Thursday, 31 January 2019

Daily Diary (DD) - Day 31 of 2019


Yesterday's heavy-handed police action against the students of AJK University in Muzaffarabad reinforces the perception that any peaceful protest or agitation for rights in AJK will not be met by empathy or admission of the State's dysfunctionality. The sequence of repression and suppression of activists has increased during the tenure of Raja Farooq Haider (July 2016 and counting..), raising questions in various quarters of civil society in AJK which claim his posture to be increasingly brutal.

Raja Farooq Haider meeting the press on the morning after the July 2016 election at his residence in Muzaffarabad  
In reality, there has been a tradition in AJK's governance to either avoid meaningful engagement on public issues or to suppress them with brutality. The current PML-N setup in AJK has allegedly accelerated that posture. An increase in public awareness fuelled by social media tools is gradually exposing the AJK State's inability or reluctance to come to terms with its own self-imposed anachronism.

We can even go back to an event in 2013 - when Raja Farooq Haider was opposition leader in the AJK assembly - where an awareness campaign to highlight the ignorance of AJK politicians to matters of governance in the territory was launched by Sardar Shamim Khan (of Zardari shoe-throwing fame) in April that year.


As that campaign proceeded from Sehnsa to Khuiratta, the politicians of AJK were incensed at what they considered to be an attempt to disgrace them in the eyes of the public. That is true but most livid according to our investigation was Raja Farooq Haider. Sardar Shamim Khan alleges that when he was arrested in Khuiratta, the then SHO there Tahir Ayub was specifically 'ordered' by Raja Farooq Haider to "beat the hell out of Shamim" to ensure that he doesn't ever think of repeating such an action.

On the morning after that "beating" of Shamim in Khuiratta police station (12/04/13), a large box of mithai (sweets) was sent from Sehnsa along with a messenger who passed on a message of pleasure and satisfaction from none other than Raja Farooq Haider.

It should be mentioned here that when a report of the events at Khuiratta police station was sent to the British government (as Shamim was also a citizen of that country), upon their enquiry to the Pakistani government for their version of events, no response was returned to them (the British government) to date.

Coming to his current tenure as the prime minister of AJK - beginning in July 2016 - there are a range of examples where his government has either conveniently ignored or physically suppressed any quest for accountability and justice on the part of civil society in AJK. 

Some examples should suffice for illustration:

1) Mahmood Ahmed Musafir

He was prevented from entering Muzaffarabad in January 2017 and April 2018 to raise issues in public interest. After much civil society agitation and media attention, table-talks with the government of AJK broke down after the latter disowned their responsibilities. A detailed biography of Mahmood's struggle can be read here.

2) Professor Jamil

On the 3rd of February 2018, this government teacher was punched in the face by then DC Hattian Bala Hameed Kiani while two policemen were instructed to hold him down. He had merely complained that the ban on smoking in public transport should be enforced. The professor was then hurled into a police cell. No action was taken against the DC.

3) Professor Tariq Rafi

On the 12th of September 2018, this government professor was in Muzaffarabad to discuss the possible transfer of his teaching post to an area closer to his home tehsil of Trarkhel. In his words, the concerned clerk Bashir Awan summoned a bunch of goons to come and physically abuse him. They thrashed him for over 10 minutes before he was able to send out a message to 15 rescue (emergency services). Tariq describes the event in minute detail (in English) in this audio:

Over 4 months later, absolutely nothing has been done to resolve this issue. Despite an application, there was no case registered against the DPI (Director) college's staff or the perpetrators of this attack. Not even a departmental inquiry could be initiated against the rogue elements in the central directorate. Furthermore, the AJK college teachers association chose to remain a silent spectator on this issue.

4) Tanveer Ahmed

On April the 10th 2018, this writer (and activist) was prevented from conducting a hunger strike at Azaadi Chowk in Muzaffarabad. This peaceful activity was in response to the physical mishandling and mental torture perpetrated by the capital administration on Mahmood Ahmed Musafir. His only crime was to seek a sensible means of resolving 32 prevalent issues in public interest, unattended to by the government. My crime was of a similar nature and I have deemed it as yet another example of unjustified interference in public interest activity.

5) Police versus police in Muzaffarabad

On the 4th of October 2018, the AJK police in Muzaffarabad were ordered to break-up a sit-in protest by their colleagues in the force who were demanding permanent recruitment orders promised to them since 2016. Some of these protesting policeman had been employed on a temporary basis for almost a decade, despite having the training and skills of their permanent colleagues.

6) Sehrish Sultan

On the 14th of January 2019 this courageous young lady took her peaceful fight for merit in recruitment (for prospective employees in AJK's government education system) from her home tehsil of Baloch to Muzaffarabad. She had allegedly been ignored in favour of another candidate with political connections to the local member of AJK's legislative assembly, namely Farooq Tahir. The irony is that the latter also happens to be law minister in Raja Farooq Haider's cabinet. Within minutes of staging a peaceful sit-in protest outside the prime minister's secretariat, police swooped into action and literally dragged Sehrish's family (including an elderly uncle) and her to the local police station. 

7) AJK University Muzaffarabad

On the 30th of January 2019 (yesterday!), what should have been an innocuous issue in relation to the granting of parking space for the University, took a sharp turn for the worse when the AJK police became heavy handed with student protestors. Tear gas shelling (with a reported expiry date of 2002), baton charging and even the use of rubber bullets caused a conflict between the public and the police. Injuries on either side occurred in what is already a fragile environment in the capital.

At times, what is needed is the most obvious yet anachronism in public policy keeps the powers-that-be blind and almost oblivious.   

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