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Right of Expression right self Determination

Speech delivered by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar in the UN Human Rights Council’s 36th Session in Geneva on 18 September 2017.

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaikam and good afternoon.

Pakistan still claims to champion right of self – determination of people of Jammu and Kashmir; however, it is sad to note that Pakistani governments have systematically curbed our right of expression and right of self – determination.

It is strange that despite, Pakistan’s atrocious record of opposing and flouting people of Jammu and Kashmir’s right of self – determination, some innocent and misguided people continue to believe that Islamabad espouse their right of self – determination. This bitter fact exhibits that systematic negative propaganda; and use of religion as a foreign policy tool has helped Pakistan to advance its agenda on Jammu and Kashmir and in the region.

Pakistan and their foot soldiers continue to silence those voices that oppose Pakistan’s policy on Jammu and Kashmir. Already they hold a world record in banning more than a dozen books in one day. Anyone, selling or storing these books, which include my books as well, will suffer serious consequences, including 70,000 Rupees fine and imprisonment.

As if that was not enough, Pakistan has now started banning publication of newspapers in so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. On 24 August 2017, Urdu daily ‘Mjadla’ published a survey report, which a British researcher conducted in Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Ten thousand local people took part in this survey, and more than 70 percent said they wanted independence.

The puppet government of Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir, after publication of this survey report, sealed the offices of daily Mjadla to send the message to all concerned that people of this region do not have a right of expression. This blatant attack on the right of expression of citizens, and the freedom of press must be condemned.

We demand Pakistan to honour its obligations assumed under the UNCIP Resolutions; and direct their foot soldiers to respect democratic norms and fundamental rights of the citizens. It is sad to note that Pakistan has betrayed people of Jammu and Kashmir; and their policies have only added to the problems and suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan, contrary to their declared policy, in practice is only prepared to give people of Jammu and Kashmir one choice, that is accession to Pakistan. Anyone who oppose this policy is castigated as anti – Pakistan, Indian agent and a traitor. How can one be a ‘traitor’ for loving his motherland and protecting its integrity and national interest?

United Nations Security Council Resolutions clearly demand both India and Pakistan to protect right of expression and other fundamental rights of people of forcibly divided Jammu and Kashmir State. How sad that those who struggle for unification and independence of this divided state and want to protect its dignity and honour are portrayed as traitors by those who occupy us. Those who agree to become foot soldiers of the occupying forces are presented as patriots to fool innocent people who suffer on both sides of the divide.

Mr Chairman

Sadly, situation in Gilgit and Baltistan is even worse. Not only right of expression is curbed, journalists are attacked and political workers are arrested and charged with treason and put in jails. It is a common practise that forces of occupation harass, intimidate and even kidnap political workers. Some of these political workers are charged with treason and put in jails.

Mr Chairman

It is extraordinary that as a result of an agreement, Indian and Chinese soldiers do not carry guns on the Line of Actual Control. Only senior officers are allowed to carry guns; however, they are strictly ordered that guns should point towards ground. No soldier is even allowed to punch another soldier.

On the Line of Control separating Indian and Pakistani troops, it is free for all – soldiers of both countries use all sorts of conventional weapons. Both countries frequently exchange fire on the LOC, in which people of Jammu and Kashmir get killed on both sides. Although, Pakistani media and their foot soldiers make us believe that only Indian bombs kill people; and Pakistani bombs don’t kill civilians.

It is also bizarre that if a citizen of Jammu and Kashmir is killed by an Indian bullet, the victim is a martyr; however, if a person is killed by a Pakistani bullet then he is a traitor. Does the Pakistani establishment really think that we citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are fools?

I am also among those people who have suffered because of Pakistan’s atrocious policies on Jammu and Kashmir. Just because I oppose Pakistan’s Jammu and Kashmir policy, and expose their designs of promoting extremism, terrorism, religious intolerance and hatred, they have targeted me with their multi prong strategy. On one hand, they have blocked my ID Card which is essential to life in Pakistan and areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by them, and have frozen my bank accounts; on the other hand, they have directed their foot soldiers to defame me and attack me in political and social circles by circulating false stories.

To conclude, Mr Chairman

I must emphasise that the entire Jammu and Kashmir State is disputed; and people suffer on both sides of the divide. Use of gun can only add to our problems. Our struggle is political in nature; and religion is a personal matter of citizens. New Delhi and Islamabad cannot impose a solution on us; only people of Jammu and Kashmir can determine the future of our mother land. In area of Jammu and Kashmir, where I live, is occupied by Pakistan; and here we are denied of our fundamental rights. The Pakistani establishment, their media and foot soldiers urge us to fight against India; and say nothing about Pakistan.

This will not happen; and we will continue our struggle on this side of the divide. It is for the people of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by India to decide how to oppose that occupation. I will support them, but I expect them to give me the same right to oppose the country that occupies me and curb our fundamental rights.

Also, I want to strongly condemn gross human rights violations being perpetrated by the Myanmar government. When is the international Community and so called Muslim Umma going to wake up?

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also, he is Chairman South Asia Watch, London and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

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