If Pakistan is guilty of human rights violations, so is India with Kashmir

Ashok K Singh
Ashok K SinghSep 23, 2016 | 10:21

If Pakistan is guilty of human rights violations, so is India with Kashmir

Making violations of human rights by India and Pakistan a centerpiece of campaign in Kashmir and Balochistan respectively is like, as Shakespeare would have said "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

Both the countries are playing football with their people's human rights as they are engaged in a game of brinkmanship. They are raising the issue at the international levels thumping their chests as champions of human rights even as they don't demure at crushing the basic human rights of their own people.


Sadly, India and Pakistan can be clubbed as the serious violators of human rights in the subcontinent and beyond. If the people in the Valley are reeling from all sorts of excesses including deaths and crippling disabilities at the hands of the security forces, the people of Balochistan in Pakistan have been treated like the defeated subjects by an invading army.

Yet, human rights have become rhetorical tool in the hands of ruling dispensations of India and Pakistan. They are shifting blame onto each other to protect their own skins and derive international brownie points as far as human rights issues are concerned.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have been the last person to talk human rights from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly.

He was paying homilies to human rights at a time when almost the entire country including the Punjab and Sindh are under the army clampdown, and Pakistan is fighting an all-out war in Balochistan and Waziristan.

Referring to Kashmir, Sharif told the UNGA, "These Indian brutalities are well documented. I would like to inform the General Assembly that Pakistan will share with the secretary-general a dossier containing detailed information and evidence of the gross and systematic violations of human rights committed by Indian forces in occupied Jammu and Kashmir."


This is a person who as the head of the government in Pakistan is responsible for bombing, strafing, kidnapping and mass killings of his own citizens. According to respectable Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, the estimates of the number of disappeared in Balochistan are between hundreds and several thousands.

International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons quotes a figure of 18,000 and above as the number of people who have disappeared in the past many years.

In a dramatic change of strategy, India for the first time decided to use human rights as an instrument of policy against Pakistan last month. Against Pakistan's policy of export of terror and interference in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 that Pakistan "bombs its own citizens using fighter planes" and the "time has come that Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan and PoK."

Modi is factually correct. Pakistan has been bombing its own citizens using fighter jets. Pakistan indeed must be held accountable for the atrocities being committed by its army against its own citizens.


But is Modi comfortable raising the question at a time when his own government's human rights records in Kashmir is under scanner? The fact is raising the question of atrocities committed by the other, pointing fingers at the other are being used as a coercive instrument of diplomacy in furtherance of geopolitical interests by both the countries.

Using coercive diplomacy against Pakistan to stop the cynical use of terror as a state policy against India is fully justified. Modi is also well within his right to use all legitimate means, including internationally mandated use of arms, to force Pakistan to stop using cross-border terror raids and wanton killings.

However, the rhetorical use of human rights violations as state policy is a double-edged sword. It can set in motion a process that can open Pandora's box and can hurt the Modi government.

Squaring up with Pakistan on the issue of human rights is not wise and it's not in India's interest. Pakistan has earned the world's opprobrium for using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. It's unlikely to be designated as a sponsor of terrorism by the UN and by the global community, but few have doubts about the nature of the Pakistani state.

Pakistan has lived under military rules for the better part of its history. It has a civilian government in a name, which functions under the thumb of its military rulers.

Its democratic institutions are still not mature and entrenched. On the contrary, India's fledgling democratic credentials are respected in the world.

Modi, perhaps, is forgetting that India had to endure tough questions from the Western powers led by the US in the 1990s on the issues of violations of human rights in Kashmir. 

Robin Raphael, an assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asia affairs under the Bill Clinton administration had put the Narasimha Rao government under the global scanner by repeatedly raising human rights issues in Kashmir.

Human rights issues can be opened for a lot of subjective interpretations. When looked at with fine tooth-comb, the issues such as minority rights, religious rights, and rights of peasants and workers can raise several uncomfortable questions for India.

US President George Bush used human rights as a state policy tool in pushing his democracy project in the Middle East together with war on terror with disastrous consequences.

Bush's war in Iraq and Afghanistan had a subtext that was cleverly couched in language that pretended to promoting democracy and human rights.

New Delhi has got itself unwisely hyphenated with Islamabad by sparring with Pakistan on the human rights issue in the context of Kashmir and Balochistan.

Last updated: September 23, 2016 | 19:45
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