Pakistan's Mission to the United Nations (UN), responding on Monday to a photograph mix-up made earlier by Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi, accused India of hiding behind a picture to divert the world's attention from the situation on the ground in India-held Kashmir (IHK).
Lodhi, during a fiery speech in the UN General Assembly on Saturday, had shared photographs of victims of pellet gun attacks ─ infamous for depriving victims of their sight ─ purportedly taken in held Kashmir.
One of the photographs shown by Lodhi, however, stirred controversy when observers pointed out it was a picture of a Palestinian girl injured by strikes in Gaza, taken by photographer Heidi Levine in 2014.
Indian media outlets were quick to point out that Lodhi had erred, and the diplomat came under fire on social media for the blunder.
The Indian mission to the UN, exercising its right of reply, lambasted Lodhi for "callously holding a picture of an injured girl", and accused her of seeking to divert attention from "Pakistan's role as the hub of global terrorism".
Lodhi "misled this assembly by displaying this picture to spread falsehoods about India, a fake picture to push a completely false narrative," an Indian diplomat alleged. She went on to share a photograph of an Indian soldier allegedly killed by militants in held Kashmir's Shopian district.
Pakistan's mission, in its latest rejoinder to India, asserted: "No matter how many times you repeat a lie, it does not and cannot hide the truth."
The Pakistani representative claimed the Indian representative had "once again chosen to divert the attention of the international community from the real issue ─ the real issue of human life, of human eyes, of children and infants blinded forever, of women raped and elderly killed every day by the reign of brutality unleashed by occupation forces in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir."
"The real issue is of Security Council resolutions, which India refuses to implement," the Pakistani representative said.
"No matter how many times you repeat a lie, it does not and cannot hide the truth. Raking up debate on pictures has backfired," he maintained.
"India, who kills and tortures innocent Kashmiris, is seeking to hide behind a photograph," he claimed, adding: "Indian state terrorism has been amply documented by successive human rights reports from various international organisations. There are thousands of those pictures for everyone to see."
"India’s diversionary tactics will not change the situation on ground. It is the situation on ground that India has to answer for. It is its war crimes that India has to answer for. It is the call for legality, morality and conscience that it has to answer for," he asserted.
The Pakistani representative went on to accuse Indian leaders of "pursuing a policy of state sponsorship of terrorism, funding and arming terrorist organisations like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Jamaatul Ahrar to launch terror attacks inside Pakistan" as part of its strategy to become "a regional hegemon".
"India is churning out operatives of mayhem from its factories of terror," he said. "Operatives like Commander Jadhav, who are spreading terror and violence across Pakistan. We caught Jadhav red-handed, we will catch others as well and bring them to justice," he said.
Although the photograph shown by Ambassador Lodhi does appear to be an old photograph of a girl in Gaza, the use of pellet guns by Indian forces against Kashmiris has been criticised on the record by rights organisations such as Amnesty International.
Amnesty has called on India to immediately ban the use of shotguns by government forces in suppressing anti-India protests in IHK.
It has also criticised Indian authorities for failing to support those who have been injured and disabled by the weapons.
Amnesty's India chapter head Aakar Patel said earlier this month: "Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is. There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns."
Patel said shotguns had caused immense suffering in Kashmir and are not used anywhere else in India.
"This weapon has only been reserved for Kashmiris," he had noted. "It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do."
The group issued a report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns’, which profiles 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by Indian forces between 2014 and 2017, showcasing what it called the "human cost of the [Indian] government’s heavy-handed crackdown in [India-held] Kashmir". The report includes the stories of 14 female victims who were wounded inside their homes.
"These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area," the report said.
It further said pellets alone have killed at least 14 people in a little more than a year since then.
"Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution," Patel said.
"Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused."