OHCHR 2019 report on Kashmir says it all, once again!

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Iqbal Khan

LIKE the first one last year, Pakistan has also welcomed the second report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Jammu and Kashmir captioned “Update of the Situation of Human Rights in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019”. It calls for fully respecting the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as protected under international law. Though report largely focuses on Indian atrocities in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK), it also refers to relatively very minor inadequacies in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). Notwithstanding the fact that India is heavily investing in GB for disrupting CPEC-related activities, Pakistan needs to heed to the OHCHR advice. Concrete steps should be taken to evolve a zero tolerance culture with regard to forced disappearances and disregard for rule of law-by-law enforcers. In addition, both territories need to be given provisional representation in the National Assembly and Senate. Provisional province plus would be a befitting status for GB and AJK.
The report has called upon the 47-member States of the UN Human Rights Council to “consider… the possible establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to conduct a comprehensive, independent, international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”. It documents the excessive use of force by the Indian occupation forces, the continued use of pellet guns to kill and maim defenceless civilians and extrajudicial killings in the garb of so-called cordon and search operations. It also records use of various forms of arbitrary arrests and detentions to target protestors and political dissidents. Document deplores the impunity enjoyed by the Indian occupation forces under the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act.
As in case of last year’s report, New Delhi has termed the report ‘false’. India rejected the UN Report, calling it “false, with a motivated narrative”. In a statement, Indian government’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar accused the OHCHR of “legitimising terrorism”. “The assertions in the report are in violation of India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ignore the core issue of cross-border terrorism,” it said. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson responded that “we again welcome the OHCHR’s recommendation for the establishment of a CoI to investigate the gross and systematic human rights violations in occupied Jammu & Kashmir”. UN report on Kashmir “once again affirms massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces”. Spokesperson reiterated that unlike the IoK, which is the most militarized zone in the world, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan remain open to foreign visitors. The UN report has also asked India to investigate the killing of civilians following the killing of Burhan Wani; more than 100 protesters were killed in the five-month-long street protests, triggering a new wave of popular anger against the Indian rule. In response, India had intensified its security operations in IoK, leading to more killings of innocent civilians.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), 586 people, including 160 civilians, 267 freedom fighters and 159 Indian security personnel were killed during last year—highest since 2008.Rights activists Khurram Parvez, who works with the JKCCS, termed India’s reaction to the UN report as “anti-human-rights and immature”. “If India says all such reports are false, then why doesn’t it allow international rights bodies to visit Kashmir and investigate so that they come up with a more accurate report from the ground,” Parvez told Al-Jazeera. “The truth is India does not want anyone to see the situation on the ground,” said Parvez, whose organisation recently released a detailed report on torture by the Indian forces in Kashmir.
The number of civilian casualties over 12 months — from May 2018 to April 2019 — in Indian Occupied Kashmir “may be the highest in over a decade”, as Pakistan-India tension earlier this year is having a severe impact on human rights in the region, the report said. Tension over the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir rose sharply after a deadly suicide bombing in February targeting Indian occupation forces in Pulwama. The continuing tension has severely impacted civilians’ human rights, including the right to life, the report added. The report noted that India’s Home Ministry published lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 terrorists and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to December 2, 2018. Report observed that a further 35 civilians were killed and 135 injured on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control due to shelling and firing by Indian forces during 2018.
The report said that despite the high number of civilians killed in the vicinity of gun battles between Indian forces and freedom fighters, “there is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties”. The report has underlined that there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government in a civilian court. It does not appear that Indian security forces have been asked to re-evaluate or change their crowd-control techniques or rules of engagement,” the report said. It has also flagged a spike in hate crimes against the Kashmiris in the rest of India, calling on New Delhi to do more to prevent the violence. The only solution to the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is to grant the people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK) the legitimate right to self-determination as recognized by the numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions, which is essential for the security and stability of South Asia and beyond. The UN needs to engage the two countries for effective enforcement of ceasefire in line with Security Council resolutions.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.