ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday it would welcome any UN mission intending to visit Azad Jammu and Kashmir, but took strong exception to equating AJK with India-held Valley.

“While welcoming any UN team that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights may wish to send to AJK, we cannot accept equating the rampant human rights violations in IOK (India-Occupied Kashmir) with the situation in AJK. In fact, today the contrast between grim reality in IOK and the peaceful situation in AJK could not be more stark. It is, therefore, essential that the UN fact-finding team must visit IOK,” the FO said in a statement.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had in a statement on Wednesday asked for access to both India-held Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir for probing the allegations of human rights violations.

Indian response to talks initiative being examined

AJK, the FO said, is open to everyone and is frequented by foreign tourists and members of the diplomatic community in Pakistan, including representatives of the United Nations.

The FO spokesman pointed out that access to the UN Human Rights mission had been denied by India to held Kashmir. Pakistan, he reminded the world body, had never prevented UN officials from travelling to Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials on Thursday were tight-lipped about the Indian response to Islamabad’s offer for dialogue on Kashmir as the Foreign Office started evaluating the reply.

“We are examining the Indian response and would respond later,” Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told journalists.

A Pakistani official told Dawn that the FO was still reflecting on the Indian response and no decision had been taken as yet.

India while responding to the Pakistani suggestion for dialogue on Kashmir dispute in view of the latest uprising in the Valley had said that it was willing to send Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to Islamabad for the talks, but conditioned the trip to discussions on “cross-border terrorism” only.

According to Pakistani diplomats aware of the contents of the Indian response, India is not willing to talk about the dispute.

FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria had earlier in the day avoided commenting on the Indian response.

He, however, explained that the talks invitation was “in keeping with our principled position on the issue of Kashmir and in view of the gross human rights violations committed by Indian forces in India-Occupied Kashmir”.

“The foreign secretary extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart to visit Pakistan for talks on Jammu and Kashmir dispute, particularly owing to the ongoing grave violations of human rights situation in India-Occupied Kashmir,” he added.

Mr Zakaria emphasised that resolution of the Kashmir issue in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions was imperative for lasting peace and stability in the region.

Responding to a question, he said that lethal force being used by the Indian forces against unarmed civilians and peaceful protesters in the Valley was not acceptable.

Disapproving sedition charges against Amnesty International India for hosting an event on abuses by security forces in held Kashmir, the spokesman at his briefing said that India wouldn’t be able to hide the killings and brutalities in Kashmir by suppressing the voices of human rights organisations.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2016