EDITORIAL: APHC and the UN resolutions
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) who is visiting Azad Kashmir and Pakistan these days, has said that the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir have run their course and there is need to look for a different mechanism to deal with the issue. Speaking at a press conference after meeting with General Pervez Musharraf, Mr Farooq said that the UN had failed to press India to honour the resolutions and there was no option but to work out a new formula.
Mr Farooq is right about the UN resolutions. But he should have mentioned, especially to the Pakistani audience, that these resolutions were passed under Chapter VI rather than Chapter VII of the UN charter. Consequently, even technically the UN was never mandated to mediate between Pakistan and India without the acceptance by both of such a role for it. Had these resolutions come under Chapter VII, they would have had a more binding nature and the UNSC would have been mandated to ensure compliance by both parties. However, as things stand, the dispute on Kashmir is linked to, and takes sustenance from, these resolutions. In the event, while it may be important for purposes of practical diplomacy and conflict resolution to look for solutions elsewhere, reference to these resolutions remains important for both Pakistan and the Kashmiris to retain their locus standi as parties to the dispute.
Having set this aside, it is encouraging to note that the APHC — at least the moderate faction — is prepared to get its act together and plug into the normalisation process initiated by the January 6, 2004 Islamabad Declaration, which includes talks to resolve the issue of Kashmir.
Two factors, however, require some thinking. Mr Farooq wants a time-bound framework to resolve the issue. So does Pakistan. The question is: What kind of time limit are we looking at even if one accepts the fact that the problem cannot be allowed to fester ad infinitum? Secondly, if ground realities have rendered obsolete the UN resolutions, what alternatives can the APHC think of, if it hasn’t already? Mr Farooq had previously indicated that he does not have a formula. He has now said that they (the APHC delegates) have discussed General Musharraf’s region-based scheme and found it interesting. However, Mr Farooq has stressed that they would not accept a division of Kashmir on religious lines or allow the Line of Control to be turned into an international border. Yet, he is prepared to look at General Musharraf’s region-based de-militarisation and ethnic-based partition.
Moving away from the UN resolutions means the APHC’s work is cut out for it. How will it prove to India and the rest of the world that it truly represents the Kashmiris? Will it continue to wait for cues from Islamabad or take the initiative on what is good for the Kashmiris? Would it be prepared to contest elections if India did not insist on holding such an exercise within the Indian constitution? The issue of representation is also important because Mr Farooq insists that a dialogue process must include the Kashmiris. For this requirement to become a reality, the APHC will have to work out a plan to prove its representative character. We hope that the present visit has helped the two sides clear some of the cobwebs on how to go about these issues and work out a joint strategy. *
EDITORIAL #2: Clementina Cantoni’s trauma and freedom
The Italian woman, Clementina Cantoni, who worked in Kabul for CARE International, an aid agency, remains in the hands of her abductors. She was seized by gunmen in Kabul when she was travelling with two other companions who managed to escape. Since then, until the kidnappers released a tape last week showing her flanked by two rifle-wielding kidnappers, there was no information on whether she was alive. Now that it is largely confirmed that she may be alive, Pope Benedict XVI has called for her release on humanitarian grounds. The Afghan government still does not know why or who might have kidnapped Cantoni. The why part of the question can, however, be safely answered in light of efforts by those groups that want the US and other foreigners to get out of Afghanistan to harass and intimidate aid and social workers.
Last October, three UN workers were kidnapped but were later released unharmed. Others have not been so lucky. Dozens of social workers have been killed by the Taliban or criminal gangs hired by them. Some analysts also fear that this could be the beginning of Iraq-style kidnappings and beheadings. While that cannot be discounted altogether, it does not appear that Ms Cantoni’s kidnappers want to harm her. They would not have waited this long if that were the intention. However, if she is not released, that could well happen and it would be really tragic.
Ms Cantoni, like others before her, has been caught in the crossfire of forces beyond her control. She was in Afghanistan to do some good for the Afghans. But the Taliban and other groups that do not want Western presence are prepared to do everything to sabotage efforts to put Afghanistan back on the rails, even if this means doing evil to those who are good. That is the larger tragedy under which Ms Cantoni’s personal trauma is unfolding. The government of President Hamid Karzai has still not been able to reach out to everyone and convince them that all factions have to move together for the greater good of Afghanistan. We can only hope that better sense will prevail and Ms Cantoni will be released. She is a selfless humanist who speaks for all the oppressed peoples of the world and deserves her freedom to continue her good work. *