Pakistani linkage to Kashmir militancy was ‘in the past’
WASHINGTON: It caught many by surprise to hear a US official at a congressional hearing on Kashmir Wednesday that the linkage between Pakistani intelligence agencies and Kashmiri militancy was “in the past.”
During a hearing organised by Congressman Dan Burton, in answer to a direct question, senior State Department official Michael Kozak said there were no connections between the militant groups and the ISI “per se”. Their relationship was “in the past.” The US official was joined at the hearing by Don Camp of the Department’s South Asian bureau. Both officials are deputy principal assistant secretaries, with Mr Kozak carrying the title “principal deputy assistant secretary.” He works in the bureau of democracy, human rights and labour.
In answer to another question as to the US position on Kashmir, he said the US position had remained consistent over the years, namely that Kashmir should be settled by India and Pakistan in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. He also mentioned the 1972 Simla Agreement which calls for a bilateral settlement of the Kashmir issue. According to the Indian interpretation, Simla has ousted the jurisdiction of the United Nations and made the Security Council resolutions redundant, a position Pakistan does not accept.
In his prepared statement, Mr Kozak said there were human rights violations by both sides in Kashmir and while the two are interrelated “the actions of one side cannot justify abuses by the other. Two wrongs do not make a right.” He said Kashmiri and foreign groups are responsible for killings of civilians, kidnappings, rapes, extortion and acts of random terror. They had killed “hundreds” of Kashmiris. He also held them for responsible for the killing of non-Muslims, including Pandits. He also noted that these groups had attempted to enforce extremist versions of Islam in many places, including dress codes for women. He said intimidation by these groups had resulted in restraints on press freedom.
Mr Kozak did not spare Indian security forces either, holding them accountable for extra-judicial killings, custodial deaths, excessive use of force, torture, rape and arbitrary arrests though the Indian constitution was strictly protective of human rights. He also spoke about a plethora of special laws in force in Kashmir that made it difficult to obtain reliable information about the condition of people in detention. He said a number of people also disappeared in Kashmir each year and according to the government in Srinagar, between 1990 and 2003, as many as 3,931 persons remained missing.
The official said, “We have urged the Government of Pakistan to take steps to end support from its territory to both foreign and Kashmiri terrorists and militants. We have also urged the Government of India to take steps to end abuses by its security forces, including prosecution of those responsible. He said the US government would welcome “greater transparency by the Indian government to allow independent monitoring of alleged human rights abuses by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. The Government of Pakistan has a responsibility as well. We continue to urge the Government of Pakistan to end any support for cross-border infiltration and to terminate support within Pakistan for militant groups. Pakistan has pledged that no territory under its control will be used to support terrorism in any manner.” He noted that the last Kashmir Day speech given by President Pervez Musharraf was “more moderate in tone than in the past years, stating that Pakistan support for Kashmir should be political – not military.” He said the people of Kashmir deserve an opportunity to live their lives peacefully and without fear. —Khalid Hasan