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The Ageless Kashmir


Spinnin'Wheels

The place that everyone wants to visit at least once in their life time, recalled as “The Heaven on Earth” or The Paradise on Earth, Kashmir is truly blessed with an eternal natural beauty .

From those charming Houseboats and Shikaras to those thrilling skiing and sledge rides, from the magnificent Gulmarg to the Holy Vaishnodevi temple, the Jewelled crown of India offers everyone a dear memory of Kashmir to behold. A lot has been written about this region, movies and documentaries have been made, Kashmir has been a prominent part of Bollywood for ages. It is truly about embracing the nature.

Let the exploration begin…an inimitable gateway is guaranteed!

First stop -Srinagar

I arrived at the Srinagar International Airport, booked a cab and headed to the beautiful extended House boat. Living on the water in ceda-paneled bedrooms with all the facilities and the charming interior , the Houseboat appears…

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Economic murder of Gilgit-Baltistan


Munir Ahmed// Federal government (Pakistan) is still reluctant to withdraw its order imposing ban on the foreign tourists visiting Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) without obtaining an (additional) no-objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry of interior in Islamabad despite of a formal request from the GB chief minister. A letter recently sent by the ministry to the Gilgit-Baltistan government says that it has been reported that foreigners are frequently visiting Gilgit-Baltistan without obtaining an NOC or security clearance from the ministry, which is against the rules. The letter asks the authorities concerned to take concrete measures to curb the practice.

The GB government and the tour operators have a valid stance that the foreign tourists wish to visit Gilgit-Baltistan do not get visa until they have compulsory NOC and clearance from the federal ministry of interior. Why another NOC after their arrival? There has been no precedent for foreigners to obtain an NOC for visiting tourist points after getting visas — a process of two to three months. This seems to be intentionally discouraging Gilgit-Baltists tourism — the only seasonal source of livelihood for the natives after the small portion of dry-fruits sales.

On the other hand, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government withdrew the NOC required for foreign tourists visiting Malakand division in March 2016 to promote tourism in the area. The only threat they are facing is an increase in the tourism.

To me, this letter reflects the cowardly defeat of the federal government to prevent the country from security breaches. Despite the deployment of heavy contingent in Gilgit-Baltistan spearheaded by a Corp Commander, I believe the agencies could not impede and arrest the culprits involved in unfair practices. So, they are suspicious about every activity in the northern parts, and discourage every foreigner coming to Pakistan. In many cases, the locals are also monitored minutely by the army while they go for trekking.

The federal government letter to strictly implement the NOC shows that the agencies have totally collapsed to interrupt the outflow of information. The letter seems to be an out-dated approach that reminds the era of British slavery when every place was no-go-area. The outflow of information depended on the piece of paper. Maps and photographs were manually done and developed. Skilled riders and trained horses were used to send information from one place to another.

The dearest federal interior minister shall know that those who want to spy on any part of Pakistan need not to visit these places. They have the best spying tools to monitor every inch of our country. So, please get out of the ‘slavery era’ practices. These do nothing but harm the life and livelihood of the locals, and the sanctity of their homeland. Please don’t punish Gilgit-Baltistan for their ancestors’ decision to unify with Pakistan. Respect those who willingly come to see the natural treasures of our country and spend their hard-earned money to fly to Pakistan, helping us earn good foreign exchange. Learn from the neighbouring South Asian countries as how to be more tourists’ friendly and observe the hospitality norms.

We all know our governments and the establishment is always reluctant to bring about positive changes. But, we need to demand the facilitation of foreign tourists coming to our country. Believe it or not, the tourists won’t harm us or our land. Be confident to assume that everyone visiting our country is not a threat. After successfully organising the final match of the 2nd PSL in Lahore, the government should have faith in its capabilities.

Pakistan Association of Tour Operators (PATO) has already termed the imposition of the ban as the ‘economic murder’ of Gilgit-Baltistan where the 70 percent of the locals’ livelihood depends on tourism.

Thanks to the GB government’s international partners who have spent a lot of money to showcase the region as a peaceful territory of culture and landscape. Let’s not damage the investments made on the propagation of soft image of the region and the country during the last several years. The tour operators put a lot of efforts and invest resources to attract foreign tourists to Pakistan while the federal and provincial governments sleep over their responsibilities to promote tourism. Imposing another NOC would further discourage foreigners from visiting GB. Let us all be a part of the promotional efforts, and discourage the government from igniting the problems for the GB economy.

The writer is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached at devcom.pakistan@gmail.com. Source:www.dailytimes.com.pk

Kashmir – Postcards From A Poignant Paradise — The Urge To Wander


This gallery is hardly one you would associate with danger. Yet, the instinctive reaction of family and friends when I expressed my decision to travel to Kashmir, was one of astonishment at our ‘daring’. For my non Indian readers, Kashmir is the strife torn region of the Indian republic, sandwiched between India and Pakistan, that has had […]

via Kashmir – Postcards From A Poignant Paradise — The Urge To Wander

Kashmiri girls engaged in pitched street battles


”What is to be done?” : “In the meanwhile, it is doubtful that tying a Kashmiri who had just cast his vote to the bonnet of an army jeep is the best  way of winning over the people.”

Kashmiri girls engaged in pitched street battles

New Warriors: Scenes of young Kashmiri girls engaged in pitched street battles with the police shocked India as nations media had never revealed the depth of alienation to them.

When in 2014 the Peoples’ Democratic Party, having fought the Assembly elections on an anti-RSS plank, decided to tie up with the Bhartiya Janata Party for governance, well-meaning observers believed that this was done not to occupy state power but on an act of faith.

The Party’s faith was that its coalition partner  who ruled New Delhi with an absolute majority in parliament would be as keen to resolve the political issue of the Jammu & Kashmir state—and would be best placed to do so, since the   Hindu right wing had historically remained the chief obstacle to such a resolution—as the PDP itself. There were those more cynical ones who had at the time pointed out that such faith may be grossly misplaced, since it involved a far-too-naïve misreading of the  “nationalist” interests in the matter of Jammu & Kashmir.Kashmiri girls engaged in pitched street battles-1

As we have seen, the coalition’s  “Agenda of Alliance”  became, especially in its promised political content,  first a farcical and now a tragic dead letter with incalculable damage to the material and psychological profile of the valley   which, like it or not, remains at the centre of the problematic.

In the last three years or so, not only have the usual indices of “disturbance” become viral, democratic forces in the valley have come to suffer grievous, if not terminal, demise.     To wit, by refusing to turn out to vote in the least of respectable numbers, it is the people who have disenfranchised the leaderships and their political structures rather than the other way around.

In that context, the defeat of the PDP in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency  is a clear proof that the mere  “faith” does not measure up to the travails and aspirations of the people.  Indeed, had people voted in larger numbers, the results would have been the same. Only the terminally uncaring—like the “nationalists”—or the terminally imbecilic  may still persuade themselves that militancy in the valley is a “fringe” phenomenon fueled by the wicked enemy  from across the border.

The more caring and the more objective watchers of the situation know that the cruel refusal to dialogue and the cruel  readiness  to shoot have turned every young Kashmiri Muslim today into a willing militant, with complete loss of faith in the secular-democratic promise of the Idea of India. Indeed, the more that right wing forces gain ascendance in the mainland, the more the valley sees itself pushed back  into an answering Muslim majoritarian assertion.

So what is to be done?  It would be a helpful beginning to disregard the ostrich-inspired “deliberations” that routinely happen at prime time—deliberations that are characterized forever by one chief motif: talk about everything but the real problem.

Then set up back-channels with  mandate from the Center to address the diverse contours of the issue as reflected in the spectrum of opinion available in the state with no exceptions.  And do so without laying any a prior conditions or time lines.  Carry forward that process for as long as it takes, remembering the time that similar issues in other parts of the world have taken  (for  example Ireland).

Weaken the toe-hold of the interventionist elements in Pakistan by  owning our own, and by showing a determination to listen and dialogue till the cows come home, although not  in the way they have in Uttar Pradesh.  Keep channels of dialogue open with Pakistan on the back of the earlier exchanges, some of which were fraught with substantive promise.

All that taking into account also that  the contemporary situation in Pakistan may truly be  materially different from what  it was  some years ago, although  Indian  “experts” seem forever unwilling to keep abreast with that truth.

Easier said than done.  Who will bell the cat?  Alas, had I half the faith in god as Mehbooba ji continues to have in the promise of the coalition partner, my Easter may well have happened.

In short, so decisive is the rejection of India in the valley that “mainstream” opposition parties there have not the smallest leeway. If you are not blinkered, expect  only more of the same at least till the next general elections in 2019, if not much worse.

The article was first published here in online newspaper Kashmir Observer.

Geopolitical Pivoting in Kashmir


Aneela Shahzad// Based on similar physiognomy between Kashmiris and Jews and many similar names and toponyms, Jewish descent of the Kashmiri people is also claimed. Yet at the accumulation of their long historical evolution, they chose Islam as their way of life.
Like the great Hindu Kush, the Karakoram and Himalayas, the world’s three most complex mountain ranges, meet at their extremities in Kashmir – they separate at their feet, three distinct cultures, Islam, Hinduism and Communism. Three cultures that are just as well-grounded as the Karakoram, as stanch as the Hindu Kush and as definite as the Himalayas, and that have proven to be unsurmountable by the other.

As of the Kashmiri people themselves, the prevalent theory is that they were of Aryan descent, their language being an Indo-Aryan Dardic one. Based on similar physiognomy between Kashmiris and Jews and many similar names and toponyms, Jewish descent of the Kashmiri people is also claimed. Yet at the accumulation of their long historical evolution, they chose Islam as their way of life.

The Greater Kashmir that is disputed between Pakistan and India includes Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract (Shaksgam Valley).

War broke out between India and Pakistan in 1948 over the enticed accession of Kashmir to India. As a result Pakistan was able to liberate Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from Indian occupation, while Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Vale remains under Indian occupation to this day.

Aksai Chin is a large swath of land controlled by China, bordering both Gilgit-Baltistan and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Aksai Chin is vital for China as it connects the remote provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. In 1962, China and India fought a war over Aksai Chin; in 1996, the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control. In 2014 China made a build-up of troops in Aksai Chin that made incursions into Ladakh causing a stand-off between the two countries. This is in addition to the Arunachal Pradesh tension, which China claims to be a part of its province Tibet.

Gilgit-Baltistan, the cradle of the Hindu Kush Mountains, was not a part of Kashmir when the British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh, founder of the Dogra Dynasty, in 1846, after they had defeated the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War. But later the Dogra waged a number of battles to occupy Gilgit-Baltistan. The Dogras incorporated Gilgit-Baltistan into Kashmir even though the people had more cultural affinity to the people of Ladakh. As of post-partition, the population of Gilgit-Baltistan wants to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province and is opposed to integration with Indian-held Kashmir. But the Pakistani government has to pend the Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that this would jeopardize the resolution of the Whole-Kashmir Issue according to UN resolutions.

Both Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir are self-governing units, referred to by the United Nations and other international organizations as Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Azad Kashmir has its own Parliament, Supreme Court and a High Court, and the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs serves as a link between it and the Azad Kashmir government. The people in these regions live a free life with no Special Forces Act to intervene in their daily lives.

In 1963, Pakistan handed over 5,800 square kilometers of the Shaksgam Valley, a territory of Gilgit-Baltistan to China, in the Sino-Pak Agreement. The agreement assumes this temporary hand-over as a means ‘for the development of good neighborly and friendly relations, (and) also (to) help safeguard Asian and world peace’. This agreement is valid only until the Kashmir dispute has not been resolved between India and Pakistan – after which Pakistan ‘will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China’…‘to sign a formal boundary treaty’.

The Shaksgam Valley bounds in it the Trans-Karakoram Tract, a natural pathway that connects China’s Xinjiang to Aksai Chin. At its southeast end the valley lies adjacent to the highest battlefield in the world, the Siachen Glacier region. Since 1984, when India occupied the whole glacier, Pakistan and India have constantly had skirmishes at the unmarked borders. Both countries maintain a permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 20,000 ft. Pakistani posts are 3,000 ft below the 100 Indian posts on Saltoro Ridge. The Kargil War in 1999, was a bid from the Pakistani side to regain some of the high altitude posts.

If we look at Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley as one Greater Kashmir, we may be able to realize the strategic importance of this land-locked region. As an assemblage it becomes a state, bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China’s two remote provinces Xinjiang and Tibet. This Greater Kashmir, with its probable pro-Pakistan foreign policy owing to its Muslim majority, making a formidable block with Pakistan and Afghanistan, would isolate India from Central Asia, and crush forever India’s dream of entrenching its influence in Afghanistan or breaking apart Pakistan.

On the other hand if India would ever be able to occupy the whole of Kashmir, India would sever Pakistan’s link to China via the Khunjerab Pass in Hunza, annihilating the Silk-Road Project. It would try to sabotage the natural flow of waters from Kashmir to Pakistan. It would obstruct the passage way from Xinjiang to Tibet and would be one step further in its long-held effort to liberate the whole of Tibet from China. India would also have ease of access into Central Asia and would be crouching at Pakistan and Afghanistan in its vicious imperialistic bestiality.

So for Pakistan, pushing India downward is an existential necessity, while India’s upward thrust is imperialistic.

The China-Pakistan alliance against India is also based on these same concerns. The Silk-Road from Xinjiang to Gilgit-Baltistan and Gawadar is, in present geopolitical scenario, the shortest and most workable route for China to warm waters, the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean. This route has become vital for China also because of recent US polices of pivoting Pacific countries against China, if that happens that would make the traditional route via the South China Sea vulnerable for China.

Even as the world and Kashmir’s neighbors tend to be oblivious to its strategic value, Kashmir’s fate is constantly effecting and shaping the fate of all its neighbors. And the blood from its wound is slowly and quietly seeping into the vein of the global village.

India’s strengthening also means the strengthening of the US. Letting India succeed in Kashmir would mean letting the same dominos that are right now seeming to be falling on the US and its allies, fall back on China, Russia and their regional allies.

But having a Greater United Kashmir is a dream that does not seem to be coming true in near future. Present freedom struggle in Indian held Kashmir is focused on liberating only Occupied Kashmir from India, not on having a bigger Kashmir. Many aspirants of freedom also relate their liberty in adjoining with Pakistan – as a smaller, landlocked Kashmir, with less resources and difficult terrain would be difficult to self-sustain and permanently vulnerable to India’s ambitions.

In present scenario however, the China-Pakistan alliance creates another threat to India in Kashmir. Not only does China threaten to occupy Ladakh on the plea of its being part of greater Tibet – it also threatens the much cherished Indian possession of Siachen. There is no marked boundary between Pakistan and India in the Siachen region, but despite of the acute terrain, the high altitude and extreme human conditions, both side were constantly at their toes on the matter. In 1984, India was able to take the lead by procuring all the high post and therefore occupying the Siachen Glacier. The 1999 Kargil War was Pakistan’s retaliation to the 1984 act. In the misadventure the Pakistani side aimed to capture Kargil and sever India’s supply route to Siachen – but the war was resultantly lost and the tension on Siachen remains.

Now if China, who is already present and active in Shaksgam, would make a military join-up with Pakistani troops in the lower posts of Shiacen, they would definitely be able to out-do the Indian side and perhaps Shiachen could be regained. India would look at such a breach as a threat to its entire northern frontier, with its two biggest rivals, capable of a joint and potentially decisive military action against it, stationed at its border. Surely China would not be led into such an extreme action, involving three nuclear states – unless and until there is a clearly decisive moment has arrived. But this does show India’s vulnerability in Kashmir – where China is practically as much pro-Kashmir as it is pro-Pakistan, and for all the same reasons.

The annexation of Kashmir by Pakistan or the creation of an independent Kashmir would also create a regional block of potential Islamic fundamentalist states. A bulwark block containing Kashmir, Afghanistan and Pakistan would give the three, the strength needed to keep ambitious occupiers at bay, and peace and stability to the region that is needed to put it on the long-awaited route of progress.

The recent ambitious occupier in the case of Afghanistan have been the US. If the US and their allies would have succeeded in Afghanistan and if they had entrenched India in Afghanistan under their security umbrella – this would have emboldened the two to have joined up in an attempt to snatch the whole of Kashmir for India, before decisively sandwiching Pakistan from all sides. If this three-prong fall were to happen, the three countries would remain trapped in decades of small war, while the US would once again gain the means of dominating the world-order in reverse of Russia-China interests.

So in geopolitical prospective, the blood of innocent Kashmiris is not just human suffering that has to be addressed in the human way – it is like the Palestinian Issue – which has evolved to be not just an issue of a homeland for the Palestinians and the return of the refugees and answering the calls of an oppressed humanity – rather it has become the pivot where the Sunni world is crossing the Shia one; where the Arabs interests clashes with non-Arabs one; where the pro-US and pro-Russia do their proxy wars; and where resolution might be just as problematic or even more than the status-quo.

Likewise Kashmir is a potential pivot for the Great Game that has traditionally been fought at the expense of Afghanistan and Persia. India’s apprehension that once Afghanistan is lost to the US, the mujahedeen may turn to Kashmir as their next playground, may be based on exactly this same theory. Because Kashmir is the crossing that divides the Muslim world from the Hindu world; it is the line that connects the Communists with Muslimists; it is the testing ground for the strength of US-India bonding; it is the string where Indian expansionism will be broken; and it is the high ground where Pakistan will have to be heedful not to hurt an already hurt humanity.

Even as the world and Kashmir’s neighbors tend to be oblivious to its strategic value, Kashmir’s fate is constantly effecting and shaping the fate of all its neighbors. And the blood from its wound is slowly and quietly seeping into the vein of the global village.

*Author is a geopolitical analyst, also writes atglobaltab.net, her Twitter handle is @AneelaShahazad. She can also be reached at aneela.pathfinder@gmail.com

The article was first published here.

Writers and Poetry of Gojal-Hunza


Gilgit-Baltistan Times

By: Ali Ahmed Ali (Gojal-Hunza);  Writers’ workshop held at Bulbulik Heritage Centre Gulmit to review the research and documentation of Wakhi Folk Poetry being done by Bulbulik. The famous Wakhi poets and writers from allover Gojal participated in the workshop and reviewed the research work. The workshop ended with a musical show at midnight at Gulmit Gojal Hunza.

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pic6 Al-Waiz Nasir a prominent thinker of Gojal Hunza is presenting his work

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State, Religion and Professionalism


The role of religion in state affairs has always been a matter of debate in Muslim societies. The employees in courts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir consider themselves fortunate to have been practising their religious duties alongside professional responsibilities.

In his first address to court staff soon after he took oath as the 12th Chief Justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Supreme Court, Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Ibrahim Zia had announced that the annual increment for court employees would be conditional on the regular offering of prayers, which he said will be secretly checked.

The judge also announced that the offering of prayers would be mandatory for all employees and that there would be a designated court break for prayers. The orders are similar to General Zia’s mandatory prayer instructions to the members of armed forces in late 1980s.

“There shall be two groups of employees for prayers. I will lead one group, and our regular prayer leader will lead the other group,” Justice Zia seemed to implement his religious order more fervently than court orders.
In a more traditional vein, the highest ranking judge in AJK encouraged government servants to discharge their duties with complete dedication, devotion, honesty, and sincerity.
“In the discharge of duties, all public servants should rise above their personal likes and dislikes, regional or ethnic prejudices, besides doing away with negligence, or dereliction of duty,” he added.

The ceremony was attended by AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, ministers and other notable persons. Justice Zia will continue as the Chief Justice of Azad Jammu and Kashmir until 2020.

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court comprises three judges, including the chief justice. Unlike elsewhere in Pakistan, judges in the AJK Supreme Court can also be appointed directly, apart from being elevated from the AJK High Court.

Judges in AJK’s superior judiciary are appointed by the AJK president on the advice of the chairman of the AJK Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and after consultation with other chief justices.

Kashmiri Diaspora in Europe: Exclusion, Implications & Human Rights


By Daalat Ali//

Purpose:

The purpose of this paper is to inform all concern on the plight of the People of Jammu & Kashmir and Northern Areas (Gilgit Baltistan and Ladakh) politically known as Kashmir. It particularly aims to highlight the impact of the undetermined status of Jammu and Kashmir on the Kashmiri Diaspora, especially on the question of identity and its recognition in the countries of settlements of the Diaspora.

Aim:

The main aspects of Kashmiri Diaspora, I am going to highlight include the following:
· The existence of Kashmiri Diaspora in Europe,
· Its exclusion in Britain at various levels of state and society, including:
· Service delivery,
· Political and human rights,
· Meaningful engagement and input or lack of it at various levels,
· Implication of their exclusion, both here and their country of origin,
· This paper will also make some comparisons with Kashmiri ethnicity re-identification/re-classification and African slave’s re-identification/re-classification. Hence, questions are raised, if EU countries are playing an active role in human rights abuse within their sphere and are bringing indirect colonial practices at their door steps. (This may be so in ignorance)

Background:

Kashmir was an independent state for many centuries and has five thousand years of chronological written history (Raj Trangani by Pandat Kahllan).However, for the past few centuries it has been occupied by Moughals of India, Pathans of Afghinstan and up until 1846 by Lahore Durbar (Punjab) and from 1846 to 1947 by Dogra dynasty.
When the British rule came to an end in 1947 India became independent and Pakistan was created, Kashmir and other princely states were not part of the division formula, hence, the state of Jammu Kashmir Ladakh and Northern areas popularly known as Kashmir became independent until both India and Pakistan invaded it. There after Kashmir ceased to exist as one nation and it lost its independent status. There are claims and counter claims by both occupiers; however, in the process of division the views of inhabitants were not seeked, though promised by UN that still remains the case.
The exact process leading to the division is disputed but what is not disputed is that Kashmir is still divided and occupied by foreign forces against the wishes of the people of state of Jammu Kashmir. In reality, it isdivided in to three open jails, people of one region cannot visit another region, hence it divides millions of people i.e. parents from children, friends from friends. It needs more research but there is evidence that this has affected communities across the state mentally, physically and has given opportunity to right wing forces to exploit ordinary people, hence resulting in both Islamic and Hindu fundamentalisms as seen recently in the Valley and Jammu regions.
Most social commentators, including Roger Ballard, Nasreen Ali, Vrindar Singh Kalara and many more, write that in Britain there are nearly a million
people of Kashmiri origin. Given that, there were nearly 800,000 Pakistanis recorded in 2001 census. According to Ballard’s estimation nearly 6,00,000 of those are of Kashmiri origin. It should be noted that over 23,000 Kashmiris self wrote Kashmiris and also it is estimated that; around 250,000 Kashmiris did not return census forms because they thought it is not for them. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham in a letter to Baroness Emma Nicholson in 2005 quotes this figure at one million, this then is followed by his Excellency Wajid Shamas, Pakistani high commissioner to UK. In an article to Owsaf news paper he also quotes this figure to be one million.
Majority of Kashmiris living in Britain came from the Pahari region of Jammu Kashmiri primarily Mirpur Division .These Kashmiris started coming to Britain in early part of 20th century, however due to division of India and lack of opportunities in Pakistan , they started coming to Britain in greater numbers. Early Kashmiri migrants especially 1950s and early 1960s came for shorter periods, however, the economic and political situation back home dictated otherwise and that early migration changed in to chain migration. With current insurgency, India and Pakistan’s organised terrorism in the state of Jammu Kashmir many Kashmiris are forced to flee their home land, hence, now Kashmiris can be found in every European city and country. Therefore it is believed that there are close to two million Kashmiris within EU. We do not know exact numbers, why not? That is the question.

British Experience

As mentioned above, there are half a million to one million Kashmiri people residing in United Kingdom , most of them come from Pahari region of the state (Mirpur Division), they speak distinct language (Pahari) and share long history and culture which is different than that of other South Asian languages and cultures. This perhaps makes Kashmiris the largest distinct group of all ethnic minorities from South Asia for example Bangla speaking are just over three hundred thousand, Sikhs around two hundred and fifty thousand and same with other groups from South Asia. Despite the numbers and despite massive awareness and inclusion campaigns for decades by Kashmiri Diaspora, British Authorities continue to exclude Kashmiris from all its systems.

Excuses
At one level the Authorities i.e. census regime and its users advocate that the services are Taylor made for individuals and that census data amongst many other uses is for individual, regional and communities socio economic profiling. If that argument was taken forward then British and other EU authorities are working against their own set rule and criterion, and perhaps are breaking the law. Though recently there have been rafts and rafts of local (British) and EU inclusion legislations from which ethnic minorities benefit safety and enhancement opportunities but Kashmiri Diaspora is not only excluded and unprotected from these legislations, but in the case of bigotry and discrimination, by other South Asian communities, the system does not protect the victims, because the system does not recognise Kashmiri Diaspora, hence if you don’t exist you cannot be discriminated against.
Office of statistics describes Kashmiri Diaspora as Pakistanis and office of registration for deaths births recognises Kashmiris as Indians, Some politicians and decision makers come up with an excuse that it should be Pakistani Kashmiris and Indian Kashmiris, while the same authorities include Irish as one rather than Irish republic and northern Ireland.
It is also often quoted that Kashmir is not an independent country therefore Kashmiri Diaspora can’t be included and identified as Kashmiri but at the same time Palestinians, Kurds, Romany, Gypsies, Sikhs, Muslims and many more country less minorities are included for the purposes of monitoring service delivery and protection against discrimination.
1991 and 2001 census included many more categories than previous census exercises including the religion categories, hence Kashmiris can be Muslims, Pakistanis, Indians, Asians, Blacks but not Kashmiris which they actually are. This than means that their socio economic profile cannot be measured therefore Kashmiri Diaspora is excluded from any decision making process.
At the lobbying end as soon as one mentions Kashmir, it automatically becomes politically sensitive and all concern are very happy to talk about Kashmir and Kashmiris in the South Asian contest, hence deliberately avoiding or ignoring a significant Kashmiri Diaspora.

Exclusion Implications
Kashmiri Diasporas exclusion at every level in Europe has detrimental implications both for the Diaspora and host Nation. Though in-depth research is needed on the subject but I will try to high light some of the issues faced by the Diaspora in Europe, Both sides of Kashmir at home and internationally especially post 9-11 and 7-7.

In Europe
In Europe especially in United Kingdom where majority of Kashmiris live, all researches show that Pakistanis are:

· At the bottom of the pile in educational achievement,
· Living in overcrowding conditions,
· Suffering from above average ill health conditions,
· Living in deprived excluded enclaves,
· Under represented in business,
· Over represented in criminal justice system,
· Under represented in politics and the list goes on
· Due to Kashmiri exclusion, Kashmiris fleeing violence seeking asylum in Europe, do not get privileges that other such refugees do
Some academic researchers, service providers and decision makers, have looked at the exclusion closely. They have concluded that Pakistani achievement level is in par with Indians, it is Kashmiris when mixed with Pakistanis infact bring the Pakistani attainment level down. The researchers also indicate that Kashmiris are excluded from any meaningful decision maker’s consultation in service delivery and design.

Other South Asians
Other South Asian communities particularly Pakistanis( who are put in the positions of power by the British state and society i.e. by excluding Kashmiris living in United Kingdom and by consulting and engaging with Pakistani community leaders on behalf of Kashmiris.) Bigot and discriminate against Kashmiri Diaspora at every level. The relationship can be compared with the relationship that exists between English and Irish. Pakistanis refer to Kashmiri community as Mirpuris and deliberately negating their National (Kashmiri) identity, which is followed by many academic researchers in ignorance of course. Kashmiri Diaspora is legally un-protected against this ongoing discrimination; hence, their human rights are violated or not is a question for the relevant authorities.
This than means that Kashmiri first second and third generations are growing up identity less and confused. Of course they seek identity and feel safer in Muslim identity, which in turn means that they are open to exploitation and recruitment by organisations which have right wing agenda i.e. terrorism. For example there seem to be no example of any British Kashmiri’s involvement in Kashmir but it should be noted that suicide bombers in Israel were from UK and were of Kashmiri heritage, similarly there are examples of British Kashmiris involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as 7/7 but they are of course referred to as Pakistanis. Most of the Inner city riots In Birmingham, Bradford Leeds and East Lancashire were by Kashmiri youngsters but of course they were referred to as Pakistanis. Above are few examples of implications of exclusion of Kashmiri identity and ethnicity from the decision makers. This is so despite many local service providers’ inclusion and recommendation for example more than fifteen local authorities in UK include Kashmiri category for service delivery and employment.

In Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmiri exclusion in Europe means that all Kashmiri living in Europe are likely to lose their hereditary rights which they have by virtue of State subject. (Kashmiri Nationality) was introduced by Maharaja Hari Sing, (The last Ruler of the state of Jammu Kashmir). this was introduced in October 1927. Without the State subject one cannot buy, sell, own or inherit land or property in the State of Jammu Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan have ingrained in their relevant constitutions to respect this position. However, from time to time both test waters to do away with this restriction, infact Pakistan has suspended this in the Northern Areas, which are under direct rule of Pakistan. This has resulted in massive demographic changes. India from time to time has tried to violate this too. Most recent example is “Amar- Nath -Yatra Shrine Board” against which Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a massive strike and ultimately India had to give in.

What this means for Kashmiri Diaspora is that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora is forced to obtain Pakistani Nationality (By virtue of dual Nationality agreement with many European countries including UK)
· Kashmiris are forced to obtain Pakistani identity card popularly known as Nadhra card,
· Office of death Birth registration registers all Kashmiris as Pakistani, therefore all documentations state that Kashmiris are Pakistanis,
Kashmiri exclusion and Kashmiri none recognition within Europe means that All legal documentations erase Kashmiri identity and replace it with Pakistani identity. This is also true of academia especially Pakistani academics like Anwar, Madood and Saiuf-ulla Khan. There seem to be similarities between slavery’s dark days “Where African slave’s identity, religion and names were changed and a new identity was given to them”. Kashmiri Diaspora perhaps is suffering from similar inhuman treatment as far as their ethnicity re-classification is concerned.

This than means is that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora cannot reclaim or inherit any real estate from their forefathers in Kashmir,
· Kashmiri Diaspora cannot participate in much promised UN plebiscite, hence has no say on the fate of their future,
· By virtue of act 1954 where Pakistan states that Azad Kashmir (POK) is sensitive area therefore entry of none Kashmiris is discretionary, what this means is that whole of Kashmiri Diaspora can be denied to visit even their parents if Pakistani authorities so wish.
· In practice both Pakistan and India take measures to stop State people visiting other parts of the state, while no restrictions are in eveidence to Pakistan and India’s citizens.

Conclusion
In conclusion the above evidence suggests that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora has existed in Europe for at least over a century, and currently there are around one million to two million Kashmiris living within Europe, majority being in United Kingdom.
· Due to continuous exclusion, Kashmiri Diaspora has failed to progress as fast as identified and included Diasporas, therefore, Kashmiris have formed their own excluded enclaves and live in very poor conditions, with above average unemployment, extremely below average economic and educational attainment and well above national average are represented in Criminal justice system.
· Identity less Kashmiri Diaspora is likely to suffer above average unreported discrimination both from indigenes and South Asian communities.
· Kashmiri Diaspora is invisible and is deliberately excluded from any meaningful contribution at political, and decision making level, For example India and Pakistan talk to each other on Kashmir but exclude Kashmiris from those meetings, does Europe not do the same? Of course the west does.
· Kashmiri Diaspora suffers worst human rights abuses back home and in Europe, with Europeans indirectly practicing colonialty by aiding neo-colonial powers in South Asia, This is so by not recognising Kashmiri Diaspora,
· Kashmiri people are treated as second class citizens both by India and Pakistan in South Asia and Kashmiri Diaspora is treated with contempt by Indian and Pakistani Diasporas in Europe. This process is aided by European (Specifically British authorities), By excluding Kashmiri Diaspora at every level.
· In most academic researches Kashmiri Diaspora has been re-classified for example the research subjects would be Kashmiris but they would be written on as Muslims, Pakistanis, and Asians or if some researchers go deeper they would stop at Mirpuris (Punjabis). Is this re-classification not similar to that of Slaves taken from Africa and given new identity? Is this not human rights abuse?

Recommendations
It is recommended that:
· This forum should pass a resolution in favour of Kashmiri ethnicity inclusion at all levels and write to all EU members including United Kingdom census authority, home Ministers, relevant UN department and all other relevant bodies.
· Write to Pakistani and Indian Governments to make provisions for Issuing state subjects to Kashmiri Diaspora
· Kashmiri category should be included for monitoring purposes with all government departments including, LGA, NHS and Police

(This paper was read at a seminar titled ” India-Pakistan Peace Process: the Way Forward” in London on 28 February 2012. The writer of this paper is an author, researcher, film script writer, director and founder chief executive of International Pahari Literary Society. His three books “Punch-na-Sarmad”, “Taharan-ni-Agh” and “Mela Asman” are the best sellers in Pahari language . His two more books are in print. His campaign on Kashmiri identity in the UK has gained momentum in recent months. He is co-ordinator of Kashmir National Identity Campaign (KNIC) in the UK. He could be reached at daalat@alidaalat.com)

The article source is Press for Peace 

Kashmir – A brief history of political lust


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“If there is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!” – Firdaus

Little did the heaven know about man’s greed – so little that it carved the heaven into a slaughterhouse where heroes live and rise from time to time, just to be buried forever.

Kashmir, ever since Partition of August 1947 has become an opportunity for Indian political movements to dump their political propagandas, blind to the fact that Kashmir has always belonged to Pakistan. With over three wars fought over the ‘heaven on earth’ – thousands of innocents have lost their lives just for India’s ever increasing lust for supremacy over it’s neighbor. Lust – the thing about lust is that it only grows destroying the concept of believing, fracturing the very reason to live – it destroys hope.

What Maharaja Hari Singh initiated in 1947 was to leave profound scars on the…

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Poonch House- a mansion fit for a king


The façade of Poonch House on Adamjee Road, Rawalpindi. Once this mansion was a rest house for Kashmir’s Maharaja; today it presents a picture of neglect.  — Photos by Tanveer Shahzad The façade of Poonch House on Adamjee Road, Rawalpindi. Once this mansion was a rest house for Kashmir’s Maharaja; today it presents a picture of neglect.


The 150-year-old Poonch House standing in the heart of Saddar on Adam Jee Road, Rawalpindi has served as a rest house for kings and princes, an office and home for prime ministers of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and even housed military courts.

Balconies made out of walnut wood, in traditional Kashmiri style, overlook the main hall. The upper galleries allowed women a view of the performances in the hall below.
Balconies made out of walnut wood, in traditional Kashmiri style, overlook the main hall. The upper galleries allowed women a view of the performances in the hall below.

It was built by Raja Moti Singh, the ruler of Poonch, to serve as a rest house for Rajas of Poonch. Later, in 1914 when Poonch became a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Poonch House became the property of the ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Gulab Singh. After Pakistan came into being, in the 1950s it was the home of AJK’s first prime minister and camp office of AJK president and prime minister.

Windows and skylights built into the wooden ceiling to light the narrow passage below without electricity.
Windows and skylights built into the wooden ceiling to light the narrow passage below without electricity.

“When General Ziaul Haq imposed martial law in 1977, military courts were set up at Poonch House where prominent politicians and political workers were tried,” said former district nazim Raja Tariq Kayani.

The majestic mansion combined the best in European and Indian architecture. It incorporated intricate Kashmiri woodwork with fine masonry.

The outer wall of the women’s chamber. The door leads to the narrow passage which connects the two parts of the building.
The outer wall of the women’s chamber. The door leads to the narrow passage which connects the two parts of the building.

The complex included separate living quarters and courtyards for men and women. The main hall was where the Maharajas held court or hosted grand parties.

The walls were embellished with intricate artwork and beautifully carved wooden balconies. The Maharaja’s own chambers were located on the upper storey along with small rooms for his servants.

A stylised arched window with broken glass panes represents the dilapidated condition of Poonch House today. This was once part of the men’s chamber.
A stylised arched window with broken glass panes represents the dilapidated condition of Poonch House today. This was once part of the men’s chamber.

Once the grounds of Poonch House spread over 37 kanals, but today the area has been reduced to 23 kanals.

In 1983, a 10-storey building was constructed in the lawn of Poonch House and bits of land were sold by the government until Prime Minister Junejo in 1986, imposed a ban on sale of Poonch House land.

A recently renovated room, with whitewashed walls, is being used as the office of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Properties administrator. This area once served as the durbar of the Maharaja of Kashmir.
A recently renovated room, with whitewashed walls, is being used as the office of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Properties administrator. This area once served as the durbar of the Maharaja of Kashmir.

The colourful history and past grandeur of this old building are fast fading. The derelict old building is serving as the Sub-office of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Properties and Azad Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission office.

The main hall where music echoed late into the night, now houses offices where telephone bells ring instead. Whitewash covers the artwork on the walls and cement has been filled in where decorative tiles are missing.

This section of Poonch House, which today serves as AJK Election Commission Office, once housed the military courts set up by Ziaul Haq. Here a number of politicians and political workers were tried.
This section of Poonch House, which today serves as AJK Election Commission Office, once housed the military courts set up by Ziaul Haq. Here a number of politicians and political workers were tried.

Masroor Ahmed, administrator AJK Properties Sub-office, told Dawn that Rs0.5 million have been allocated by the government for restoration of the exterior of Poonch House and work will begin at the end of the month. (The article was first published here in daily Dawn.)

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