Thursday, 28 July 2011

Peace in South Asia through Dialogues

Peace in South Asia through dialogues

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Chairman of the Parliamentary Kashmir Committee and Chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam JUI-F (Fazl) Party and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, came to the United Kingdom in July this year and he was invited by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London to deliver a talk on Peace in South Asia on Wednesday, 6th of July and he was also invited to a dinner party hosted by All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir on the evening of 6th of July.

Peace on South Asia through Dialogues
Underscoring the importance of peace in South Asia, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Chairman of the Pakistan National Assembly Kashmir Committee and Chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam JUI-F (Fazl) Party, said this was possible only through dialogue and mutual understanding.

The Maulana was talking on “Peace in South Asia” organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) held at the Arundel House, London, termed Kashmir and Afghanistan as the two outstanding issues standing on the way to peace in South Asia. Kashmir problem is a little longer and the Afghan problem is relatively newer. Rahul Roy Chaudhury, Senior Fellow, South Asia, IISS, moderated the event.

For the last sixty years there was this Kashmir problem and both India and Pakistan went to war three times. The Maulana said India and Pakistan, “having fought three wars, have realised that dialogues were the only way forward towards resolving the Kashmir problem”.

The Maulana said India and Pakistan “learnt some lessons and decided that instead of war we should come to solve these problems through mutual understanding and dialogue.” Kashmir is a regional problem, said the Maulana and added, “the better relationship between India and Pakistan is very important for global peace and both these countries were trying to resolve this regional problem through mutual understanding and dialogue.”

But while we are learning these experiences, the Western powers resorted to war in Afghanistan as a means of settling the Afghan issue. The Maulana said, “Instead of learning from the experience of Kashmir which brought us towards dialogue, the Western powers started solving the problem through war in Afghanistan.”

The Maulana said, it means that the world is now following two ways: peace in Kashmir and war in Afghanistan. “Kashmir is a regional bilateral problem which they are trying to resolve through dialogue whereas Afghanistan issue is an international problem and for the international problem the world is trying to solve it through the use of force. This is a paradox,” said the Maulana.

He mentioned that in the last 60 years, the situation in South Asia had been looked upon in the perspective of Indo-Pakistan relations but today the issue of Afghanistan had added to the list of problems facing the region. “We are still endeavouring to resolve the Kashmir issue when the Afghanistan was thrust upon us which has aggravated the situation and caused more blood letting,” said the Maulana.

Speaking about the background of the Afghanistan problem, the Maulana said the current issue in Afghanistan was a legacy of the Soviet Union occupation of the land-locked country. They have now been replaced by the American and NATO forces with the same designs and strategy as of the Russians, he added. The Maulana said, “If you go back to the incursion of the Soviet Union against Afghanistan this was said by the free world led by America that this was a war by Soviet Union to grab the resources of the area and Russia was trying to get hold of the warm water. Now this place has been supplanted by America and America is doing the same thing.”

The Maulana said that in the world there are two trends: one is terrorism and the other is the freedom for self-determination and independence. “Now the definition of terrorism is yet to be determined; but the definition of independence and the struggle for independence has already been defined very clearly and has been respected throughout the history,” he mentioned.

The Maulana said it was paradoxes that while the West wanted India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue bilaterally and through dialogues, yet it was trying to resolve the Afghanistan matter through the means of war. “Having fought for 10 long years and spent billions of dollars, the United States now want a peaceful way out of Afghanistan,” he added.

The Maulana said we had expressed from the very beginning problem cannot be solved through wars because 21st century is the century of knowledge, dialogue, human rights and mutual understanding. He impressed upon the West to combine its modern technology with the human resources of South Asia to seek peace in the region and enable the people to progress and develop and improve their standard of living.

“We have the human resources and you have the modern technology. Now according to the Qur’anic saying let us join both together; you have modern technology and we have human resources and we use this mixture of technology and resources together for the welfare of the greater humanity,” the Maulana said.

The JUI-F Chief said Pakistan had become the strategic partner of US but ironically its own territory was bombed regularly through drone attacks by the Americans, yet the US wanted Pakistan to do more. “Despite the fact that America considers Pakistan strategic partner, America praises Pakistan’s sacrifices; America sometimes tells Pakistan that you need to do more. If you do not consider Pakistan a sovereign country and if you do not appreciate the internal problems and needs of Pakistan then, of course, friendship and mutual confidence and trust cannot last.” The Maulana said there was a lack of confidence in the US-Pakistan ties.

Mentioning about Pakistan’s sovereignty, her Parliament, the Maulana said Pakistan has a Constitution and it has a Parliament and according to that Constitution Parliament is the supreme body of the country. He was of the view that due to the international pressure, Parliament resolution on drone attacks could not be implemented.

The Maulana said, “It is very strange that a person like me who is generally presented in the media as an old-fashioned person once inviting great powers for peace but the powers who were supposed to be leading the world to the 21st century they were bent upon trying to solve the problem through war.” “Now it is high time for the major powers of the world and think-tanks should once again jointly reconsider the issue and try to come to a peaceful solution of the issue,” he said.

The Maulana rejected the impression that Pakistani religious parties were fanning extremism and said on the contrary they desired peace in the region and had opposed the US policies in Afghanistan from the day one. “I want to bring on record that effort for peace is not limited to me nor to my party but it is a voice of all those who are associated with Pakistan’s religious politics. All religio-political parties and the religious institutions, the Madaris, religious schools of Pakistan which are generally projected in global media as places of terrorism, I bring this message on record that all of them support my vision of peace, global peace through understanding and through dialogue and if there is a difference of opinion or difference on particular viewpoint, this difference of opinion should not be taken as a support for terrorism. Let us talk with argument and reason because I believe ultimately strong argument and reason will prevail. This is my message to you and all and let us go into prayers together that one day we will see the world a peaceful place for the entire humanity,” said the Maulana.

The Maulana pointed out that the announcement of the gradual withdrawal of both US and UK troops from Afghanistan had clearly shown that the leadership of these two countries realised that the war in Afghanistan was unwinnable and the best recourse was peace through dialogues. “The news of peace talks with the Taliban is a strong indication in this regard,” he added.

All Party Conference on Kashmir on July 28
Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chairman of All-Parties Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir in the UK Parliament, hosted a dinner in honour of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Member of the Pakistan National Assembly, Chairman of the Pakistan National Assembly Kashmir Committee; leader of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, JUI-F of Pakistan, at Mumtaz Restaurant, London, on Wednesday, 6th of July, 2011.

The dinner party was attended by Mr. Asif Durrani, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan in UK, Mr. Salis Kiyani, Counsellor, Community Welfare, and Revd. Rana Khan, at the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth and British MPs Fiona Mactaggart, Simon Denchuzu and Lord Qurban Hussain.

Lord Ahmed expressed his great honour and privilege to welcome Maulana Fazlur Rahman to the United Kingdom.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir announced the All Parties Conference on Kashmir being convened in Islamabad on July 28 will discuss, analyse and deliberate in-depth the Kashmir policy and evolve consensus on the issue in display of national solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

The Maulana said all the parties represented in the national parliament had agreed to take part in the conference which would also be attended by the Kashmiri leadership and other stakeholders.

The Maulana said due to the current situation in Afghanistan and the internal challenges being faced by Pakistan, the issue of Kashmir had been placed on the backburner.

Referring to the regional situation, Fazlur Rehman said that Pakistan and India had realized the significance of dialogue and negotiations on the issue of Kashmir and had entered into process of peaceful solution of the dispute but on the other hand at international level paradox had emerged as war had been chosen as an option in Afghanistan.

He said that his own and his party’s stance right from the beginning was for political solution in the region through dialogue and engagement with the stakeholders.

The Maulana said that he fully endorses political and peaceful approach for the solution for various disputes be it bilateral regional or international.

Earlier, British MPs Fiona Mactaggart, Simon Denchuzu and Lord Qurban Hussain in their brief remarks called for the solution of Kashmir problem and said the human rights issue remained an area of concern of international community and rubbished claims by the Indian officials that this was a private matter. They said they would continue to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri community based in the UK and keep Kashmir on the public agenda.

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