'Human Rights Of PoK Residents Being Violated'
2 November 2004
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The fundamental human rights of Pakistan occupied Kashmir residents are violated at many different levels adding to the feelings of deprivation of people, a recent mission to PoK has found. A team of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan which visited PoK, reveals there is 'blatant discrimination' against advocates of independent Kashmir while 'severe' limitations on autonomy of the government have been imposed, which has led to a disquiet among Kashmiris there. There are seven to eight pro-independence parties in PoK, but the state's constitution and election laws bar those who subscribe to the idea of an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir from contesting elections. Under the interim constitution of 1974, civil servants as well as all those elected to the Parliament are obliged to take an oath that they will remain loyal to the ideology of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. 'The deliberate exclusion of pro- independence opinion in PoK's Constitutional Act of 1974, demonstrates lack of respect for dissent, which is more prevalent than is generally acknowledged or admitted', the recently released report states. PoK also suffers from little or restrained autonomy in many key areas owing to Pakistan's bureaucratic and military apparatus dealing with state affairs. This has serious consequences for government formation and decision making. Pakistani officials dominate the Kashmir Council and occupy key-decision making posts. The chief secretary, the inspector general of police, the accountant general and finance secretary come from Pakistan. 'Kashmiris in PoK believe that the general officer commanding of the Pakistan Army at Murree has a big say in their affairs. They say the freedom of PoKs political institutions should be ensured by curtailing powers and official and unofficial role of Pakistan bureaucracy'. At the root of this denial of autonomy to the state government is the fact that the relationship between Pakistan and PoK has never been clearly defined. This lack of clarity and the vague nature of the relationship has impinged on the autonomy of the state government as well as created concerns and confusion about the future of Kashmir. Fundamental freedoms such as freedom of movement, expression assembly and association are often infringed in the region under various pretexts, the team disclosed. While people say they are 'surveillance,' journalists complain their freedom is restrained and complain of harassment at hands of intelligence agencies, government and jehadi outfits. Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, has a strong presence in the PoK. 'People continuously feel that they are being watched and monitored. Pro-independence groups and the press particularly remain under surveillance. Detention and arrests by the intelligence agencies are arbitrary and are not scrutinised. The (PoK) high court have no jurisdiction over people caught by the agencies,' the document said. Besides this, the HRCP also pointed out about lack of safeguards to women and children, poor development, and weaknesses in law enforcement and the judicial process. At schools, students taught more about Pakistan than Kashmir. In all these years, no medical or engineering college has been established in PoK which could enable young Kashmiris to have careers in technical fields.