UNHCR Report on Kashmir widely welcomed by Pakistan, APHC and YFK

Nisar Thakur & Arif Qureshi

Islamabad: The UNHCR’s first ever report on Kashmir calling for an impartial probe into the massive human rights violation committed by Indian troops in Jammu and Kashmir has been widely welcomed by Pakistan, All Parties Hurriyat Conference(APHC) Azad Kashmir Chapter, Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK), Dr Muhammad Faisal, Foreign Office spokesperson welcomed  the proposal by the UNHCR to establish a Commission of Inquiry for international investigation into human rights violations in the Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The leaders of All Parties Hurriyat Conference AJK appreciated the UNHCR Commissioner Zeid Al Raa’d efforts in which he exposed the human rights violations by Indian armed forces in Kashmir. Ahmed Quraishi, Executive Director Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK) Commenting on the UNHCR report said that Kashmir Conflict has entered into a new era as the report made the biggest progress in the history of Kashmir conflict since the passing of the UN Security Council resolutions in 1947.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), a sister organization of United Nations released a report regarding situation in Kashmir in Geneva amidst full glare of international audience in mid June. It challenges the Indian state narrative, calls for establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into human rights violations in Kashmir. About the situation in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit&Baltistan the report identifies a range of human rights abuses, but has made it clear that they are of a different caliber or magnitude and of a more structural nature”.

Off the 49-page, almost 36 pages have been dedicated to discuss situation in Indian controlled Kashmir, which is actually an indictment of New Delhi’s destructive and dodgy role in Kashmir. It talks about the fast spreading structures of violence and takes lid off the cauldron of most gory crimes Indian troops have committed against humanity in the region. The historic report carries a special significance because it discusses in detail not only the political dimension of the deadly conflict but also divulges the details about systematic violence and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by Indian forces.

Ahmed Quraishi Executive Director Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK) Commenting on the report UNHCR report said that Kashmir Conflict has entered into a new era as the report made the biggest progress in the Kashmir conflict since the passing of the Security Council resolutions in 1957. “Sixty years ago then the UN called for a referendum in Kashmir, and now in 2018, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommended a Commission of Inquiry to conduct “a comprehensive independent international investigation” into human rights violations by Indian forces in Kashmir seen as an extraordinary shift in UN agenda”, Mr. Quraishi added.

Ahmed Quraishi was of the view that the United Nations has indicated in this report that Kashmir Conflict started in 1947, contradicting India’s argument that the conflict began in 1989 when some Kashmiri militants launched a struggle for freedom. The top UN rights official has referred to the suffering of Kashmiris for seven decades which shows the UN has underlined that Kashmir is a seven-decades-old conflict. He said that UN report and the recommendation to form a Commission of Inquiry indicate a possible international intervention in Kashmir at some point in future, so Pakistan and Kashmiris should prepare themselves for this hard task.

The report has virtually left Indians completely baffled but the question arises as why and what is so special in this report that has irked and incensed government in New Delhi putting the men at helm of affairs on tenterhooks?

Responding to the findings of the UN report the Ministry External Affairs (MEA) government of India said, “India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report.” The MEA had also said the report was “overtly prejudiced” and that it sought to build what it called a “false narrative”. Moreover, New Delhi launched a full-scale diplomatic and media campaign to make the report controversial and even India tried to undermine the credibility of the highest institution by accusing UNHRC of individual prejudices. New Delhi had formally lodged a protest with the UN, saying that the government is “deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution”.

At global level, the India’s actions/reactions/responses against the findings of report not only raised many eyebrows but it had compelled the UNHCR commissioner Zeid Al Raa’d to issue a rejoinder to the government Indian asking it to have confidence to look into the human rights violations that have led to what he called the alienation of the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the young people.

Dr Muhammad Faisal, Foreign Office spokesperson, appreciated and welcomed the proposal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Commission of Inquiry for international investigation into human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, he said that the proposal was consistent with Pakistan’s several calls to this effect since 2016, even as India has continued to ignore legitimate demands for probe into gross and systematic violations, including pellet guns excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detentions as well as continued sexual violence as part of overall impunity enjoyed by Indian security forces.

Regarding the concerns expressed in the report about rights situation in AJK and GB the statement issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “References to human rights concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan should in no way be construed to create a false sense of equivalence with the gross and systematic human rights violations in IoK”.

Altaf Ahmad Bhat vice chairman Jammu and Kashmir salvation movement  (JKSM ) termed the report issued by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir as a major milestone, the Altaf Ahmad Bhat commended the bold role of the High Commissioner in publishing this eye-opening report despite incessant Indian lobbying to keep it under wraps. “This report is undeniably a major milestone which exposes India’s horrid face to the world”, he said.

vice chairman JKSM said that report points to gross human right violations in IOK, including murders, rapes, ransacking of homes, illegal incarcerations and extrajudicial killings. He said that apart from these obvious violations, India is trying to change the demographic status of Jammu and Kashmir by amending their constitutions and settling Hindu pandits and retired soldiers from other parts of India.

The report highlights the lack of access to justice and impunity enjoyed by armed forces, excessive use of force against civilians, killings perpetrated in 2016, use of pellet-firing shotgun, arbitrary arrests and detentions including of children, torture, enforced disappearances, restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, reprisals against human rights defenders and restrictions on journalists, violations of the right to education, sexual violence and abuses by armed groups.

Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, convener All parties Hurriyat Conference Appreciated the efforts of the UN Human Rights Commission for producing a comprehensive report on the situation in Kashmir the Syed Faiz Naqshbandi, convener All parties Hurriyat Conference said that It is a welcome step that the UN after almost 7o year recommended a comprehensive commission of inquiry in Jammu and Kashmir, and the UNHCR report for the first time described the Indian atrocities and gross human rights violations in occupied Kashmir in detail. Hailing the UN Human Rights Commission proposal to set up an enquiry, Khan observed that the landmark report has mentioned the human rights abuses in detail particularly the situation after the martyrdom of Shaheed Burhan Wani from July 8, 2016 and the reaction of Kashmiri people and the frequent use of power by Indian law enforcement agencies and paramilitary troops including the killing, shooting, torture, arson, rape, unlawful arrests and use of pallet guns which deprived hundreds of Kashmiri youths from eye sight.

UNHCR commissioner Zeid Al Raa’d expressing concern over the impunity enjoyed by Indian forces in Kashmir under the grab of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Public Safety Act (PSA) said, “How is it that a country that prides itself on its democratic institutions has not allowed a single trial in nearly 28 years of armed forces personnel accused of serious violations, including killings, rape, torture and enforced disappearances?

Mehmood Ahmed Saghar, Vice President, Jammu Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party welcoming the report said, “The first ever report published by the world body must serve as eye-opener for all as it takes lid off the cauldron of the gory crimes, which India has been hiding from the world since a long time”. “The report, which vindicates our stance on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, is an eye-opening experience to the world particularly to those who despite knowing the facts had turned a blind eye towards the Kashmiris’ unending sufferings and had maintained criminal silence for the sake of protecting their so-called strategic and economic interests”. It has generated new wave of optimism in Kashmir making people of the region believe that justice would be done. “It gives the subjugated but determined masses in Kashmir a hope for peace and justice.

It has generated a feeling of trust and confidence amongst the victims making them believe that those who wreaked havoc in their lives would be held accountable for the crimes they have committed”, he said. Stressing the need for follow up of the report Saghar said Pakistan being principled party to the dispute must use the landmark report in alleviating the Kashmir’s’ sufferings. “The follow up of the landmark report is essentially important to make sure that Indian forces are held accountable for the crimes they have committed against innocent and unarmed Kashmiris who are struggling for their legitimate cause of right to self-determination”, Saghar added.

Muhammad Farooq Rehmani, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir People’s Freedom League in his reaction said, “In the long history of Kashmir dispute, after the SC resolutions on plebiscite, the UNHCR report is a realistically balanced document on prevailing human rights situation in Indian occupation Kashmir making India accountable before the comity of nations. The UNHCR commissioner has rightly linked atrocities in Kashmir to its core issue by acknowledging, “It’s a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights & continues to inflict untold suffering.” The report calls upon the UNHRC to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive & independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. ” Now not learning lesson from this report, India out of nerve-loss is further adamant on to put Hindu-Muslim polarisation as warned by Prem Shankar Jha in his article The BJP’S dangerous end game in Kashmir.  At the same time a citizen’s group led by former Indian foreign minister & including retired bureaucrats & military veterans has said that the painful turbulence in India-held Kashmir could increase ahead of the 2019 elections. The warning was issued after a four day visit of the Concerned Citizen’s Group (CCG) to Kashmir. Now, the time is ripe for Pakistan to actively support the UNHCR report despite some of its short comings, if it wants to alleviate the suffering of the Kashmiris and boost world support for a peaceful resolution of the dispute of J&K.

Pakistan should vigorously demand establishing of the enquiry commission as envisaged in this document. In the case of India’s opposition Pakistan should seek support for other specific means of ending the HR abuses in IOK, Rehmani added.

A campaign for the report should be started in the West and explained how the follow up of this report could result in non militant and peaceful activity in Kashmir. Pakistan should consider approaching the ICJ and the UN SC with specific cases of rape, murder, enforced disappearances and torture with a fresh modus. Pakistan should demand the ICRC & other HR organisations be granted access to prisons and places of detention and those who are languishing in Indian jails since 1990s be brought before the Commission of Inquiry.  Pakistan should keep AJK open society and frustrate all Indian pretentious designs and accusations”.

Muhammad Rafiq Dar, Chief Spokesman JKLF said that the“UNHRC`s 2018 report on Kashmir is a welcome sign. Having its own wide ranging significance the report has primarily recognized the long unheard voices, pain and agony the people in Kashmir have been going through over the past three decades. It has at the same time torn off the veil that India has been using to hide her crimes of gross human rights violations in IOK from international community. However, the recommendation of establishment of an inquiry commission to independently assess the situation of human rights in Jammu Kashmir may unearth more heinous crimes committed by Indian forces right from 1989 onwards.

Finally, it is our humble appeal to all concerned that in order to serve and save the humanity, the UN in particular and the international community (UN Member States) in general to support the report, especially the establishment of international inquiry commission to access and assess the credibility of this report and to let the world know the facts about the human rights in the State of Jammu Kashmir. This would definitely help the oppressed, could save the humanity and at the same time can expose oppressor.”

In his write up for Indian Express, Hussain maintained that the reaction of the Indian authorities to UN report was disappointing but also puzzling as the facts in the report were from government documents and sources. Stressing the need for addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in the region on priority basis the UNHCR commissioner said that his office has been urging both the countries India and Pakistan since 2016 to allow unconditional access across both sides of Line of Control. 

For any positive change to take place in Kashmir, India needs to reverse its current course, allow an unhindered access to international human rights organizations to investigate ongoing human rights violations in the region. Seeks an end to violence in the region, urges India to fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as promised by the United Nations resolutions.


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