ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday strongly rejected the new domicile law announced by the Indian government for occupied Jammu and Kashmir territory and termed the move yet another attempt by India to illegally alter the demography of occupied Kashmir as the world is now focused on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a series of tweets on the newly-enacted ‘Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (adaptation of state laws) order 2020’ denounced the new law and expressed solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir. The Foreign Office also issued a statement condemning the Indian government move.

“We strongly condemn the racist Hindutva Supre­macist Modi government’s continuing attempts to illegally alter the demography of IOJK in violation of all international laws & treaties. The new Jamu and Kashmir Reorganisation Order, 2020, is a clear violation of the 4th Geneva Convention,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Eight months after India stripped occupied Kashmir of its autonomy and forcibly annexed it, a new law has been promulgated, which relaxes domicile rules for the valley and eligibility criteria for employment in the region. The order – the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (adaptation of state laws) order, 2020, – makes Indians, who have resided for a period of 15 years in the occupied region or have studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10/12 examinations there, eligible for domicile of the valley. This means that those who fulfill the new criteria will become permanent residents of Kashmir. The new rule will benefit children of Indian officials, who have served in the valley for a total period of 10 years.

Earlier, India, by revoking Article 35-A in Aug 2019 alongside Article 370, had removed the barrier for Indians to buy and own properties in occupied Kashmir. These actions and the latest move to relax domicile and employment criteria are meant to change the demographic status of the occupied territory as non-Kashmiris will flood into the region to diminish the Muslim majority there.

Prime Minister Khan accused India of exploiting the international focus on the Covid-19 pandemic to push forward the BJP’s Hindutva Supremacist agenda and said that the timing of the enactment of the illegal act was thus ‘reprehensible’.

The prime minister also called on the United Nations and countries of the world to stop India’s continuing violations of UNSC Resolutions and the international law.

“We stand with the Kashmiris in rejecting this latest Indian attempt to alter the demography of IOJK. Pakistan will continue to expose Indian state terrorism & its denial of the Kashmiris right to self-determination,” he said.

Pakistan had earlier sharply reacted to the revocation of Article 370 and 35-A and carried out an extensive diplomatic outreach. However, apart from expression of concern by a few countries, nothing substantive could be achieved. India, meanwhile, has maintained a lockdown in the occupied valley, which is now in its ninth month now.

Pakistan and several international organisations have more recently called on Indian authorities to lift the lockdown in occupied Kashmir to alleviate the suffering of Kashmiris during the Covid-19 pandemic, but those appeals have been ignored by India.

The Foreign Office, meanwhile, in a statement said the latest Indian action was aimed at illegally changing the demographic structure of the India-occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOJ&K).

“The so-called Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Order, 2020, is another illegal step taken by India to settle non-Kashmiris in IOJ&K by changing the domicile laws,” the FO said, adding that this was a clear violation of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

This Indian action, the FO said, was a continuation of India’s illegal and unilateral steps it had taken since Aug 5, 2019, and the move constituted a violation of the United Nations’ Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, bilateral agreements between India and Pakistan, and humanitarian norms.

Pakistan, the FO said, had been consistently sensitising the international community about the BJP government’s designs for demographic change in IOJ&K to perpetuate India’s illegal occupation of the disputed territory, manifestly against wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.

“On its part, Pakistan will continue to highlight India’s state terrorism in IOJ&K, and its denial of the fundamental freedoms and inalienable right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people. No matter what its tactics, India will never be able to break the will of the Kashmiri people. Nor will India succeed in its nefarious designs to subjugate Kashmiris against their wishes,” the statement said.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and urged him to play his role for stopping India for changing occupied Kashmir’s demography.

He briefed the secretary general about the new domicile rules introduced by India for Kashmir and said that these illegal steps were in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.

He stressed that the UN and the international community must take steps to prevent India from changing the demography and distinct identity of occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Qureshi also raised the issue of continued restrictions in the occupied region despite confirmed cases and deaths due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as continued incarceration of political leaders, youth and members of the civil society.

The foreign minister called for urgent lifting of communication restrictions, allowing unfettered access to medical and other essential supplies in the valley, and immediate release of all political prisoners, including the seriously ill Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020

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