Newsweek Pakistan

Pakistan Calls for End to India-held Kashmir Restrictions

In statement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs says coronavirus pandemic poses ‘new difficulties’ for Kashmiris

Pakistan on Sunday called for the immediate release of prisoners in India-held Kashmir, in addition to an end to restrictions placed on internet and phone services, as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to rattle the globe.

In a statement, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said that Pakistan was “deeply concerned” about the ongoing restrictions in the disputed territory even as the region reported 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as two deaths.

“Thousands of Kashmiri youth, members of civil society, journalists and Kashmiri leaders remain incarcerated in Indian prisons, many of them at undisclosed locations and away from their families,” read the statement. “The Indian forces continue to operate in the occupied territory with complete impunity under draconian laws such as Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Power Act,” it added.

According to the FO spokesperson, senior Hurriyat leaders such as Yasin Malik and Asia Andrabi are continuing to languish in prison under “fake charges without a free or fair trial.” She added: “Yasin Malik, already suffering from deteriorating health, has threatened an indefinite hunger strike to protest against a false charge sheet by the Indian government in a 30-year old case.”

Farooqui said that since India unilaterally revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Aug. 5, 2019, almost all educational institutions in the region had remained closed. “The students are unable to continue virtual education due to continued restrictions on 4G internet services,” she said. “While the world is fighting the worst global health emergency, over 900,000 Indian military and paramilitary occupation troops continue adding to the suffering of innocent Kashmiris,” she added.

According to the FO spokesperson, the international community is aware of the human rights violations being perpetrated by India in Jammu and Kashmir and must urgently call for an end to all communication restrictions, as well as allowing unfettered access of medical and other essential supplies to its residents. “The Indian government must also be urged to immediately allow release of all political prisoners from Indian jails, end incarceration of Kashmiri leaders, including the senior All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders, restore full internet facility in the entire occupied region, remove PSA and other draconian laws, and withdraw occupation forces from IoK,” she added.

“Pakistan will continue supporting its Kashmiri brethren in their rightful struggle against Indian oppression till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council Resolutions,” she said.

The Foreign Office statement comes two weeks after Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza urged Indian P.M. Narendra Modi to lift the lockdown in Kashmir to ensure relief activities were not hampered. He made the plea during a video conference with SAARC leaders on the spread of COVID-19 in the region.