Statement by Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, Minister for Human Rights, Pakistan at the High-Level Segment of the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council- (25 February 2020, Geneva)
High Commissioner for Human Rights,
First, I congratulate you, Madam President and members of the Bureau, for assuming stewardship of the Council.
I must also commend High Commissioner Bachelet, and her office, for their global human rights advocacy.
This Council is the custodian of universal human rights. It has made strides towards amplifying and responding to the aspirations of people across the world. Sadly, at times, it remains a helpless bystander to abuse and impunity.
The Council’s enduring strength lies in even-handed approaches, and in its transparency and impartiality.
As a founding member, Pakistan has and will continue to positively contribute to all the processes and mechanisms of this Council.
Despite suffering the scourge of terrorism and regional security challenges, our resolve to safeguard and advance human dignity and rights remains unwavering.
In line with our Founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a humane and egalitarian state, we have enacted progressive laws to protect children, women, minorities, the transgender community, the differently-abled and other marginalized segments.
Last year, we opened up the Kartarpur Corridor and constructed the world’s largest Gurdwara, allowing unimpeded access to the Sikh community from across the world.
In Pakistan, 18 denominations of Christian churches are present, where devotees freely profess their religion.We also have a flourishing Christian Missionary school system.
There is, of course, room for further improvement and I assure you that Pakistan is continuing down this road, including in providing our minorities with their own personal laws. We are also countering hate speech through legal and administrative means.
We have pioneered a wide-ranging social protection programme (Ehsaas or Compassion) aimed at alleviating the plight of the marginalized, through financial empowerment of women, provision of shelter to the homeless and through removal of financial barriers to accessing health and education.
Pakistan, in September 2019, presented a plea and petition of the Kashmiri people to this Council.
Meanwhile, over six months have passed and 8 million Kashmiris, already in the clutches of decades-long Indian state oppression, remain caged in the world’s largest open prison.The physical and digital lockdown continues in violation of international human rights standards, endorsed and pursued by this Council.
Empowered by draconian laws and in contravention of all international laws, Indian security forces continue to operate with impunity, violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people. This has grossly affected their ability to earn, get access to hospitals, attend schools, and practice their faith- with Srinagar’s largest mosque remaining closed since August last year.
Women, girls and youth are being targeted by Indian security forces, with rape being used as a tool of oppression, in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions, specifically Resolution 1325.
Despite the media clampdown in Occupied Kashmir, reports of harassment and beatings of journalists are rife.
Human rights defenders face similar obstacles in their work and reprisals against them are increasing.
Immediately after August 5 last year, over 6,000 Kashmiris, political leaders, activists, students, professionals and youth were arrested, without due process of law. Many of them were forcibly shipped to jails all over India and the fate of most of them still remains unknown.
Those released have been forced to sign a pledge of silence.
The façade of “normalcy” projected through the State-controlled narrative and orchestrated visits of handpicked foreigners are designed to mislead the international community. Several civil society and media reports have exposed these false claims, as no independent observers, journalists or even Indian opposition leaders have been allowed to visit Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan is not alone in highlighting the true face of India’s deliberate disregard of human dignity as well as its blatant breach of its international human rights obligations. US Congress, EU parliamentarians, UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights organizations and the international media have all highlighted the same. Amnesty International has rightly termed India as the “Internet shutdown capital of the world”.
Of course, I do not need to remind the Council that all this represents clear breaches of multiple international human rights instruments that India is party to. Further, it exposes the real mindset of a regime that pretends to be a bastion of democracy, federalism and secularism, and aspires to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Unfortunately, India is attempting to buy political support and silence critics on its systematic human rights abuses in IOJK and of Muslims in India, through offers of lucrative arms and other business deals.
At the root of this State-led oppression is India’s refusal to grant the people of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir their inalienable right to self-determination.
India’s unilateral actions of 5th August 2019, aimed at altering the demographics of Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, are illegal under international law and constitute a willful violation of several UN Security Council Resolutions.
India’s assertion that these actions are its “internal affair” has no credibility, particularly in light of UN Security Council resolutions that deem the territory in question to be disputed. The Security Council has met twice since 5 August 2019, debunking the mantra of Jammu & Kashmir being India’s “internal matter”
What is happening in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir is not a “country specific situation” in this Council’s parlance. The atrocities and abuses are being inflicted upon the people of a disputed and occupied territory. Jammu and Kashmir has been on UN Security Council agenda for over 70 years, marked as disputed territory in all maps of the UN.
The situation in this occupied territory must therefore be of direct international concern. It is not and can never be an internal matter for India.
The Human Rights Council must pay immediate attention to the protection and respect of the human rights of the people of Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.
The inaction of the international community and this Council will only serve to embolden India to commit more atrocities with impunity while endangering regional peace and security.In fact, to divert attention from its illegal actions in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, the current Indian political leadership is threatening war against Pakistan. The possibility of a “false flag” operation remains a serious concern for Pakistan.
The Human Rights Council has, for its consideration, the two Kashmir Reports issued by the High Commissioner’s office. It also has recourse to a Joint Statement on Jammu and Kashmir, endorsed by more than fifty Member States during the 42nd Council session last September.
The two reports of the OHCHR make a clear recommendation to this Council, to constitute an independent Commission of Inquiry, to investigate and report human rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. I reiterate Pakistan’s endorsement of this recommendation.
If India has nothing to hide, it should allow unhindered access to the Commission of Inquiry and independent observers.
Pakistan stands ready to allow access on its side of the Line of Control, together with similar access to the Indian Occupied side.
We also urge the High Commissioner to continue with the reporting process on Jammu and Kashmir.
This Council and the wider international community must act and demand from India the following with respect to IOJK:
- One, rescind all illegal actions of 5th August 2019;
- Two, immediately desist from changing the demographics in the occupied territory;
- Three, lift the lockdown and communications blackout;
- Four, allow access to medicines, food and other essential items for the Kashmiri people;
- Five, release all arbitrarily detained Kashmiri leaders, professionals and activists, including young boys who have been abducted by Indian Security Forces;
- Six, repeal all draconian laws which allow Indian occupation forces to continue committing atrocities with impunity;
- Seven, prohibit the use of force by India, specifically the use of live ammunition and pellet guns against unarmed civilians;
- And lastly, ensure drawdown of its over 800,000 troops that are currently holding the entire Kashmiri population under siege through brute force.
In conclusion, Pakistan hopes this Council will deliver on its promise and its principles. Let the world not forget the disastrous legacy of appeasement and the great cost of it not only to Europe but the world. Let us not repeat the same mistake.
I thank you.