GENEVA: Pakistan’s foreign minister demanded on Tuesday that the UN launch an international investigation into the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, warning of the risk of “genocide” in the Muslim-majority region.
“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are apprehending the worst,” Shah Mahmoud Qureshi told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, adding “I shudder to mention the word genocide here, but I must.”
India imposed a military clampdown on Kashmir from August 5 to prevent unrest as New Delhi revoked the region’s autonomy. Mobile phone networks and the internet are still cut off in all but a few pockets.
Kashmir, split between India and Pakistan since 1947, has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals.
“For the last six weeks, India has transformed Jammu and Kashmir into the largest prison on this planet,” Qureshi insisted.
“The forlorn, traumatised towns, mountains, plains and valleys of Jammu and Kashmir reverberate today, with the grim reminders of Rwanda, Srebrenica, the Rohingya, and the pogrom of Gujarat,” he said.
The minister accused India of having arrested more than 6,000 people without due process. Many had been “shipped to jails all over India”, he said.
His comments came after Indian authorities tightened the security lockdown in Kashmir on Sunday after breaking up religious processions by Muslims who defied a ban.
Also over the weekend, India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval insisted that the lifting of communications restrictions would depend on Pakistan stopping deploying “terrorists” and fomenting unrest.
Qureshi on Tuesday slammed India’s references to “cross-border terrorism” to justify its crackdown as a “red herring to divert international opinion”, and said he feared India might “even attack Pakistan”.
He also insisted that India’s labelling of the Kashmir situation as an “internal affair” was “patently false”, pointing out that the matter had been on the UN agenda for seven decades.
The minister urged the council to heed recommendations by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and her predecessor Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussain to launch a so-called international Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Kashmir situation.
A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the Syrian conflict.
The council must “take steps to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations of the innocent Kashmiri people, and in this context, constitute a Commission of Inquiry,” Qureshi said.
“If India has nothing to hide, it should allow unhindered access to the Commission of Inquiry,” he insisted. Pakistan was willing to provide access to its side of the so-called Line of Control, he added.
Pakistan is expected to present a resolution to the council for consideration by the end of the 42nd session on September 27.
At the opening of the council session on Monday, Bachelet also voiced alarm at the situation in Kashmir.
She had “appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews, to ensure people’s access to basic services, and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained”, she said.
“It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future,” she added.