| by Dr Shabir Choudhry
Round Table Interactive Dialogue Organised by OCAPROCE International during 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. 15 March 2012 16.00 – 18.00 Room 24, Palais des Nations, Geneva
( March 16, 2012, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is pleasure to speak to you on a topic which is so controversial; yet so important because of its great impact on our lives. Terrorism and violence affects our lives in so many ways. Because of issues related to terrorism our life style, attitudes and behaviours have changed; and it is dividing communities in to hostile camps.
It is often claimed, one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist, as there is very thin line between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. Before going any further, it would be pertinent to explain what constitutes terrorism. Like many other things in life, there is no agreed definition of terrorism; however the term is used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians by groups or persons for political or ideological goals.
The majority of definitions in use are written or proposed by government agencies who deal with various kinds of violence and terrorism, and that ultimately result in bias to exclude governments from such definitions. Furthermore certain actions are termed as ‘terrorism’ even though they do not result in violence or casualties, for example, the Terrorism Act 2000 include the disruption of a computer system but no violence is intended or results.
Some definitions legitimate use of violence by civilians against an invader or forces of occupation; but other definitions call all kinds of violent resistance as terrorism. Most people define terrorism which involves the use or threat of violence with the aim of creating fear to the intended victims and others in the community. This application of ‘fear’ distinguishes terrorism from both conventional and guerrilla warfare. Terrorism aims to achieve political or other goals, when direct military victory is not possible. This has resulted in some social scientists referring to guerrilla warfare as the “weapon of the weak” and terrorism as the “weapon of the weakest”.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines terrorism as “a policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorising or condition of being terrorised.”
Liberal democracies promote human dignity, liberty, equality and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; however, those who promote terrorism and violence challenge all the above principles. The Council of the European Union adopted a framework on combating terrorism on 13 June 2002 (2002/475/JHA), reads, and I quote:
‘Terrorism constitutes one of the most serious violations of those principles. The La Gomera Declaration adopted at the informal Council meeting on 14 October 1995 affirmed that terrorism constitutes a threat to democracy, to the free exercise of human rights and to economic and social development.’ Unquote
Terrorism could be International or Transnational, because it has become a ‘trade’ for some and it is no longer confined to boundaries of any one country. Terrorists and those who support them have developed a complex international network; and terrorism transcends national boundaries with help and support of people from different nationalities. Its planning can take in one country and its execution could be in other countries thousands of miles away. This kind of terrorism attracts wider publicity and help terrorists to promote their demands and cause.
In order to combat this kind of terrorism a sincere and concerted international effort is required. Terrorism experts define the following kinds of terrorism:
Non-State Supported Terrorism. Terrorist groups which are highly organised with their own finance and logistics; and good command and control system. They, by and large, operate autonomously without receiving any significant support from any Government.
State-Directed Terrorism. This class of terrorist groups operate as agents of a Government, act as a proxy to a government to advance interest or cause of that government or a cause which is mutually beneficial. They receive substantial intelligence, logistical, and operational support from the sponsoring Government.
State-Supported Terrorism. This class of terrorist groups have somewhat independent existence with their own resources and their own agenda; but at times they receive help, support and guidance from one or more Governments.
What motivates terrorists?
Ideological terrorism, where terrorists are motivated by some political ideology and they commit acts of terrorism for the establishment of a political system; which they think will benefit the society.
Terrorists could be religious fanatics who use name of a religion to provide justification for their actions;
Terrorists could commit acts of violence for some financial and political rewards;
Terrorists could be forced by circumstances, for example extreme poverty and bleak future for them and their families;
In some situations terrorist organisations and their sponsors pressurise vulnerable people to commit certain acts of violence or join them; and these vulnerable people find no way out of this, as refusal could result in serious problems for them and their families.
It is widely believed that ‘terrorist organizations do not exist in a vacuum’ – they heavily rely on states who provide them all the necessary support; and in fight against terrorism it is imperative that these states could be pressurised to stop their support for terrorists.
Fight against terrorists is not easy, because it is not possible to win or defeat those fanatics who are willing to die for their cause, whether that cause is justified or not. Phenomenon of Suicide bombers is not new, as they have been around in many cultures and religions for ages. It is believed that these fanatics burning with revenge or ideological fervour could not be influenced through reasoning or incentives.
Pakistan and militancy in Kashmir
Indian claim is that Pakistan launched a ‘proxy war’ in the name of “Operation Topac”. The entire scheme was formulated by former military dictator of Pakistan, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq. According to well-known journalist and author, Altaf Gowhar, Pakistan’s proxy war is amended version of “Operation Gibraltar” which was launched in Jammu and Kashmir in 1965.
The Indian officials claim that the Operation Topac had four main aims:
1. Giving training to Kashmiri youths in the handling of sophisticated weapons.
2. To destabilize and discourage the state administration.
3. To make the Kashmir Valley a Hinduless Muslim area.
4. To prepare Kashmiri Muslims for “Jihad”.
This strategy aimed to ensure that:
· A large number of Indian forces (more than half million) are kept bogged down in Kashmir;
· It will result in fatigue, resentment, causalities among civilians and men in uniform;
· In other words ‘keep India bleeding’, economically and militarily;
· It also ensures that the Indian forces will take causalities and in frustration react to kill and torture militants, suspected militants and their supporters;
· It will surely result in human rights violations which will result in more alienation and anger against India;
· It will keep fanatics engaged in Jammu and Kashmir, and probably get them killed, hence keep them away from cities and towns of Pakistani and Pakistani Administer Kashmir;
· It will provide Pakistan and Kashmiris with a propaganda stick to beat India at national and international level.
· It will motivate other extremists both Hindu and Muslims to organise in groups and clash with each other, creating further tension and chaos.
· This tension, frustration and alienation of Muslims in India will help to create divisions inside the Indian society; hence provide justification for the Two Nations Theory and Partition of India in 1947. I am sure one can add more things to this list.
It must be pointed out that it was not only people of Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir who were affected by militancy or by growth of Jihadi groups; we people on the Pakistani side of the divide also suffered because of this. Pakistani Administered Kashmir was used as a launching pad for militants; and presence of thousands of uneducated, ill trained and in some cases, religious fanatics created serious problems for the local people resulting in serious human rights abuses.
It is generally believed that Pakistani governments are responsible for promoting and exporting terrorism; and there is a lot of evidence to support that. What Pakistani governments and members of civil society have to think is that policy of supporting terrorism has proved to be counter productive, as it has caused enormous problems for Pakistan? Now, one can say that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism.
As noted above, terrorism provides very serious challenges to democratic values and free society. Where there is terrorism, violence and insecurity, businessmen shift their capital and business out of that country in to safer places. This in turn creates unemployment and poverty; and that helps terrorist organisations to recruit poverty ridden people. In other words, terrorism has very negative impact on economy, prosperity and fundamental rights of the society.
Way forward in Jammu and Kashmir
‘Terrorism should be replaced with tourism’, this phrase I have borrowed from Paul Beersman, President Belgian Association For Solidarity with Jammu and Kashmir, who has compiled a report of his recent visit to the area. He strongly advocates that violence in Kashmir should stop, as only ‘in a non violent atmosphere negotiations can be result orientated.’
If we really want to promote human rights then we cannot be selective. We cannot say, this community qualifies to enjoy benefits of freedom and all the human rights; and the other community does not deserve it. We must promote human rights of all citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and respect their religious, social and cultural values.
Similarly we cannot be selective when it comes to terrorism. We cannot justify acts of violence when they take place in Afghanistan and in Kashmir; and call them terrorism when they take place in places like Balochistan and FATA.
Despite all the suffering, death and destruction, we people of Jammu and Kashmir are not even considered party to the Kashmir dispute, as it is India and Pakistan who call shots in our names. We are kept away from the negotiating table. Islamabad and New Delhi need to know that we are the main party to this dispute and we must have the final say about our future.
It is sad that we have lost so many people since 1988/89 when the militancy started in Kashmir. We cannot bring those who have died in Jammu and Kashmir; however, we can make serious efforts to save those who are still alive. If we cannot resolve the complex Kashmir dispute under the prevailing situation, then let us work hard to improve quality of life on both sides of the divide; and ensure that they live in peace dignity and honour.
To achieve the above and to create conducive environment for a tripartite dialogue, both India and Pakistan need to take more Kashmir centric Confidence Building Measures. They should relax visa restrictions and open all traditional routes linking various parts of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and allow forcibly divided people to interact and trade with each other.