June 29, 2017

Human rights abuses in Pak-held J&K


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Claudia Waedlich

29 June 2017

 

I, am honoured to speak at this June conference under the aegis of African Culture International (ACI) and its international friends that they have invited me to shed light on the human rights situation in Pakistan and the areas of the former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir which are illegally occupied by that country for more than seven decades.

 

I had no idea about the state of human rights in so-called Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan until I started my work with human rights defenders like Mr Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri and especially since China has started its first regional financial investment under the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There is no bad thing about such projects if they aimed at progress and prosperity of the people linked with such international projects like CPEC, but we have seen that instead of benefitting local people this project is benefitting the security establishment of Pakistan. Initially it was $46 billion, which exceeded to $57 billion, because of corruption in Pakistan and forces involved in this project. The two regions that are victims of exploitation of their natural resources are Baluchistan and Pakistani Occupied Kashmir regions, i.e., so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

 

China has no link with Pakistan without the regions of the former princely state, which are under the repressive political and economic system of Pakistan since decades. Another regrettable fact about this project is that it has been constitutionally linked with the sovereignty of Pakistan. In recent years, the Government of Pakistan under avalanches of pressure from its military has adopted such laws that proposed severe punishments to those who will raise any question of transparency or accountability or would peacefully demand to address any kind of development and environmental issues associated with project. The punishment of Baba Jan, Iftikhar Hussain and their colleagues are worst kind of examples in the 21st century that any political activist or environmentalist could not talk about preservation and safety of their habitat.

 

Mr Chairman, we are asking both the Governments of Pakistan and China to respect civil liberties, human rights and right to development of the people as per their commitment at United Nations and under United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNMDGs). It is sad that despite international support, the Government of Pakistan has badly failed to meet MDGs standards of health, education and development (HED) and there is no accountability in the funds allocated to them to meet the challenges.

 

The state of development in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan is beyond regional or international standards in this century of technological revolution. For instance, the people in both regions have been deprived of modern telecommunication facilities and the military of Pakistan has kept its hegemony on health, education, development and communications to keep the people marginalised. About 1500 educational institutions, which were demolished in the 2005 earthquake, have not been reconstructed yet. Thousands of children are compelled to continue their elementary and secondary education in harsh weather conditions in those Himalayan regions. The pictures coming out from those areas show unwillingness of the Government of Pakistan and their bureaucrats who are running the political and economic system of these regions. Anyone who dares to speak or demand these rights before local authorities or Government of Pakistan is declared as either anti-state or an Indian agent.

 

Mr Chairman, ostensibly Pakistan claims to be the champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but her definition of Kashmiri people is only limited to the people of Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir; she is not ready to allow the people of the Occupied regions of Kashmir to freely exercise fundamental freedoms. The people who do not officially subscribe Jammu & Kashmir accession with Pakistan are unable to contest elections, to seek an official job, or to benefit by local developments.

 

Apparently, Pakistan has established a local authority in Muzzaffarabad and Gilgit, but their businesses are in the hands of federal bureaucracy of Ministry of Kashmir affairs and Kashmir Council that are called ‘undemocratic institutions’ by the political parties of the regions. Today, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) which runs the federal government is ruling both regions of the erstwhile state. This situation is alarming and the extension of all Pakistani laws to its peripheries is sheer violation of the international conventions and United Nations Resolutions as well. Pakistan has no mandate and locus standi on Jammu & Kashmir, but she is claiming the state by using terror groups and proxies of different nature.

 

Mr. Chairman, no neighbour of Pakistan is happy or safe because of its foreign policy. In fact, that country has no foreign policy but pursues only a security policy to advance its regional and international agenda as a proxy state of China and Saudi Arabia. The communalisation of the state and society has stigmatized its own minorities like Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis, including Shia Muslim community. Churches have burned and Hindu girls forcibly converted to Islam under state patronage.

 

Terrorist groups such as Lashkar-eTayyaba and others that are barred in Pakistan are openly operating in Pakistan-held Kashmir regions. Because of these non-state actors, the entire region has been destabilised. The One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative is not a purely economic one; it is the strategic hub of the two-way service between Pakistan and India. China becomes the third party in Kashmir over CPEC.

 

It could also be the beginning of the future destiny for Europe, should Europe not recognize the danger from the harsh and one-sided conditions of the economic giant China. It could become a one-way street in the downfall of European democracy, because China has no democratic tradition; on the contrary. Let’s face as well China’s attempts to buy the key industries in Germany.

 

In this scenario we hope, expect, and demand to this June council to use its influence so that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of these regions be revived. I thank for your patience and your esteemed attention, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

Speech at side event during 35th Regular session of UN Human Rights Council on 14 June 2017

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