Right of Reply: Balwant Kapoor

The president of the Indian Overseas Congress (UK) replies to an article by the new Pakistan High Commissioner, in which he defended the military regime in Pakistan
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The Independent Culture
FOR A man who considers his mission to be to correct Western perceptions about the fundamentalist face of Islam, Akbar Ahmed has in his recent article in The Independent portrayed an illiberal image of himself, opposing democracy and proposing a wholly illegal regime in Pakistan.

Which countries' democratic record is he questioning in criticising the Commonwealth's resolution to suspend Pakistan from its membership? How many stateshave a worse record than Pakistan in terms of military rule?

Yes, it is a fact that democracy has never quite taken root in Pakistan. But even the quasi-democracy permitted a liberty of sorts. A forcible overthrow of an elected government, no matter how feeble the electoral process, is never acceptable. If the people of Pakistan had grievances, they would have an opportunity to express these at the ballot box. In any civilised society a government is returned for a certain term. It has a right to rule for this period.

While General Pervaiz Musharraf's charges against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are ridiculous, the latter is, arguably, no saint. But it was for a normal Pakistani court (not one conveniently instituted by the armed forces) to pass judgement on this. The judicial structure in Pakistan may leave a lot to be desired, but there is no quick fix.

Then, quite out of context, Mr Ahmed could not help ventilate a peculiar obsession - Kashmir. In the 10 years that Pakistani forces have joined hands with anti-Indian militants in Kashmir, every disaffected group in Indian-controlled Kashmir has enjoyed the privilege of participating in free and fair elections in the state.

In case Mr Ahmed is unaware, the fact that no Kashmiri party inimical to India has taken part in elections - and has not done so because the emptiness of its claim of mass support would then be exposed - defines the militants as terrorists, not freedom fighters.