After spending 10 years and millions of rupees, what has the Kashmir Committee achieved so far?
Maulana Fazlur Rehman smiles when he has no answer to a difficult question. Whenever questions are raised by the opposition leaders and the media about his role as decade-long chairman of Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir and the money spent by this distinctive body, he just smiles instead of giving any answer.
Apparently, he has no answer as this special committee has done nothing in the last 10 years to help Kashmiris in their struggle against the India government. It has so far utilised Rs462.341 million public money since Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, was elected as its chairman.
The Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir was constituted by the National Assembly through a motion on August 19, 2008. The Committee, in its first meeting held on September 16, 2008, unanimously elected Maulana Fazlur Rehman as its chairman with the status of a federal minister. Besides, he has been enjoying perks and privileges related to the slot including a bulletproof car and a residence in the Ministers’ Enclave.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman was offered the chairmanship of Kashmir Committee first by the then Pakistan People’s Party government under a special political arrangement and later Nawaz Sharif, the deposed prime minister and former head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, retained him on the same position.
"It is a political bribe to Maulana Fazlur Rehman to enjoy the status of a federal minister," said Senator Enver Baig, the PML-N leader who often criticises his leadership for poor policies. "The Kashmir Committee under Maulana Fazlur Rehman is nothing but a joke and humiliation to the Kashmiri freedom-fighters."
Questions are raised about how effectively the Maulana has highlighted the issue of Kashmir at domestic or at international forums? How vigorously has he raised his voice against the brutalities by the Indian army and law enforcers in the last one decade in the Occupied Valley? The answer is a big NO.
"Yes, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has visited a few countries to highlight the Kashmir issue………..but no one was taken into confidence before and after his visit," said MNA Ijazul Haq, a member of the Kashmir Committee.
"We have only one prominent activity and that is to make a chain of humans’ hands at Kohala Bridge in Azad Kashmir to show solidarity with Kashmiris on a special day on every 5th of February," Ijazul Haque remarked sarcastically.
Condemning the performance of the committee, Senator Enver Baig said, "In the last 10 years, I have not seen any international commitments or any lobbying by Maulana Fazlur Rehman and I would strongly recommend that the money allotted to the Kashmir Committee in the last 10 years must be audited and presented before the people of Pakistan so that they should know where the tax-payers money has been spent by the Kashmir Committee."
The effectiveness of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir can be gauged by the fact that in September 2016 the former premier, Nawaz Sharif, instead of sending the Maulana and members of the Kashmir Committee, nominated and sent a team of 22 parliamentarians headed by Ijazul Haq as special envoys to Europe to highlight the Indian atrocities and human rights abuses in Kashmir after the killing of freedom-fighter Burhan Wani in July the same year. And the reason was simple that Maulana Fazlur Rehman was neither acceptable to the Europeans nor able to represent Pakistan at higher level to advocate the Kashmir issue.
Even last year on the occasion on Solidarity Day with Kashmiris, Maulana Fazlur Rehman did not present the memorandum, instead a Parliamentarians delegation led by Ijazul Haq, on behalf of the chairman Kashmir Committee, presented a memorandum to the Resident Representative of UN Neil Bhune at his office in Islamabad, which was addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
It is pity to note that most of the Kashmiri martyrs’ coffins are wrapped in the Pakistani flags and the bereaved family members and the Kashmiris are seen raising slogans, "Kashmir Banay Ga Pakistan", what is the response of the special committee to those who are martyred for freedom? How the Kashmir Committee will answer those who have lost their loved ones during the struggle against the Indian brutalities and human rights abuses in the Valley?
As per the Charter of Function, Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir has eight responsibilities to perform and on the top is to support initiatives and efforts aimed to achieve a just and durable settlement of the Kashmir problem, in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, to mobilise world opinion particularly Parliaments, think tanks and civil society organizations in favour of the legitimate struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to realise their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN resolutions.
What role this special committee has played against the huge amount it got from the federal government in the last one decade.
As per data available on the website of Finance Ministry, in the last 10 years, the federal government, during annual budgets, allocated Rs473.510 million for the Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir and it utilised Rs 462.341 million under different heads. And out of this amount, the Kashmir Committee has spent Rs309.404 million under the head of Employees Related Expenses including Pay, Pay of Officers, Pay of Other Staff, Allowances, Regular Allowances, Other Allowances (Excluding T.A). While, on Travel & Transportation and Entertainment & Gifts, the Kashmir Committee has spent Rs23,452,000 and Rs3,550,000 respectively during the same period.
The information available on the website of Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir, the committee held 24 meetings in the last 10 years. It means that the parliamentarians’ meetings to discuss the Kashmir issue are held after every 152 days or after every five months. And in the last six years, they met for only seven times despite increase in its annual budgets every year and the subsequent utilisation of this amount.
In the last 10 years, the Kashmir Committee media cell issued 64 press releases including 62 related to Kashmir, a statement of Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq related to the Indian atrocities in Kashmir and another one was Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s condolence statement on the demise of the owner of Nawa-e-Waqt and The Nation newspapers Majeed Nizami. If 64 statements are calculated, the average per year statements are 6.4, and per month is 0.533. Roughly one press statement after two months is the aggregate average of media cell.
In the same period, Maulana Fazlur Rehman met foreign ambassadors and Kashmiri delegations for 19 times to discuss the Kashmir issue. In average, he held meetings after every 192 days in the last one decade.
However, foreign ambassadors posted in Islamabad held meeting with the Kashmir Committee chairman twice to discuss the Afghan issue, not Kashmir. Besides, this special committee in the last 10 years organised two small special events related to Kashmir. "An Interaction With Diplomatic Corps" is the only major activity organised by the Kashmir Committee at a local hotel in Islamabad on March 15, 2012. And the credit indeed goes to Maulana Fazlur Rehman.