MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan has welcomed the motion tabled in New South Wales Parliament of Australia, expressing concern over human rights violations and calling for respect to the right to self-determination of Kashmiri people.

“We appeal to the mover of the motion David Shoebridge, other MPs and the members of the Australian civil society to convince the Australian government to support the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and to speak up against the crimes against humanity being committed by the Indian government and the occupation army in the India held territory,” Mr Khan said.

He was addressing a webinar, organised by the High Commission of Pakistan in Australia, on the first anniversary of India’s illegal actions in occupied Kashmir.

Apart from the AJK president, the key speakers at the webinar included among others former Australian Senator Ms Lee Rhiannon, Member of the Legislative Council in the New South Wales Parliament David Shoebridge and Pakistan’s High Commissioner Babar Amin.

The webinar was attended by many scholars, intellectuals, journalists, members of Kashmir Solidarity Council, Pakistani community and Australians from all states and territories.

A significant number also physically participated in the event at the High Commission of Pakistan in Canberra, while observing the Covid-19 distancing regulations.

The AJK president maintained that Australia was an important country of the Oceania region which could not remain indifferent to the happenings in Kashmir.

“The recent illegal actions taken by the Indian government in occupied Jammu and Kashmir should open the eyes of the whole world as what India is doing in the disputed territory is an open war against humanity and the human values,” he observed.

He said though the world was largely aware of the brutalities being perpetrated by India against the defenceless and innocent people in Kashmir, yet many important countries were silent and tight lipped because of their political, strategic and economic interests. The AJK president lamented that the silence of influencial and powerful countries was further encouraging India.

Mr Khan dwelt on the agonies being faced by the besieged people of occupied Kashmir for the last one year and the illegal Indian actions to change the demography of the state, and said that India was doing all this to silence the voices for freedom and right to self-determination in the held territory.

Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) David Shoebridge highlighted the human rights violations in India-held Kashmir and emphasized the need for resolution of the festering dispute on the basis of right to self-determination.

Lamenting the indifference of the international community including Australia towards the plight of the Kashmiris, he vowed to take up the issue on other forums as well.

Senator Lee Rhiannon in her remarks stated that the people of India held Kashmir were being denied their basic human rights and were facing a grave humanitarian crisis that required urgent international attention.

The international community and Australia, she said, were required to ensure their basic rights especially the right to self-determination, she said, while calling for immediate cessation of the lockdown in occupied Kashmir to bring normalcy in the lives of the Kashmiris.

Comparing the Kashmiri struggle with the anti-apartheid movement, Senator Lee said with greater global awareness, the civil society and the force of public opinion would compel the governments to stand up with the Kashmiris.

Dr Claude Rakisits said that the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir had been on the manifesto of Mr Modi’s party for the national election in 2019, so there was no real surprise to this move.

Due to the continued massive clampdown, the situation remains significantly inhuman for the people of Kashmir. Such collective punishment is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he said.

Dr Rakists also presented his own proposal for resolution of the issue on the occasion.

The first step, he said, would be the involvement of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group to assist Kashmiris, Pakistan and India in the mediation of the plan.

In the second step, four UN-supervised referenda would be held simultaneously, but counted separately for (i) Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK; (ii) Kashmir valley; (iii) Jammu; and (iv) Ladakh.High Commissioner Babar Amin in his remarks thanked all the speakers for their principled position on the illegal actions, military siege, and human rights violations in India occupied Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2020

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