Geneva: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi being received by Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Ahmad Warraich upon his arrival here on Monday.—APP
Geneva: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi being received by Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Ahmad Warraich upon his arrival here on Monday.—APP

GENEVA: The 42nd session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) began here on Monday with the UN rights chief in her opening statement expressing alarm over the situation in India-held Kashmir after Delhi’s decision to revoke the autonomous status of the Muslim-majority region last month.

“I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris,” Michelle Bachelet said, pointing to the “restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists”.

Ms Bachelet in her address to the UN Human Rights Council said she had urged both India and Pakistan to ensure that rights in the region are respected and protected, but she had “appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people’s access to basic services, and that all due process, rights are respected for those who have been detained.”

“It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future,” said the UN Human Rights Commissioner.

Imran hails statement, seeks independent body to probe abuses

Her comments came as Indian authorities tightened the security lockdown in held Kashmir after breaking up Muharram processions by the mourners who defied a ban.

India had imposed a military clampdown on Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of August to prevent protests against the New Delhi move to revoke the special status of the disputed territory, with mobile phone networks and the internet still cut off in all but a few pockets. India-held Kashmir has seen a decades-old movement against the Indian occupation with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed.

Ms Bachelet also voiced concern over India’s controversial citizenship register in Assam state that critics fear is a cover for the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to expel Muslims.

Pointing out that some 1.9 million people had been excluded from the final list, published on Aug 31, the UN Human Rights Commissioner lamented that the register had “caused great uncertainty and anxiety”.

“I appeal to the government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness,” she said.

While welcoming the opening statement of the UN Human Rights Commissioner on Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international body to constitute an independent investigation commission to record human rights abuses in India-held Kashmir.

In a tweet, PM Khan said: “I especially welcome the statement by the UNHCHR in Geneva today. I call upon the UN Human Rights Council to immediately set up the indep Investigation commission to probe human rights abuses in IOJK as recommended by the UNHCHR’s two reports on Kashmir. The time to act is now.—Agencies

FM reaches Geneva

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reached Geneva on Monday to attend the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, adds Iftikhar A. Khan from Islamabad.

According to a communication received here through Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the FM will apprise delegates from across the world of the worst kind of atrocities being perpetrated by the Indian occupation troops in held Kashmir during his address to the council on Tuesday (today).

Mr Qureshi will meet senior office holders of international human rights organisations and discuss with them the blatant human rights violations going on unabated in held Kashmir. He will also talk to the international media and explain Pakistan’s viewpoint on different issues including the Kashmir imbroglio.

He is also scheduled to hold meetings with representatives of World Health Organisation (WHO) and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the sidelines of the session during his three-day stay in Geneva.

While talking to reporters soon after his arrival in Geneva, Mr Qureshi welcomed the remarks made by Ms Bachelet in her introductory address and appreciated that she talked about the lockdown and restrictions in occupied Kashmir. He said she demanded lifting of curfew and bar on communication means and restoration of basic human rights usurped in held Kashmir that he noted was ‘quite encouraging’.

He said he would use his stay in Geneva to apprise the international community of the critical situation in the India-held valley.

FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal underlined that the UN High Commissioner’s concerns and calls were consistent with the position taken by the UN system vis-à-vis the human rights situation in India-held Jammu and Kashmir including the continuing restrictions and crackdown on fundamental rights and freedom of the Kashmiri people.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2019