The Other Face Of ISI
By Zafar Iqbal
28 January, 2010
It has become an established tradition and social custom in Pakistan controlled Kashmir to express the solidarity with the people of other side of divided State through public processions on different occasions which are considered basic feature and necessary demand of local politics. Since the beginning of insurgency in Indian Kashmir, all major cities and towns in Pakistani part of the State have witnessed hundreds of enthusiastic demonstrations ‘to condemn human rights violations in Indian Kashmir’. These men- led processions rarely show any participation of women , except scant events arranged by non governmental organizations and other campaigners, which occasionally include school children and university girls, but, recently Muzaffarabad-the capital of Pakistan administrated Kashmir sparked with protest demonstrations against the human rights violations by Pakistan’s security agency- Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) whom officials were blamed for detention and torture of four local citizens. Hundreds of veil- clad old aged women and young girls took protest rallies against, what they called ‘atrocities of the ISI by tortoruring and kidnapping our sons and brothers’. At the first time in the history of the region, streets and roads of Muzaffarabad echoed with the feminist but vociferous slogans against the ISI and government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Previously, a rise of demonstrations of traders, students, lawyers and civil society groups were witnessed in the area. The protestors alleged that officials of the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan, which during the recent years have been criticized in home and abroad for its alleged extra judicial activities, have started harassing and abducting locals in Pakistani part of Kashmir. They blatantly accused the agency for interference in private matters of the public and also the intervention of Pakistan’s another security force-the Frontier Constabulary(FC), which has powers of working only in the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s troubled northern province, NWFP.
Profound resentment and anger in the citizens of Pakistani Kashmir started when a Lieutenant Colonel of ISI based in Peshawar, NWFP in Pakistan detained and tortured four Kashmiri youths following a petty financial dispute between a local citizen and one of the relative of the former, it was accused by the family and agitators. As per details obtained by this writer, On November 21, 2009 Lt Col Hamza, accompanied by ten staffers of the FC, went to the residence of Pervez who has borrowed money from a family member of the former. The agency’s senior officer took one young nephew to local police station and then made him hostage in Peshawar when Pervez was not found at home. Lately, four other young friends of the abducted boy -Ali Rathore, Raja Qayyum and Shafiq Butt were also taken away by the Colonel who lately informed the family on telephone that abductees would only be released if Pervaiz is handed over to Colonel.
After few days of the incident one of the abductees- Ali Rathore-22, was released in ill health who revealed shocking details of brutal treatment which was committed under the custody of the ISI officials. He was warned against publicising the details of his friend's capture by the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the Colonel repeatedly continued threatening the family members that remaining prisoners would be tortured more ruthlessly if details of the arrest were released in the media or to the public, however, the news of arrest of locals spread in the town like a fire and people started agitation against the state torture and abduction. Officials of both ageincies have been contacted to know their vision about the issue; however, any reply is not received till filing this script.
Meanwhile, people’s anger and animosity engulfed other cities like Bagh, Mirpur and Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir where furious speakers, especially dissent nationalists groups criticized ‘the excessive measures’ of Pakistani intelligence agencies against the people of Kashmir. Some observers term this development as a dangerous blunder of Pakistan’ stalwarts in security regime, which are already, engaged in a deadly war in NWFP and Baluchistan regions against the Taliban militants and Baloch separatists.
After this incident a large section of local population in Pakistani Kashmir believe that this fresh ridiculous clanger of Pakistan’s security spies has turned Muzaffarabad into Srinagar. Local political parties, human rights groups and defenders of civil liberties also have written letters and appeals to the premier of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Chief Justice of region’s highest court to intervene the matter but these appeals went in vain.
According to observers, this situation questions the so called indpendent status and authority of local administration and government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir which constitutionally holds a separate position in Pakistan’s state system, nevertheless, Islamabad has overwhelming influence and powers in the political affairs and administrative matters of the area.
Here, it is pertinent to quote the recent observations of Hong Kong based Asian Human rights Commission, which, denouncing anti people activities of the ISI in Pakistani Kashmir says that this recent occurrence “exposes the limit to Kashmir officials' authority over the ISI”. The AHRC is also calling for intervention of UN Special Rapporteur over detention and torture of these missing persons in Pakistani part of Kashmir.
(The writer is Executive Director of Press For Peace (PFP). He can be accessed via: www.pressforpeace.org.uk )