MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) cabinet on Friday condemned incessant lockdown of occupied Kashmir by India and reiterated its call to the United Nations to hold a plebiscite in the disputed Himalayan region to ensure a peaceful settlement of the long-standing issue.

The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, maintained that the prolonged curfew, communication blackout, mass arrests and other atrocious cruelties by the Indian government were a challenge to the international community and global human rights bodies, which were expected to exert pressure on New Delhi for an immediate end to this horrendous situation.

The cabinet expressed profound gratitude to the government and people of Pakistan for their wholehearted support for freedom-seeking Kashmiris, but stressed that Islamabad should accelerate its efforts on the diplomatic front.

The cabinet paid tribute to Prime Minister Haider for effectively highlighting the plight of struggling Kashmiris during his recent foreign tours.

Efforts of the Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora to expose India’s despotic measures to suppress the popular demand of freedom in occupied Kashmir were also appreciated by the cabinet.

The cabinet vehemently condemned unprovoked and unrelenting ceasefire violations across the Line of Control by Indian troops, particularly targeting the unarmed civilian population in a serious breach of a truce agreement as well as all international laws and conventions.

Lauding the professionalism of Pakistan Army, the cabinet assured that the whole Kashmiri nation stood shoulder to shoulder with the valiant troopers to foil enemy’s designs and teach them an exemplary lesson.

Expressing grave concern over the deteriorating health condition of incarcerated Hurriyat leaders, the cabinet demanded immediate release of all detainees languishing in different prisons and torture cells in India.

The countries that claim themselves to be the champions of human rights should press India to release all such persons who had been taken into custody under what Amnesty International had described as ‘lawless laws,’ the cabinet said.

Briefing journalists on the cabinet proceedings, Minister for Law Farooq Ahmed Tahir said that Prime Minister Haider had been authorised by the cabinet to hold talks with the ministries and divisions concerned of the central government for the settlement of issues vis-à-vis the Neelum-Jhelum hydro­­­power project.

He said Quranic education in all educational institutions had been declared mandatory with the approval of the Holy Quran Act, 2019.

The cabinet had also accorded approval to the replacement of the AJK Removal from Service (Special Powers) Act, 2001 with the AJK Civil Servants (Efficiency & Discipline) Rules, 1977, the minister said.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019