Pak’s policy of “good” and “bad” militants?”


Militant commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen Syed
Salahuddin reportedly “asked” Pakistan to assist
Kashmiris in an armed struggle against Indian forces if a peaceful solution to the problem was not possible. He was speaking during a press conference at the Jamaat-e-Islami headquarters, Idara Noor-e-Haq. Salahuddin, who is also the head of Mutahhida Jihad Council, said that the killing of Burhan Wani gave a new meaning to the struggle in the India-held Kashmir. He urged Pakistan government to cut off diplomatic ties with India, and that Pakistan should be ready for a fourth war against its neighbour. Furthermore, he said that Pakistan was morally bound to help Kashmiris in this struggle.
These audacious statements from the Hizbul Mujahideen chief come amid unrest in the Indian-held Kashmir, following the killing of Wani. So far 68 people have reportedly died during protests while thousands have been injured. Hizbul Mujahideen after the bloody unrest in 1989 in Kashmir was declared a terrorist organisation by India, European Union as well as the United States of America. The relations between Pakistan and India are already strained as witnessed during the recent meeting of SAARC Interior/Home Ministers when Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh left Islamabad following a war of words on the floor of the summit with Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan.
Moreover, at a time when Pakistan is in a process of rebranding itself in the international arena, such statements from the chief of an internationally banned organisation do nothing but taint Pakistan’s efforts to get rid of terrorist/militant elements in Pakistan. Already, there is an absence of attention to the issue of Kashmir in international forums, probably because its long-standing position of not reaching any resolution appears to have reached a saturation point.
The fact that the chief of an internationally banned organisation is openly allowed to move and address a press conference comes in direct conflict with the National Action Plan (NAP). He is openly calling for a nuclear war with India, and no one seems to be bothered by the blatant instigation of violence. The conference was organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami, a party that has parliamentary representation in Islamabad. In the 1990s, it was alleged that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency was involved in funding and training Hizbul Mujahideen, and later, allegations of an armed unrest in Kashmir led to an international ban on the organisation. The open endorsement of statements and activities of Hizbul Mujaheeden by Jamaat-e-Islami is a clear repudiation of the basic premise of NAP, and is an issue that should be raised in parliament.
The Kashmir issue is not set in some fantasy land where a force lesser in numbers would somehow manage to defeat its enemy through a miracle. The results of similar guerrilla movements around the world are evident. Indian army outnumbers these militant elements many times, and such foolhardy tactics cannot be used in today’s day and age. The only way forward is a political solution to the problem by taking the people of Kashmir on board. Any more violence would simply exacerbate the situation in the valley, and delay any possible efforts of peace.
Pakistan should distance itself from the statements of the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and avoid supporting any armed struggle in Kashmir. He should not be allowed to be seen in a position of “dictating” to the state on what policy it should have towards the Kashmir issue. Moreover, such organisations should not be given any public forum to speak or any space in media, as inflammatory statements such as Salahuddin’s would only harm the Kashmir cause by delaying any possible peaceful solution to the conflict.
Pakistan in its stance of solidarity with Kashmiris in their time of pain and for their struggle must be clear that Pakistan does not endorse any armed conflict in the already bleeding valley of Jammu and Kashmir.
Instigation of violence and propagation of the message of an armed struggle has brought nothing but relentless misery and unending agony to the people of Kashmir. Pakistan’s endorsement of the Kashmir issue must be solely of moral support, and of solidarity in principle.*
The abysmal state of Pakistani prisons
The dismal state of criminal rehabilitation in Pakistan was once again brought to light in a report recently published by the National Committee on Jails Reforms. The committee reports at length how Pakistani prisons are crammed with too many people, and lack of sanitation and health amenities continue to exacerbate the ordeal of inmates.
The hazardous impacts of the deteriorating conditions inmates are forced to exist in are hidden to none. Earlier this year, 25 jails in Sindh were reported to house more than 21,000 prisoners despite having a capacity of merely 12,000. The situation is equally dire across the country where 32 prisons in Punjab, 23 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 in Balochistan, six in Azad Kashmir and five in Gilgit-Baltistan are reported to house as many as 35,000 inmates above their maximum capacity. In 2003, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed serious concerns over the overcrowding of prisoners across the country. Similar reservations were also raised on the issue in a report by the Council of Islamic Ideology in the same year. These poor living conditions often result in transmission of contagious diseases across cells, which is particularly hazardous for juvenile and women prisoners. Furthermore, the high vulnerability of weak groups to sexual abuse and other forms of violence amidst such circumstances is a gruesome violation of all human rights, and should be addressed on an immediate basis.
Although prisons have long been believed to be institutions used to permanently or temporarily detain criminal outlaws, the state still cannot be oblivious to its moral as well as humanitarian obligations towards prisoners. It still owes them a chance towards a better life, a better future, none of which can be realised until their detention time is utilised as a rehabilitation opportunity. The limited availability of space in jails makes it nearly impossible for the authorities to differentiate between under-trial and convicted prisoners, Hence, the amalgamation of mild-natured and hard-core criminals facilitates Pakistani prisons in becoming a breeding ground for delinquency and immorality. Prisoners can only be reformed to become civilised and law-abiding citizens if the authorities pay heed towards their education as well as rehabilitation. Investing in defunct prison industries can also be utilisation of this manpower. The absence of proper arrangements to facilitate conjugal visits of spouses of inmates is another overlooked issue, which can only be resolved by constructing additional prisons. An increased capacity in the prison cells will also help the authorities to establish a system of check against the prevailing malaise of drug addiction as well as crime cultivation. Tihar Jail in India made headlines last year, where a security breach was found to have facilitated various extortionists working from behind bars. Although no such scandal has yet surfaced in Pakistan, reports of jail authorities with regard to smuggling and even human trafficking crop up from time to time.
The acknowledgement of jails being overcrowded also came from former Sindh chief minister Syed Qasim Ali Shah, validating the perception that the administration has full realisation of the gravity of this problem. However, until the government machinery starts a process of systematic jail reforms and tables extensive legislations in lieu of the centuries-old 1894 Prison Act, nothing significant can be achieved.
Prisons should be considered a place where inmates learn the value of deterrence, responsibility and rehabilitation, and keeping them in conditions not even suited for animals is a repudiation of basic principles of compassion, altruism and humanity.