Indian legal fraternity invites Pakistan’s CJP


PAKISTAN TODAY

ISMAIL DILAWARWednesday, 5 Jun 2013

Pakistan_india_flags

karachi – The judges and lawyers of the Supreme Court of India (SCI) are keen to invite Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhri to their country before his retirement this year in December.
They also showed their determination to take up with their government in New Delhi the issue of hundreds of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. “We are interested to invite the chief justice of Pakistan to India,” said Justice (r) AK Ganguly of the SCI.
Justice Ganguly along with Advocates Colin Gonsalves, Prashant Bhushan, Mukul Sinha and Nijhari Sinha are in Pakistan to attend the two-day India-Pakistan conference on “judicial activism, public interest litigation and human rights” which concluded on Wednesday.
Pakistani lawyer Faisal Siddiqui, Karamat Ali Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), and others accompanied the Indian delegation.
“He (CJP) has taken many bold steps to show what important role the judiciary can play in a society,” said Justice Ganguly during a visit to the press club.
KPC President Imtiaz Faran, Secretary Aamir Latif, Vice President Saeed Sarbazi, Joint Secretary Shams Keerio, Senior Journalist Habib Khan Ghauri and members of governing body welcomed the guests.
Advocate Colin Gonsalves said they had decided to invite Justice Ch during the two-day moot in Pakistan where events relating to the inspirational lawyers’ movement for the restoration of CJP were brought to his knowledge.
“We have concluded to invite him (CJP) to India before his retirement,” said Advocate Gonsalves. Chief Justice Chaudhri would retire on the 13th of December this year.
The Indian lawyer was all praise for the CJP for the latter’s suo motu actions with regard to the public interest litigation (PIL). “The exchange of views is very important,” remarked Justice Ganguly.
Quite few people in India knew about the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan in the favour of Justice Chaudhri after he was sacked by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
However, a Pakistani lawyer, Advocate Faisal Siddiqui told Pakistan Today that the CJP’s visit to India was just a ‘dream’ now. He, however, believed that such interaction would promote people-to-people contact between the two neighboring nations.
Earlier in a meeting with KPC’s governing body, Justice Ganguly said he had observed that judges in Pakistan were bolder than that of India. This, he said, was because of the lawyers fraternity which had been fighting for the independence of judiciary shoulder-by-shoulder with the judges.
About the two-day moot, Advocate Gonsalves said a weeklong conference would soon be held in India to which 20-25-member delegations would be invited from the South Asian countries.
The lawyer also vowed that his side would take up the issue of around 200 Pakistani fishermen imprisoned in Indian jails with the Indian government.
The Indian delegation viewed that the two countries had common values and culture, so they should live in peace and promote people-to-people contacts. Specially, they said, visa procedures should be simplified. “This is our first step towards building a link between the lawyers and judges” living across the border, said Advocate Gonsalves. The members of Indian delegation were later gifted “Ajrak”, the sign of thousands of years old Sindhi cultural.

 

India – Ignoring Custodial Deaths #Prisons


political-prisoner

Vol – XLVIII No. 19, May 11, 2013 | Rebecca Gonsalvez and Vijay Hiremath
EPW

There is justifiable anguish over the killing of Sarabjit Singh in a Pakistani jail but what about the thousands of deaths in police and judicial custody in India? Torture is common and rampant in police custody and deaths in so-called police encounters are routinely reported. Politicians and the media are demanding justice for Sarabjit. When will the Indian government hold the police and jail officials responsible for custodial deaths accountable and compensate the next of kin?

 

Rebecca Gonsalvez (rebecca.gonsalvez@gmail.com) and Vijay Hiremath (vijayhiremath@gmail.com) are human rights lawyers practising in the Bombay High Court.

The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” (Article 14 of the Constitution of India)

Sarabjit Singh, an Indian prisoner on death row in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan died on 2 May, 2013, after being assaulted in custody making it a custodial death. Sarabjit has been proclaimed a martyr in India, his body was cremated with full state honours, a three-day state mourning was announced and the Punjab government as well as the government of India announced compensation amounts (Rs 1 crore and 25 lakhs respectively) to the next of kin. Political leaders demanded that those responsible for the barbaric and murderous attack be brought to justice. All this is commendable, of course. One only wishes that the Indian government would act just as swiftly in every case of custodial death in our country.

According to the report of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), “Torture in India 2011”, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded a total of 14,231 deaths in custody in India between 2001 and 2010, which includes about 1,504 deaths in police custody and about 12,727 deaths in judicial custody. The ACHR report observes that these are only the cases reported to the NHRC, and do not include all cases of custodial deaths. The report attributes the deaths in custody to torture, denial of medical facilities and inhuman prison conditions. Once a person is taken into custody, the responsibility for his/her life, health and safety rests with the authorities in whose custody he or she is, be it the police or the jail authorities.

However, so far, the government has hardly ever immediately accepted responsibility for the deaths in custody, nor has it announced compensation in such cases particularly of such large amounts as promised to Sarabjit’s kin, or taken measures to speedily prosecute the officials responsible for the deaths. Yet the very same politicians are demanding on Sarabjit’s behalf what they do not willingly give to their own citizens. Nor has the government or the opposition ever expressed any kind of outrage for the deaths of the 14,231 people in custody in India between 2001 and 2010. The media, especially television channels, termed the custodial death of Sarabjit an act of butchery, referring to his assailants as “Pak butchers”, but do not show the same passion for justice when it comes to Indian custodial deaths.

Roll Call of Dishonour

What about the police officials in whose custody arrestees die in India? What about the people regularly killed in “encounters” with the police or the army? What about Sohrabuddin, Kauserbi and Ishrat Jehan? When will those responsible for their deaths be held accountable and punished for these reprehensible acts? When will their families be compensated for their losses? Their families are regularly denied basic documents relating to their deaths, such as the post-mortem report. Most of these cases are deemed suicides. In the case of encounters, it is alleged that the deceased shot at the police/army officials involved, who somehow miraculously escape unscathed. The accused in custodial death and encounter cases are rarely prosecuted, and cases of murder are almost never registered against them. The government seldom grants sanction to prosecute the officials involved. Sarabjit is supposed to have been assaulted by fellow prisoners. What makes the cases mentioned above far worse is that they are perpetrated by the police and the army, whose responsibility it is to protect the citizens of this country from crime.

Take the case of Khwaja Yunus. The young software engineer was arrested in December 2002 by the Mumbai Crime Branch in what is commonly known as the Ghatkopar bomb blast case. He was tortured and killed in police custody, and his body was never found. Instead the police indulged in an elaborate cover-up and attempted to show that Khwaja Yunus had escaped from their custody. It was only after his father filed a petition in the Bombay High Court that the government ultimately admitted that he had died in custody and paid his family Rs three lakhs as compensation. However, though the Maharashtra State CID (Crime Investigation Department) chargesheeted 14 police officials, the government sanctioned the prosecution of only four of them. The High Court in 2011 directed the state to pay Yunus’s family Rs 20 lakhs as compensation, but did not direct the prosecution of the remaining 10 accused who had been chargesheeted. This amount was paid to his mother almost 10 years after his death. The offenders are yet to be tried and punished. Ram Singh, the bus driver, and one of the accused in the recent Delhi 16 December, 2012, gangrape case died in Tihar jail in mysterious circumstances on 11 March. Some of the media reports indicated that Ram Singh was assaulted in the jail and succumbed to the injuries. No action has been taken so far against any officials or inmates for his death. Sanaullah Ranjay, a Pakistani national was assaulted with a brick by a fellow inmate in the Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu & Kashmir on 3 May. He sustained severe head injuries, and is presently on the ventilator in the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh. What did the authorities do to protect him? What is the government doing to protect people in custody? What are the preventive measures taken? Are there medical facilities and staff in every jail in the country to provide services in emergency situations?

Sarabjit was convicted in October 1991 of espionage and for carrying out a series of bomb blasts in Lahore and Faisalabad in 1990 that killed 14 persons, and was sentenced to death. A man who in India would be termed a “terrorist” along the lines of Ajmal Kasab the Pakistani national who was convicted in the terror attack which occurred in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008, and was executed on 21 November, 2012, or Afzal Guru the Kashmiri who was convicted in the Parliament attack case and was executed on 9 Februrary, 2013. Both Kasab and Guru were executed in secrecy, and not permitted to meet their families prior to execution. Their bodies were not returned to their families for the last rites/funeral. However, elaborate measures were taken by the government of India to ensure the speedy and safe return of Sarabjit’s remains. He was given a funeral with state honours! Why the discrimination? Why the double standards?

Torture in Police Custody

India signed the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997 but is yet to ratify it. A toothless Prevention of Torture Bill is pending before the Parliament, and there is very little hope that it will be passed within the tenure of this government. While there are jail manuals in many states, (besides the model jail manual) which state how prisoners are to be treated and what they are entitled to in prisons, there are absolutely no rules regarding the treatment of inmates in police custody and they remain totally at the mercy of the police. Torture in various forms is rampant in police custody with the degree differing according to the crime for which the person has been arrested, his/her economic condition and social status and whether he/she has legal representation. Scientific and non-violent methods of interrogation are alien to our law enforcement agencies. The most common form of torture is depriving a person of sleep for days together. Assault is equally common, so is the threat to rape and torture the female relatives of the arrestees and use of torture to extract confessions is routine. Recent laws have made such confessions to the police admissible, making the job of the police easier. Some Supreme Court and High Court judgements, most importantly the D K Basu guidelines on arrest laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997, and now incorporated by recent amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), have created a few safeguards. However, there is need for vigilant judges to ensure the strict implementation of these guidelines and provisions. It is important to note here that the Right to Life is a fundamental right in this country, guaranteed to both foreigners and Indians alike by the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India held in 1974 in the case of D Bhuvan Mohan Patnaik vs State of Andhra Pradesh that prisoners are not denuded of their fundamental rights including their right to life, by mere reason of their incarceration.

Make Equal Justice a Reality

While discussing the plight of Indian prisoners in foreign jails and campaigning for better conditionsis important, there is urgent need to look at the conditions of prisoners in our own jails. While the assault on Sarabjit Singh in the Kot Lakhpat jail that ultimately resulted in his death deserves to be condemned strongly and acted upon, the same must be done in every case of custodial death and extra-judicial killing in India. Our Constitution guarantees equality andequal justice to all. That guarantee must not remain only on paper. It must become a reality.

 

Spies of Punjab, ‘shown steps of gold’


CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The HinduFor one Sarabjit Singh, whose death brought politicians to his funeral and financial assistance for his family, the Punjab countryside is dotted with scores of men knocking on the doors of courts seeking compensation for the years many of them spent in Pakistani jails, and recognition of their services as spies for India.

Neither the government nor his family has ever acknowledged that Sarabjit — who died this week after being attacked by fellow prisoners in a Lahore jail — was a spy. Indeed, in the years before the campaign for commutation of the death sentence he received in 1991 gained momentum, none of the men who now say they were spies dared to approach the courts. Most melted back into the poverty-stricken lives they left before joining the dangerous world of espionage whose golden rule — if you are caught you are on your own — was, they claim, never disclosed to them. But Sarabjit’s saga slowly emboldened many former spies in Punjab and Jammu to file petitions, none of which have been viewed positively by the courts so far.

According to Ranjan Lakhanpal, a Chandigarh-based lawyer who has singlehandedly filed some 40 petitions of former spies in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, “The maximum relief that we have managed to get so far is a vague direction to the government to look into the matter. It has never resulted in any concrete benefit for the petitioners, most of who are penniless after spending years in Pakistani prisons. Whenever their cases are taken up in the courts, the government just refuses to acknowledge them,” he says. But they keep coming to Mr. Lakhanpal, who has in recent years become a beacon of sorts for former spies. Sooner or later, they land up at his office because he takes up their cases free of charge.

Poor families, from the border belt of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur in particular, are the recruiting grounds for intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), military intelligence (MI) and BSF Intelligence. And Dhariwal, Daduwan, Khaira Kalan and Kang, among others, can almost be called spy villages for the number of men that are recruited from here.

Some are even recruited from across the border, as the curious case of Karamat Rahi illustrates. Originally a Pakistani national, his story is illustrative of the murky work of espionage in which penury and desperation are attractive attributes in potential recruits and borders mere lines on the ground. Karamat’s father was a Mazhabi Sikh trader in Sheikhupura who converted to Christianity after Partition. After his death, Karamat came to India in 1980 on a Pakistani passport because, as he toldThe Hindu, he “like other Christians there, was being forced to convert to Islam.”

“Once in India, I was contacted by RAW and began running covert operations and helped recruit other agents for them.” His home base in Pakistan was invaluable for the agency, till he was arrested from Lahore in 1988 and sentenced to 14 years for spying. His salary at that time was Rs.1,500 a month, and he had been assisted to settle in Gurdaspur as an Indian national. “For a year after my arrest the government paid Rs. 300 a month to my family as pension, but stopped, presuming I had died when they got no other news of me.”

Karamat stayed in prison for 18 years. It was only in March 2005, when the former Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, went to Pakistan on a goodwill visit, that he, along with some other prisoners, were freed and sent home with the delegation.

Karamat moved the High Court seeking pension and a job for his son, but got a rude shock when instead of relief, the court fined him for wasting its time. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which asked him to provide proof that he was engaged in covert activities in Pakistan. “When the agencies recruit us, we are shown steps of gold. They promise us money and security for our families, all of which are forgotten when we are arrested,” he says. Karamat’s former employers offered him a small compensation amount of Rs. 2 lakhs to keep quiet, but he is bitter and refused. “I have spent the best years of my life in jail or working for this country. Now they shun me!”

There are many others. Kashmir Singh was working for MI when he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for spying in 1976. His sentence was stayed, but he remained in jail. In 2007, Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney discovered him in a Lahore prison and used his good offices to secure a presidential pardon for the Indian spy. When Kashmir Singh returned home after 34 years in 2008, he had converted to Islam and called himself Mohammed Ibrahim. Though the Punjab government gave him a plot of land and some money, his deepest hurt is over the abandonment by his former employer.

The petition of Balbir Singh of Amritsar in the High Court states that he worked for RAW between 1971 and 1974 and, after serving a lengthy sentence in Pakistan, he was freed in 1986. All that he wanted was that the period spent in jail should be treated as duty and he or his son be absorbed into service. Just before he died last year, he received a reply to an RTI application that he had moved, asking the government about the service benefits due to him. He was informed that since he was employed by RAW, his application has been moved to the cabinet secretariat for necessary action. His son is following the case in the court now.

Following Sarabjit’s death, former spies from Punjab and Jammu are now joining hands to renew their struggle for recognition and dues. “It is unfortunate how the government uses poor, gullible men like us, who are made to believe that we are actually serving the nation. As you can see, it is an illusion that gets shattered as soon as we are apprehended”, says Karamat. He admits though, that this has not deterred many more from joining the ranks that he has left.

Memorandum to India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners


MEMORANDUM

indopak

The Hon’ble Members,

India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners

Respected Members,

Greetings from Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy, India Chapter!

We are writing to you expressing our concerns on the issues concerning Indian and Pakistani prisoners. At the outset, we want to communicate our appreciation for the initiatives of the Judicial Committee and the prisoners visits organised. We are also thankful to the Judicial Committee for the recommendations you have made to the governments in the past.

We appreciate that the committee has been doing excellent work within its limitations since its inception in January 2007. The joint recommendations of the committee have been appreciated by both the governments and we hope they will address these recommendations with sincerity and willingness. We are happy to share that PIPFPD along with the National Fishworkers’ Forum (India) and the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum has been consistently demanding the governments to implement the recommendations made by the Judicial Committee.

We would like to place our demands (on prisoners in general) for the consideration of the JC:

  • Prisoners involved in minor offences like crossing the border inadvertently & visa violations need to be treated with compassion and the committee should recommend their release.
  • In case of a death of a prisoner his/her body should be handed over to his/her family in 3-4 days time. There are cases where dead bodies were handed over after 25-30 days. Also, a copy of Post Mortem Report should be given to the respective High Commission, so that rumours and speculations that can hamper te spirit of peace are put to rest.

We would also like to bring to your notice the issue of arrest of fisher people belonging to India and Pakistan.

The recent upsurge in the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of their boats since January 2013 has created panic in the coastal areas of Gujarat and Diu. Fishermen are afraid of going to sea to catch fish and this has had adverse effects on the economy and livelihood of the poor workers.

According to our information there are around 300 Indian fishermen in Pakistan’s Malir prison and about 100 Pakistani fishermen in various prisons of India. Also, about 765 Indian boats and over 200 Pakistani boats are rusting in Karachi and Gujarat harbours. These boats are owned by fishermen and are their only source of livelihood.

We appreciate the recommendations given by the Judicial Committee as on January 27, 2012 after visiting Indian prisons and meeting Pakistani prisoners, wherein the recommendations for mechanisms for release of inadvertent crossers and their boats where release at sea was given priority.

We request you to continue to address the issue of arrested fishers from a humanitarian perspective. We request the Judicial Committee to consider and recommend the following:

  • All Indian and Pakistani fishermen should be released and repatriated immediately and unconditionally along with their boats.
  • We demand for a “No Arrest Policy” for fishworkers, which would be a significant Confidence Building Measure.
  • We request that a computerized identity card along with a permit to do fishing be provided to each fisherman in order to speed up the verification process. Presently, due to lack of identity fishermen are languishing behind the bars for many years despite the fact that the maximum sentence awarded to them is six months imprisonment.
  • Both the countries must release all fishing boats, confiscated at the time of arrest of fishermen. In the past whenever, the fishermen were released, their boats were also released along with them, but that process has been suspended and now a large number of boats are kept confiscated despite the fishermen being released. We demand that the old system should be revived.
  • Constitute a high-level working group involving the representatives from the fisherfolk community to monitor and prevent the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of the boats.
  • In the long run, an Economic Cooperation Agreement between India and Pakistan is a requirement that needs to be addressed at the earliest since we are already faced with a situation of depletion of marine resources. A technical solution like a joint fishing zone is an option that would be beneficial to the fishing communities on both sides.

We are hopeful that you will consider the demands from PIPFPD, endorsed by the fisherpeople’s organisations of India and Pakistan and take necessary steps to prevent the misery of the fishing communities. We also hope the Judicial Committee will engage with all sincerity in getting the other innocent prisoners released, without bureaucratic delays.

Yours sincerely,

Ved Bhasin                                          E. Deenadayalan                                 Jatin Desai

Co-Chairperson                                    Secretary                                      Joint Secretary

                                                                                          (09869077718)

 

#Pakistan-Jinnah wanted ‘Mussalmans’ to enter film industry #Sundayreading


By Tughral Yamin / Photo: Tughral Yamin

Published: January 20, 2013

KARACHI

Where successive Pakistani governments have subjected the country’s once prosperous film industry to official neglect, a recently discovered letter penned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah reveals the country’s founder gave seminal importance to the industry.

“I am in receipt of your letter of December 30th 1944, and I wish more Mussalmans would enter into this realm of film industry, and I shall always be glad to do all I can to help it. I have noted that Mr Mahboob is producing a historical picture “Humayun”, and if I have an opportunity of seeing it I might be able to express my opinion about it, but generally I do wish that more Mussalmans would enter this line, as there is plenty of scope for them in the film industry,” reads the Quaid’s letter, dated January 6, 1945.

The type-written letter clearly bears his personal monogram and is neatly signed by his own hand.

The letter was written in response to a letter by Mohammad Masud, then a young political activist, who sought the Quaid’s opinion on the role of Indian Muslims in the sub-continent’s film industry.

Now in his 80s, Masud resides in Karachi with his grandchildren. While he has never been particularly talkative, many an eager ear has been mesmerised by his narration of pre-partition experiences. From his youth to his old age, Masud has also cultivated a penchant for writing letters to the country’s leaders, past and present. The Quaid was among the few who got back to him.

Pakistani film industry today is exemplified by mustachioed men with ‘gandasas’ staring down plus-sized women as they dance.

Cinemas themselves are dominated by Bollywood and Hollywood. The industry has been on the verge of demise ever since the separation of East Pakistan (and with it, its film industry), and the advent of the VCR.

The state, meanwhile, has had bigger concerns, leaving an industry, which once provided much revenue and was a means of promoting a ‘softer image’, in shambles. No government has tried to restore Pakistani cinema to its former glory – the state does not even acknowledge it as an industry. Similarly, little official attention has been given to film education – not a single state-funded film school exists in the country.

Quaid’s letter could not have been uncovered at a more apt time. It shows the level of enthusiasm a person who represented the entire Muslim population of India at the time possessed, even as he replied to someone as inconsequential as a young admirer – that too at a time when the entire region was embroiled in a crisis much graver than cultivating a film industry.

Masud still pens letters to the country’s present day leaders, often reminding them of their duty to the nation. Most never bother to reply. Only Jinnah had the courtesy and the vision to respond to each letter he received. One can only wish we could have another leader like that.

The author is the nephew of Mohammad Masud and a retired brigadier who teaches strategy at the National Defence University, Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2013.

Well-known Pakistani journalist Marvi Sirmed shot at


Press Trust of India | Updated: November 02, 2012 22:42 IST

IslamabadUnidentified gunmen today attacked prominent rights activist Marvi Sirmed in the Pakistani capital. She escaped unharmed.

The gunmen, who were in a black car, fired at Sirmed’s vehicle at Murree Road near Bani Gala on the outskirts of Islamabad while she was returning home from work. Sirmed has received threats from extremist groups several times in the past.

“They tried to target us twice and fired several shots at my car which they missed. Luckily, my driver sped away and we escaped,” Sirmed told PTI.

Sirmed is an outspoken defender of democracy and human rights, especially the rights of minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Shias. She has received threats from rightwing and extremist groups several times in the past, forcing her to change her residence frequently.

Often seen wearing a sari and a bindi, Sirmed has also faced accusations of being “pro-Indian” from extremists.

However, threats have never deterred her from taking steps to protect the rights of minorities and she was recently at the forefront of a campaign to prevent the abduction and forcible conversion of Hindu girls.

Sirmed, who works as the manager of a UN project to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy and parliament, also played a key role in the recent campaign to free Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who was wrongly accused of blasphemy after a Muslim cleric planted evidence against her.

Friends who had visited Sirmed at work two days ago said they had spotted a suspicious looking car parked outside her office late at night.

Police officials said they had launched an investigation into today’s shooting.

No group claimed responsibility for the incident.

In a message posted on Twitter, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Sirmed had been provided security at her residence.

Malik said he had asked authorities to submit a report on the attack on Sirmed’s car.

 

Malala and the death of female education in the Swat Valley #Mustwatch


This excellent 32-minute documentary captures some of the reality of the situation that Malala Fousafzai has faced in the Swat Valley, Pakisatan. The video shows Malala and her school master father as they deal with the threat and reality of violence from Taliban forces, and the closure of their school.  I believe that this video is a must-see.

The video is entitled Class Dismissed: The Death of Female Education in the Swat Valley.   The documentary was made in 2009 when Malala was just 11 and 12 years old but, with recent events, it seems even more relevant today.  The documentary was produced and narrated by Adam Ellick.

Warning: Some of the video show acts of violence, executions, beatings and dead bodies.

Why do India and Pakistan treat their fishermen like fish?



Last updated on: October 01, 2012 , rediff.com

 


*When a security force finds the vessel of another country within its maritime borders — with no “objectionable materials apart from a large cache of fish” — why can’t they simply ask the vessel to return, asks Shivam Vij

The insensitive governments of India and Pakistan are not moved even when one of their citizens dies in the other country, especially if the citizen was a poor fisherman arrested for the crime of inadvertently crossing a maritime boundary.

After 23 days of lying in the morgue of Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, the body of 32 year old Nawaz Ali Jat will finally reach Karachi on Monday by a Pakistan International Airlines flight. His family waited 14 years for his return, but they didn’t even get to know when he
died of kidney failure on September 8.

In May 1999, a cyclone hit the Karachi coast, pushing Nawaz’s boat across Indian maritime borders. Along with his relatives, Usman Sachu, Zaman Jat and Usman Jat, Nawaz was arrested. India and Pakistan were fighting a war in the treacherous mountains of Kargil, a war that these fishermen had nothing to do with. But since they were Pakistanis who had committed the crime of being hit by a cyclone, they were charged with more than just trespass. Nawaz was accused and convicted of anti-State activities. Their families thought they had died, until they got a letter from them from inside Sabarmati Jail.

The spying charges meant that even though hundreds of fishermen have been arrested and released by India and Pakistan since then, Nawaz and his relatives were not. When Mumbai-based journalist and peace activist Jatin Desai asked the Indian government about his case in 2007, the government replied that India has no Pakistani fisherman arrested before 2000.

Desai has met Nawaz’s family in Karachi and he says he wouldn’t know how to face them the next time he goes there. Nawaz Ali Jat died after a long illness on September 8. The Gujarat government informed the ministries of home and external affairs on September 10. On receiving no response they wrote to the two ministries again on September 15 and then again on September 21. The MEA finally woke up from its slumber and informed the
Pakistan high commission on September 26. That’s when Nawaz’s family in Karachi got to know.

As if this wasn’t insensitivity enough, it’s been five days since then and there is no news when the body could be sent to Karachi. The Gujarat government is yet to hear from the MHA or MEA.

This indifference cannot be explained merely by Nawaz Ali Jat’s nationality, because India clearly doesn’t care much about Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails either. Rambhai, an Indian fisherman, died in Karachi on May 28 this year, and it took over 40 days for his body to reach Mumbai, India and Pakistan’s reaction, as also of the media in both countries, would have been very different had these people been middle class city folk rather than poor coastal fishermen.

Indian and Pakistani fishermen are regularly arrested in the Arabian Sea between Gujarat and Sind. These are fishermen who have been fishing in these waters for generations. They did not ask for these maritime boundaries. More Indian fishermen than Pakistani ones get arrested, becausesome of the Indian fishermen deliberately take risk and cross the maritime boundary because there’s more fish there. This is partly because industrial
pollution has destroyed the ecology of the Gujarat coast. But often, it is bad weather or dysfunctional GPS that makes them cross that invisible border in the sea.

Another reason for such regular arrests is the Sir Creek dispute, where India and Pakistan disagree on what the maritime boundary is. On September 29, for instance, the Border Security Force arrested 9 Pakistani fishermen near Sir Creek in Bhuj. ‘The intruders were not found in possession of any objectionable materials apart from a large cache of fish stored in their boat,’* noted without irony.

Apart from Sir Creek area and the island of Diu (a Union territory), the affected Gujarat districts are Porbandar, Junagadh and Jamnagar in theSaurashtra region. The fishermen are from the Koli and Kharwa communities, though there are some tribals too. On the Pakistani side the fishermen are Muslim Kolis. These fishermen use not small boats but large trawlers.


They’re at sea for days. One trawler costs as much as Rs 50 lakh and up to
a hundred people are dependent on it for their livelihood. When a trawler
is caught by the Pakistanis, the Gujarat government gives each prisoner’s
family a princely sum of Rs 175 a day.

Jatin Desai, who is also joint secretary of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, has been following the issue for years. He tells me that until 1996, Pakistan used to release the fishermen with the trawlers on the same sea. But to discourage them they started retaining the trawlers and sending the fishermen via Wagah. This cripples them financially even after they return. As part of the ongoing India-Pakistan peace process the two countries have released hundreds of imprisoned fishermen in batches this year. But they still have the trawlers. Pakistan has some 600 of them, whereas India has 120.

There are around 45 Indian fishermen in Karachi’s Malir jail, of whom 11 were arrested last month. The number of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails at present is 60, in various jails in Gujarat. Desai tells me that this is the lowest figure of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails since 1999. Until last year, the number of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails was invariably
over 300, and that of Pakistani fishermen in India was never below 100.

When a security force finds the vessel of another country within its maritime borders — with no “objectionable materials apart from a large cache of fish” — why can’t they simply ask the vessel to return? What purpose is served by the arrests, keeping in jail (on tax-payers’ money!) for years and then releasing them like doves as some meaningless
‘confidence building measure’?

Saadat Hasan Manto‘s *Toba Tek Singh*, the no man’s land where his protagonist Bishan Singh dies because he refuses to choose between India and Pakistan, was still a piece of land. What did Manto know that the men who rule India and Pakistan extend their territorial madness even to the high seas, arresting each other’s Bishan Singhs daily, drilling into them that they aren’t simply the fishermen of the Arabian Sea but of India and Pakistan and they better know how to recognise which droplet of the sea belongs to which country

Shivam Vij

 

Pakistan: Investigate Plot to Kill Leading Rights Activist Asma Jahangir


Human rights watch, June 6, 2012-
Pakistani authorities should urgently and thoroughly investigate the alleged plot against Asma Jahangir and hold all those responsible to account, regardless of position or rank. A threat against Jahangir is a threat to all those in Pakistan who struggle for human rights and the rule of law.
Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – The Pakistani government should investigate allegations that elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have plotted to kill the prominent human rights activist Asma Jahangir, Human Rights Watch said. Jahangir made the allegation in a television interview on June 4, 2012.

Jahangir is globally recognized for her human rights work and is one of Pakistan’s most respected rights activists. She is credited with establishing the highly regarded independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and AGHS Legal Aid, the first free legal aid center in Pakistan. In a career as a human rights activist spanning 30 years, Jahangir has been a consistent critic of human rights violations by the Pakistani military and the intelligence services.

“Pakistani authorities should urgently and thoroughly investigate the alleged plot against Asma Jahangir and hold all those responsible to account, regardless of position or rank,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. “A threat against Jahangir is a threat to all those in Pakistan who struggle for human rights and the rule of law.”

Jahangir told Pakistani media on June 4 that she had discovered through a “security leak” brought to her attention by a “highly credible” source that an assassination attempt was being planned against her from “the highest levels of the security establishment.” She said that she believed it was best to go public with the information because she feared that she might be killed and a member of her family framed for the murder.

In recent months, Jahangir has been at odds with the Pakistani military in a series of high profile stand-offs. In November 2011, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, was forced by the Pakistani military to resign his position after allegations that he was responsible for a secret memo delivered to senior US military officials seeking support for Pakistani civilian control of national security policy. As defense lawyer in the “Memogate” affair, Jahangir raised serious reservations about lack of due process in legal proceedings against Haqqani and threats to his life from the military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Jahangir has also been a critic of the military’s policies in the insurgency-hit province of Balochistan, where it is accused of widespread killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.

Jahangir has frequently been the target of harassment and threats over the course of her career, Human Rights Watch said. She was placed under house arrest by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler at the time, after he imposed emergency rule in 2007. She played a prominent role in the “lawyers movement” in Pakistan, which led to Musharraf’s ouster and to the restoration to office of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

In 2010, Jahangir became the first woman to lead the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan’s most influential forum for lawyers. During her campaign for the Supreme Court Bar Association, Jahangir repeatedly received threats for raising issues such as corruption in the legal arena. Extremist groups and allied Pakistani media ran a campaign accusing Jahangir of apostasy – a capital offense in Pakistan – and urging lawyers not to vote for her.

From 1998 to 2004, Jahangir served as the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. From 2004 until mid-2010, she was the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

The involvement of the military and its intelligence agencies in high-profile killings is well-documented, Human Rights Watch said. In April 2010, a three-member UN inquiry commission into the December 2007 assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto concluded that Pakistani authorities failed to provide Bhutto adequate security and that elements within the military may have played a role in her assassination. The panel was highly critical of the “pervasive role” played by the ISI in the events leading up to the assassination. In May 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, was tortured and killed after receiving repeated and direct threats from the ISI.

“Governments that have lauded Jahangir’s human rights advocacy both in Pakistan and internationally should be alarmed by this alleged plot and press for a prompt and persistent investigation,” Hasan said

Pakistan offers little justice for victims of acid attacks


 

One little girl whose face was seared away wishes to die or turn back time. Her attackers are fined a few thousand dollars and left to walk free.

Acid attacks in PakistanZaib Aslam, left, with sister Rabia, is seen a few years before men threw acid at her in November in Faisalabad, Pakistan. The attack severely burned her face, sealed her eyelids shut and scarred her throat, making it difficult to eat. Zaib was 10 years old. (Handout / May 28, 2012)

May 29, 2012,

FAISALABAD, Pakistan — The cherub-faced 10-year-old girl was standing at a bus stop, saying goodbye to visiting relatives, when her mother noticed two motorcycles approaching, one coming down the street and the other from a graveyard behind them.She recognized someone on one of the motorcycles: her older daughter’s former fiance. He was clutching two liter-sized metal jugs.As two men armed with a pistol on the second motorcycle kept the cluster of relatives from running away, the ex-fiance handed one of the jugs to a fourth man riding with him. Without saying anything, they flung the contents at Parveen Akhtar and her little girl, Zaib Aslam.

The jugs contained sulfuric acid bought at a local market for 88 cents.

“It felt like someone had flung fire on me,” Akhtar said. “When I turned to look at Zaib, her face didn’t look like a face.”

In that terrible instant, much of Zaib’s face was seared away and her eyelids sealed shut. The acid splashed into her mouth, severely scarring her throat.

Six months later, Zaib always keeps a pink shawl draped over her head. She doesn’t want anyone — not even her family — to see her face.

She can’t see. Her throat remains badly swollen, so she eats only soup or bread dipped in milk or tea to soften it. There are days when she tells her family she no longer wants to live. And there are days when she sobs and begs for someone to turn back time.

“She’ll tell us, ‘I want my old face back!’ ” said Akhtar, whose right arm, neck and torso were burned in the attack. ” ‘All of you have normal faces! Why can’t I look like you?’ “

***

When Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar this year for “Saving Face,” her documentary on victims of acid attacks, Pakistan’s struggle to eradicate the crime drew worldwide attention, and horror.

A law enacted in December has established tougher penalties for acid attack convictions: from 14 years in jail to lifetime imprisonment, and a fine of up to $11,000 — a large sum for most Pakistanis. And yet every week, victims show up in emergency rooms nationwide, their faces and bodies horribly scarred.

No database exists that catalogs acid attacks in Pakistan, but the Acid Survivors Foundation, a Pakistani advocacy group for victims, estimates that 150 occur each year. The majority of the victims are women, and attacks are often an escalation of domestic violence.

“And at some point, the level of violence rises to a point where the husband wants to punish the wife by throwing acid at her to teach her a lesson and disfigure her for life,” said Valerie Khan, the group’s chairwoman.

Awareness about the crime has improved, Khan said, but Pakistan remains a patriarchal society where, particularly in rural areas, women’s rights are routinely ignored. Many attacks go unreported, and even when victims lodge complaints, police and judges often halfheartedly pursue the cases.

“The main trend in the Pakistani justice system remains that too few perpetrators are being convicted,” Khan said. “With local police and judges, the level of sensitivity and attention that they give to this issue is clearly insufficient.”

Here in Punjab province, women are often treated like chattel. Cases persist of teenage girls forced to marry men in rival families to settle blood feuds. Women who marry against their families’ wishes often become victims of honor killings. In a part of the country where local economies are driven by sprawling textile factories and sugar mills, women rarely own property or run their own businesses.

Victimization of women is especially prevalent within the underclass here, where education is lacking and large, extended families scrape by on a few hundred dollars a month. Zaib’s father is retired, and the eight children who still live at home rely on about $200 a month earned by Zaib’s 12- and 15-year-old brothers, who work as mini-bus attendants, and an 18-year-old brother who works at a bakery.

In the legislation passed in December, a loophole that once allowed acid attack defendants to avoid jail by reaching out-of-court settlements with victims was closed. That doesn’t give Zaib any solace, however. The attack that ended her life as she knew it occurred Nov. 25, just 17 days before it passed. A settlement reached in March between Zaib’s family and Ghulam Dastagir, the man who engineered the attack, is not affected by the new law.

The price that settlement put on Zaib’s face and misery was 350,000 rupees, about $3,800. Akhtar received 500,000 rupees, roughly $5,500. Leaning against a doorway at their two-room house in a cramped Faisalabad neighborhood, Akhtar glanced over at Zaib sitting motionless on a bed and acknowledged that settling was a mistake.

“I’m not happy with this agreement,” Akhtar said. “He’s free, and he could come and attack me again, or he could attack someone else in my family. That fear gnaws at me.”

***

Last summer, Dastagir, a 38-year-old supervisor at a Faisalabad textile plant, announced plans to marry Zaib’s 20-year-old sister, Nazia. On the day of the wedding, Dastagir didn’t show up. He had never told Nazia or her family that he was already married and had two daughters. His uncle had finally convinced Dastagir that he couldn’t go through with the wedding.

Two months later, Nazia married another man, a 25-year-old computer technician at a Faisalabad textile plant. When Dastagir found out, he was furious, Akhtar said. Dastagir focused his anger on Akhtar, who he believed had allowed Nazia to marry someone else.

“One day, he saw Nazia and me at a bus stop and threatened us,” Akhtar said. “He told me: ‘This marriage is wrong and I will not leave this alone. I will deal with you.’ “

On Nov. 25, Dastagir acted on his threat.

After throwing the acid, Dastagir and the other three men sped away. At the hospital, doctors sized up the damage to Zaib’s face and throat. Her face had been nearly flattened by the acid. Her nose was destroyed and her lips had ballooned.

Doctors saved her life, but lacked the means to do anything more than a single skin graft from her thigh that gave her face a bit more depth.

***

Police later arrested Dastagir and two of the accomplices. Dastagir, however, had connections with clout-wielding locals, including a Punjab provincial lawmaker, said Akhtar’s brother-in-law, Abdul Aleem. The lawmaker’s son-in-law began showing up at Akhtar’s house, urging her and her husband to accept money instead of a jail term for Dastagir and the other men, he said.

“There was no direct pressure, but we felt we were being threatened,” said Aleem, who became the family’s negotiator. “He’d say: ‘If you agree, in the future we will take care of you if you’re in trouble. But if you don’t listen to us, we won’t be on your side if you face trouble.’ “

On the day a judge approved the settlement, Dastagir and the other men walked free. Though the money is far more than either Aleem or Aslam, Zaib’s father, makes in a year, it doesn’t come close to paying for the raft of surgeries that doctors say Zaib will need to have any hope of improving her face and eyesight.

In the meantime, Zaib is the one who feels imprisoned. On the few occasions she has gone outside, neighborhood children have shunned her. “They stare at her face and say, ‘No, we don’t want to play with you,’ ” Akhtar said. She has missed five months of school since the attack. At home, she spends most of her time sitting alone on her bed, playing with dolls.

“She cries so much,” Aleem said. “There are times when she has said: ‘I want to die. It’d be better to die than to live this life.’ “

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com