Pakistani wives of Kashmiri militants yearn to go back home

A group of Pakistani women married to former Kashmiri militants, along with their children, take part in a protest to urge Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers to allow them to return to Pakistan, in Srinagar on Feb. 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2019

Pakistani wives of Kashmiri militants yearn to go back home

  • Last week, all wives of former militants, protested in Srinagar demanding the return of their passports and permission to leave India
  • This is a humanitarian issue and should not be viewed as a political issue

NEW DELHI: Saira Javed gets emotional when she remembers her family in Pakistan; tears trickle down her face during a video conversation with her mother in Karachi.

It has been more than seven years since she last saw her relatives in Pakistan. In 2012, when she moved to Indian-administered Kashmir with her husband, Javed Ahmad, they hoped that the rehabilitation policy for former militants announced by the government at the time — led by Omar Abdullah in 2010 — would pave the way for a better life.

“We all regret that decision to come to India now,” 35-year-old Saira admits. “My husband and I were arrested when we entered Kashmir in 2012. I spent three months behind bars for entering India without valid documents, and my husband more than six months.”

She said the authorities seized all her documents, leaving her living in India effectively a stateless citizen.

“I should have been given Indian citizenship by virtue of being the wife of an Indian, but I have nothing and I want to return to Pakistan. We want the government to facilitate our return to our home country,” she added.

Last week, scores of Pakistani women, all wives of former militants, protested in the streets of Srinagar demanding the return of their passports and permission to leave India.

Ahmad, 46, and now working as a bus driver, left for Pakistan in 1990. He went to Karachi, acquired refugee status, and married his wife in 2000.

“From my village it was normal for young boys to be killed. My younger brother lost his life. Another relative also fell to the Indian bullets. I left for Pakistan at the age of 16 to save my life,” he said.

“The rehabilitation policy announced by the Omar Abdullah government was very reassuring and a very good gesture in building cross-border trust, but trusting India has proven costly for me.”

According to estimates, nearly 400 families returned to India from various parts of Pakistan between 2012 and 2015, with the government promising them education, employment and financial assistance.

K. Vijay Kumar, adviser to Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satya Pal Malik, said the issue was being taken seriously by the government. He told Arab News that the families “were given four routes to come back to India: Via Delhi International Airport, and the Wagah, Poonch and Uri border points, but most of them came via Nepal and did not have Indian passports.

“If a woman is from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) then there is a rigorous procedure and the No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to her is valid for only two weeks. We cannot compromise security,” he said.

Ahmad, though, claims that the only route available to his family and others to return to India was through Nepal, as all other routes were closed.

Sana Sheikh, who also returned to India in 2012, feels betrayed by the Indian government. A resident of Mansehra in Pakistan, she is suffering from depression because of the harassment she has faced at the hands of the Indian authorities over the past year.

“I came with a lot of hope of leading a new life in India. In the last seven years, I have faced so many problems. I have been living like a stateless citizen, denied basic rights as a Kashmiri and an Indian,” 29-year-old Sana said.

Mustafa Kamal of National Conference, a Kashmir-based political party headed by Omar Abdullah, told Arab News: “These are the tragedies of militancy.

“This is a humanitarian issue and should not be viewed as a political issue. Those who are in power: It’s their responsibility to handle these issues, and if these women want to go back they should be allowed to return,” he said.

“Those who returned to Kashmir should be given the benefit of the rehabilitation policy. The best rehabilitation policy is the thaw between India and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir. It was meant to soften the border. I feel that people from both sides of the line should be allowed to cross the border easily, but the government in Delhi has a majoritarian streak, and does not bother about the agony of the people of Kashmir.”


Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

Updated 2 min 46 sec ago

Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

  • With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit, which opens Saturday in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda
  • Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a colonialist mentality, prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming

PARIS: France’s Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal.
With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit, which opens Saturday in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda and pledging that delegates would hammer out “concrete measures” to tackle them.
Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a “colonialist mentality,” prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming.
“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka (G20) summit” in June, a French presidential official said.
As a result, France would oppose a trade deal between the EU and South America’s Mercosur nations, effectively killing any chance of it being ratified, he said.
Moves to prioritize the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda won backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting that the fires were “heartbreaking” and offering help to put them out.
But in a sign of EU disagreement, Germany said Macron’s proposal to block the Mercosur deal was “not the right response.”
“Failing to conclude the Mercosur agreement would not contribute to reducing the clearing of the rainforest in Brazil,” a German government spokesman told AFP.
So far this year, there have been 76,720 forest fires in Brazil — the highest number since 2013, official figures show, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest.
“The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron tweeted late on Thursday, suggesting it be high on the summit agenda.
But Bolsonaro blasted the move to make it a G7 item without any participation by Brazil, saying it reflected a “colonialist mentality.”
The leaders of France, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan already face a litany of issues in Biarritz, which is on a security lockdown for the summit.
Macron met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier Friday for last-minute talks trying to soothe tensions between Tehran and Washington.
A nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran all but collapsed after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew US support in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Tehran.
“We’re at a critical moment,” Macron warned on Wednesday, acknowledging that Iran is “laying out a strategy” for exiting the 2015 deal.
“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” Zarif told AFP in an interview.
He said he had a “good discussion” with the French leader, who would now hold talks with other European leaders to seek a way forward.
Macron’s diplomacy is a delicate task, with France seeking to roll back some of the US measures imposed as part of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
French diplomats have raised the idea of US waivers on sanctions affecting Iranian oil exports to India and China, or a new credit line for Tehran that could help the struggling economy.
That prompted Trump to accuse Macron of sending Tehran “mixed signals” in his attempt to broker fresh talks between the longtime adversaries.
But Trump appears to be the outlier among America’s G7 partners on Iran, despite speculation that Johnson, who claims a close personal rapport with the US leader, might be more amenable to endorsing his stance.
On Friday, a British diplomatic source said the UK would continue to back the 2015 nuclear deal, which it helped broker, as the “best way” of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Iran is just one of a host of issues over which G7 members are at loggerheads, upending a formerly cosy club of rich nations.
Trump will arrive in the glitzy beachside resort on Saturday already riled by a new French law increasing taxes on US Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. He is also threatening tariffs on the European automobile sector.
Just before the summit, China fired the latest salvo in its trade war the US, announcing new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports.
But in a sign of the summit’s lowered ambitions, French officials have scrapped the idea of a joint declaration at the end, breaking a longstanding G7 tradition.