Human Rights Watch has just published a report on the situation in Azad Kashmir (the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan) following the earthquake last year. The report is very critical on two fronts: the government’s policy following the earthquake and its persecution of pro-independence Kashmiris.
In its summary HRW makes a few important points I’m highlighting underneath.
1) “In the first seventy-two hours after the earthquake, thousands of Pakistani troops stationed in Azad Kashmir prioritized the evacuation of their own personnel over providing relief to desperate civilians. The international media began converging on Muzaffarabad within twenty-four hours of the earthquake and fanned out to other towns in Azad Kashmir shortly thereafter.
“They filmed Pakistani troops standing by and refusing to help because they had â€œno ordersâ€ to do so as locals attempted to dig out those still alive, sending a chilling message of indifference from Islamabad. Having filmed the refusal, journalists switched off their cameras and joined the rescue effort themselves; in one instance they shamed the soldiers into helping. But unlike the death and destruction, the media were not everywhere. The death toll continued to mount.”
2) Human rights abuses by the Indian security forces and separatist forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been relatively well documented and often condemned. But the world knows little about Azad Kashmir, other than that the territory has been used by Pakistan-backed militant groups as a staging ground for attacks in Jammu and Kashmir.
3) …though â€œAzadâ€ means â€œfree,â€ the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but. Azad Kashmir is a land of strict curbs on political pluralism, freedom of expression, and freedom of association; a muzzled press; banned books; arbitrary arrest and detention and torture at the hands of the Pakistani military and the police; and discrimination against refugees from Jammu and Kashmir state. Singled out are Kashmiri nationalists who do not support the idea of Kashmirâ€™s accession to Pakistan.
4) As the Pakistani military prioritized the rescue of its own personnel, it probably sought the assistance of its closest allies in Azad Kashmir, the militant groups. These groups, which had undoubtedly suffered the loss of personnel and infrastructure themselves in the earthquake, won much local appreciation for their rescue and relief efforts. This public relations coup could not have been possible without logistical support from sections of the Pakistani militaryâ€™s intelligence apparatus.
And most importantly: “Successive Pakistani governments have asserted that Kashmirâ€™s political future must be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people. But the reality of Azad Kashmir prior to the earthquake was life dominated by governmental restrictions on fundamental freedoms.”
My view on the conflict is simple. I would rather the whole of Kashmir be made independent with an independent government that works in conjunction with India and Pakistan. Before that happens however the Indian govt needs to seriously re-evaluate its own security forces in the area, while Pakistan needs to stop funding these terrorist groups.
Both countries are simply using the lives of the Kashmiri population as a means to their own goals, rather than looking for a solution that is about what those people want.
Related story on BBC.
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Filed in: India,Pakistan,South Asia