Kashmiri Mass Graves Demand Attention as well Mr. Obama!
By Momin Iftikhar
President Obama’s interview to CNN, disclosing that he has directed his national security team to look into the Dasht-e-Leili massacre of possibly thousands of Taleban prisoners by Afghan militias supported by the US, has come as a welcome acknowledgement of a tragedy that has been ignored by the US corporate media � and the US Government – for eight long years.
The heart wrenching episode involving the death of thousands of Taleban prisoners, rounded up in the final sweep of US Special Forces in Afghanistan, in Nov 2001 is no secret in Afghanistan. These captured Taleban fighters got suffocated during the two days transit to Sheberghan Prison in sealed cargo containers, without any food or water. The dead bodies were buried in mass graves, using bulldozes in a stretch of desert close to Sheberghan. Mass graves of Dasht-e-Leili were first reported by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in January 2002 but the mainstream US Media refused to latch on to the story in the prevailing mood dominant in the US in the aftermath of 2002.
A recently declassified 2002 State Department Intelligence Report, obviously made possible by the shifting US strategy in Afghanistan, bares it all – including the US tacit approval of the inhumane conduct of its Northern Alliance protegees who were delegated all the dirty work in cleaning up Afghanistan. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a long time Indian and CIA sponsored warlord has been held responsible for the massacre and the timings suggest that, through acknowledging his crimes, US is trying to soften the impact of his close association with the Karzai Government in the forthcoming elections. The acknowledgement of the crime against Taleban prisoners by Northern alliance warlords may help to focus attention on the fate of many Pakistani and Afghan Taleban who were flown to India for investigations and are reportedly lying in one of the many mass graves that dot the IHK landscape ; particularly in Baramula district.
The Indian clout that led to transfer of Taleban prisoner to India is linked to her crucial support to Northern Alliance during their rainy days in the period 1996-97. India was instrumental in cobbling together disparate non-Pashtun Groups including Uzbek Jumbish-e-Milli (Rashid Dostum), Tajik Jamiat-e-Islami (Burhanuddin Rabbani) and Hazara Hizb-e-Wahdat (Karim Khalili) under the overall leadership of the charismatic Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Masood. When the tables were turned onto Taleban in the wake of the US sponsored assault by Northern Alliance Forces in Oct 2001, India was ready to harvest the windfall. A diplomatic mission headed by their special Envoy for Afghanistan, Satindar Lambah landed in Kabul on 21 Nov 2001; even before inauguration of the Afghan Interim set up. Lt Gen (Retd) Sawhney, ex Chief of RAW, was nominated as the Indian Ambassador and he effectively laid out a formidable network of intelligence ingress in the post-Taleban Afghanistan.
So just as Dostum was consigning thousands of Taleban to death by suffocation and later dumping their bodies into mass graves of Dasht-e-Leili , a team of RAW officials was busy selecting Pakistani and Afghan nationals for flying to India’s own undisclosed Guantanomo to be used as clay pigeons for fake encounters and promoting the thesis of “cross-border-terrorism”. The Indian Team led by a major general was given free access to prisoners held in the Dashtak Jail in Panjshir. The selected prisoners were shifted to 6 Frontier Corps Headquarters at Kunduz under facilitation by Marshal Faheem and Younas Qanooni. They were flown to Dushanbe by two MI 17 helicopters for an airlift to New Delhi on 25 Jun 2001 by an IL-76 IAF aircraft. According to sources the aircraft had flown for the mission from the Hindon airbase a day earlier. In another incident a batch of 300 prisoners of Pakistani and other assorted nationalities was airlifted by Indian intelligence agencies from the Northern Alliance jails in Shibberghan and Bagram in November 2001. Having disappeared without a trace, these hapless people in all probability landed in the mass graves – much like their Dasht-e-Leili compatriots – after having been shot in one of the countless fake encounters that keep on coming to surface with a sickening regularity in Indian Held Kashmir.
The mass graves in Kashmir are not a matter of conjecture but a painful reality that despite having been pointed to by the local population have failed to elicit a reaction from India – or an outcry from global community. In a shocking report named "Facts Under Ground: a Fact Finding Mission on Nameless Graves and Mass Graves in Uri Area" the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) has indicated the location of mass graves in Uri Area in Baramula district where at least 1000 unknown persons have been interred by the Indian Army and its security agencies, claiming them to be foreign militants. In the absence of an independent and expert inquiry, who all lie in these soggy pits is any body’s guess. According to locals the bodies are a mix of Kashmiris and unknown foreigners who were executed by the Indian security forces in cold blood as “cross border terrorists”. These are believed also to hold the remains of those who were clandestinely flown in from Afghanistan and have never been heard off ever since.
Despite the authentic surfacing of mass graves in Baramula District, Indian Government has maintained a deathly silence over the Issue. Even the passage of a resolution by the European Parliament in Jul 2008, calling upon the Indian Government “to urgently ensure independent and impartial investigations into all suspected sites of mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir and as an immediate first step to secure the grave sites in order to preserve the evidence” has elicited no response. Indians have perfected the art of stonewalling any attempt at exposing their inhuman atrocities in Kashmir and they believe that they can take this heinous crime also in their stride.
President Obama’s ordering of a probe into the mass graves of Dasht-e-Leili goes a long way in repairing the much eroded moral authority of US in Afghanistan. Indian leadership that doesn’t tire of laying claim to the UNSC seat needs to follow suit. Unlawful killings and torture are violations of both international human rights law and international humanitarian law, set out in treaties to which India is a party and it must come clean on the Issue in a credible and transparent manner. India must be asked by the international community to initiate investigations into all sites of mass graves involving international experts and in line with the UN Model Protocol on the disinterment and analysis of skeletal remains. As a first step the grave sites must be secured so that crucial evidence is not tempered with. Dasht-e-Leili probe will remain incomplete unless its linkages to the mass grave sites in the IHK are thoroughly probed and the criminals identified and taken to task in line with the international laws dealing with such cases of inhuman conduct and bestiality.
Sourced from : Kashmir Watch