistan and urge Europe not to ignore their predicament.

He spoke on the topic of ‘How the Middle East and South Asia still affects British home and foreign policy, post empire.’

He said although Pakistan is fighting a war against these extremists, in order to secure its own survival, the country is also fighting their war as the front-line state against Al-Qaeda.

He expressed fear that this conflict could turn into a long and bloody war with dire consequences for the international community if the challenges remain unchecked.

The Mirpur-born British lawmaker called for providing more resources and modern weapons for the Pakistan Armed forces to tackle effectively the threat posed by Taliban and the militants.

Lord Ahmed urged the European communities to support Oxfam’s call for an immediate andurgent aid donation of $ 42 million in order to save lives in the Swat Valley.

He said, “We must not allow the war in the tribal-belt to become an industry for some and political tourism for others. There is a need for  a quick and decisive military victory, which must be backed by long-term development strategies for this region.”

Lord Nazir Ahmed spoke against any lobby or minority group dictating the foreign policy of any state saying that only an elected Government has the mandate and responsibility to do this.

However, he said, “Government should not ignore the voice and feelings of the public, which was the case in the Iraq war”.

He pointed out the Tamil protestors outside UK Parliament over the last two months have proved that public pressure can force governments to take action.

This pressure, he added, resulted in the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and three other European Foreign Ministers flying  to Sri Lanka to urge the Sri Lankan Government to allow safe passage of Tamil civilians, who were trapped in the war.

“The British Muslims also have feelings and aspirations in relation to Kashmir and Palestine, and their feelings must not be ignored,” he declared.

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