Seminar at Lords advocates for right of self-determination of Kashmiris

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LONDON: A seminar, held at the House of Lords on Tuesday (January 21), discussed the overall situation in Jammu & Kashmir especially the developments occurred following revocation of special status of the state on 5th August last year.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute hosted the seminar. Baroness Kennedy opened the floor with her introductory remarks for deliberations by the guest speakers who were invited to share their thoughts. Parliamentary Secretary, Law and Justice, Barrister Maleeka Bukhari,   British Parliamentarians namely Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Lord Qurban Hussain, Steve Baker MP, Mark Eastwood MP, Imran Hussain MP and Schona Jolly QC shared their concerns over the prevailing crisis on the issue of J&K.

Pakistan High Commissioner Nafees Zakaria briefed the audience on the Kashmir issue, and what he called the human rights violations and atrocities continuing since last seven decades, the security threat to the regional peace and stability that the dispute of Kashmir poses and the situation at LoC.

He said; “Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute with unimplemented UN Security Council resolutions on it”. He invited the attention of the international community towards the plight of Kashmiri people living under crippling restrictions and military siege since Aug 5, 2019. He claimed that the blackout of media, internet and other means of communication by the Indian government is making it impossible for the outside world to know the extent of loss of human lives due to shortages of food and medicines.

Mr Zakaria emphasized the audience to read the documented accounts of human rights abuses by the organisations of international repute and INGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, IPTK, Association of Disappeared Persons (APDP), etc. He quoted “Muslim Women’s Forum” report saying that around 13,000 Kashmiri youth have been arrested since 05 August 2019 and their welfare and whereabouts were unknown. Similarly, he cited International People’s Tribunal Report entitled, “Buried Evidence” on unnamed and unmarked mass graves.

Pakistan’s Parliamentary Secretary Barrister Maleeka Bukhari who especially came to London to represent the country in this seminar, said that systematic abuse of human rights of the Kashmiris for the last seven decades is not an internal matter of India but it is in contravention of the international law as well as Indian constitution. She termed Kashmir to be the ‘largest open air prison’ on the earth. Maleeka said Indian occupation forces are committing the worst sexual violence in ‘IOK’. She stressed on the need of sending independent observers to IOK. She called upon the UK Government to take a stand on the basis of principles and urge India to stop human rights abuses in Kashmir.

The speakers said that Indian actions in J&K remind the strategy of Second World War. They maintained that being a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India cannot do arbitrary detentions. They said it is deplorable that due to the ongoing siege, the courts are not working and cases of habeas corpus cannot be pursued which adds to sufferings of the detainees and their families.

Most of the speakers said British Parliament needs to widen the agenda and discuss Kashmir as what is happening there is totally intolerable. They said religious nationalism in India is alarming. Referring to the large number of Kashmiris in the UK and their anguish in the wake of India’s illegal unilateral measures since 05 August 2019, they said UK’s The participants of the event unanimously agreed that the issue of human rights violations in IOK would be raised on all available forums and human rights bodies.

Later the following day on Wednesday (January 22), the Parliamentary Secretary Barrister Maleeka along with High Commissioner held a press briefing to inform the media about the event and the outcome.