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India-Pak Tensions: Balochistan likely to inform international community about Indian interference

After Modi's remark on the issue of Balochistan, mixed reactions from the concerned sides, the situation still looks questionable.

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Baloch people. Wikimedia Commons
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Sept 12, 2016: Earlier, welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Balochistan in his Independence Day address, several Baloch activists claimed that the people of the region support him and he should take up the Baloch issue with the international community at the United Nations.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri on Sunday declared in the State capital Quetta that parliamentarians from the province would visit ‘friendly countries’ to notify them and the international community about the interference of the neighboring countries regarding the issues of Balochistan.

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A Quetta datelined report carried by the Pakistan state-run news agency- Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) on Monday quoted the Balochistan Chief Minister as saying that an open letter would also be sent to the United Nations Secretary-General on the subject.

Islamabad has been dynamically and continuously protesting against New Delhi on the issue of Balochistan ever since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi intertwined into his Independence Day speech the issues of Pak-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit in Pak and the professed human rights violations as well as insensitive killings of ordinary citizens by the Pakistani forces in the Balochistan Province.

Before this, no Indian Prime Minister had ever spoken on the issues related to Gilgit and Balochistan during the Independence Day Speech or during any public appearance.

“When you look at things from the scale of human values and humanity when innocent school children were massacred in Peshawar, Indian Parliament wept, every school in India shed tears at this tragedy. On the other hand, we have a situation where some people glorify terrorists in our country,” the Prime Minister had commented.

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APP quoted Mr. Zehri as saying that some rebellious ones had been using the Baloch youth as the “fuel for their so-called freedom fight”.

 “Several misguided youths had joined the national mainstream after leaving mountains. However, some elements were sill talking about the so-called freedom in order to mint money”, he added.

No one would be allowed to enforce his stance and philosophy on gunpoint. The security situation had already been improved to the satisfactory level in Balochistan”, the APP reported.

Balochistan Chief Minister said, “ We are not afraid of India” while stating the statement of Prime Minister Modi had cleared the situation that as to who was behind the disturbances in Balochistan.

“We are not afraid of India. All the nefarious designs of enemies will be foiled at any cost,” the APP reported.

It quoted the CM as saying that a significant development had been witnessed in law and order situation, he said, adding that according to police record some 40 to 50 persons were reported to be missing, most of them were living in Afghanistan and Dubai.

“With the completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and making Gwadar Port completely functional would boost the local and national economy, besides bringing an economic revolution in the region”, the agency reported.

 “We will also make it clear to India that it was India that approached the UN several decades back on Kashmir dispute but now it is not fulfilling its promise,” said Nawaz Sharif.

On the move of Mr. Sharif to send his parliamentarians, the External Affairs Spokesperson had said, “Sending out 22 envoys is not going to make untenable claims legal. They should have sent just one envoy with the right message to the right country of putting an end to cross-border terrorism”.

The spokesperson also said that a part of J&K was illegitimately occupied by Pakistan and was a concern for India.

“The ground reality is that part of J&K is under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Any third party collaboration will be our concern,” Vikas Swarup said.

In its petition to the U.N. Secretary-General, Islamabad had termed Mr. Modi’s remarks on Balochistan and PoK as ‘unwarranted and in complete contravention’ of the U.N. Charter and reasoned that the remarks were aimed at diverting the world attention from the ongoing atrocities in the Kashmir Valley.

Where on one side, Baloch activists are happy that the world’s attention has moved towards the atrocities faced by Baloch civilians but the, on the other hand, Modi’s intervention is criticized heavily.

– prepared by NewsGram Team

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)