AJK PM calls occupied Kashmir ‘world’s largest open air prison’, voices concern over tensions

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (APP):Azad Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider has described as “a crime against humanity” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to repeal occupied Kashmir’s special status and the subsequent crackdown, saying the disputed state has been turned into “the world’s largest open-air prison.”

“Kashmir is a flashpoint”, he said in an interview with NEWSWEEK, a mass circulation American weekly magazine.

“We are very concerned in this part of Pakistan that anything could happen,” Haider added.
Echoing Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Azad Kashmir leader called for global intervention, including from US President Donald Trump, to stop the ongoing atrocities in occupied Kashmir.

“India should be stopped and it’s the duty of the United States of America,” Haider told Newsweek. “It’s the duty of the American government, the American people.”

Haider also appealed to powers such as China and Russia, along with Europe, saying “the time has come for the rest of the world, either they want to support human rights or they want to trade with a country like India that violates them.”

President Trump has previously expressed interest in mediating between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a move welcomed by Islamabad but rejected by New Delhi.

Replying to a question, the AJK prime minister warned that if the situation was allowed to deteriorate, the Line of Control could be reduced to a ceasefire line as it was known prior to the signing of the Simla Agreement in 1972. He told Newsweek that “after what Mr. Modi has done by ignoring U.N. resolutions on Kashmir and other bilateral agreements, now there is no Line of Control.”

While calling occupied Kashmir, “the world’s largest open-air prison”, Haider warned “the reign of terror that India has unleashed in Jammu and Kashmir should be stopped.”

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Amnesty International India Executive Director Aakar Patel said that “life has been derailed for the people of Jammu and Kashmir” since the crackdown earlier this month.

“The communication blockade and security clampdown, the alleged detention of political leaders and restrictions on media to report has created an information black hole in Jammu and Kashmir, a region which has witnessed serious human rights violations in the past,” he added.

“Depriving an entire population of their right to freedom of expression, opinion and movement for an indefinite period runs squarely counter to international norms and standards. Worse, it gives the Government of India a near-total control over the information coming out of the region.”

He also warned that restrictions on media made it difficult to determine the status of reportedly detained political leaders or the number of casualties in recent clashes with security forces, warning, “This turns the fear of human rights violations that may occur yet remain unreported into a reality which only stands to perpetuate impunity and diminish accountability in Jammu and Kashmir—a culture the Government of India continues to extend in spite of its promises of development and change.”

A spokesperson for the United Nations Human Rights Office also told Newsweek that “the human rights situation in Kashmir has deteriorated since the Government of India revoked constitutional provisions granting the special status to the state.”

“The U.N. Human Rights Office remains deeply concerned about reports of ongoing detentions of a broad range of people in Kashmir and lack of information about their status,” the spokesperson added.

“In addition, the U.N. Human Rights Office urges the lifting of all communications restrictions not just landlines. There are concerns that the restrictions have adversely affected people’s ability to access healthcare from basic medicine to hospital facilities for procedures like chemotherapy and kidney dialysis.”

A group of U.N. experts has also issued a statement arguing that the “shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality.” It continued, warning that the “blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

The experts also called for allegations of mass arrests and detainments to be “thoroughly investigated,” saying they were “gravely concerned about allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained is not known as well as the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks.”

India’s Foreign Ministry, Home Ministry and local authorities in Kashmir did not respond to Newsweek’s requests for comment, according to the dispatch.

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