World must not remain indifferent to tragedy unfolding in Kashmir, Qureshi tells UN Rights Council

Published September 10, 2019
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 10 in Geneva. — AFP
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 10 in Geneva. — AFP

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said that the international community "must not remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes" in occupied Kashmir.

Addressing the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Qureshi while referring to India's recent actions in Kashmir said: "Today, I have knocked on the doors of the Human Rights Council, the repository of the world’s conscience on human rights, to seek justice and respect for the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

"We must not allow this august body to be embarrassed on the world stage. As a founding member of this council, Pakistan feels morally and ethically bound to prevent this from occurring," he stressed, adding that in order to do so the body should not remain indifferent to the tragedy that was unfolding in Kashmir.

"We must not let political, commercial, and parochial considerations cloud and impair our thoughts and action.

"We must act decisively and with conviction."

Qureshi urged the UNHRC to "pay heed to the plight of the Kashmiri people" and to address the warning signs of a "looming human catastrophe".

He asked the human rights council to take the following steps:

  • Urge India to immediately stop the use of pellet guns, end the bloodshed, lift the curfew, reverse the clampdown and communications blackout, restore fundamental freedoms and liberties, release political prisoners, stop targeting human rights defenders, and fulfill obligations under the United Nations Security Council resolutions and various human rights instruments, as required by international law
  • Take steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations of Kashmiris and in this context, constitute a Commission of Inquiry (COI), as recommended by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Authorise the Office of the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council’s special procedures mandate holders to monitor and report on India’s human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and regularly update the council
  • Call upon India to allow unhindered access to human rights organisations and international media to occupied Kashmir

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. Occupied Kashmir has seen a decades-old movement against the Indian occupation with tens of thousands, mostly civilians, killed.

Kashmiris rights being 'trampled with impunity' by India

At the start of his address today, the foreign minister said that "basic and inalienable human rights" of the people of occupied Kashmir were being "trampled with impunity by India".

"The people of this occupied land are suffering systematic, and serial, violations of their fundamental freedoms," he said, adding that the people of the disputed region had been "virtually caged by an illegal military occupation" for the past six weeks.

"To what end, I ask, Mr President?" Qureshi said addressing the president of the council.

"The answer is obvious. And it lays bare the real character of a country that pretends to be a bastion of democracy, federalism and secularism."

Qureshi provided a review of the situation in occupied Kashmir which he said had been transformed by India into the "largest prison in the planet" where basic amenities and means of communication were not accessible.

He said shops and hospitals in the region were running out of supplies and the political leadership of Kashmir had been placed under house arrest or imprisoned. Additionally, Qureshi said that over 6,000 individuals had been arrested without due process of law.

The foreign minister said that international media outlets and neutral observers were also reporting on the atrocities being carried out against the people of occupied Kashmir.

"No, ladies and gentleman, this is not a flashback to medieval times. This barbarism is happening today — in the 21st century."

He said that with its actions, India was breaching multiple international human rights instruments that it was a party to.

"This is the real story of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir and its people under subjugation that India is desperate to hide from the world. This is the true face of the so-called largest democracy of the world. This is the conduct of a country, which aspires to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

FM Qureshi arrives for a statement during the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday, — AP
FM Qureshi arrives for a statement during the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday, — AP

"At the root of this mayhem is India’s refusal to grant the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir their right of self-determination.

"This seven-decade-old travesty of justice, has been compounded by the present Indian government’s nefarious and twisted dream — outlined explicitly in the ruling party’s manifesto — to turn, by force of arms, Jammu and Kashmir’s Muslim majority community into a minority."

He reiterated that India's unilateral decision to revoke Article 370 on August 5 was illegal under international law.

"With these illegal changes, India’s presence is, by its own yardstick, naked foreign occupation."

"India’s assertion that these actions are its internal affair is patently false," Qureshi said, adding that Kashmir had been on the agenda of the UN for over 70 years and the meeting of the UN Security Council on August 16 attested to this fact.

"What is happening in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir is not a country specific situation in this council’s parlance."

'Shudder to mention genocide but I must'

"The people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir are apprehending the worst," the foreign minister said, adding that with respect to the Genocide Convention, Kashmiris — as a national, ethnic, racial and religious group of people — face "grave threats to their lives, way of living and livelihoods from a murderous, misogynistic and xenophobic regime".

"Some have said that Kashmir echoes with the silence of the graveyard. Others contend that it is a lull before a storm.

"I shudder to mention the word genocide here, but I must."

The foreign minister said that India's efforts to "falsely" label Kashmir's struggle for self determination as "terrorism and cross border terrorism" are "shameless and indefensible".

He said that Pakistan had suggested numerous bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, including doubling the strength of the UN Observers Mission to monitor the Line of Control (LoC), that would "disprove India's self-serving claims".

India, however, rejected all these proposals, Qureshi said.

"I have every fear that India will once again resort to false-flag operations, and use the bogey of terrorism as a red herring, to divert international opinion, even attack Pakistan."

Additionally, the foreign minister said that India's increased ceasefire violations along the LoC and the use of cluster ammunition and heavy artillery should end immediately.

"I have regularly sensitised the UN Security Council, about the grave dangers to peace and security in nuclearised South Asia and beyond, as a result of India’s reckless posture and draconian measures.

FM Qureshi shakes hands with China's Ambassador Chen Xu after delivering his statement during the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. — AP
FM Qureshi shakes hands with China's Ambassador Chen Xu after delivering his statement during the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday. — AP

"While the Security Council is seized of peace and security dimensions of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the Human Rights Council must pay far greater and immediate attention to the human rights of the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir."

He reiterated Pakistan’s endorsement of the recommendations of two Kashmir reports issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In several reports, the UN rights chiefs have requested the establishment of a COI, which is one of the UN's highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the Syrian conflict.

Pakistan is expected to present a resolution to the council for consideration by the end of the 42nd session on September 27.

"We urge focused discussions on the two reports in the Human Rights Council and a unanimous decision by this house to implement their recommendations made to India, Pakistan and foremost to the Human Rights Council."

"If India has nothing to hide, it should allow unhindered access to the COI, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner. Pakistan stands ready to allow access to the proposed COI or other mechanisms on our side of the Line of Control, together with similar access to Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir."

"For seven decades, the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir have awaited implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions, prescribing a plebiscite to honour their right of self-determination.

"History would be a most unforgiving judge if we fail, yet again, the people of this illegally occupied territory, in their moment of greatest peril," he said concluding his address.

Qureshi, speaking to reporters after addressing the United Nations rights forum in Geneva, said that he saw "no possibility of a bilateral engagement with India" and called for the UN Security Council to act.


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