VII. Discrimination and Abuse Against Post-1989 Refugees
According to the Azad Kashmir Rehabilitation Department, there are 29,932 registered refugees who crossed over from Jammu and Kashmir state in India in 1989-91.86 Analysts suggest that there may be approximately another five thousand unregistered individuals, some of whom are former militants. Some of the refugees live in communities across Azad Kashmir, while others were housed, prior to the October 2005 earthquake, in refugee camps exclusively devoted to them (pre-earthquake figures indicated that there were 2,720 refugees in Manakpayan camp and 1,508 in Ambore camp, two of the largest such camps; current figures are difficult to ascertain).87
The refugees were fleeing heightened conflict in Jammu and Kashmir state and serious human rights abuses by Indian security forces. As noted above (see Chapter II), the government of Pakistan and the Azad Kashmir authorities welcomed these refugees at the time with some fanfare. But many refugees have found life in Azad Kashmir to be difficult and are critical of the Pakistani government and its policies in Kashmir. Most of the refugees are secular nationalists and, as also noted above, culturally and linguistically distinct from the peoples of Azad Kashmir . A primary motive for the discrimination they report would appear to be that many of them do not share the vision of a unified Kashmir under Pakistani control. Some have experienced abuse including arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment for seeking to exercise their rights.
Ghulam Ali Khan is from Kupwara district in Jammu and Kashmir state. He joined JKLF (Amanullah Khan group) when he was twenty-one years old. He told Human Rights Watch,
On February 16, 2005, India and Pakistan announced an agreement to start a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar from April 7, 2005.89 The refugees hailed the agreement and began to make preparations to welcome the first bus. In March, they succeeded in accessing the Indian media through Munizae Jahangir, a Pakistani journalist who freelances for the New Delhi-based NDTV.90 They appeared on NDTV in a news segment in which they specified their renunciation of militancy and appealed to the Indian authorities to grant them safe passage back to Jammu and Kashmir state. The interviews were widely picked up by the Indian media.91
However, it soon became apparent to the refugees, as it did to their relatives in Jammu and Kashmir state, that the bus service was limited and appeared specifically not to be open to controversial persons or their families.92 Zahid Butt, a refugee explained to Human Rights Watch,
Jamil Mirza, formerly of the Peoples League (PL, a Jammu and Kashmir-based nationalist political group), added,
As the April 7 date for the first bus neared, the Jammu Kashmir United Haqiqi [Real] Movement (a refugee and former militant umbrella organization) stepped up preparations to welcome the bus. It published leaflets (examples of which are in the possession of Human Rights Watch) welcoming the bus, and began organizing a welcome procession comprising 1990 refugees.
Jamil Mirza described what happened on April 6, 2005:
Independent journalists corroborated and supported the claims of the refugees and former militants.97
Mohammad Ayub Butt is a native of Budham district of Jammu and Kashmir state and now lives in Muzaffarabad. He is a former militant. He told us:
86 Official figure provided by the office of the rehabilitation commissioner, AJK government, to Human Rights Watch, August 2005.
87 Official figures for Manakpayan and Ambore refugee camps provided by the office of the rehabilitation commissioner, AJK government, to Human Rights Watch, August 2005.
88 Human Rights Watch interview with Ghulam Ali Khan, Muzaffarabad, August 3, 2005.
89 Landmark Kashmir bus link agreed, BBC News Online, February 16, 2005, [online] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4268121.stm (retrieved August 24, 2006).
90 Human Rights Watch interview with Munizae Jahangir, Lahore, March 27, 2005.
91 Former militants waiting to take bus back home, NDTV.com, April 4, 2005, [online] http://www.ndtv.com/template/template.asp?template=Indopakfaceoff&slug=Former+militants+in+PoK+await+Indo-Pak+bus&id=70979&callid=1 (retrieved August 18, 2006).
92 Kashmiris upset over bus permits, BBC News Online, March 4, 2005, [online] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4318445.stm (retrieved August 24, 2006).
93 Human Rights Watch interview with Zahid Butt, Muzaffarabad, August 3, 2005.
94 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamil Mirza, Muzaffarabad, August 3, 2005.
95 Section 16 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) ordinance prohibits speech that "causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public," or which "furthers or is likely to further any activity prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order."
96 Human Rights Watch interview with Jamil Mirza, Muzaffarabad , August 3, 2005.
97Pakistans largest circulation English-language newspaper, Dawn, wrote: Affiliated with the Jammu Kashmir United Real Movement, the detainees, some of whom had married here and ran small shops to earn livelihood, were taken into custody on Wednesday evening a day ahead of the launching ceremony of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to avert what the officials claimed any law and order problem. Nineteen of them were kept in the city police station here and the rest in the nearby Kahori police station before being moved to the central jail on Friday. The JKURM had publicly celebrated the Feb 16 announcement by India and Pakistan to start the bus service between the divided Kashmiri capitals. It also strongly criticized those Kashmiri leaders who were opposed to the bus service. An official, who requested anonymity, told Dawn that the JKURM members were been arrested under 3 MPO (Maintenance of Public Order), after intelligence reports suggested that they could block the smooth movement of the trans-Kashmir bus. However, a JKURM member showed a pamphlet to this correspondent issued by the group wherein it had asked its members and other residents of the capital to assemble near Domel at 10am on April 7 to welcome the guests (arriving) from Srinagar (through the bus service). We just wanted to welcome the guests from Srinagar because we have publicly celebrated this historic development the time it was announced, he said. The officials had assured that they would release them by Friday morning but instead of fulfilling their commitment they shifted them to the prison, he lamented . Officials had hinted that the detainees would be freed only after they provide a guarantee in writing that they would not create any problem in future. Five former Kashmiri fighters wounded, Dawn (Karachi), April 10, 2005, [online] http://www.dawn.com/2005/04/10/top19.htm (retrieved August 24, 2006).
98 Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad Ayub Butt, Muzaffarabad, August 3, 2005.