Journal of South Asia Women Studies

Pakistan, Burma, India and Human Rights

Editorial Note by Enrica Garzilli

The relationship between Islam and human rights forms an important aspect of contemporary scholarship. Current international events, especially on Pakistan and Afghanistan, have made the topic more relevant. Everybody knows about the flood, which began in July 2010 following heavy monsoon rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan. In its worst moments some one- fifth of Pakistan's total land area was underwater and in September some 200 millions populations were still sitting under nude sky without food, medicines and shelter. Post-flood diseases, loses and damages cannot be fully estimated yet, since it is considered the worst disaster affecting Pakistan, worse than Tsunami for poor majority. Belgium EU based Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD) said that flood damages in Pakistan are unrecoverable. The affected areas urgently need food, clean drinking water, cloths and essential using items and also cash help to go back homes. Six thousands villages and 400 thousands animals killed, and 31 lakh Acers agricultural land have been destroyed; 70 lakh peoples left homes and lost everything in the flood. The INSPAD directors said civil society organizations, as well as alien individuals and foreign governments, institutions, were working jointly to collect donations, relief items, goods and medicines in many areas, but “the ruler have not shown any deep sympathetic concern yet, since flying over the hard-hit areas does not benefit the affected population”.

Too bad Pakistani administrators of the res publica were again not able to help their subjects, since they have been replaced by Islam organizations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), which is a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, banned in 2008 by the United Nations after the Mumbai attacks, Al Rasheed trust, also sanctioned for its links to Al-Qaeda, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkatul Jihad al- Islami, Harkatul Mujahideen, Hizbut Tahrir and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. All these groups, although still working undercover, resurfaced to help flood survivors and set up relief camps in different parts of Karachi and the whole region.

JuD, under the name of Falah Insaniat Foundation Pakistan, set up around 29 relief camps at Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulstan-e-Jauhar, Landhi, Clifton, Korangi and other areas. Hafeez Tunio in the article “Militant relief: undercover, but not out of sight” published by the Express Tribune of August 17, 2010 wrote that initially the JuD set up its camp under its original name but the police started demanding extortion money. When the organizers explained that was charitable work, they started demolishing the camps, saying that JuD was a banned organization. That is true, of course: however, will be Pakistan able, now that apparently is on its way to become a democratic nation, to rinse itself from the evil of administrative and governmental corruption? Do not politicians know that the lack of the State, the lack of its active presence, and the lack of its capacity to provide help for needy people, pave the way to terrorism and mafia – the two most powerful and dangerous transnational organizations of the world?

Militant banned organizations were helpful to people and provided them with well organized help: politicians should not be surprised if their action once again will estrange people from the democratic procedures of a lay and modern State.

Talking about democracy and human rights around in Asia, we cannot overlook the release of the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on the 13th of November 2010, after almost 15 years of house arrest. B. Raman, Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and presently Director of the Institute For Topical Studies based in Chennai, in his article “India & India & Aung San Suu Kyi: Quo Vadis?” published on November 17, 2010 the South Asia Analysis Group wrote that, talking to a group of diplomats at Yangon on November 15, Suu Kyi paid tributes to the countries that had most supported her, and added that she hoped that India would be more pro-active in future, since India’s support would carry a lot of moral weight. That is in fact true. However, the military Junta, despite the availability of Chinese support and assistance, “would not like to deprive itself of Indian support since it would feel uncomfortable in the total embrace of China”. Moreover, I think that who would want an enemy like India as a neighbor?

B. Raman goes on saying that India “did the right thing in not supporting the West's demonization of the Junta and in keeping away from its policy of sanctions. At the same time, we ought to have tried a more nuanced policy of linking our support to the Junta to its taking the initiative for a reconciliation with the pro-democracy forces. We did not even explore the possibility of India playing the role of an intermediary between the Junta and the pro-democracy forces. While extending total economic support to the Junta, we should have politically tried to facilitate the process of reconciliation. Our extending total political and economic support to the Junta came in the way of our playing a meaningful role. […] Our policy of total support to the Junta proved to be as detrimental to the interests of the Myanmar people as the West's policy of unrelenting and disproportionate economic sanctions”.

India should not continue its present policy of full economic support to the regime, but should adopt a “a more nuanced political approach”, even though, according to Mr. Raman, Aung San Suu Kyi should get rid herself of the image that she is an icon of the West and not of the developing world. The right approach for Aung San Suu Kyi should be not to end the military rule but to have the military “rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism”, as herself had told in an interview to the BBC. In short, Mr. Raman says, “Army has always been a part of the political life in Myanmar. It cannot be ended in the near and medium term future. It can be diluted and re-shaped. That should be her objective”.

Mr. Raman hopes that India will take into consideration the oppressive political and economic situation of Burma people under the Junta, but at the same time does not supports Suu Kyi due to her being an icon to the West? Did I get it wrong?

What Mr. Raman writes is in opposition with the European Parliament resolution passed on November 25, 2010, where the Junta is deplored for having released Aung San Suu Kyi only after the elections, not allowing her to stand for them, and notes that unfair elections of November 7 have in practice legalized military rule. Hopefully India will not follow Mr. Raman suggestions to be guided by self interest only, will find again the idealism of the past, will promote democracy and will come closer to European views.

In this issue you can read the paper Victims or Agents? An Issue of Identity Amongst Indian Migrant Women in Australia, by Loshini Naidoo (University of Western Sydney, Australia), and two paper interviews. The first is An Islamic Feminist: Asya Andrabi and the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat in Kashmir by Francesca Marino (journalist, Director of Stringer Asia), based on an interview with Asya Andrabi, the founder and elusive leader of the militant female Islam group Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, in Indian Kashmir. The second is titled Afghanistan, Issues at stake and Viable Solutions: An Interview with H.R.H. Princess India of Afghanistan. It was written by myself and it is based on an interview with H.R.H. Princess India of Afghanistan, the honorary Cultural Ambassador of Afghanistan to Europe, approved in 2006 by President Hamid Karzai, and one of the founder members of Mahmud Tarzi Cultural Foundation (MTCF). The paper mostly deals with human rights issues and viable solutions for Afghanistan. The interview was made in January 2010 and anticipates some of the alleged misconduct of US soldiers revealed over seven months later by Wikileaks.