Monday, December 10, 2012

Geelani asks civil society to work for Kashmir cause

Chairman All Parties Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani has asked the civil society to work for the Kashmir cause and not leave everything to the leaders.

“We have capable people in Kashmir who can work to address various dimensions of Kashmir issue. But they leave everything to Geelani. They should not blame the leaders but work at their own level. Instead of raising finger at us they should understand that we are not even allowed to move outside the house for prayers,” Geelani said addressing a seminar titled ‘World Human Rights Day and Oppressed People of Kashmir’ at his residence here.

Geelani said despite sacrifices people are not safeguarding their contribution. “Sacrifice and voting cannot go together. Despite sacrifice, people are strengthening New Delhi’s rule here.”

Geelani said that Institute of Kashmir Studies was shut down ‘with the collaboration of so-called friends.’ “A center was running in which we tried to document Kashmir history, but certain elements contributed in shutting it down.”

However, Geelani said that people should not feel dejected and appealed them to maintain unity.
Reacting to the statement of National Conference General Secretary Sheikh Nazir that Sheikh Abdullah never signed 1975 Accord, Geelani said, “They think people are fool. More than 30 years have passed since the accord took place. Sheikh’s son and grandson continue to hold the chair. They continue to enter into alliance after alliance with Congress whom they used to call gandi naali kay keeday. They think people will forgive them for their sins. Chief Minister is brutal than his grandfather.”

Geelani also said that New Delhi has ‘sent a battery of Hindu officers to rule the state through bureaucracy and police.’ “Governor, DGP, 4 ADGPs, 6 IGPs, 5 DIGs, 4 Principal Secretaries, Chief Electoral Officer, 6 Commissioner Secretaries are Hindus,” Geelani said.

He termed Kashmir as an economic, political, human and religious issue. “Until we are not free from India, our religion and resources are under threat. If people will not raise voice against injustice, I warn you that future of Kashmir will be dark. I want to educate people about the injustice done to them, but government keeps me under house arrest.”

Geelani said his amalgam will fight for the release of Muslim League leader Dr Qasim Faktoo and other Kashmiri youth who were recently awarded life sentence. Geelani said he will consult lawyers to fight for their release and also launch a campaign for their release.

He said that 150 youth have been slapped with PSA this year and 850 youth are in different jails in J&K and outside. “Thirty three are convicts and five have been awarded death sentence and life imprisonment.”
Geelani demanded that FIR should be registered against 500 officers of police and paramilitary whom Coalition of Civil Society recently accused of human rights violations.

Asiya Andrabi also spoke on the occasion. “Judiciary has been no different to Kashmiris. My husband’s sentence is a political vendetta. We should move beyond calling one-day protests and conferences,” she said.

Asiya called on the people and leadership to capitalize on the sacrifice rendered by his husband and others. “However, we should not forget the families of sufferers.”

She also asked the government of Pakistan to take up the issue of Kashmir youth who have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Prof. Hameeda Nayeem asked the leadership to move beyond sloganeering and present a rational case of Kashmir issue. “It is not only killings and torture; our every right has been vandalized. We have miserly failed to present Kashmir issue beyond a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan.”

She also castigated Hurriyat (M) for their scheduled Pakistan visit. “Pakistan has always supported us. They have never been against the third option, what will they present to Pakistan,” Hameeda said.
Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said Kashmiris have failed to document human rights violations. “We failed to argue our case in various international organizations,” he said.

Other who spoke on the occasion included Ghulam Nabi Sumji, Zamrooda Habib, Abdul Majid Zargar, Muhammad Shafi, Abdul Ahad Para, Arjimand Hussain Talib and Peer Saifullah.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Civil society urged to contribute to economic growth

The civil society should play its role for economic revival of the country and achievement of economic growth targets while political parties should also develop a consensus on national issues.

These views were expressed by the participants in Jang Economic Session on “Future of Pakistan in Global Scenario” here on Tuesday. The panelists were Muhammad Ali Mian, Prof Shahida Saleem, Dr Tariq Bucha, Dr Yasir Mehmood and Nadeem Bhatti while the session was hosted by Sikindar Hameed Lodhi and Intikhab Tariq.

Muhammad Ali Mian said economic recession was going on across the world while Pakistan economy also was affected by high budget deficit and foreign loans. He said 60 percent of Pakistan SMEs had closed down while economic revival was crucial for safeguarding future.

Shahida Saleem said self-dependent policy and removal of social inequality were crucial to protect economic future of the country.

She suggested not taking loan facilities from international lenders. She said Pakistan growth rate was 9 percent in 1960s which needed to bring back through visionary leadership. She said China, India, Malaysia and Singapore had achieved growth with human resource development by improving their education system.

Tariq Bucha said agriculture was not vital for Pakistan only as globally the current decade was food and fuel decade but Pakistan government had put the agriculture sector on the back burner during the last three years. He said agriculture share in the country’s GDP was 50 percent but it was ignored by the government. He said the government had given MFN status to India rather than providing facilities to agriculture sector. He said a urea fertilizer bag was sold at Rs350 in India while at Rs1,750 in Pakistan. He observed that government might face circular debt in food sector if it continued ignoring agriculture.

Dr Yasir Mehmood said the next three years could be positive for Pakistan economy as labour cost was growing in China which was pushing its cost of production upwards. He said the minimum wage in Pakistan was Rs9,000 while in China it was equal to Rs40,000 to 50,000. He called for using alternate energy generation resources to produce cheap energy and use of labour cost advantage.

Nadeem Bhatti said that Pakistan’s share in global market was reducing quickly due to increase in production cost. He said unavailability of gas and electricity had bankrupted the industry. He said government should take concrete steps to stop energy theft and facilitate the taxpayers.


Friday, October 5, 2012

New bounty offer in Pakistan for prophet filmmaker

A former Pakistani legislator has offered a $200,000 bounty for anyone who kills the maker of an anti-Islam film that has angered Muslims around the world.

Ikramullah Shahid made the offer at a rally Monday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, before a crowd of about 15,000 people.

The rally was led by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, an umbrella group of radical Islamic and militant groups. Shahid is a member of the group.

This is the second such offer made by someone in Pakistan. A federal cabinet minister earlier offered $100,000 for the man behind the U.S.-made film that portrays Islam's Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and child molester.

Outraged Muslims have rallied against the film. At least 23 people have died in protests in Pakistan against the film.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pakistani Kashmir Demands Power and End to Corruption

In Pakistani Kashmir dozens of civil society activists staged a peaceful demonstration; calling for much-needed reforms in region’s Interim Constitution Act “to pave way for worthwhile democracy, good governance and uncompromising accountability.” 

The demonstration, held in the wake of a row between the AJK Accountability Bureau and the AJK Council, coincided with a controlled visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to the outskirts of Muzaffarabad for inspection of an under-construction hydropower project. However, local media was not invited to the event for fear of upsetting questions on its part. 

The prime minister of Pakistan happens to be the chairman of AJK Council, which is at the centre of allegations of corruption and financial irregularities, largely because of non-observance of codal formalities and pre-audit checks in its expenditures.

“No to corrupt AJK Council,” read one of the several placards carried by the demonstrators, including lawyers, students, NGO workers, traders and journalists, as they lined up along the capital’s bustling thoroughfare and later marched through it and the adjacent magnificent district headquarters complex.

The AJK Council, it may be recalled, was established under the Interim Constitution Act 1974 apparently “to serve as a bridge between the governments in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad.” However, over the years, officials and public in AJK believe, it has turned itself into a parallel government, evading scrutiny of its expenditures by investigating and accounting bodies of Pakistan or AJK.

The main income source of Council, which is vested with legislative, executive and financial powers, is 20 per cent of the taxes generated from the AJK territory, which it claims it spends on the administrative expenditure of its secretariat in Islamabad, development activities (in Pakistan and AJK) and other miscellaneous heads.  Apart from the 20 per cent of taxes, it has some other income sources as well, including license fees from the cellular phone companies operating in AJK.

It was the former AJK Accountability Bureau chairman Justice Hussain Mazhar Kaleem, who had dared summon record of some dubious contracts from the Council in the wake of corruption complaints, but the Council officials did not comply with his orders until the AJK government removed him on Friday allegedly under the pressure of vested interests, fuelling anger among the already charged civil society and political circles in AJK.

While calling for abolition of Council and accountability of the Kashmiri taxpayers’ money at its disposal, the demonstrators criticised what they termed as lily-livered AJK rulers for bowing to the pressure of corrupt AJK Council officials.

They also emphasised for long pending constitutional reforms to address such issues.

The interesting aspect of the demonstration was the use of social media to attract its participants, something unusual in this area where modern ICTs are not so common.

 Tariq Naqash, a senior journalist, who created a group on Facebook, namely AJK Civil Society Forum, said he was heartened to observe the response of civil society to the posts on social media on the issue.

“It’s the first drop of rain and I am sure the civil society in Aad Kashmir will play a pivotal role in sensitising the decision makers and general public about the issues of national concern,” he said.

Speaking to correspondents on the occasion, Raza Ali Khan, President AJK Supreme Court Bar Association, said the Interim Constitution had undermined the status of the AJK government as it gave excessive executive and legislative powers to the AJK Council over 52 subjects, including taxation.

Mr Khan pointed out that as chairman AJK Council the prime minister of Pakistan was exercising full authority in AJK while he was neither answerable to the people nor to the elected representatives of AJK.

“There is dire need of constitutional reforms to remove such anomalies.”

Abdul Qaiyum Khan, a student, said if the federal government could devolve powers to provinces, why AJK was not being treated in the same manner.

“Why our government is not being empowered? Why we are being made to feel as aliens?”

It may be recalled that in the recent session of AJK Legislative Assembly, Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed had announced to work in consultation with all parties for constitutional amendments. However, the government is yet to make a serious effort to move ahead in this regard.

Monday, July 9, 2012

HRCP slams killing of FATA civil society activist

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the assassination of Farida Afridi, who worked for an organisation working for women’s welfare, in Jamrud, Khyber Agency, as well as reports of a man accused of desecrating religious texts being snatched from police custody and burned to death.

In a statement on Thursday, HRCP said: “It is a matter of grave concern that the risks facing human rights defenders and those working to ameliorate the lot of marginalized segments remain very high across the country. HRCP is utterly shocked at the targeted killing of Farida Afridi, whose only crime was working for the uplift of women in an area where they need such help the most.

Two armed men riding a bike shot her in the head and fled. The threats to human rights defenders in FATA are as worrisome as the impunity the killers enjoy. The ghastly murder is reminiscent of the killing on December 8, 2011, of Zarteef Afridi, a well known human rights defender and HRCP coordinator in Khyber Agency. He was too shot dead by two men on a motorcycle. His killers are still at large.

HRCP would like to remind the government of its obligation to provide a safe working environment to human rights defenders all over the country, particularly more so in the FATA region, which faces about the worst turmoil in the country. In such places, journalists, human rights defenders and workers of civil society organisations who strive to provide essential needs or awareness to the people at great personal risk, have faced perils only because of their role in promoting rights or highlighting violations.

The killing of journalists, rights defenders and civil society activists in FATA is the latest addition to the prevailing hurdles for those working in the region for the uplift of the marginalized people, especially women.”