Human rights and political activists raise concern over grim situation in PoK, Gilgit

Islamabad [Pakistan], Feb.9 : Human rights defenders and political activists from several parties have expressed concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit Baltistan.

Speaking at an event titled "Right to Self Determination of Jammu and Kashmir people and Freedom of Expression" at the Islamabad Press Club, they highlighted several issues, including a demand to lift the ban on students unions and the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Farzana Bari, a Pakistan intellectual and human rights activist, said, "Kashmiris should have the right to speak about their rights.

In Pakistan, the Standing Committee on Kashmir should have representation of Kashmiris. In Azad Kashmir, the governance should be in the hands of local parties as the people there are feeling that they are being ruled from Islamabad".

One of the organisers of the event, the United Kashmir Peoples' National Party (UKPNP), said that it was opposed to the construction of mega projects in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, describing such works as a sheer violation of United Nations resolutions.

The party said in a statement, "We demand that until the final settlement of the erstwhile state, without assurance of the right to property of local populations, plundering of natural resources, it is believed that such notions are to pave the way for a permanent colonisation of local resources." Political activists raised the issue of human rights violations in PoK and Gilgit Baltistan and blamed the military for muzzling dissenting voices in nationalist parties and groups, non-governmental organisations and media.

Exiled Kashmiri leader Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, whose statement was read out by a party representative at the conference, said, "It is a common practice in Pakistan to label its political opponents as foreign agents and traitors, especially nationalists leaders and workers from so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, who are peacefully demanding their basic and fundamental human rights and ownership of their natural resources." He added, "Recently, the establishment introduced new tactics to use blasphemy laws against social media activists, religious minorities, journalists, bloggers and secular Kashmiri nationalists." The UKPNP also passed a resolution demanding the immediate abolition of Act -1974, including all discriminatory laws and clauses.

It said that the local population should be empowered and people must be liberated from documents of slavery.

The resolution called on the Government of Pakistan to refrain from changing the demographics in both regions which are currently under its temporary administrative control.

Source: ANI