April 2004 News

NGOs Lambast Pakistan At UN

21 April 2004
The Daily Excelsior
D R Ahuja

Jammu: Pakistan has come under scathing attack from non-governmental organizations at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights presently under way at Geneva in Switzerland. A large number of civil society representatives from Pakistan have apprised the Commission of the systematic and all - pervasive violation of human rights in their country. Speaker after speaker has highlighted the complete undermining of democratic institutions such as Parliament, political parties and the judiciary by successive military dictatorships that have ruled Pakistan for most of its existence. They have highlighted the growing number of sectarian attacks perpetrated in different parts of the country by so-called jihadi orgaizations having links with Pakistan's military establishment and pointed out that the fragile peace process between India and Pakistan would be gravely undermined if Pakistan fails to make a clean, complete and irreversible break with the forces of religious extremism. They have also documented shocking instances forcible recruitment, abduction and torture by Pakistani terrorist organizations such as the Jamat-ud-Dawat and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the misery inflicted by them on hundreds of families in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. A significant feature of the ongoing session is the large number of complaints by human rights activists from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the remote region of Gilgit- Baltistan or the Northern Areas as Pakistan calls them. According to these activists, handpicked nominees of successive military regimes of Pakistan have been imposed as heads of State and Government in Pakistan occupied Kashmir through a series of manipulated and rigged elections. They have pointed out that candidates supporting the cause of independence are debarred from participating in elections in PoK. According to representatives of the Balawaristan National Front, an organization campaigning for the restoration of basic constitutional rights for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, hundreds of political activists belonging to the organization have been subjected to intimidation and torture by Pakistani security agencies, while its leaders including Haider Shah Rizvi and Basharat Shafi have been jailed on fabricated charges of treason. Speakers from the Northern Areas have also complained of systematic efforts by Pakistan to undermine religious freedom of the Shias, who constitute a majority in Gilgit-Baltistan, by prescribing so-called Islamic school textbooks that denigrate the Shia faith. According to analysts, these complaints indicate a growing sense of alienation and despair among the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan who are no longer willing to take Pakistan's oppressive policies lying down. In a separate development, the International Kashmir Alliance, a grouping of democratic, secular parties and leaders from Pakistan occupied Kashmir, which was formed about a year ago, organized a seminar in Geneva on April 6, 2004. Addressing the gathering, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Secretary General, called for greater people to people contact between Kashmiris living on both sides of the Line of Control. He appealed for the early resumption of transport links between Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Srinagar and stressed that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan deserved the same democratic rights as people living in other parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, human rights activists from Pakistan and PoK had gathered outside the United Nations offices here and raised slogans against Pakistan. Addressing the gathering, Mr Mumtaz Khan, a senior office bearer of IKA based in Canada, denounced the 'military-mullah nexus' which had ruined Pakistan and highlighted the complete lack of political freedom and economic development in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr Shaukat Hussain Baluch, another prominent human rights activist who is based in Switzerland and is the President of the Punjab Democratic Front, called for independence for all the provinces of Pakistan and accused the military of crushing democracy in the country. Thereafter, activists of the United Kashmir People's National Party, a constituent of IKA, marched to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and handed over a memorandum calling for the release of political prisoners in PoK and an immediate end to the undesirable activities of religious extremist organizations there.


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