An Open Letter to H.E. Zeid bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


H.E. Zeid bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein,

United Kashmir People`s National Party (UKPNP) appreciates UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report June 14,2018 on Former Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir specially on situation Concerning Pakistani administrated Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) is a secular, progressive and democratic political organization of the region, striving peacefully for the cause of civil society, political, socio-economic and human rights of the people of Pakistani Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Since its inception United Kashmir People’s National Party has advocated for the unification and independence of Former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. UKPNP is opposing Pakistani policy to use religion as weapon and terrorism as foreign policy tool and our region as launching pad and training camp to suppress the secular, democratic and progressive voices of the entire region.

The so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are part of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, that has been illegally held by Pakistan since 1947. For the last 70 years, the Government has not only neglected this area’s development, it has systematically indulged in politically repressing the people. Though Pakistan Administered Kashmir is supposed to be a self-governing state, has remained a colony of Islamabad, with Pakistan’s central government taking all decisions.

Over the years, apart from a total lack of development and basic political rights, the people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have suffered from human rights abuses, largely carried out by army and other security agencies with impunity. The voices of the Kashmiri people demanding freedom from Pakistani rule has resulted in the state taking repressive action. This has resulted in regular instances of human rights abuses including forced disappearances, torture, political repression and electoral rigging and suppression of freedom of speech.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country’s intelligence agencies carry out extensive surveillance operations on the press and pro-independence groups, they have carried out arbitrary arrests in which people have been tortured and several have gone missing.

UKPNP welcomes your commitment to human rights, peace and conflict prevention, as well as your stated readiness to advance these causes through your good offices and personal engagement as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights .

Regarding Human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir following human rights violations were highlighted.
Constitutional and legal structures impacting the enjoyment of human rights
Restrictions on the rights to freedoms of expression and association
Impact of counter-terrorism on human rights
Violations of land rights.
Restrictions on the freedom of religion or belief

OHCHR recommendations made for Pakistan.

the Government of Pakistan:
(a) Fully respect international human rights law obligations in Pakistan-Administered
Kashmir;
(b) End the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and expressions of dissent, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to bring it in line with international human rights standards, including by incorporating human rights safeguards;
(c) Federal and local authorities should amend sections of the Interim Constitution of Azad Jammu Kashmir and other relevant legislation that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association;
(d) Immediately release from prison or house arrest any political activists, journalists and other civil society actors who have been convicted for peacefully expressing their
opinions;
(e) Federal and local authorities should amend the constitutions of Azad Jammu and
Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to end the criminalization of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and
to allow to them to freely and safely exercise their freedom of religion or belief;
(f) Abolish blasphemy provisions in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to facilitate the enjoyment of freedom of religion and belief by all people;
(g) Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.

During UN Human Rights Council`s session human rights activists of UKPNP through their oral statements and memorandums have been highlighting growing extremism and terrorism, enforced disappearances , extra judicial killings , lack of development, basic human , political ,socio economic , cultural and fundamental rights, the people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have suffered from human rights abuses, largely carried out by Pakistan army and other security agencies with impunity.

UKPNP urges you to include below mentioned reports in UN report on Jammu & Kashmir and redouble efforts to establish a program of human rights monitoring for so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan because international community has no access to these areas.

The local population of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan do not enjoy any basic political rights. As brought out by Human Rights Watch, the Government represses democratic freedoms, muzzles the press and practices routine torture. Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of Government policy in the area. Pakistan has prevented the creation of independent media in the territory through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion.

Under the interim constitution of ‘Azad Kashmir’, which Pakistan enforced in 1974, aspiring candidates are “pre-screened” to ensure that only those who support Kashmir’s annexation with Pakistan can contest elections. Anyone who wants to take part in public life in Pakistan Administered Kashmir has to sign a “Pledge of loyalty to Pakistan”, while anyone who publicly supports or peacefully works for an independent Kashmir faces persecution.

The electoral law undermines the basic political rights of Kashmiris’ by barring them from seeking office if they oppose Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Those who favor independence invite the ire of establishment, and risk being beaten and jailed. Numerous political leaders of Kashmir have either been killed or are languishing in jail.

In May 2013, the Arif Shahid, a prominent Kashmiri Nationalist politician, was assassinated at Rawalpindi. We raised the issue of his brutal murder several times at different forum including UN human rights Council to put pressure on Government of Pakistan to institute a judicial enquiry into target killing of Sardar Arif Shahid but no action has been taken yet.

Systematic change in the demography of so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan

Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. State subject of Kashmir dated the 31st January 1927 do not allow non-locals to buy property in Kashmir. But Pakistan is violating the state subject and settling its citizens in Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to change the demography of these areas to get desired resulted in the future when status of State of Jammu &Kashmir will be decided.

UKPNP is deeply concerned about Pakistan’s policy to use religion as weapon and terrorism as a foreign policy tool and our region as a launching pad for terrorism and training camps to suppress the secular, democratic and progressive voices of the entire region.

Promotion and protection of Extremism and Terrorism in the region by Pakistan.
Terrorists Infrastructure in So called Azad Kashmir

Pakistan has long been a difficult and disruptive neighbour not only to Jammu & Kashmir , but entire South Asian region, and cultivating radical groups within Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

In 1988 Pakistan waged its proxy war in Srinagar Indian administrated Jammu & Kashmir gathered militants and so called jihadis, established training camps in Pakistani occupied Jammu & Kashmir commonly known as Azad Kashmir.

Pakistan is a heaven for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Sipah-e-Sahaba. Pakistan is giving aid to the Taliban, military and its intelligence agencies both include personnel who sympathize with and help Islamic militants provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups active in Kashmir, including the Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan has denied any involvement in the terrorist activities in Kashmir, arguing that it only provides political and moral support to the so-called ‘secessionist’ and extremist groups. Many Kashmiri groups also maintain their headquarters in so called administered Kashmir.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has admitted that Pakistan supported and trained terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in 1990s to carry out militancy in Kashmir. From 1979 Pakistan was in favor of religious militancy. “The Kashmiri freedom fighters including Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi were our heroes at that time. We trained Taliban and sent them to fight against Russia. Taliban, Haqqani, Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri were our heroes then. Later they became villains” says Pervez Musharraf .

Terrorists’ network and infrastructure is very much intact in so called Azad Kashmir. So called Leaders of banned terrorists organizations are roaming freely and recruiting young Kashmiris for Holy war or Jihad in Kashmir. Pakistan is reluctant to take action against these extremists groups shows that it is not serious to take action against such elements.

Enforced Disappearances and Extra Judicial Executions

According to the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) persons are arrested and disappeared if they refuse to join or try to leave the forces engaged in “jihad” in Indian administrated Jammu & Kashmir or fail to provide information about the movements of people across the Line of Control. A significant number of cases point to the law enforcement forces involvement in these disappearances .

Extra judicial-killings in the name of countering terrorism

We fear the situation in that region will deteriorate. Under the National Action Plan and on the pretext of countering terrorism, the Pakistan army will continue to carry out more extra judicial-killings. The decision by the Pakistani Supreme Court to declare as legitimate the rulings against civilians suspected of engaging in terrorism by army controlled military courts is also counter to the basic laws of human rights. It allows for a parallel system of military justice to operate.

Exploitation of Natural Resources and Human Resources of the Region

Exploitation of natural resources in Gilgit-Baltistan and so-called Azad Kashmir has deprived the natives of the region from their own natural wealth. An organized mafia is active in deforestation of the area. The timber has also become one of the main resources of revenue for few people. The area under forests is decreasing day by day and this is causing environment degradation. In 1960’s Pakistan constructed Mangla Dam in Mirpur Kashmir. Pakistan had agreed to pay royalty to the AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) for the use of the water and electricity generated by the dam. Now Kashmiri are denied of royalty because Islamabad says Kashmir is not a province of Pakistan, and royalty is only paid to provinces. Mangla Dam produces 1300 Maga watts and our daily need is only 330 Maga watts. But the region has been facing electricity shortage or load shedding for over 18-20 hours a day. Islamabad is constructing mega dams, proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor project which runs across our region before it enters Pakistan. Mega projects in a disputed territory of Kashmir are a clear violation of international laws and UNCIP resolutions on Kashmir.

Economically, Pakistan has ensured that this region is one of the most under-developed areas of the country, with all resources from this area being taken away for the development of other areas of Pakistan.

Recently highlighting the issue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Fulvio Martusciello, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has called on the European Union (EU) to have an action-based approach when it comes to CPEC and the Chinese-Pakistani ‘disregard for human rights’.

In an article for EP Today, Martusciello notes that the governments of Pakistan and China have strong incentives to protect their investments and ensure those who oppose the project are silenced, as it runs through the occupied regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“CPEC runs through Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, both regions universally understood to be Pakistan-occupied territories. Gilgit-Baltistan has been occupied since 1947, when a British-supported military coup led to Pakistani control. Through a variety of unilateral presidential decrees, Pakistan governs Gilgit-Baltistan by force,” the MEP states.

Coming down heavily on the Pakistan government over the project of the Diamer Bhasha Dam in connection with the CPEC, Martusciello emphasises that the proposed site would ensure the displacement of over 30,000 people, as at least 32 villages will be flooded, but Pakistan continues the construction claiming the project will provide jobs and other opportunities for Gilgit-Baltistan locals.

Lack of Health Facilities

Except private hospitals, the health department in Pakistani administered Kashmir is almost totally controlled by Pakistani army through its Army Medical Core (AMC) under the title of combined military Hospital (CMH).Billions dollars of donations are spent for the welfare of armed forces of Pakistan instead of well-being of the people of the region. There are only four hundred medical officers available for the entire population of 4.0 million and only one bed is available for every six thousand people in the region.

Target Killings of Shias in Gilgit Baltistan

On August 16, 2012 , in the early morning, the four buses, carrying passengers from Gilgit to Rawalpindi, a city of Punjab, were halted by around 50 men in military uniform who placed heavy stones and wooden logs on the main road at Babusar Top in Kaghan valley, Mansehra district. All the passengers were asked to alight from the busses and show their national identity cards, after identifying 25 persons as Shia Muslims they were instructed to stay at the side of the road. Their hands were tied and more than a dozen assailants opened fire at them. After the shooting they marched away in military style shouting Allah ho Akbar.

Earlier on February 28, 2012, gunmen in military fatigues hauled the passengers from a bus and in the same fashion killed them on the road side after checking their national identity cards. The passengers were travelling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, the northern district of Kohistan.

On April 3, a mob dragged nine Shia Muslims from buses and shot them dead in close proximity to a military check post that was fully manned. There was no response from the soldiers.

People from the Hazara community of Balochistan belong to the Shia community and on many occasions have been massacred near military check posts.

UKPNP promotes liberal, democratic and secular ideals; and strongly believes that people of State of Jammu and Kashmir are victims of aggression, extremism and violence since 1947. They are forcibly divided, and continue to suffer on both sides of the Line of Control. This forced division and suffering must come to an end, as people deserve to enjoy their fundamental human rights

UKPNP believes that no loyal son of the soil can remain quiet or neutral when our sisters and brothers are victims of a proxy war and a proxy politics on both sides of the forced division. For the sake of peace and stability and for the future of our future generations, we have to challenge and fight those forces which promote violence, extremism and religious hatred.

UKPNP is seriously concerned about growing human rights violations taking place in areas of Jammu and Kashmir under occupation of Pakistan, whereby political activists and members of civil society have become targets of state infrastructure, and extremist outfits supported by Islamabad.

Our organization strongly condemns banning of newspapers in Gilgit Baltistan and in Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir. A newspaper called Majadla in Rawalakot was banned for publishing a survey report which showed that more than 70% people of the region did not want to join Pakistan and their preference was to become independent.

UKPNP demands lifting of ban on all newspapers in Gilgit Baltistan and in POJK; and harassment of journalists and political workers must be stopped. All political workers and members of civil society who have been victimized for their political views and jailed, including Baba Jan must be released.

UKPNP wishes to remind the concerned authorities that it is prime responsibility of the state to protect life, liberty and property of all citizens; and that they must honour all international obligations assumed under the UNCIP Resolutions and in various other international covenants.

UKPNP urges government of Pakistan to take effective measures to control activities of those who promote extremism, violence and intolerance in various parts of the POJK and in Gilgit and Baltistan. Also, they must ensure that religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan must not become victims of the intolerance and hate.

UKPNP request the Pakistani authorities to reinstate the State Subject Notification of 1927; as that is an important law of Jammu and Kashmir, which defines who is a citizen of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmiri, and protects our rights. We request the Pakistani authorities to respect this law and stop settlement of non – Kashmiris in Gilgit and Baltistan to change the demography of the area.

UKPNP appeals both India and Pakistan to respect and honour civil and political rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. Furthermore, request government of Pakistan to refrain from annexing areas of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, as that will exacerbate the situation. Instead, we request the Pakistani government to grant autonomy to both areas under their control that the elected members could help the local people with everyday social, political and economic problems.

UKPNP emphasis that the government of Pakistan must take immediate action against those groups or agencies who kidnap citizens of Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir; and make arrangements for the immediate release of all those who have involuntarily disappeared.

UKPNP stresses that the Pakistani establishment must abandon its hitherto policy of a‘good Taliban and a‘good terrorist’; and stop fooling people in name of various military operations because they are designed to only eliminate the ‘bad Talibans and bad Terrorists’.

UKPNP regrets that the Pakistani establishment has not learnt anything from their past mistakes; and they erroneously think ‘good Talibans’ and ‘good terrorists’ are still Mujahideen and strategic assets. They are highly respected and protected, because they are still willing to fight in Jammu and Kashmir, fight against India, fight in Afghanistan and wherever else their services are required.

UKPNP advise the Government of Pakistan to be extremely careful with the CPEC projects as they will prove counterproductive, and will severely damage the Jammu and Kashmir dispute; and environment of the region. It will also damage Pakistani economy and give China enormous power and influence which will undermine Pakistani sovereignty.

UKPNP urges upon Pakistan to allow immediate and unhindered access for international human rights observers independent media and press to so called Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan.

UKPNP calls upon the UN to send a fact – finding mission to so called Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan to ascertain status of human rights situation in these areas; and take appropriate steps to ensure that Pakistan respect all international covenants on human rights.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri
Exiled Chairman United Kashmir People`s National Party(UKPNP)
Lawyer & Human Right Defender
sg.jkipa@gmail.com Cell +41 79 196 15 50

Nasir Aziz Khan
Former Spokesperson United Kashmir People`s National Party (UKPNP)
Human Rights Activist & Freelance Journalist
nasirazizkhan@yahoo.com Cell: +41 78 313 12 13


Click here to read the PDF version of this Open Letter IHRC-OL-001-2018 


Featured Image: Kashmiri women offer Eidul Fitr prayers in Srinagar, India-held Kashmir. — Faisal Khan © www.dawn.com

Categories: Open Letters