Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2013

Chief Minster and Elections 2014

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

It is a good beginning that leadership in Jammu and Kashmir has felt the need to educate the people to move from a voter citizen into the second most important role of a vigilant citizen. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Saturday 01 July 2013 has asked the people at Baramulla to ensure permanent eviction of PDP legislators from the Assembly in the next 2014 general elections.

He has asked people to take to task PDP leadership for duping their voters by remaining absent from the legislature proceedings and denying their constituents the democratic right to be heard in the highest.

It is a simple mathematics. A common citizen or a member of any other discipline with an understanding of responsibilities of an elected member under an oath could very easily check the records of the Assembly sessions and debates. The quantum of presence and absence of elected legislators could be ascertained. It is not only the question of attendance only; these members have to be judged for their work in the best interests of their constituents as well.

As a constituent from Baramulla, I could join in to say that my village Naranthal has been given very little to celebrate since I left it in May 1973. It does not mean that I would rush to advise my family and villagers to join Chief Minister in his political crusade against PDP or their elected members for their absence and non-performance in the Assembly.

However, the political message could not be dismissed either. We should have known about it a little earlier and the Chief Minister in aggregate remains accountable for the failure of his legislative herd. The cabinet (Government) should have stepped in to make up for the non-performance and absence of PDP elected members.  Chief Minister remains under oath to serve the people and his statement in regard to PDP legislators, in particular from “Baramulla, Sangrama and Pattan for ignoring their legitimate duty to highlight public grievances in the Legislature and getting relief for them”  is a failure in the discharge of a public trust.

Important Elections

Elections 2014 would follow the May 2013 Pakistan elections and remain very important for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Kashmir need to prepare for this opportunity to use their vote as an instrument of change. Hurriyat boycott call has failed during the previous election and any call to boycott 2014 elections would have no merit. Elections in Pakistan were supported by a Fatwa and by the Secretary General of the United Nations. Pakistan has taken a new turn in asserting the voter’s power. Taking part in elections to elect representatives for running the day to day administration is a basic human right. It has been explicitly explained in UN resolution 91 (1951) of 30 March 1951 that elections in Kashmir would not be a substitute for the UN mechanism on Kashmir. It is so because all the three assemblies serving at Srinagar, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit are elected only from a part of the territory of the State and do not represent all people of the State. Any politics around an election boycott call has passed its sell by date.  Hurriyat leadership cannot continue to match the main stream agenda with its press statements. It has to guide people in the best interests of local empowerment and their role as vigilant citizens.

Witness to the miserable treatment

Prima facie Chief Minister has made a serious statement in public interest and it has a constituency in and outside the State. PDP has to answer the allegation confidently made by the Chief Minister to the effect that “Kashmiri youth got miserable treatment during Mufti government and that their next of kin and family members were black listed for grant of passports and government employment”.

In regard to the role of his government Omar Abdullah has said “that his government in real sense soothed their wounds by delisting the families of militants from the black list and providing opportunity of return to those who had not resorted to violence and guns.

“It was my government which delivered positively and effectively to provide relief to people and addressed political and development matters with commitment and without making any noise”.

A common Kashmiri should not have any bias or preference for one or the other political statement. He needs to have a check list of their performance in the assembly, on the ground and during their visits to Delhi and Islamabad. Whether one votes or does not vote, there has to be a government. The boycott school and the passive voters need to reconsider their roles in elections in the same manner in which religious scholars and UN Secretary General had to advise the people of Pakistan. Muslims and seven other non-Muslim communities namely Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Qadiyanis, Bahais and Buddhists paid heed to this call. They carried out an important civic duty.

Honourable return of youth

Chief Minister has rightly advised the people that members who have ignored “their legitimate duty to highlight public grievances in the Legislature and getting relief for them”, deserve to be kept out of the legislature business. One should have no issue with this litmus test. On this account he has highlighted two different standards in the behaviour of PDP in the treatment of surrendering militant, one as seen in the case of Syed Liyaqat Shah and the other while PDP allegedly sabotaged the MLA Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and NC supported resolution in the Assembly for honourable return of youth who had gone to PaK.

It is a serious allegation that “PDP denied the youth of Kashmir the chance of return and to live a peaceful life despite raising false slogan of ‘Healing Touch”. Chief Minister has said this in public and he remains under oath for his statements. Therefore PDP has a serious charge sheet to answer.

Baramulla fortress of National Conference

Chief Minister has very rightly flagged the relationship between peace and development. Governments never construct peace on their own unless the common man and woman in their homes, at work and on the street agree to an ownership of peace and development. It has to be common people’s peace and their development. One should not have any issue with this part of the statement. At a personal level it is to our advantage, if his party workers listen to him and reach out all areas in the district and help in the redressal of public grievances by becoming important link between the government and the people.

At a much broader scale his advice to workers to reinforce the NC cadre and make Baramulla fortress of National Conference, has its limitations. Omar Abdullah is under oath and he owes a duty to all State Subjects living in any part of the territory defined in article 4 of the J & K Constitution. These include people living in the other two administrations at Muzaffarabad and Gilgit as well. Chief Ministers have continued to fail in their Constitutional duties to people defined under article 48 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir for the past 57 years.

Appreciable and More

Disregarding the fact that Government is walking the last leg in its term, one has to appreciate decisions taken for the development of the District and for other such development projects in other adjacent areas.

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir has a higher burden of responsibility. He is party to a bilateral agreement with the Government of India, granting admittance to the Indian security forces to defend “territory”, and to protect “lives”, “property” and “honour” of all people. The role of his Government is referenced in the UN mechanism on Kashmir and the Chief Minister of J & K has to perform beyond peace and development, in regard to “all manner of people” under his oath.

These include the other political opinions represented on 31 July 1993 by an alliance named Hurriyat (now fragmented). One may have a genuine issue in respect of many of these letterhead groups but there could be no denial that there are serious political representations in the market. If the Chief Minster has advised his party workers to reach out to people in the District of Baramulla, in reciprocity a constituent from Baramulla District would respectfully urge upon him to reach out to substantive groups in the two Hurriyats and other substantive groups outside Hurriyat as well.

Any contribution towards educating people in regard to their pending claim to self-determination as equal people should be supported as a duty to “all manner of people”. Surveillance, restraints and obstructions do not serve the interest of ‘peace and development”. Respect for the protection and promotion of the full regime of human rights is the basis for durable peace and shared development. Refusal to participate in a death anniversary, continued house arrests and blocking the distribution of humanitarian aid don’t add up to honouring the oath to serve “all manner of people”.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.  He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He could be reached on email dr-nazirgilani@jkchr.com


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