ISLAMABAD: The British lawmakers whom India had denied a visit to Kashmir stated on Wednesday that situation in the occupied valley has turned into a serious human rights issue, demanding all states under the United Nations Charter to take notice and act.
After being deported from India on Monday, Debbie Abrahams, a Labour Party lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary group focused on Kashmir All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir (APPG) arrived in Islamabad.
Lawmakers Abrahams and Imran Hussain at a press conference along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office called for an immediate response by international community to take urgent notice of worsening human rights situation in Indian-held Kashmir. Abrahams said the group members will report back to their parties on India denying the visit and Pakistan allowing for an independent monitoring of its respective side of Kashmir. “We are not here for sight-seeing, but because that we are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Kashmir, and we are constantly raising it,” she said, and hoped that India will take the opportunity to reflect on Pakistan’s approach to address the issue and allow visit of the group, which she said is ‘not anti-India or pro-Pakistan, but pro-human rights’. Abrahams, who led a delegation of British MPs in a meeting with the Foreign Minister Qureshi here, stressed that international community needs to take the issue on priority and make sure that human rights are not negotiable, regardless of religion, ethnicity, age and gender. She said the resolutions of the UN Security Council are still in place and relevant for the current Kashmir situation. To a question on UK’s response to looming threat of genocide in Indian-held Kashmir, she said the independent group does not represent the British government and cannot speak on its behalf. However, she said, the group has host of ways to draw attention to the relevant authorities in this regard. “We as parliamentarians will lobby our governments towards the issue of geo-political significance as two nuclear powers [Pakistan and India] can come to loggerheads with each other,” she said.
Debbie Abrahams termed Kashmir the longest running dispute which escalated after India’s action of revoking the valley’s special status on August 5 last year. She mentioned the commitment of Pakistan government to resolve the issue, contrary to India’s attitude of not allowing international observers to monitor the situation.
Deputy Chair of All Parties Kashmir Group MP Imran Hussain said the Kashmir issue was not limited to being a bilateral matter between Pakistan and India, but has become a human rights issue which needs serious attention by the world community. He said had India nothing to hide about the situation in Kashmir, the independent group would have been allowed to visit the occupied valley. He termed India’s Public Safety Act as ‘draconian and illegal’, saying it is the moral duty of the world not to shy away from the issue. “We must help to assist and resolve the issue and the Indian government should realize its irresponsible role,” he added.
He said lockdown in Indian-held Kashmir has made situation cumbersome for innocent civilians who cannot even contact their relatives on other side of the valley. He said the UN Human Rights chief will also visit Pakistan soon.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said India has revealed its sham face of secularism and democracy by denying visit of an independent foreign group on Kashmir. He mentioned that All Parties Group of British parliamentarians presented a credible report on Kashmir situation in 2018, highlighting the ongoing atrocities by Indian security forces. He expressed hope that House of Commons, European parliament and US Congress will raise voice, similar to Pakistan where the parliament twice passed unanimous resolutions on Kashmir.
“The world’s parliaments should raise voice and back the international human rights organizations speaking on Kashmir,” he said, and expressed the fear that the disputed area can become a nuclear flashpoint with high prospects of making a global impact.
To a question on slow progress on Kashmir’s resolution, he said the government has revived the issue which had been put on back burner for last several years. “After 54 years, we have taken up the issue at UN Security Council and thus, a beginning has been made,” he said, adding that the recent statement of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres about UNSC Resolutions of being still relevant today was a great endorsement of Pakistan’s stance. Qureshi dismissed a statement by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar who said only one of the two democracies will decide about the fate of Kashmir, saying that decision by the ‘so-called democracy’ has already been taken on August 5 which was rejected by Kashmiris. “Today, a huge segment of population including Muslims and other minorities call the Citizenship Amendment Act a folly of India,” he said.
Separately, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday underscored that the international community has a responsibility in raising awareness about India’s crimes against humanity and putting pressure on New Delhi for implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.
Talking to the visiting British MPs, he said Pakistan believes that a just and lasting solution of Kashmir dispute is essential for peace, security and stability in South Asia. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to continue supporting the Kashmiri people in their struggle for justice and inalienable right of self-determination.
Imran Khan commended the group’s consistent focus on Jammu and Kashmir dispute and noted the important contribution made by its earlier reports on the human rights situation in the occupied valley. The prime minister apprised the delegation of dire human rights and humanitarian conditions in the valley in the aftermath of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019. He underlined that eight million Kashmiris are under a military siege for the last six months, with all their rights and freedoms taken away.