By :  Quayyum Raja

Two Kashmiris named Tanveer Ahmed and Safeer Ahmed were arrested on 21 of August 2020 and sentenced to two years each on 11 of April 2021 by the Dadyal Court Azad Kashmir. They were accused of removing a Pakistani flag from Maqbool Butt Shaheed Square Dadyal. Tanveer Ahmed initially argued with the local government that Maqbool Butt Shaheed hanged and buried inside an Indian jail since 1984 was the Father of the Movement for the reunification of Jammu Kashmir and therefore only a flag representing his ideology should be hoisted over his head. The local administration promised to remove the Pakistani flag but as it didn’t happen, Tanveer Ahmed brought the flag down himself. He didn’t defile or desecrate the flag but simply took it down and was waiting for a government representative to come and collect it. Tanveer Ahmed accused the Pakistan secret services to aggravate the situation and pressurised the local police to arrest him and his friend Safeer Ahmed. Safeer had no role in removing the flag. He just happened to be there and made a video just like dozens of other on-lookers.

When I heard of the negotiation between Tanveer Ahmed and the administration, I advised him not to act on his own. My view is that we should concentrate on the main Kashmir Issue. If and when the Kashmir Issue is resolved, all other minor issues will be resolved automatically. I did, however, agree that hoisting a flag over the head of the symbol of the freedom movement was nothing but a provocation by Pakistani officials and that Pakistan should not bring itself at the level of India but arrogance took precedence over the wisdom in this particular case which has only caused Pakistan an unnecessary embarrassment.

I had no intention to get involved in this case, but I was hurt when I saw our own local police battering Tanveer Ahmed and dragged him into police vehicle. I still expected the police to release Tanveer Ahmed once the crowd dispersed but when nothing happened for three days, members of Tanveer’s family requested me to find out his whereabouts. I rang the senior Police Superintendent Raja Irfan Saleem and asked if Tanveer had been taken to Pakistan by the secret services. It happened before when he was conducting a survey and I had to try hard to get him back to Azad Kashmir. Raja Irfan Saleem assured me that Tanveer was still in AJK. I said I wanted to meet him if that was the case. He immediately arranged the visit and I went to Chakswari police station along with a friend Shaukat Mehmood, where Tanveer requested me to send him a lawyer. Tanveer instructed his lawyer to apply for a bail but some people who wanted to cause confrontation accused me and police seperintendent Irfan Saleem to advise Tanveer Ahmed to apply for a bail. Whereas, the fact of the matter is that Irfan Saleem fully cooperated with us and wanted to resolve the issue soon and amicably. It didn’t happen because the prime minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan left the matter for PAKISTAN’s Federal Agency to dealing with it. I made several attempts to persuade the government to help the police to withdraw the case before it goes to the court but Farooq Haider remained irresponsive. We still believe that the AJK premier can exercise his Executive Power to withdraw the case. Pakistan must have realized by now that its policy has not served any purpose. Actually, the AJK government never deals with any matter regarding the independence of Jammu Kashmir or political Kashmiri prisoners. When I was held extrajudicially in the UK, the then prime minister of Azad Kashmir, Sikandar Hayat Khan said that it was a responsibility of PAKISTAN’s Foreign Office to negotiate with its British counterpart. Tanveer’s case was an internal matter but still, the AJK government handed over this responsibility to Pakistan.

The civil, session, High and Supreme Courts rejected Tanveer’s bail for political reasons rather than legal. This has also annoyed public which raised questions about the independence and honesty of the judiciary. Tanveer was blamed for providing India an opportunity to make a propaganda against Pakistan but it happened because Pakistan aggravated the situation itself and resorted to force rather than diplomacy and wisdom. I think now the is the time to try to benefit from hindsight.

WHY the High Court Bail Order was Delayed?

The Tanveer Family hired a lawyer from Rawlakot named Shamshad Khan who had two members of his team Sardar Rebaz and SM Ibrahim. Sardar Shamshad and Rebaz are are very competent senior lawyers. They managed to persuade the High Court to grant the prisoners bail on June 11 but they were still not released till 19 of June despite our consistent efforts.

What went wrong?

The judge granted the bail and the release order was a matter for the lawyer and the high court registrar but the registrar didn’t write an order. The junior lawyer SM Ibrahim assumed that since prisoners were in Mir Pur Division, the release order would be issued by the deputy registrar in Mir Pur. When SM Ibrahim arrived in Mir Pur, we accompanied him to deputy registrar. To my shock, he said he rang the registrar in Muzaffarabad who told him that the release ordered had to be issued from Muzaffarabad where the appeal was heard. As a result, a team was sent to Muzaffarabad at night. They got the release order at 11 AM and arrived back in Mir Pur jail at about six in the evening. The jail had promised us to release the prisoners no matter at what time the team with release order would arrive but the prison authorities kept us waiting for two hours and then said they needed to verify the order by telephone which could not be done because the court was closed now. I told them if the prison needed a verification from the High Court, then, why they gave us an appointment after the courts working hour. We demanded that the prison authorities should write the reason on the back of the release. An officer took to order back and after another hour, we were told that the officer dealing with the matter went home and we should come back in the morning. Lawyers Sardar Abrar Azad, Saad Ansari, Rizwan Karanat and I went to the Session Judge and complained of the delaying tactics of the prison authorities. We went back to prison in the morning. At 11.45 AM, I was invited to drive my car inside the jail. Nobody else was allowed to accompany me beyond the prison gate. As I went in, the deputy jail superintendent Raja Haseeb came out of his office and handed over Tanveer Ahmed and Safeer Ahmed to me. Tanveer Ahmed joined his mother in the car who was advised to avoid public gathering due to security risk. They rushed to an unknown place while I managed to take Safeer Ahmed to the Ansari Law Chamber. We were persuaded to go to the Kashmir Press Club for a brief statement. Tanveer Ahmed is scheduled to issue a press Statement himself in the next few days when his health and security situation allow him.

To sum up, Azad Kashmir government has not acted responsibly as usual over that matter relating to the independence movement of Jammu Kashmir, while PAKISTAN’s policy of Kashmir is not working and it needs to be reviewed. The AJK administration has once again appeared to be in a mess and the the legal practitioners have also lessons to be learnt. As far the AJK Civil Society and Kashmiri Diaspora, they have only gained respect and self-confidence. The District Administration including Deputy Commissioner, Police Superintendent and the jail Superintendent have behaved much better showing more dignity and departmental independence than the politicians.