MUZAFFARABAD: Kashmiri men, women and children held a demonstration on a main thoroughfare in the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Sunday to welcome the visit of UN Secretary General António Guterres to Pakistan and remind him of what they suspect forgotten responsibilities of the world body vis-à-vis the pending issue of Kashmir on its agenda.
In the first leg of the demonstration, participants sat on rugs placed alongside the main road near Azadi Chowk, holding banners and placards inscribed with demands, particularly the UN-sponsored free, fair and impartial plebiscite in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir to let its inhabitants decide their future.
“The UN must take note of India’s crimes against humanity,” read one placard being held by a child on the occasion.
During the sit-in, participants placed their hands on their mouths to observe one-minute silence in a symbolic manifestation of curbs on freedom of expression, speech and writing through communication shutdown in India-occupied Kashmir on the one hand and to “shake the conscience of the international community” on the other.
Demonstration held in Muzaffarabad to welcome Guterres
Later, they staged a rally from Azadi Chowk to Garhi Pan Chowk, with women and children in the front row and men at their back.
“Appeal to UN Secretary General: Implement UN resolutions on Kashmir and impress upon India to stop human rights violation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” read one of the two banners that also had a portrait of Mr Guterres printed on it.
The demonstrators also kept on chanting different slogans to express their sentiments. “Wake up, wake up UNO wake up,” was the oft-repeated one.
Speaking on the occasion, key activists maintained that while they had come onto the road to welcome the UN chief on his arrival on a three-day visit to Pakistan, at the same time they also wanted to draw his attention towards sufferings of Kashmiris due to “inaction on the part of the UN, notwithstanding the fact it was established to resolve conflicts through peaceful and just means”.
“Indian occupation forces are torturing, maiming, blinding, arresting and killing our brothers and sisters in occupied Kashmir with impunity since long… Is their blood so cheap that the UN as well as big powers do not seem to be moved,” said Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, one of the activists.
Mr Ghazali has launched a signature campaign from Jan 31 to obtain as many as 100,000 signatures over a period of three months from people holding a CNIC to impress upon the UN to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir in accordance with her own commitments.
Safina Bibi, a 70 years old participant, said, she had joined the demonstration after hearing that the UN secretary general had arrived in Pakistan.
“General Secretary Sahib, bloodbath is going on in [India] occupied Kashmir at the hands of Indian forces. You should go there and get it halted. You should liberate our Kashmir,” said the occupied Karen-born lady who had migrated to AJK after 1990 along with her family.
Idreesa Butt, a 28-year-old housewife, echoed Bibi’s views, and said the UN chief should immediately persuade India to release all detainees.
“Our motherland is in dire need of your attention and action,” she said.
At the conclusion of the rally, participants made prayers for early recuperation of ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani and all other victims of Indian repression.
Separately, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider took to Twitter to express his views in the backdrop of the UN chief’s visit to Pakistan.
“Dear Antonio Guterres, welcome to Pakistan, not far from where lies the disputed region of Jammu & Kashmir. I hope you aren’t ignorant of the fact that India has locked down the part of this state under its occupation since Aug 5 besides taking several other dastardly measures,” he said in the first part of his tweet.
“If you truly want to see South Asia as a strife-free region it won’t happen unless the world body you head fulfills its long pending commitment to hold a free, fair and impartial plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir, a nuclear flashpoint. FYI: The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” added Mr Haider in the second part of his tweet.
Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020