Rights violation in PoK structural in nature: UN report

Rights violation in PoK structural in nature: UN report

(Reuters file pic for representation only)

The human rights violations in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK) are of "a different calibre or magnitude and more of a structural nature" compared to those in Jammu & Kashmir, a United Nations report said on Thursday.

The report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dealing with the human rights situation in PoK said people in 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' and 'Gilgit-Baltistan', which are in the control of Pakistan, "do not enjoy" all the rights and protections available under Pakistan Constitution.

While most Pakistani laws are applied in the PoK, there are no delegates to the Pakistan Parliament. Though they have a government of their own, these areas have been "effectively" controlled by Pakistan throughout its entire history.

People face "several restrictions" on criticising the accession of PoK to Pakistan and the federal intelligence agencies deployed there have "considerable powers over" local elected representatives and officials.

Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, was specifically used in Gilgit-Baltistan to target locals who are raising issues related to "rights of people".

Youth, particularly, bear the “rampant misuse” of Anti-Terrorism Act as there are no procedural safeguards in the court proceedings with the OHCHR demanding an amendment to the law to bring it in line with international standards.

The ban on parties that do not support the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan has in effect silenced all kinds of dissent, including demands for greater transparency and accountability.

"Moreover, they allege that those who protest Pakistan's position face threats and travel bans and are subject to imprisonment and torture," stated the report that deals with the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir as well as PoK.

The OHCHR also referred to the acquisition of land for the controversial China Pakistan Economic Corridor in Gilgit-Baltistan where people were "forcibly evicted" without any consultation or giving proper information on the move that affected their lives and livelihood. Another point highlighted in the report was the "institutional discrimination" against the Ahmaddiya community in PoK by treating them as non-Muslims going by the Pakistan Constitution.

The freedom of speech scenario in PoK is also dismal with the report saying that publishers are required to declare loyalty to accession to Pakistan and a number of books supporting independence to Kashmir were banned by a 2016 government order.

Media also have to obtain prior permission from Pakistan's Kashmir Council and Ministry of Kashmir Affairs to publish in PoK.