London; Sardar Masood Khan, President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has lauded an independent report on “Human rights in Jammu and Kashmir” launched at the House of Commons by The All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group.
Sardar Masood Khan had been invited as a special guest at the launch of the report. On the occasion, he complimented Honourable Chris Leslie, MP and Chairman of the Group, for his fearless and dynamic leadership for bringing out the report. He also paid tribute to the redoubtable diaspora community of Kashmiri-Pakistani extraction in the UK that has consistently lobbied with the British Parliament for years to help address the issues of massive human rights violations in IOK and resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiris and the UN Security Council resolutions.
Speaking at the ceremony, which was attended by more than 30 Members of Parliament and Lords representing all major political parties, the President said, “This is a potent moment. The British Parliament has broken its silence over an issue that concerns the fate and political future of 20 million Kashmiris who have been striving for the attainment of their right to self-determination for the past 71 years”.
The Group recommends repeal of the black laws in IOK, calls for investigations into the unmarked mass graves discovered in IOK in order to establish the identity of the victims, asks the Government of India to immediately ban the use of the pellet shotguns that have blinded hundreds of people in Kashmir, asks that India must open its prisons to international inspection, and urges India and Pakistan to work to resume regularized visa-regulated civilian travel across the Line of Control and reunite separated families.
President Khan endorsed the six recommendations of the Parliamentary Group, adding that the evidence collected and collated by the Group exposes the egregious practices of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.
The President said that the two draconian laws – the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act – that are used by the occupation forces to terrorize and brutalize Kashmiris must be repealed, as recommended by the APPKG. These two laws empower Indian soldiers to use excessive force, kill indiscriminately and detain people for long periods without informing them about charges against them and denying them access to medical and legal facilities.
“This fosters a culture of impunity and gives the occupation forces, who have been handed a license to kill, immunity from prosecution for their abhorrent crimes. The detainees are tortured to death and the trumped-up charges cited against them are never presented or proved in a court of law”, the President said.
“The data collected in the report is the tip of the iceberg”, the President said adding that actual human rights violations in IOK are much more pernicious and horrendous and at a much higher scale. Mass killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, fake encounters, and use of rape and sexual violence as an instrument of war and collective punishment – are rampant. “There is no meaningless accountability by the international community”, the President said.
The President informed the British parliamentarians that the number of enforced disappearances is much, much higher. “The actual number is more than 10,000. Half widows wait for their husbands to come back while they are killed and dumped in the mass graves”, he said.
Sardar Masood Khan that the unveiling of the report is well-timed as it comes after the release of the report of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights which, in June this year, gave a chilling account of Indian atrocities in the IOK and recommended repeal of the two draconian laws, as well as the establishment of a Commision of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to investigate the systematic abuses of Kashmiris’ rights. He added that that independent human rights organizations, the international media were now coming forward with fresh evidence. “This moment must be seized to rescue Kashmiris from Indian brutalities”, he said.
The President said that the APPKG report should be a “live document” which should be transmitted to the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, the UN Security Council, and UN Secretary General. Equally importantly, it should be sent to the British Prime Minister and British Foreign Secretary for acknowledgement and follow up. “We would urge the British parliamentarians to hold a debate on this report in the House of Commons”, he said and underlined that the UN Security Council must take cognizance of this report which is damning indictment of India’s gross and consistent violations of rights of the Kashmiris people.
President Masood Khan drew the attention of indiscriminate fire by Indian forces across the Line of Control targeting civilians, killing and injuring them and destroying their houses, crops and livestock. “India must abide by the 2003 ceasefire arrangement made by India and Pakistan. “These senseless killings must come to an end”, he said while demanding that the reports of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) should be submitted to the UN Secretary General and circulated the members of the UN Security Council.
The President informed the lords and MPs, who attended the ceremony, that Azad Kashmir with the help of the armed forces of Pakistan was bearing the burden of 40,000 refugees without the assistance of an international agency like the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The President said that the people of Pakistan and Kashmir believe in dialogue and diplomacy, while India hopes to resolve the Kashmir through the use of military force and terror. “Recently, a widow to re-establish diplomatic contact between India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly was blown away by Delhi”, he said.
The President appealed to the British parliamentarians to help find a political and diplomatic solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through the realization of the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people, whose denial was the root cause of the conflict and the human rights crisis in IOK.