Toronto, Canada : International Center for Peace and Democracy (ICPD) is a Toronto based think tank advocating secular democracy and peace in South Asia . Executive Director of ICPD, Muhammad Mumtaz Khan, who comes from Pakistan, administered Kashmir (PAK), has a thirty-year experience in the field of rights’ advocacy. Currently, he also represents International Kashmir Alliance (IKA) and All Parties National Alliance (APNA) in the European Parliament, North America and the United Nations.
ICPD organized a conference in Toronto on December 11, 2010, titled “South Asian Perspective on Regional Stability: The Role of State: Democracy, Dictatorship, and Extremism”. Prominent among the speakers were current member of the Canadian Parliament (MP) and former Premier of Ontario, Mr. Bob Rae; MP, MR. Derek Lee; former MP Lui Temelkovski; renowned Baloch activist and president of Baloch Human Rights Council of Canada, Dr. Zafar Baloch; renowned author, political analyst and Braodcaster, Mr. Tarek Fatah; Director of South Asian and Middle Eastern division of STRATFOR, Dr. Kamran Bukhari; Professor Sunil Ram; and President of Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies and Director of Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, Mr. Senge Hasnan Sering.
MP Bob Rae while comparing socio-economic and political situation in India and Pakistan stated that over years, India has evolved into a flourishing pluralistic democracy with liberal economy and decentralization of power, and this has helped her to rise on the international political arena. At the same time, Pakistan remains hostage to military rule which employs Islamic ideology to unify country encouraged extremism, and fails to address socio-economic issues resulted in deterioration and political isolation of the country at international level.
MP Derek Lee shared the fear that if the democratic government of Pakistan fails to establish its writ and doesn’t show sincerity in eliminating the terrorists in the areas under the influence of Taliban, then it would be the Taliban ruling the entire country in the coming years. Giving references of his few visits to Indian Kashmir and dialogues with the political leadership there, he called militancy an anathema and advocated for dialogue and promotion of cultural and commercial activities across the Line of Control as a policy to solve the Kashmir issue.
MP Lui Temelkovski brought references from sectarian and ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and emphasized on restoring basic rights and freedom of political activity and expression in PAK. He opined that Islam and extremism should not become the criteria to find a solution to the Kashmir problem, since such a solution will not be durable.
Dr. Tarek Fatah talked about human rights violations and oppression in Muslim countries where the rulers are involved in slaughtering their Muslim citizens. Mr. Fatah questioned to those who talk about Palestinian occupation but maintain criminal silence on the occupation of Kurds, Baluchistan, Western Sahara and other people by Muslim countries. He condemned the Muslim rulers for advancing oppression and maintaining occupations.
Dr. Zafar Baloch talked about human rights violations in Balochistan especially the recent cases of involuntary disappearances and genocide in which Pakistani military were involved. He appealed to the international community to support independence movement of Balochistan. He demanded that military centers in Balochistan must shut down. He also spoke about resource exploitation and role of Islamabad in depriving the natives of Balochistan of economic benefits.
Mr. Senge Sering talked about occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan and emphasized that Pakistan must abandon the policy of using the land and resources of Gilgit-Baltistan to promote militancy in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He also shed light on support extended by China to the banned militant organizations of Kashmir in the United Nations Security Council and shared the fear that the nexus developing between China, Pakistan and the Middle Eastern countries would lead to increase in extremism and militancy in the region.
Mr. Kamran Bukhari claimed that the political status quo between India and Pakistan would linger for many years to come and both countries should try to find a solution accommodating each other’s needs under the given conditions and geopolitical realities that exist and can’t be changed.
Professor Sunil Ram called … a failed state and a victim of two-nation theory, which became the basis of her creation in 1947. He stated that the country has become cancerous and reach the point of no return. He criticized the international community for providing funds to … rulers, which help them sustain financial support for militancy in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Mr. Ijaz Sheikh of World Sindhi Congress talked about socio-economic deprivation in Sindh and accused Islamabad of exploited the resources which contribute to more than sixty percent of Pakistan ’s revenue. However, share of Sindh in services and job quotas remain less than five percent.
Hans Bhathija shared the experiences of his family during division of India . He advocated for open borders and freedom of movement across South Asian nations to help find a solution for the political problems.
In the end, Mr. Mumtaz Khan analyzed the issue of nation building in South Asia and role of extremism and Islam in defining nationalism. He said that sentiments of common people have been ignored in Pakistan and religion is continued to be employed as a political tool to deprive the nations Pakistan of their genuine rights. The situation has forced the federating units to demand independence. He said that Kashmir problem was created by Tribal’s aggression when neither Indian forces had entered into Kashmir nor Maharajah had any intention to go with India but the aggression forced him invite Indian forces to expel the invader and singed Instrument of Accession. Afterwards, Mr. Khan thanked the distinguished speakers and the audience for their participation and hosted a reception in their honor.