Tuesday, 1 November 2016
15 year-old Kidnapped from her Home in Khuiratta - AJK and taken to Kalkot in Upper Dir – KPK Pakistan
What can possibly be described as a tradition of kidnapping given the frequency of such cases since the tribal invasion of Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947 and the earthquake of the same month in 2005, continues with this case of a young student Ayman Shabir - barely 15 - abducted from the courtyard of her home at around 8 pm on Friday the 8th of July this year, which also coincided with the third day of Eid.
When this ‘story’ was narrated to this writer on the 13th of this month (October), one could not escape the parallels drawn in the opening paragraph above. The cries and shrieks of those young women who were kidnapped from their homes or swept off the streets of Muzaffarabad, Uri and Baramulla or captured from the forests of the Jhelum Valley as they fled for their lives and honour in 1947, were virtually reverberating in my mind.
In this case, the kidnapped was a poor vulnerable Kashmiri girl and the alleged kidnapper Waheed Ullah s/o Arif Ullah (NIC No. 15703-2875931-9) was an un-educated Pathan, who had spent the preceding few months working as a labourer in the vicinity of Khuiratta - or according to some sources - supplying drugs in the region.
The disappearance of Ayman Shabir on that fateful evening as narrated by her father Shabir Bhatt, took place soon after Ayman had escorted her paternal grandmother (Daadi) to and back from the washroom, barely a dozen feet away from their residential quarters. A sudden strong breeze cut out the electricity giving the lurking Waheed Ullah enough cover to kidnap Ayman, leaving her family totally unaware of what had happened to her.
Some minutes later, when Ayman hadn’t returned to the family’s living quarters, a frantic search by her family for the next hour brought no result. A report was then immediately lodged at Khuiratta police station (case ref. no. 93/16). According to the police a Naaka Bandi (blockade) of major routes leading out of Khuiratta was enforced whereby vehicles leaving the region were checked. Again, to no avail.
The kidnapped girl’s distraught father Shabir Bhatt s/o Sakhi Muhammad and aged around 50, makes his living as a driver providing wholesale goods in the surrounding areas of district Kotli. A poor man with 2 boys and 5 girls to look after has shown relentless determination to retrieve his daughter Ayman, who in her matriculation exams had obtained around 93%.
For the first 28 days, the family had no idea as to what had happened to her, whereupon her elder brother Abdul Qadeer received a phone call. The caller at the other end notified him that his sister was in ‘their’ custody and that her family need not ‘worry’ about her. It took a further couple of weeks to establish the full details of the alleged kidnapper (after obtaining printouts of phone calls made and verification from NADRA – a facility not immediately available to the police of AJK and involves a procedure involving Pakistan’s federal agencies). Thereupon, an arduous and expensive manhunt to retrieve the girl began, which has yet to bear fruit.
Shabir Bhatt accompanied on multiple occasions by at least 5 members of the AJK police was lead around various parts of the KPK province including Charsadda, Haripur, Mansehra and including the alleged kidnapper’s home area of Kalkot in Upper Dir. 28 year old Waheed Ullah was never captured, he would always elude them, sometimes minutes before being traced.
On their first visit to Waheed Ullah’s hometown of Kalkot in Upper Dir, Pakistan’s clandestine agencies also accompanied them and were provided TADA (expenses covering diesel, food and accommodation) for their efforts.
On August the 18th, they appeared to make some breakthrough by making contact with Waheed Ullah’s maternal uncle Noor Ullah (or Gul Noor Shah as some describe him) who was an Imam, a Government employed high school teacher as well as an active member of Jamaat-e-Islami and constituency politics. He in turn, assured Shabir Bhatt that he would come home to Kalkot after 10 days and resolve ‘this problem’.
Other possible avenues for resolution adopted were the local member of KPK’s provincial assembly, namely Muhammad Ali who felt it wasn’t in his line of duty to intervene but recommended his father Alam Deen, who happened to be the local tribal chieftain. Nevertheless, despite the latter’s sincere efforts through the holding of multiple jirgas, he was unable to convince the family of Waheed Ullah to part with the ‘kidnapped’ girl.
Meanwhile, Noor Ullah did not show up on the appointed day as agreed, describing his location at various intervals to different enquirers from Abbotabad to Nowshera to Peshawar. The cost of these 3 particular days for Ayman’s father was over 80,000 rupees!
According to Shabir Bhatt, all these Pathans who he came into contact with - in an effort to retrieve his daughter - would give him 5% leeway while reserving 95% of their sympathy with the alleged kidnapper. At one point, he decided to stay in Kalkot by himself until his daughter was returned. There, he was able to meet the mother of Waheed Ullah and his 2 brothers Zaheer Ullah and Safi Ullah. Meanwhile, Alam Deen the tribal chieftain took pains to convince Shabir that he would personally assume responsibility of sending both the boy and girl to Khuiratta. Since then, contact between the two has remained regular on a daily basis, though the story has changed to Alam Deen now considering sending some fellow villagers to visit Khuiratta to judge the ‘conditions’ there. Which is not what Shabir Bhatt wants, he wants his daughter back.
Media coverage of this issue thus far has been minimal, while a local politician at one stage was very eager (before the general elections in AJK) to retrieve the ‘kidnapped’ girl at his own expense. However, he suddenly and inexplicably changed his mind on the evening before the morning they were set to leave for the alleged kidnapper’s village. Meanwhile, a letter in Urdu describing the issue has gone out to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other notable public figures, with a desperate plea for help.
On my part thus far, a video summary of the issue has been uploaded to Youtube (ref. above). I then contacted Alam Deen on the morning of the 20th of October, in summary he suggested that I ask Sahibzada Tariq Ullah (Member of the National Assembly for Upper Dir on a Jamaat-e-Islami ticket) who could commit Molvi Noor Ullah (the maternal but elusive uncle of Waheed Ullah) to resolving the issue. Despite numerous attempts, I haven’t been able to speak to him thus far and a lengthy text message has not been responded to either.
In summary, despite the passage of almost 4 months, an FIR against the alleged kidnapper Waheed Ullah and numerous visits by the girl’s father (and the AJK police) to Kalkot in Upper Dir with expenditure exceeding 5 lakh rupees, this case remains unresolved.
This report is being sent to:
1) Sahibzada Tariq Ullah
Rehankot Bala Upper Dir
44 Government Hostel
Constituency: NA-33 (Upper Dir-cum-Lower Dir (Old Upper Dir)
Party: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)
2) Parvez Khattak (Chief Minister of KPK)
Complaint and Redressal Cell
3) Rashid Turabi
Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami – AJK
Bagh - AJK
4) Imran Khan
Khan House, Bani Gala, Mohra Noor, Islamabad
House No.2 St. 84 G 6/4 Embassy Road, Islamabad
Constituency: NA-56 (Rawalpindi-VII)
5) Asfandyar Wali Khan
Wali Bagh, Tehsil and District Charsadda
Contact: 0916560560 / 0519212914
Constituency: NA-7 (Charsadda -1)
6) Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman
Mohallah Shehbaz Khel Wanda Khan, VIII Muhammad Abdul Khel D.I. Khan
Jamia Marraf Sharia Banu Road Shorkot D.I.Khan
G-209 Parliament Lodges Islamabad
Constituency: NA-26 (Bannu)
Party: Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP)
7) Mehmood Khan Achakzai
Kawari Road House No.4
39/9 Mohallah Jabbar Colony Quetta
c-201, Parliament Lodges - Islamabad
Constituency: NA 259 Quetta
Party: Pakhtoon Milli Awami Party (PMAP)
This blog will be updated as and when fresh developments on this issue occur
Monday, 5 September 2016
Yet another Example of Interference in Public Self-Determination Activity by the Pakistani State in AJK
“If we can’t say what we think under our roof, then we have no roof.”
Andre Aciman – An Egyptian-born American writer
A view of Abbaspur taken on the 13th of August
Another first-hand report by Tanveer Ahmed, an Independent British/Kashmiri Researcher/Activist working on his own initiative in the region (of J & K), un-interrupted since April 2005
Background and previous detailed reports of interference by the Pakistani State in AJK, are available to read at the following hyperlinks:
Agents of the Pakistani State have been particularly invasive in these past few months: From repeatedly visiting my home village – Keri Gurutta (especially when I’m not present there) and discreetly trying to seek information from my relatives and co-villagers about my personal life, to hassling my wife over the phone to solicit details about me. By throwing a few red herrings here and there in a desperate attempt to find some point of weakness, they hope to entrap and bind me into their lustful, deceitful occupation of about 35% of J & K territory.
The language I’m using may appear even stronger than previous reports, as in this particular episode of kidnap and detention, they finally resorted to physical torture. Essentially, in response to me not conforming my behavior in adherence to the Pakistani nationalist narrative and persisting in researching the extent and depth of it as well as other alternative public narratives.
The incident referred to in this particular public report commenced at about 0930 hrs on Monday the 15th of August, at Dosa Mor near Chuffaar in Tehsil (Subdivision) Abbaspur in District Poonch (also referred to as Rawalakot).
I was on the verge of completing the ‘national survey’ (a 10-question pro forma with multiple-choice answers asked from a total of 10,000 randomly-sampled citizens throughout the 32 subdivisions of AJK) in subdivision number 29 (Abbaspur) that day, when my public interest research work to ascertain a representative sample of public opinion was un-necessarily halted yet again. Each incident in the past 5 years - by the Pakistani state - to disrupt attempts by a(ny) citizen of AJK to creatively institute their own mechanism for conflict resolution, has been equally devious and vicious in its intended impact but always different in form and execution.
On this occasion, as I conducted my random sampling of citizen’s views at Dosa Mor (whereby virtually all citizens sampled throughout AJK - have both been strangers to me as I have been to them - to give maximum opportunity for a genuine sample of public opinion to emerge), an interviewee after answering the 10 questions asked to see my ID card. This was his right and this wasn’t the first time that I had been asked for proof of identity in AJK. Whereas all previous citizens to date had been convinced by the proof I presented to them, this particular citizen was adamant that I showed him a ‘Pakistani’ ID card and was clearly not convinced by my State Subject and Domicile certificates. This is despite my explanation that a Pakistani ID card in AJK was not a legal requirement for identifying an AJK citizen and that I had proved this point in a court of law. ref. Judgement of District Court Hattian Bala on the 18th of March this year
Despite showing him ample documents related to my identity and work, he declared me suspicious and said I couldn’t proceed from this point (Dosa Mor) onwards towards District Haveli. I pointed out that I didn’t want to proceed but rather wished to return to Abbaspur town as my wife and children were on their way there from Mirpur. He responded by saying that I couldn’t go back either and that my documents would be handed over to a Pakistani Military post (namely Gap Post) nearby. I explained that he was free to do so but that he would be wasting the time of everybody concerned. After all, he was hardly in a position to over-rule an AJK court’s decision.
Source: Planning and Development Department AJK
Meanwhile, I continued the survey with another couple of citizens. Upon completion, I noticed 2 Pakistani soldiers (1 in a tracksuit, the other in fatigues with ammo) - huffed and puffed - approaching towards me. Their tone was abrasive and they insisted on me following them to their post. I explained that they weren’t trained or equipped to verify my identity or assess my research work, despite their ‘assumed’ mandate. As I had negotiated these scenarios many a time before, I suggested that they utilise the local district administration to ease their fears about me. They remained adamant and duly escorted me to their post.
A couple of hours later, by which time the Pakistani army had confiscated all my belongings, we all seemed to be waiting for a senior army officer to come and make a decision on what to do about me. Colonel Murtaza on arrival, immediately went through my belongings and began studying my paperwork carefully. After a while, his first question was what had prompted me to leave the UK and engage in research here in AJK? “It was simply my conscience,” I replied. His second question was did I think there were problems in only this part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir? My explanation was, “No, of course not. There were problems in each and every part of the erstwhile state, which needed to be independently researched, preferably by citizens originating from those corresponding parts, just like I’m conducting research here.”
Colonel Murtaza went on to explain what he described as “rules and law” related to civilian movement within 8 kilometres of the LOC. Further, he was unable to ‘confirm’ my identity and therefore would ‘hand me over’ to ‘others’ who were ‘trained’ to do so. At this point, I curtly put forward a few points to him and made it clear that subsequent to these utterances, I wouldn’t utter a single word, eat a single morsel or drink even a drop of water as long as I am kept detained against my will. The points were as follows:
1) This would be the third such episode (amongst many other smaller interventions) where I would be interrogated over matters that I have repeatedly clarified. Therefore, this action would be fruitless except to expose Pakistan’s policy on J & K even further. That if they can’t tolerate ink and paper being used by the citizens of this territory, then what would be their attitude if ammunition was used against them? Quite possibly, worse than the Indian response to the use of arms against the latter by citizens of the Kashmir Valley.
2) On the previous two occasions, I did little apart from writing comprehensive public reports on what had happened but on this occasion I would go a few steps further and bring their State into a court of law to answer for their repeated violation of my civil rights. I would do my utmost to bring them into a court of law in AJK (unprecedented so far) and explore means of appropriate legal action in Britain or Europe.
3) To date, I have tolerated Pakistan’s existence and control of our territory - as an interim measure - before in-depth independent research can clarify the calculated ambiguity and obfuscation that they have imposed on us and most of the international community since 1947. Many of our co-citizens work in Pakistan, conduct business with Pakistan, have conjugal relations with Pakistanis and of course there are co-citizens in AJK who genuinely love Pakistan. To ensure the latter do not confuse my efforts in public interest as illogical anti-Pakistani vitriol, I have hitherto been relatively calm about the Pakistani State’s consistently selfish antics masquerading as ‘Islamic’ public good.
This photo was taken at Kharli Dhraman – Abbaspur just a day before this latest episode on the 14th of August
Another 2 hours passed at Gap Post with me maintaining my silence while Colonel Murtaza mixed jibes about me remaining hungry with his favourite jokes about prostitution in Pakistan. He was clearly disturbed by me focusing my research on AJK and not mentioning a ‘word’ on Indian atrocities in the Valley of Kashmir. He even claimed to understand the right of citizens in AJK refraining from using a Pakistani ID card and ended with a flourish, “I don’t care if the people of Kashmir want to be with India, with us (Pakistan) or want to be independent. This matter should be resolved as soon as possible!”
As a team of 7 Pakistani soldiers escorted me to their truck, they forcefully took the keys to my vehicle despite me ‘insisting’ that they leave it where it was. “You can’t ever come back to this place!” barked Colonel Murtaza. Meanwhile, the Pakistani army’s dedicated cameraman clicked away at me, my vehicle and showed a particular keenness to capture the ‘AJK Self-Determination Public Fund’ box. It almost felt as if they had finally overcome their nemesis.
My vehicle has provided over a decade of service to the Kashmir cause and its condition has become so delicate (many a time I’ve had to neglect the needs of the vehicle in favour of the needs of my children) that if anybody apart from me, as much as touches the steering wheel, something somewhere inevitably goes wrong. Here’s a list of problems that I inherited 5 days later when my vehicle was returned to me at Rawalakot:
1) A broken aerial
1) A broken aerial
2) A damaged diesel filter
3) Damaged ignition
4) Steering alignment totally wrecked
5) Broken seat belt plastic holders
There were also some items in my travel kit which I couldn’t re-inherit after 5 days:
1) A fresh can of deodorant
2) A knife
3) A pair of pliers
4) A Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan music cassette
5) A biro
The 5 items mentioned above can be added to the Sony Ericsson phone and Ufone sim that went missing on the 13th of August last year at Reshian military checkpost in district Hattian Bala. Reference
Meanwhile, the journey from Dosa Mor in Abbaspur to CMH (Civil & Military Hospital) Rawalakot took over 5 hours, mainly because the Pakistani army personnel handling my vehicle took a long time in coming to terms with it. En route, just as we passed through Abbaspur, my phone which was in the custody of a soldier guarding me began ringing. I repeatedly demanded my detainers to stop the vehicle and allow me to speak to my wife. “Do not exceed the boundary of humanity”, I insisted. The vehicle had to stop as I became increasingly energetic in my demand. I explained that my wife and children would’ve reached Abbaspur by now (having travelled all the way from Mirpur in the morning – unaware that I had been kidnapped once again by the Pakistani army). When my wife won’t be able to get in touch with me, what would she do alone in a town where she’s a total stranger? These concerns found no audience with the Pakistani army who tried to pacify me by explaining how fortunate I was that they hadn’t put a hood over my head while travelling!
It was around 9pm by the time we reached CMH Rawalakot where I was to be medically examined before detention. Sitting sideways on a bench in an army truck for over 5 hours over rocky roads had created its own disorientation. However, the doctor I was presented to simply but patronisingly asked me, “Are you ok?” I replied, “Yes, I’m absolutely fine.” That was the end of the medical examination!
From the hospital I was ‘driven’ (back) to Bilal Camp – Chak Barmang near Kaigala which happened to be a Pakistani army camp on the road between Rawalakot and Kaigala. I was immediately escorted to a waiting dusty cell where I was given a couple of tatty rags to protect myself from the chilly Rawalakot night. Of course, the last morsel I had to eat was way back in the morning just before this latest episode began.
The next day, Tuesday the 16th of August began with exhortations for me to have breakfast, which of course fell on deaf and dumb ears as I was determined to not engage at any level with my captors.
In the afternoon, I was hooded and brought into a room not too far from my cell where 2 men were sitting around a table and where most of my possessions were strewn all over the room. Both were constantly smiling (akin to banking staff on entry of a rich prospective client) and very encouraging in their attempt to ‘hear my story’. An hour of mute silence on my part and repeated signals that they provide me a pen and paper, eventually forced them into doing just that. I wrote 4 main points which will be briefly summarised here:
1) That no civil or military institution representing the State of Pakistan has any right to interfere in research carried out for the purpose of self-determination, by and for the citizens of AJK.
2) That Pakistan’s (controlling) role in AJK is merely assumed and has no legal or constitutional basis.
3) That this is the 3rd such episode and repeatedly digging this mountain will not produce as much as a rat (to borrow some aspects of a well-known Urdu metaphor).
4) That as well as being a 1st class State Subject of J & K where our ancestral origins in the territory began about 700 years ago, I also happen to be a 3rd generation British citizen and thus demand access to the British government.
These 2 ‘officers’ after reading my ‘submission’ and making a few condescending comments later – particularly on seeking the help of a non-Muslim entity viz. Britain - changed their approach somewhat and pleaded that I engage in conversation with them, so that they could divert their attention to other pressing matters of the Pakistani State, by letting me go in a matter of hours. Through previous experience I knew they wouldn’t let me go so easily this time. One of them presented himself as a ‘Raja’ of Dadyaal and claimed to have some distant links with my family and he referred to his colleague as a ‘Gujjar’. The latter intermittently tried to play the aggressive card while the former (Raja) constantly acted as his gentler counterfoil. The Gujjar (I’m using this term – not condescendingly – but for ease of reference as I don’t know his name) had a heavy Punjabi accent, though he implausibly claimed to have migrated from Srinagar in the early 1990’s.
In that previous hour, the Gujjar had gone to the extent of threatening to take my “eye-balls out of my arse” when I constantly stared at him whilst listening to his baseless allegations (or rather provocations): that I was collecting money from the poor public of AJK to enrich myself, that my State Subject and Domicile certificates were fake etc. Little does it matter that a totally unemployable and perhaps socially useless citizen living in Britain gets more financial support from the British State (income support, job seeker’s allowance etc.) for his personal sustenance, than I obtain from the AJK public for conducting a public opinion survey across the length and breadth of AJK!
That hour had also at one point got the Gujjar into such a fix that he made an assistant come and handcuff me with my arms behind my back, whereupon he threatened to add me to the missing person’s list and where I would be finally buried in an un-marked grave, with nobody to cry over me. All this put a smile on my face as I am certain that whatever I have done in terms of independent research and public activism in the past 11 years and 5 months, is enough for me to die a satisfied man. That whatever I had done for the unresolved national question of Jammu and Kashmir was to the utmost of my ability and enough to create a reference for future generations.
The Gujjar’s insolence mixed with the Raja’s gentle persuasion eventually prompted me to test their commitment to release me in a matter of hours. Green tea, a packet of cigarettes and an almost sumptuous meal followed a hunger strike of roughly 28 hours. I explained that what I had written for them should be sufficient explanation, if only they were to calmly accept the ground reality. However, I emphasised that the discussion that I’m having with them is most certainly a one-off and if I’m not released by the morning; my food, water and verbal communication strike would resume forthwith.
After lunch, the Gujjar angrily asked me, “With whose permission are you conducting this 10 question survey?” I explained that the answer was simply: ‘Self-Determination’ and that his manner of asking was totally un-warranted. This reflected the balance of power equation between Pakistan and AJK, an equation that has nothing to do with mutual respect and everything to do with aggression for selfish ends by the relatively more powerful entity. Permission to conduct the survey is and must only be gained from the citizens who are asked these questions; be they a labourer, a government servant, banker, politician or judge. I explained that I don’t need the Pakistani State’s permission (or consent/approval) to do something of public imperative that should’ve been done by the AJK Government at least 50 years ago.
I was taken back to my dusty cell and tatty rags for blankets with my head covered in a hood. I was given a couple of books to read so that I could pass the time as well as use them as a makeshift pillow at night. I had dinner in my cell in the evening and also received a cup of green tea as a night cap.
As predicted, the next day Wednesday the 17th of August was a non-event. I remained confined in my dusty cell, didn’t eat, drink or speak. Late in the evening, a guard came to request me to speak to ‘Raja Sahib’ on the phone. I signaled my disinterest and retreated back into sleeping mode.
Thursday the 18th of August was my 4th day in captivity, the dust in my cell had by now got me coughing incessantly and this day will be remembered as the day the Pakistani State finally crossed the red line and used violence and torture as a tactic against me.
At around midday, I was hooded once again and escorted back into that room where I met those 2 officers a couple of days before. This time, sitting across the table was just a fuming Gujjar. I kept my head down to avoid being provoked into doing something that could be used against me later, as my own blood was boiling. “Put your head up you Kashmiri bastard!” he yelled. I ignored that and all subsequent provocations from an abusive creature straining to use all the facilities at his disposal to intimidate me, yet unable to do so. I was handcuffed behind my back once again but so tight this time that my wrists had no leeway whatsoever, as the metal grinded against my skin at every attempted movement.
“We tried to be nice to you. Raja Sahib went through so much effort to make you at ease but you’re an evil nut who won’t submit the easy and respectable way. I spoke to that fucker of an uncle of yours and even he agreed that we can continue our enquiries (interrogation) for a week before we let you go. I even spoke to your wife and she agreed too….It seems that you’ve trained her well…I’ll get the bitch picked up too and then she’ll not talk the way she does….Admit that you’re an Indian agent pretending to fight for the Kashmir cause….Admit that you’re working in self-interest and not public interest…..Admit that you’re State Subject and Domicile certificates are fake……”, the Gujjar furiously ranted on and on.
During this rant, he slapped me across the face 3 times. Then he used a wooden stick to repeatedly beat my hands and feet. It just so happens that the 4 years that I spent in Maddrassah in West Yorkshire (UK), between the age of 10 to 14 had battle-hardened me a long long time ago. Nevertheless, the intent and manner of this violence and torture needs to be noted and understood. Certainly, if I was a ‘local’ with no outside contact, a lot worse would have happened and does happen, whereby the animal instincts to preserve occupation easily put Pakistani oppression on a par with Indian oppression. For example
Photo of my heavily bruised right thumb taken 2 days after the incident and a few hours after release
Photo of my bruised right ankle taken 2 days after the incident and a few hours after release
After this ‘beating’, I was kept face-down on the floor for over half an hour before being hooded once again and dragged back into my dusty cell.
By the evening, it had been over 48 hours since I had last eat and this suddenly prompted the Pakistani army to bundle me into an army vehicle and take me to CMH once again. The hooding and handcuffing were by now farcical as I knew exactly where we were. Where the dusty cell was in relation to the torture room in Bilal Camp and of course where CMH Rawalakot was.
While kept hooded in a hospital room I was forcibly drip fed glucose, which might have put some energy back in me but almost immediately made me a victim of influenza! It became difficult to negotiate the plethora of sneezes that the glucose invoked, especially with a hood covering my face. Nevertheless, I was promptly brought back to my dusty cell in Chak Barmang. My hunger strike continued, as of course I was still in detention.
I didn’t know at the time but Friday the 19th of August was my last day in detention. The day was spent desperately trying to fend off the flu but because I wasn’t eating or drinking anything, my condition became more critical as the chilly breeze of the evening set in. At around 10pm a doctor was brought into my cell, who politely insisted that I must take some fruit juice in order for medicine to be able to counter my flu. I mulled over my dilemma and as I reluctantly drank the apple juice with a sense of deep regret but for the purpose of fighting another day, I was informed by a guard that he had just received confirmation that I would be released tomorrow morning.
The Pakistani army which had been guarding me round the clock for the past 5 days appeared to be jubilant that I was finally being released. No longer would I have to endure the thudding repetition of gun-fire (they have a target-practice arena not far from where I was detained) throughout the day, every day on an empty stomach.
Chicken soup and a packet of Benson & Hedges cigarettes (a soldier insisted that I accept it as a goodwill gesture) followed. I couldn’t sleep throughout the night as I began working out my next public interest agenda in AJK.
On Saturday the 20th of August I had my first shower, breakfast and a change of clothes in 5 days before I was hooded and hand-cuffed once again (albeit only for a few kilometers on the road towards Rawalakot), before being presented and handed-over to SSP Rawalakot at around midday.
Co-citizens of Rawalakot came as ‘guarantors’ for me, all my possessions apart from those missing (as mentioned on page 5 and it must be remembered that a detailed scrutiny of what I possessed before my detention was not possible with countless people hurriedly going through the inventory on hand-over, whereby I could only confirm items listed in the inventory) were duly handed over to me. Many co-citizens in the city insisted that I stay with them for the night and leave for home the next day.
I begged leave in the afternoon of Sunday the 21st of August after a detailed press briefing with journalists in Rawalakot.
I want to try and summarise the whole scenario given that the Pakistani State is becoming increasingly intense in trying to vilify my work, terrorising those who are related to me or who come into contact with me and even trying to penetrate my domestic life.
A very recent example is the appearance of 2 figures in my local bazaar (Keri-Gurutta) on Monday the 29th of August. They described themselves as representing Pakistani military intelligence (MI). They met an uncle of mine and were keen to meet me at my residence. However, when a local citizen came to inform me of their intention, I told him to pass on the message that I had no time for them and that they should prepare themselves for discussion in a court of law.
The following reference encapsulates public policy for the past 69 years in AJK:
In Union of India vs. Association for Democratic Reforms, the (Indian) Supreme Court observed:
One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression includes the right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions.
Given that AJK inherently suffers from constitutional ambiguity since its creation on October the 24th 1947, that the ‘rule of law’ here remains interim after the passage of 69 years (Article 370 of the Indian constitution defining its relationship with the State of J & K also describes itself as temporary) and also given that J & K-ites (to borrow Christopher Sneddon’s term) were 'suddenly' bracketed into India and Pakistan without their consultation in 1947, necessitates that the citizens of the territory of J & K take the responsibility to clarify their constitutional (and international) status or statuses as the case may be.
The status quo as described above confirms that India and/or Pakistan cannot either unilaterally or even bilaterally resolve this dilemma. The international community’s approach – in general – is to advocate a bilateral solution but this is evidently disingenuous and makes a mockery of J & K-ites fundamental right to create a mechanism for their future without external interference, as envisaged in the United Nations Charter.
What I’m doing as a researcher is trying to help create that appropriate mechanism for AJK, using the public’s opinion and resources without external involvement. If we are successful in creating an indigenous political process in AJK, it could provide a reference for the other divided parts of the erstwhile princely State. After all, the current ballot-boxes on either side of the divide do not provide adequate space for expression of political choice.
What I’m up against in opposition to my work is a neighbouring State (Pakistan) suffering from a psychosis of deep fear that someone, somewhere will imminently break it down. It doesn’t protect itself within its own borders but seeks to dominate the life and land of its peripheries viz. AJK, GB and in a different context: the Pashtun belt of Afghanistan.
As a British citizen understanding through experience that the Pakistani State cannot yet move beyond the 2-nation theory, that it is willing to do anything to make the world ‘understand’ that it is a ‘victim’ for not obtaining the coveted Kashmir Valley - which of course is adjacent to AJK - it follows that Britain cannot abdicate from its responsibilities to address issues created by its colonial legacy.
Varying interpretations of the Indian Independence Act 1947 aside, what is clear is that the constitutional procedure through which India and Pakistan became dominions in August 1947 did not specifically compel each and every princely state to accede to either dominion. The Dogra State of J & K was partly created and fully protected by the British Indian empire until the 15th of August 1947 when according to the above ‘Act’ it became a fully independent state. The entry and subsequent consolidation of Indian and Pakistani armed forces in the State of J & K was of course under British military command and control. In the critical days of October 1947 when Pakistani involvement through its proxy – the tribal raiders – were creating havoc at one end, Lord Mountbatten as Governor General of the Indian Dominion, in response to the Maharajah of J & K's request for military assistance to save 'his' State, conditioned his response with a proviso that the future status of J & K should be decided by the people of the State.
In 2016, the people have yet to become the deciding factor in J & K’s destiny.
I’ll end with an excerpt from John Stuart Mill's celebrated essay on Liberty:
"All progress, advancement of knowledge and progressive change and improvement of old ways of thinking, and the consequent old behaviour-patterns, habits, customs and traditions can come about only from free individual dissents and dissentions, innovations, etc."
This photo was taken in Rawalakot city on the 11th of August during a protest against on-going Indian atrocities. A message for Britain (England) can be read too.
Written by Tanveer Ahmed
Contact: 0092 (0) 345 50 44252
Wednesday, 27 July 2016
A Request for Suspension of the Process to elect Members on the 8 Reserved Seats in the AJK Legislative Assembly
The Chief Election Commissioner
Kothi No.1 - AJK Assembly Secretariat Grounds
Muzaffarabad - AJK
Fax No: 05822 921695
Given the need for merit, transparency and inclusion in matters of public policy in AJK, as intimated by the president of the winning party in the recent polls, namely Raja Farooq Haider: I wish to request your intervention in suspending the process of ‘electing’ of the 8 reserved seats in the Legislative Assembly, on account of these 3 aforementioned values not being apparent in the process so far.
It has been confirmed to me by key newly elected members of the Assembly, as well as key figures in civil society that, the role of technocrat in AJK's Legislative Assembly as well as the other 7 seats have already been decided - as part of political (and financial) compulsions of the winning party. This ridicules the process of taking applications from the public at large and charging each application 10,000 rupees for doing so. It also presents an impression that the ‘winner takes all’, thereby narrowing the concept of public interest and subjecting it to the whims of the winning party.
Having spent 11 years and over 3 months in researching all matters of public significance in AJK - without interruption or diversion as I’ve neither been an employee or an employer during this period - furthermore, that all public interest research that I conduct is almost wholly paid by the public at large, puts me in a historically unprecedented position of initiating a public debate on constitutional reform. The fact that Act 74 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are in essence temporary and remain so after 69 years, is clear indication that the initiative to resolve constitutional ambiguity rests with the citizens of the territory in question viz. The State of Jammu & Kashmir. The specific area which has always described itself as ‘base camp’, ultimately needs to give attention to this matter.
This cannot be done by following the deep-rooted tradition of hidden deals (highest bidder) and selection of undeserving citizens to public office without giving a clear, transparent and meritocratic opportunity to skilled citizens of the territory to participate in governance and legislation, thereby proving that we have an inclusive process.
How do we expect the world to give attention to our plight and perhaps more specifically, our co-citizens across the LOC in the Valley of Kashmir, who given the current status of geo-politics are waiting for us to clarify our constitutional status?
In societies where public interest and public policy merge is where beautiful events occur and drive society forward. If we don’t strive for such an ideal, we are wasting all our precious time, energy and resources in deepening the paralysis that our society suffers from.
On a personal level, I could (and will) make constitutional reform a public debate in due course, irrespective of whether or not I obtain the technocrat’s seat in AJK’s legislative assembly. However, if this initiative is taken from within the assembly rather than without, it will be a less hazardous process and the credit will go to the legislators at large. Conversely, if the debate takes place on the streets, it will further expose the frailties of the Assembly.
Meanwhile, as part of the application procedure for the technocrat’s seat, I had sought nomination from Raja Farooq Haider, who happens to be the one member whom I've spent most time with and - who in turn - is most familiar (amongst members), with my public interest research work. However, Mr. Haider's energy and time is being consumed in deflecting efforts to convince him to abdicate from the prospective prime minister's role. I have visited him on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th of this month. I cannot put my application for the role of technocrat in front of him when he is in this frame of mind.
My humble but publicly concerted suggestion is to suspend the process of election for the 8 reserved seats, until a clear, transparent procedure where any and every citizen who feels that they meet the criteria, can participate in the nomination process.
Yours in earnest
An independent researcher on public policy in AJK
Secretary Legislative Assembly AJK – Muzaffarabad - AJK
Fax No. 05822 921390
In light of sustained evidence that the process of ‘electing’ members to the 8 reserved seats in the AJK Legislative Assembly do not meet the standards of transparency, merit and inclusion as expected by the public of AJK: in my capacity as an independent researcher of public policy in AJK for the past 11 years and 3 months, I hereby make an application for a copy of the full work record file of the previous incumbent in the technocrat’s role during the term 2011-2016.
I am hopeful that taking account of public interest needs and working for an institution that represents the public via the ballot box, you will make this file available for the public record. Not least, so that we can improve the standards of public service in AJK and take initiatives to resolve the constitutional ambiguity that has limited our output since 1947.
Yours in earnest
Independent researcher and 1st class subject (citizen) of the ‘free’ part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir
Thursday, 21 July 2016
Date of Application: 21 July 2016
Name: Tanveer Ahmed s/o Khan Muhammad Rafique
of Moza - Gurutta, P.O. Box - Hajiabad, Tehsil - Sehnsa, District - Kotli, AJK
State Subject Number: 2758/12 - Issued on 23/04/2012 by District Magistrate - Kotli AJK
Venue: AJK Prime Minister's Secretariat and Assembly Secretariat - Muzaffarabad
Copies for: Prime Minister of AJK and Opposition Leader (Term 2016 – 2021)
In 1919, according to Wikipedia, an American engineer by the name of William Henry Smith, usually takes credit for inventing the word ‘technocracy’ to describe, “The rule of the people made effective through the agency of their servants.
As a voluntary public servant of AJK (in particular and the State of J & K in general) since April 2005 - utilising my professional background in international journalism and British parliamentary correspondence - I have been consistently conducting public interest research on J & K’s outstanding ‘national question’ and public policy, on my own initiative and initially at my own expense, whereby I am now almost wholly funded by the public at large. I adhere to the basic characteristic of technocracy as using technical expertise to solve problems of society, not least by engaging in active citizenship.
This application is being made in this specific manner, precisely because there is no formal (transparent) procedure for acquiring this position. Previous incumbents have allegedly been given this seemingly passive role motivated by partisan political, economic or social considerations. I contend that the past 11 years and 3 months as a citizen journalist and independent researcher in this 5,134 sq. miles of territory, qualifies me on multiple counts as a citizen, ground-researched public policy expert, joint stakeholder, affectee and joint heir to the Title: The State of Jammu & Kashmir. Indeed, the geographical territory of AJK is a constituent part of the land bearing that title. I maintain the same rights and arguably a more diverse and globally relevant repertoire compared to all previous incumbents.
A major motivation for making this public application is to ensure that our public understand that hard labour, dedicated focus, consistent public activity to create and collect relevant public data (in statistical form) in a sincere manner; provides dividends which the public can measure and monitor.
Additionally, in order to formally liaise with the International Community (for conflict resolution and international trade) in a publicly documented manner, it is imperative that as part of a public-wide consensus building exercise for constitutional reform, the relevant citizen(s) are equipped with the necessary protocol to actively engage.
It should be noted that soon after the inception of AJK on the 24th of October 1947, an application for international recognition was made by our revolutionary government (War Council as it formally described itself) on the 3rd of November 1947. Britain, USA, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and China were canvassed for recognition of AJK as an international entity via the Secretary General of the UN. However, this attempt to assert our legality was ignored and our constitutional status remains ambiguous to this day. Reference: Page 89 of Victoria Schofield’s ‘Kashmir in Conflict – India, Pakistan and the Unending War’ (I.B. Tauris - London & New York - 2000 & 2003).
Subject to a sustainable institutional mechanism being created by the Government of AJK, the necessary criteria to make a stronger bid during this 5 year tenure can be fulfilled. Indeed, the institution otherwise described as the AJK Legislative Assembly can genuinely evolve. Where public interest is quantified by the public and qualitatively translated by the representative legislators in the AJK Assembly. The latter having failed to legislate on our resources - amongst most other aspects of governance - to date.
Finally, as this ‘citizen’ has managed to navigate around all those societal compulsions which force individuals (and likewise politicians) to forsake public interest for family or personal aspirations, he is ideally equipped to tackle the dilemma of corresponding our abundant resources with appropriate management and control, by practically progressing with the OBM (Ownership-Building-Measures) concept that he introduced in 2011. This was referenced by a notable British academic and expert on South Asia at a Kashmir Conference hosted at the House of Lords in Britain.
I am willing to engage in a public signature campaign here in AJK, lobbying our expatriate community throughout the world including British parliamentarians who originate from AJK as well as seeking a majority vote in the AJK Legislative Assembly.
21st of July 2016
Friday, 15 April 2016
Whereby previous examples of interference in public interest activity in AJK by Pakistan's clandestine agencies occurred near the LOC (viz. Baghsar in District Bhimber - August 2011 and Leepa in District Hattian Bala - July 2015): on the 29th of March this year (2016), whilst conducting the national 'public opinion' survey in Tehsil Dheerkot - District Bagh I was approached by two plain-clothed gentlemen in Chamyati, who described themselves as part of the investigative unit at Dheerkot Police Station.
They explained that they had received a complaint from 'some members of the public' that I was conducting a survey and collecting public data. That they (the police) wanted to learn more about what I was doing etc. Though I instantly realised that Pakistan's clandestine agencies had put them up for a new 'task', I agreed to accompany them to Assistant Commissioner Gilani's office in Dheerkot. After prolonged discussion and despite showing him District Session Judge Hattian Bala's decision in my favour, the Assistant Commissioner indicated that orders had indeed 'come from above' and that he was unable to address the matter otherwise given his limited 'jurisdiction'. Pakistan's 'National Action Plan' was merely a euphemism for his despair.
Hence, after consulting some senior co-citizens I decided to file a writ petition in the High Court of AJK at Muzaffarabad (filed on the 6th of April). Though Pakistan's clandestine agencies may still interfere in my work even if the High Court also rules in my favour: from an academic point of view, obtaining references in relation to my work via the judicial system of AJK is important in public interest.
How I wish I could make these agents and their institution/s accountable in an AJK court!
The fact that they are not answerable for their actions in AJK despite controlling our administration, is an indication of how vulnerable, undemocratic and whimsical governance in AJK actually is.
Meanwhile, the respondents named in the writ have yet to respond as of the 14th of April. The judge has adjourned the matter till the 2nd of June and provided ad-interim relief, enabling me to continue my research work.
I should also add that I've returned to Tehsil Dheerkot on a couple of occasions since filing the writ and continued conducting the national 'public opinion' survey, without any further visible interference.
Please find the text of the writ petition as below:
BEFORE THE HIGH COURT OF AZAD JAMMU AND KASHMIR MUZAFFARABAD
Tanveer Ahmed S/o Khan Muhammad Rafique Resident of Keri Gurutta P/o Hajiabad Tehsil Sehnsa District Kotli AJK.
1) The Azad Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir through its Chief Secretary, having his office at new Secretariat Muzaffarabad.
2) The Prime Minister of AJK, through Private Secretary, having his office at new Secretariat Muzaffarabad.
3) The Chief Secretary Azad Govt. of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, having his office at new Secretariat Muzaffarabad.
4) The Inspector General of Police, Azad Govt. of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, having his office at New Secretariat Muzaffarabad.
5) Minister of Law Azad Govt. of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, having his office at new Secretariat Muzaffarabad.
6) Divisional Commissioner Poonch Rawalakot Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
7) Deputy Commissioner Bagh Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
8) Assistant Commissioner Dheerkot District Bagh Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
9) Station House Officer Dheerkot District Bagh Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
WRIT PETITION UNDER SECTION 44 OF AZAD JAMMU & KASHMIR INTERIM CONSTITUTION ACT 1974 AS AMENDED UP TO DATE
1. That the petitioner is a first class state subject, independent researcher and civil society activist operating under the self-initiated conceptual ideas of Kashmir - One Secretariat and Civil Society Forum - AJK. His professional background has been in international journalism covering conflict zones and as a British parliamentary correspondent. Copies of the state subject and domicile certificates and copy of experience report as a journalist are attached as Anenxure “PA”, “PA/1”.
2. That the petitioner has conducted independent research on British India, Indo-Pak relations and the Kashmir Conflict un-interrupted in the region since April 2005. Specifically since July 2011, he has been randomly conducting a 10-question survey related to public policy throughout the 32 subdivisions of AJK. The aim of this exercise is to create a representative sample of public opinion in AJK, which can then assist in developing a possible consensus amongst all stakeholders (citizens of AJK), towards addressing the constitutional ambiguity of the territory. A copy of the questionnaire is attached as Anenxure “PB”.
3. That on the 11th of July 2015, Leepa Police Station filed a FIR against the petitioner and arrested him. Soon after, a Challan was submitted before the Session Court in Hattian Bala. The honourable session court vide order dated 18/03/2016, acquitted the petitioner from all the charges leveled against him. A copy of the FIR and the order dated 18/03/2016 are attached as Annexure “PC”, “PC/1”.
4. That after acquittal, the petitioner resumed his research work and survey in the remaining subdivisions of AJK, to complete the target sample. It was specifically in subdivision Dheerkot and 11 days on from the court order on the 29th of March 2016, when Assistant Commissioner Dheerkot and Station House Officer Dheerkot obstructed the petitioner from carrying out his work, without any justification or cogent reason. The petitioner despite requesting a written order to clarify the restrictions imposed on him, was not provided with such by either the Assistant Commissioner or the Station House Officer. An affidavit in support of para is attached.
5. That the petitioner seeks an appropriate writ inter alia on the following grounds:
a) That it is incumbent on the state functionaries to protect the fundamental rights of the state subjects and which can only be provided through good governance, fair play and without discrimination between the state subjects. But the case in hand, has not only violated the fundamental right of the petitioner to creatively seek a solution to our collective public dilemma (The non resolution of the Kashmir Conflict), that most of our citizens have not the time or resources to comprehensively engage with, but this discrimination has now occurred on several occasions with increasing frequency and is against all recognised civilisational norms, codified in various international charters, treaties and agreements.
b) That the citizens of the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir are ‘assumed’ as being not only the subject of the Pakistan government which governs under the Interim Act of 1974 but also the subject of the UN under the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council under chapter 6 of the UN Charter, whereby the State of Jammu & Kashmir (of which AJK is a constituent part) has been addressed as a territorial dispute and whereby disputes should entail a pacific settlement by voluntarily following recommendations proposed (and not under chapter 7 whereby recommendations are binding and physical force may ensue on non-compliance). Thus, the state functionaries must not only protect the fundamental rights of the citizens of the state of AJK but that both India and Pakistan as signatories of subsequent resolutions, ensures that they cannot suspend or abrogate the fundamental rights of any citizens of the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir.
c) That under Act 1974, the fundamental rights of every citizen is guaranteed. The petitioner is acting in an academic manner, trying to give a ground-researched perspective on the Kashmir Conflict and has no political ambitions, except to contribute as an affected citizen, stakeholder and co-inheritor in resolving our ambiguous status.
d) That the very purpose of Act 1974 is only to intermediately provide better administration to the people residing in the liberated territories of Jammu & Kashmir, as ‘assumed’ by the international community, to safeguard the fundamental rights of state subjects as guaranteed under the UN Charter and subsequently recognised by UN resolutions on the Kashmir/India-Pakistan Question. In this regard, the respondents have no right to impose restrictions on the free movement of the petitioner as well as impose restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly. The Act of the respondents is ultra vires to the constitution and the laws enforced on the subject are liable to be struck down.
e) That all other grounds maybe argued at the time of argument, with the kind permission of the honourable court.
6. That the petitioner is an aggrieved person, who has no alternative and efficacious remedy except to invoke the extra-ordinary jurisdiction of this honourable court.
7. That no other writ has been filed by the petitioner of the same nature or otherwise before this honourable court.
8. That an affidavit in support of writ is attached:
It is therefore very humbly prayed that by accepting the writ petition, an appropriate writ may kindly be issued in favour of the petitioner in the following manner:
i) That act of the respondents through which the restricted the petitioner from doing their research work within the state territory (AJK) may kindly be declared illegal, void, based on discrimination between state subject without lawful authority, in violation of fundamental rights of the petitioner and ultra vires to Interim Constitution Act 1974 may kindly be struck down.
ii) That respondents may kindly be directed to act in accordance with law and rules.
iii) Any other relief with this Hon’ble Court deems fit may also be granted to meet the ends of justice.
It is verified that the contents of Writ petition from Para No.1 to 12 along with prayer clause are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
MIRZA KAMRAN BAIG
ADVOCATE HIGH COURT OF AJ&K
MIRZA KAMRAN BAIG
ADVOCATE HIGH COURT OF AJ&K
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