Tuesday, August 23, 2016

India, Pakistan "think alike" on foreign NGOs like Amnesty, which focus on human rights issues of Balochistan

By Our Representative
A former high-profile Government of India official is all set to create a flutter by pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have taken up the cause of Balochistan, yet the “credit for spreading universal publicity on human rights abuses in Balochistan goes to the London-based Amnesty International”, under attack in India.
Noting that the same Amnesty “paradoxically is now facing our Union Home Ministry’s close attention”, Valappa Balachandran, ex-special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, has said, “It is odd that both Pakistan and India think alike on foreign NGOs like Amnesty."
An national security intelligence specialist and a former Indian police officer, Balachandran served 17 years in Maharashtra, and 19 years in foreign intelligence service. He retired as special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, in 1995. and is based in Mumbai.
Recently, in India Amnesty has been charged with sedition by Hindu fundamentalists for arranging a Kashmir meeting in Bengaluru, recalls Balachandran, pointing out that it is the same organization which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
“Its 2015-16 annual report said that ‘in April, a human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was killed after hosting a discussion on Balochistan at her cafe in Karachi. Her driver, a key witness, subsequently was shot dead, despite the Sindh Witness Protection Act 2013 that was passed to protect witnesses’,” Balachandran says.
Pointing our similarity of attacks in India and Pakistan on civil rights organizations, Balachandran says, “In January 2015 India prevented a Greenpeace campaigner from going to UK for attending a conference. Amnesty reported that three Baloch activists were prevented in March 2015 at Karachi from going to USA to attend a joint meeting of Baluch and Sindhi activists.”
Quoting Amnesty, the ex-official says, “In October 2015 Pakistan asked all NGOs to register and obtain permission from the Ministry of Interior for carrying on activities. On August 13, 2016 our Home Ministry asked Amnesty to get a licence to receive funds from abroad.”
Suggesting that all this “might be a coincidence”, Balachandran says, but still it is “relevant at a time when we take the initiative to point out other countries’ human rights abuses.”
According to the ex-official, “As signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (1966-1976) we have certain obligations specified in UNGA Resolution 53/144 dated 1998.”
He adds, “Article 5 of the resolution recognizes the rights of individuals to form, join and participate in NGOs, associations or groups and to communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.”
Insisting that “this brings us to our own human rights situation”, Balachandran says, “Daily news headlines like ‘India blinding young Kashmiri protestors’ (The Guardian UK) ‘HC seeks details about people blinded, injured in the valley’ (Kashmir Reader), ‘Lecturer beaten to death in Kashmir; army regrets killing, orders probe’ (Mumbai Mirror) and ‘BJP worker killed by Cow vigilantes’ (The Hindu) do not give any credit to our own human rights situation.”
“Merely transferring the blame for the situation in the Valley on Pakistan is no solution”, he underlines, adding, “Are we sure that things in the Kashmir Valley will become normal if Pakistan, under international pressure, stops its interference?”
Balachandran wonders, “A guide to a resolution of the present Kashmir impasse could be what a non-political professional had suggested on August 19. Lt Gen DS Hooda, Northern Army Commander had said that everybody who is involved including separatists should ‘sit down, put our heads together’.”
Asking “Can We Really Put Pakistan on the Defensive On Human Rights Now?”, Balachandran says, “We cannot reject participation of ‘separatists’ who live within our borders. If we do, we will be no better than Pakistan. Why are we having discussions with Naga groups who still do not proclaim allegiance to our Constitution?”

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