MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) president Sardar Masood Khan on Tuesday welcomed the follow-up report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in India-held Kashmir (IHK) which he said was released in spite of New Delhi’s pressure to shelve, kill or stop it.

The report was issued on Monday on the third anniversary of the martyrdom of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, which Mr Khan said in a statement was in itself of symbolic importance because the popular freedom struggle in the IHK and India’s bestial behaviour had both intensified in the wake of young militant commander’s martyrdom.

“The report has, once again, substantiated widespread occurrences of serious human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, notably excessive use of brute force by Indian military and paramilitary forces, frequent civilian casualties, arbitrary detentions and impunity for human rights abuses,” he said.

Recommendation about establishing a Commission of Inquiry to probe human rights violations supported

In the past year alone, 160 civilians were martyred which was the highest number of fatalities in a decade, he said and added: “But that is what got reported amid media gag. Real figures of casualties will be much higher.”

Mr Khan was of the view that the UN report just scratched the surface because the drafters’ direct access to IHK was blocked by India.

“The real situation is much more gruesome in scale and in the nature of the atrocities being committed,” he said.

He endorsed recommendations of the report about establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate human rights violations and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the IHK with impunity.

The AJK president demanded immediate repeal of draconian laws particularly the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act, as recommended by the OHCHR as well as banning of lethal pellet guns.

He also welcomed and appreciated OHCHR’s demand that India should “fully respect the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as protected under international law”.

The president paid tribute to valiant people of IHK who had been constantly sending clear messages to the world about their strong resolve to continue their struggle for freedom from Indian occupation.

“The young educated leaders, who have inherited the mantle of freedom, have vowed and are proving that they will steer the movement to success,” he said.

He, however, regretted that the UN report had at places tried to artificially create a false sense of equivalence between IHK and AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).

The AJK and GB, he said, had been enjoying and would continue to enjoy their fundamental freedoms, civil liberties and human rights, he asserted.

“Pakistan and Azad Kashmir are committed to the full realisation of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and are ever ready to cooperate with the world body to realise this goal,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2019