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Human rights protections needed in Kashmir

BY DR. ABDUL RAZAK SHAIKH,

The Indian government revoked the special status accorded to Indian administered Kashmir in its constitution, the most far reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years.

A presidential decree issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution that guaranteed special rights to the Muslim majority state, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defense, communications and foreign affairs.

In the lead-up to the move, India sent thousands of additional troops to the disputed region, imposed a crippling curfew, shut down telecommunications, internet, and arrested political leaders.

The move has worsened the already, heightened tensions with neighboring Pakistan which said it would downgrade its diplomatic relations with India.

Human rights abuse in Kashmir is an issue connected to the territory’s disputed and divided status with respect to the conflict between India and Pakistan. The issue pertains to abuses particularly since the beginning of the dispute in 1947 after Partition of India.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution is an article that gives autonomous status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article is drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.

In 1949, a special provision was added to India’s constitution providing autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 allows the state to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters.

The United Nations human rights chief on Monday voiced alarm over the situation in Kashmir, pointing among other things to restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists.

I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris , Michelle Bachelet said in her opening statement to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva.

Bachelet said she had urged both the countries to ensure that rights in the region were respected and protected. But she said she had appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people’s access to basic services, and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed Bachelet’s comments in a series of tweets on Monday, and called on the UNHCR to form an independent commission to investigate human rights atrocities in Indian-administered Kashmir.

During the session from September 9 to September 27, the council will examine over 90 reports on a wide range of issues presented by 25 human rights experts, groups, and mechanisms.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said that the international community must not remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in occupied Kashmir.

Addressing the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Qureshi while referring to India’s recent actions in Kashmir said, Today, I have knocked on the doors of the Human Rights Council, the repository of the world’s conscience on human rights, to seek justice and respect for the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

We must not allow this august body to be embarrassed on the world stage. As a founding member of this council, Pakistan feels morally and ethically bound to prevent this from occurring, he stressed, adding that in order to do so the body should not remain indifferent to the tragedy that was unfolding in Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is also set to address the 74th UN General Assembly session to highlight Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir, with reports suggesting his speech will be on September 27.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi called for action to end the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. Lodhi urged the UN to implement its Security Council resolutions for the right of self-determination of Kashmiris to decide their future.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said last week that Britain had asked the Indian government to respect international standards of human rights, respect rights of Kashmiris and end lockdown of occupied Kashmir, which has now entered the second month.

Speaking in the House of Commons to give policy statement of the British government, Dominic Raab expressed alarm at the worsening human rights situation in occupied Kashmir. The foreign secretary revealed that Britain has asked the Indian government that reports of human rights abuses of Kashmiri people must be dealt with transparently, thoroughly and rigorously and international human rights standards must be respected.

Earlier, thousands, mostly Kashmiris, marched in Britain’s capital to show solidarity with the oppressed people of IOK, as the curfew and media and communication blackout in the valley entered more than month.

Human rights violations in Kashmir could be summarized as loss of lives, lack of the right to live and personal immunity and access to courts, illegal and arbitrary decisions on the custody of civilians, including children.

There are also the use of excessive force, including the use of pellet guns and shotguns, the use of torture, illegal abduction of people, lack of access to health and educational services, restrictions on the freedom of expression in traditional and social media, and repression against human rights activists and journalists.

We never forget the leader like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who always presented Pakistan’s case aggressively with regard to Kashmir on international forums. Jammu and Kashmir is part of Pakistan, in blood, in flesh, in culture, in history, in geography, in every way and in every form. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto always said these words before National and International Forum.

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