ISLAMABAD: As Syed Ali Geelani was buried in Srinagar amid a lockdown imposed by Indian forces across the disputed region on Thursday, Pakistan demanded a probe by the UN Commission on Inquiry into grave human right abuses in India-held Kashmir.
The indefatigable campaigner against Indian occupation died late on Wednesday at the age of 92 following a long illness.
Pakistani nation paid rich tribute to Mr Geelani for his life-long struggle for justice and freedom on the official mourning day with the country’s flag flying at half-mast.
“There must be accountability. Pakistan will continue to forcefully raise India’s gross human rights violations before the international community,” Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar told a weekly press briefing here.
Pakistan condemns Indian act, demands UN probe into HR violations in held Kashmir
He condemned the barbaric act of snatching of the mortal remains of Mr Geelani by the Indian occupation forces as his family was preparing for his last rite.
The spokesman said it was deeply regrettable that Mr Geelani was not allowed to be buried in accordance with his will, and the wishes of his family. This shows the highest degree of callousness on the part of the occupation forces in complete disregard of civil and human values.
He urged the international community to take serious note of the unprecedented and egregious situation and hold India to account for its breaches of international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Expressing deep grief over Mr Geelani’s death under prolonged house arrest in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the FO spokesman expressed the confidence that his legacy would continue to inspire all those carrying his mission forward to bring an end to Indian occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said Mr Geelani’s unflinching commitment to the Kashmir cause, in the face of persistent persecution and tremendous personal hardship, was unparalleled. He inspired three generations of Kashmiris in resisting the Indian occupation and unabated tyranny. He was a true voice and hero of the Kashmiris’ struggle for self-determination. Upright and steadfast, he would never compromise on the just cause that he led throughout his life from the core of his heart.
“He will be remembered for his unconditional love for Kashmir and Pakistan. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.
He reiterated that Pakistan would continue to extend all possible support to the Kashmiri people till the realisation of their legitimate right to self-determination as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir Shehryar Khan Afridi called for an immediate and impartial inquiry into the ‘custodial killing’ of Kashmiri Hurriyat Conference leader Geelani.
Talking to reporters after attending funeral prayers in absentia offered at Parliament House, Mr Afridi said this is the second high-profile custodial killing after Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai who was also killed in custody early this year in May. Mr Sehrai was denied medical facilities due to which he died in police custody.
The funeral was attended by President Dr Arif Alvi, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, Prime Minister AJK Abdul Qayyum Khan Niazi, All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders and several members of parliament.
“Geelani was a public figure, a man of the people who had dedicated all his life for the cause of Kashmir. The circumstances leading to his death and then the forcible burial have raised serious concerns. We fear if Geelani’s killing is not probed, other Kashmiri incarcerated by India may also be killed in custody,” Mr Afridi said.
“Had the world community and human rights organisations investigated the custodial killing of Shaheed Ashraf Sehrai, Syed Ali Geelani’s life could have been saved. The lack of medical facilities, prolonged incarceration and isolation further deteriorated his health,” said Mr Afridi.
The Kashmir Committee chairman said that while Syed Ali Geelani was under house arrest since October 2010, mystery shrouded his death as the Indian forces cordoned off the residence of Mr Geelani and barred media and even close relatives from entering Geelani’s residence in Hyderpora area, situated along the Srinagar International Airport Road.
“Even the whole street was barricaded and family and friends were not allowed to enter the house. In the dead of the night, the Indian forces barged into the house and forcefully took Geelani Sahib’s body. The family was tortured and beaten to release the dead body against their will,” he said.
On behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairperson, Senator Sherry Rehman extended deepest condolences to the family, friends, and followers of Gilani.
She said the late Gilani was a symbol of the Kashmiri people’s aspirations of their rightful and long-overdue right to self-determination. Throughout his life, he maintained an unequivocal stance on no negotiation or dialogue with India until it recognises Kashmir as disputed territory, and moves away from its use of military force for Kashmir’s right to self-determination.
Syed Ali Geelani was, and will remain, an enduring symbol of the Kashmiri struggle for many to follow. He will remain alive in the hearts, minds and struggle of the Kashmiri people”, she said.
Security tightened in held valley
Wary of his influence across the occupied valley, security forces were quickly deployed, mobile internet and phones were cut and residents were told to stay in their homes.
Paramilitaries and troops manned barricades throughout the day and the curfew was expected to be extended until after traditional family mourning ceremonies on Sunday.
Mr Geelani’s family said they were not allowed to attend the burial at 4:30am at a cemetery near his home in the main city of Srinagar.
Mr Geelani had wanted to be buried at the Martyrs Cemetery in Srinagar along with other Kashmiri leaders. But Indian authorities rejected the request, the police source said.
“At about 3:00am, police barged inside our home and took our father’s body,” one of his sons, Naseem Geelani, told AFP.
“We insisted that we would perform his funeral after morning prayers and bury him according to his wish at the Martyrs Cemetery.”
Police “snatched my father’s body and did not allow anyone from our family to participate in the burial,” the son added.
“We heard later that police undertook washing rituals for my father’s body and had him buried.” The police source acknowledged that security forces “took control of the arrangements”.
The official said the family were given choices but did not respond. He said two sons were present but did not name them.
About 50 people attended the funeral, according to one man who said he was a neighbour of Mr Geelani and attended the service.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was among the first to pay tribute to Mr Geelani. Mr Khan said Mr Geelani had “struggled all his life for his people and their right to self-determination. He suffered incarceration and torture by the occupying Indian state but remained resolute.”
Mr Geelani had been a thorn in India’s side since the early 1960s when he began campaigning for the Muslim-majority territory’s merger with Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
He was jailed for nearly 10 years after 1962 and after that was often restricted to his home.
Since his youth, Mr Geelani had been a member of Jamaat-i-Islami, the territory’s largest political-religious organisation that was banned by India’s Hindu nationalist government in 2019.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021