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Full Name: dr shabir choudhry
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Gilgit Baltistan debated in House of Lords

Dr Shabir Choudhry     17 April 2010


Baroness Emma Nicholson has done it again. Once again she has successfully arranged very valuable conference to promote the fundamental rights of people of Gilgit Balatistan.


She won minds and hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general, and the people of Gilgit Baltistan in particular when she, as an EU Rapporteur on Kashmir, authored an EU Kashmir Report. Despite fierce opposition from Pakistani government, their allies and supporters the report was passed by overwhelming majority by the EU Parliament in May 2007. There were 524 votes in favour of the report and only 09 against it.


The report raised hopes of people of Jammu and Kashmir, and especially hopes and morale of people of Gilgit Baltistan who were denied of basic human rights since 1947. This report generated tremendous pressure on the government of Pakistan to provide fundamental rights to the people of Gilgit Baltistan.


Prior to the passing of this very valuable report EU countries did not have a common policy on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. Each country pursued a policy on this matter in line with their national interest, and in accordance with their relationship with India and Pakistan; and people of Jammu and Kashmir and their fundamental rights and their interests were not always their priority.


After the passing of this report the EU countries had a common policy which they all helped to formulate. The EU has a strategic partnership with India and they also have good relations with Pakistan. Since most Pakistani policies, including the foreign policy is India centric; it was no longer possible for the government of Pakistan to ignore this report which was passed by powerful European Parliament.


Result of this pressure was a New Package known as ‘Gilgit – Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order 2009’. Like the previous Packages, the New Package was also imposed on the people of Gilgit Baltistan, because in line with their policy about their colony – Gilgit Baltistan, the Pakistani government did not feel any need to consult anyone from the region. They did not even consult their appointed Chief Executive or Northern Areas Legislative Assembly.


As these areas were not legally part of Pakistan – a fact acknowledged by their Supreme Court and their constitution, hence any action taken by the Pakistani government could not be ‘legal’ either. What right have they got to appoint a Pakistani citizen as a Governor of these areas? Only purpose was to annex the territory, step by step, by holding a drama of elections.


And now that they have a puppet Assembly and a puppet Chief Minister they could embark on stage two of their plan to annex these areas by giving the impression that it was done legally; and that it was the wish of the people. True Kashmiri nationalists and sons of the soil feared this all along and opposed this New Package, as it was old wine in new bottles.


Kashmir National Party with help of a leader of Shafqat Inquilabi, a leader of Balawaristan National Front filed a case against this Ordinance and in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This had a ripple affect on the politics of the area and also politics of the Pakistani Administered Kashmir. The media and some political circles called a daring move and gave it a wider coverage.


Some political activists, however, argued that there should have been a wider consultation before filing the case. In our opinion it was not feasible, as Pakistani agencies could have been alerted by moles in the political parties and the agencies could have blocked the move. Now that the case is registered in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, no one stops others to file another case; or support the existing one.


Baroness Emma Nicholson has always taken a lead in promotion of rights of the underprivileged and less fortunate people. She does not give - in to pressure and intimidation, or hesitate to challenge those in power and promote politics of hatred and blackmailing. Despite storm of protests and pressure managed by government of Pakistan, their agencies and their puppets, she stood like a rock and persuaded overwhelming majority of the Members of the European Parliament to support the cause she was promoting.


However, many thought that she would not stick her neck out again to promote the fundamental rights of the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Once again she proved them wrong. After hearing about this challenge to Gilgit Baltistan Ordinance in Supreme Court of Pakistan, she had a meeting with me and expressed her desire to have a conference on the subject in the House of Lords.


I was very pleased with this. I knew she will make a good job of this as well, because she had very dedicated and loyal staff with great experience in organising conferences at that level. The Conference, indeed, turned out to be a big success; and written feedback provided by the audience confirmed that.


Baroness Emma Nicholson chaired the Conference, provided an introduction at the start, and a summary at the end. There were three main speakers, namely Dr Shabir Choudhry, Mohammed Sarwar and Abdul Hamid Khan. Dr Shabir Choudhry, as an expert on the topic established the legal and constitutional status of these areas, provided background to the Ordinance and rational for challenging the case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.


Mohammed Sarwar, a Pakistani Citizen and Chief Editor of ‘Nation’, while acknowledging the past mistakes of respective Pakistani governments, appreciated positive steps taken by the present civilian government of Pakistan; and urged people to give more time to the government to fully implement their policies.


Abdul Hamid Khan, as a local man from the area and as a Chairman of Balawaristan National Front, explained the level of deprivation and resentment; and how secret agencies of Pakistan promoted sectarianism, extremism, regionalism and hatred. He said this Ordinance was not designed to empower people but to take away power from them and deprive them of fundamental rights.


Other Kashmiri leaders like Abbas Butt, Nadeem Aslam, Mehmood Kashmiri, Shams Rehman, Professor Nazir Tabassum, Afzal Tahir, Krishna Bhan, Najib Afsar and Usman Kiani made valuable contribution to the debate from the floor.


Apart from some other members of House of Lords, there were diplomats from some countries which included diplomats of India and Pakistan. Pakistan was represented by His Excellency Deputy High Commissioner Mr Asif Durrani; and India was represented by Mr Raveesh Kumar, Political Counsellor.


It is quite normal for the Pakistani officials and diplomats to turn up unprepared, but Mr Asif Durrani surprised many, as he was well prepared for this Conference and had a number of typed pages to support the case of government of Pakistan.


It appeared that the Indian diplomat, Raveesh Kumar on the other hand only came there to show his presence, and felt obliged to speak after rather impressive intervention by His Excellency Asif Durrani. As a result of lack of preparedness, Raveesh Kumar was less impressive; however, he reiterated the stand of India as Kashmir being an ‘integral part’ of India.


However there was some contradiction in Asif Durrani’s statement. He said Gilgit Baltistan was not legally part of Pakistan, but for practical purposes it was a province of Pakistan. Also he said Pakistan respected the UN resolutions on Kashmir and implemented them. Apart from that he questioned the rationale of this conference when the case was in the Supreme Court.


Baroness Emma Nicholson explained that the British Parliament was a sovereign Parliament and its Members could debate any topic which is of interest to them. I, Dr Shabir Choudhry, on the other hand challenged stands of both India and Pakistan by saying that the accession to India was provisional and had to be ratified by the people. Also that Pakistan did not implement the UN Resolutions; and despite lofty claims about fighting terrorising and controlling militants going across the LOC, still actively promoted militancy and jihad in Jammu and Kashmir.


The Conference was followed by a Press Conference inside the House of Lords which was addressed by Baroness Emma Nicholson, Dr Shabir Choudhry, Mohammed Sarwar and Abdul Hamid Khan.


We hope after the general elections, Baroness Emma Nicholson will continue with her mission of promoting democratic rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir; and also continue her ‘jihad’ against forces of violence, extremism hatred.


Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs

Dr Shabir Choudhry
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell.

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