A file photo of a rally in Gilgit Baltistan (PoK) demanding reopening of the Kargil road and reunion with India (Photo: Twitter)
Geneva: Political activists from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan have informed the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about the serious human rights abuses in the region.
While giving an intervention during the 52nd Session of the Council, Nasir Aziz Khan, the central spokesperson of the United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) said, “Our organization would like to draw your attention to the serious human rights abuses that are taking place in Pakistan and its administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Human rights violations have been reported in Pakistan for many years, with a range of issues including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, discrimination against minorities, and limitations on freedom of expression and assembly”.
He added, “In recent years, the situation has deteriorated further, with a sharp increase in reports of human rights abuses. In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there have been strict restrictions on freedom of expression, association, assembly and publication. The region is governed by AJK Interim Act 1974 that limits the rights of nationalist Kashmiris to take part in the elections, or hold public office unless submitting allegiance to Pakistan”.
Nasir informed the UN that journalists have been targeted for reporting on sensitive issues, and human rights activists have been harassed and intimidated.
He added, “There have been reports of brutalities, including extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances of political opponents and rights activists. In addition, religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis, face discrimination and persecution, and there are concerns about the rights of women and girls, particularly with regard to forced marriages and honour killings. They are often the target of blasphemy laws, which can result in imprisonment or even death”.
“Kashmir’s state-subject rule of 1927 has been violated by the Pakistani government. This rule doesn’t allow non-Kashmiris to buy property in the disputed territories of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. However, Islamabad allocating land to the military and is settling its citizens in AJK and GB to change the demographics.”
“CHRAP urges HRC to appoint a special rapporteur or send a fact-finding mission to investigate these violations and the human rights situation in Pakistan and its administrated areas of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan”, said Nasir Aziz.
UKPNP Chairman, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri in his intervention informed the UN Human Rights Council that Article (19)-1 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights guarantees everyone the right to hold opinions without interference. “The people of Pakistani-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, however, have not had this freedom since 1947. Pakistan is systematically violating the land rights of the people of Pakistan in its peripheries”, he said.
Kashmiri added, “Land is not a mere commodity, but an essential element for the realization of many human rights”.
The United Nations has published several documents on this subject, rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands, territories and resources, including water. The government of Pakistan has failed in respecting these international laws and obligations in Pakistan-occupied Jammu & Kashmir and in Gilgit-Baltistan.
“In addition, Pakistan has violated UNCIP resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, out of 56 state subjects, Pakistan controls 53 through the Kashmir Council. Pakistan’s powerful lent officers enjoy impunity on the state budget. The local population has been deprived of adequate health, education and development facilities”, said the exiled Kashmiri leader.
He added, “Having a job in a local area has no merit. Ironically the current administration led by PTI is recruiting non-locals in various local departments. Another disturbing phenomenon is that women and especially young girls have been sexually exploited in various areas by both military and civil authorities”.
“Crimes against these vulnerable sections are increasing in the University of Muzaffarabad and women’s colleges across Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Several such cases remain unreported due to the weak civil society and political status of the region. Pakistan is also silently, gradually and systematically changing local demography. In both regions currently administered by Pakistan, the allocation of domiciles to Punjabi and Afghan settlers creates anxiety and resentment among local residents. The misuse of blasphemy laws to curb political freedoms is also rising”, said Shaukat Ali Kashmiri.
He urged the Human Rights Council to form a commission of inquiry to investigate issues of particular concern. Awarding local land to the Pakistani military and other institutions must be withdrawn and Pakistan must be asked to respect state-subject rule.
“Freedom of speech, assembly, and conscience should be respected”, he told the Council.