Saturday, May 28, 2011

You can't have a genuine conversation about Pakistan without including Kashmir

To Pakistan the main issues that it is dealing with has to do with the perception of an attack on their sovereignty (which makes them look weak)...

...and because of a balance of power situation with India.

Pakistan and India have fought wars over Kashmir. It is true that the Muslim world does not yet see the whole global community as family and friends. But that's hard when you see fellow Muslims being abused in the border land of Kashmir, an abuse which has been going on for decades.

Amnesty International last week accused security forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir of exploiting a law that enables them to hold tens of thousands of prisoners without trial. The group argues that the Public Safety Act, which allows security to detain individuals for as many as two years without presenting charges, violates prisoners’ human rights. Amnesty reports that hundreds of new prisoners are being arrested and detained each year under the law. Control of Kashmir, the disputed region divided between China, India, and Pakistan, has sparked two full-scale wars and countless skirmishes between Islamabad and Delhi. Amnesty is calling for Kashmiri officials to repeal the law and release prisoners held illegally, and for India to investigate reports of detainee abuse and torture.

Some history on the Kashmir conflict...

UNLIKE many other books on Kashmir, Luv Puri’s Across the LoC: Inside Pakistan-Administered Jammu and Kashmir, concentrates on the socio-economic side of the 63-year-old dispute, touching upon the geopolitical part of the story only briefly to provide perspective. The focus of the book is on matters which to a student of geopolitics would appear peripheral, but which deserve to be highlighted as they have been lost in the vast volume of diplomatic literature which examines Kashmir as a dispute between Pakistan and India.

Puri dwells at length on the ethnic, geographical and religious diversity of Kashmir, and the factions and sub-factions which not only cut across the Line of Control but also exist within India-held territory and Azad Kashmir. The author, being Indian, calls Azad Kashmir “Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir”.

Astonishing as it appears, regional loyalties had a profound bearing on the tragedy of Kashmir and on the Jammu revolt, which ignited the war. The majority of the British army’s Kashmiri soldiers were from Poonch and Mirpur, and the people, both Hindu and Muslim, were loyal to the local raja. There was an angry Muslim reaction to the maharaja’s decision to dismiss the local raja, who, the former thought, was not doing enough to de-weaponise the Jammu Muslims. The maharaja also imposed new taxes on the region.

Finally, a story from Kashmir...

Roushan Illahi isn’t like any youth in Indian-administered Kashmir Valley. He’s special. He’s a rapper. A poet. His rhymes are as much about him as they are about the countless youth who live in Kashmir — the world’s highest militarised zone, which also has the highest suicide rate in the world.

Born in 1990, at the peak of the armed insurgency, Roushan, who calls himself MC Kash, and hails from a middle-class family says he has seen “no fancy stuff in all the little time I’ve been alive.” At 20, Roushan is a man on a mission. He sees himself “as a storyteller who walks the graveyards”. He laughs, “I am a student who’s in love with truth. See, my father taught me three H’s – honesty, humility and hard work. That’s all I get reminded of whenever I do something.”

Roushan shot to fame in 2010 — the year where 123 people were shot in the Valley during pro-freedom demonstrations — with I Protest (Remembrance), dedicated to Kashmiris. The mellow beat peppered with gunshots betrays the angst felt by not only those who have lived to see atrocities by the Indian security forces over two decades, but also the future generations grapple with brutal state violence marred to a culture of impunity.

Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Afghanistan are all interconnected. You can't genuinely discuss one without understanding their perspectives on the others and vice versa.

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