Human rights abuses in Azad Kashmir
LocationAzad Kashmir
TargetCivilians and combatants
PerpetratorsLocal security forces
MotiveMilitary clampdown

Human rights abuses in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, have been a partial issue, ranging from forced disappearances,[1][2] claimed torture[3] to political repression and electoral fraud[4] and suppression of freedom of speech.[5] According to the human rights commission of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) carries out extensive surveillance operations on the press and pro-independence groups, they have carried out arbitrary arrests in which people have been tortured and several have died.[4] Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is cited to indicate that dozens have disappeared after their arrests in Pakistan-held Kashmir.[citation needed] A significant number of cases point to the Inter-Services Intelligence’s involvement in these disappearances".[1]

Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch has said in 2006 "Although ‘azad’ means ‘free,’ the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but free. The Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict controls on basic freedoms".[6] Adams cited a law where those who opposed Pakistan's position on Kashmir were not allowed to contest regional elections, as an example of "political repression".[7] The report also detailed it could not find evidence that Pakistan's security agencies were held accountable for incidents involving torture or mistreatment.[7]

Adams claimed that the problems were not "rampant" but they needed to be addressed, and that the severity of human rights issues in Indian-administered Kashmir were "much, much, much greater".[7] Pakistan's Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan rejected the contents of the report and said that Azad Kashmir was free of human rights violations.[7]

In 2011, Afzaal Suleria stated that the ISI kidnapped and killed a doctor which led to demonstrations against the ISI.[8] While speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry, Afzaal Suleria, President of the United Kashmir People's National Party- Azad Kashmir Chapter said:

“Another innocent Azad Kashmiri has become a victim of the ISI. We people are constantly harassed and victimised because we oppose the Pakistani occupation of our motherland.”[8]

Other Kashmir National Party leaders, Abbas Butt, Dr Shabir Choudhry, Asim Mirza, Nawaz Majid, and others have strongly denounced this brutal killing and demanded those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.[8]

The United Nations OHCHR reports on Kashmir document a number of human rights violations in "PaK" - "Restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association, impact of counter-terrorism on human rights, land rights, restrictions on the freedom of religion or belief and enforced or involuntary disappearances."[9][10]

Instances of Human Rights Violations

In 2000, ISI kidnapped Mohammad Khalid from Hajira after he refused to join Hizbul Mujahideen and infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir, to fight. He has been missing since then.[11]

On 7 May 2011, Dr Rizwan, resident of Muzaffarabad was kidnapped by ISI from his house and 23 May, he was killed.[8]

Sardar Arif Shahid, President of All Parties National Alliance was assassinated by ISI on 14 May 2013 outside his house in Rawalpindi.[12]

In October 2019, the People's National Alliance organised a rally to free Kashmir from Pakistani rule. However the local police baton charged the peaceful protesters, leading to 2 deaths and 100s being injured.[13]

On 27 June 2020, Sardar Akram Ali, a political worker of United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) was killed outside his house in Kotli District. He advocated independence of Kashmir from both Pakistan's and India's rule. His family alleges that he was killed by Pakistan security forces or any terrorist group.

On 21 August 2020, Tanveer Ahmed, a British National, was arrested by police after he removed a Flag of Pakistan from a public square in Dadyal. In November, his wife told the BBC that he has held a number of hunger strikes in protest at being denied bail, had become extremely weak and is being tortured.[14]

In January 2021, All Azad Kashmir School teachers Organisation had organized a peaceful rally for pay hike. Some 2,000 teachers took part in it. However, the police baton charged the peaceful protesters, leading to dozens being injured. Few days after this incident, 68 teachers were arbitrarily arrested by the police. [15]

Politics

According to Human Rights Watch,

the Pakistani government represses democratic freedoms, muzzles the press and practices routine torture.[16]

Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of government policy in Azad Kashmir. Pakistan has prevented the creation of independent media in the territory through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion. Under Azad Kashmir's constitution, which Pakistan enforced in 1974, election candidates are “prescreened” to ensure that only those who support Kashmir's union with Pakistan can contest elections. Anyone who wants to take part in public life in Azad Kashmir has to sign a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan, while anyone who publicly supports or peacefully works for an independent Kashmir faces persecution.[16]

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch:

“The electoral law undermines Kashmiris’ basic political rights by barring them from seeking office if they oppose Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan [..] Those who favor independence invite the ire of Pakistan’s abusive intelligence agencies and military, and they risk being beaten and jailed.”[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Asian Legal Resource Centre (27 August 2010). "Pakistan: Thousands Of Persons Remain Missing". Scoop. Archived from the original on 4 October 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  2. ^ "The quest for missing persons continue". Dawn. February 14, 2012. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012. reported cases of missing persons during 2011 included 43 from Punjab, 25 from Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, eight from Sindh, two from Azad Kashmir and 17 from Balochistan.
  3. ^ Watch, Human Rights (2006). "With Friends Like These..." Human Rights Violations in Azad Kashmir. Human Rights Watch. p. 54.
  4. ^ a b Piano, Aili (2009). Freedom in the World 2009: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 860. ISBN 978-1-4422-0122-4.
  5. ^ Human Rights Watch World Report 2007. Seven Stories Press. 2007. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-58322-740-4.
  6. ^ Adams, Brad. "Pakistan: 'Free Kashmir' Far From Free". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2012-08-08.
  7. ^ a b c d "HRW alleges abuses in AJK Tariq Azim rejects report". The News. 22 September 2006. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Choudhry, Shabir. "PAKISTAN: Another Azad Kashmiri becomes the victim of ISI butchery". Asian Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
  9. ^ Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (8 July 2019). Update of the Situation of Human Rights in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019. United Nations. Retrieved on 27 April 2020.
  10. ^ Office of the United Nations High Commissionefor Human Rights (14 June 2018). Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan United Nations. Retrieved on 27 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Pakistan's ISI kidnapped Mohammad Khalid 20 yrs ago for refusing to join Kashmir jihad: Mirza". India blooms. 16 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Kashmiris protest at killing of Sardar Arif Shahid". BBC News. 16 May 2013.
  13. ^ Shams, Shamil (23 October 2019). "Why calls for independence are getting louder in Pakistani Kashmir". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 6 December 2020.
  14. ^ "Fears grow for British man detained in Pakistan-administered Kashmir". BBC News. 13 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Batons, tear gas used to disperse teachers' procession in AJK". Dawn. 7 January 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Pakistan: 'Free Kashmir' Far From Free". Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Pakistan: Abuses Feared in Kashmir Elections". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 8 August 2012.