Human rights abuses in Azad Kashmir
Human rights abuses in Azad Kashmir, a disputed territory administered by Pakistan, are an ongoing issue, ranging from forced disappearances, torture to political repression and electoral fraud and suppression of freedom of speech. According to the human rights commission of Pakistan the Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) agency carries out extensive surveillance operations on the press and pro independence groups, they have carried out arbitrary arrests in which people have been tortured and several have died. Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is cited to indicate that dozens have disappeared after their arrests in Pakistan-held Kashmir. Those missing include Pakistani army personnel, those involved in spying for Pakistan, or those suspected of spying for India. According to the report "persons are arrested and disappeared if they refuse to join or try to leave the forces engaged in the “Jihad” inside Indian-held Kashmir or don’t provide information to the intelligence agencies about the movements of people across the border control line. A significant number of cases point to the Inter-Services Intelligence’s involvement in these disappearances"
Brad Adams the Asia director at Human Rights Watch has said in 2006
Although ‘azad’ means ‘free,’ the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but, The Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict controls on basic freedoms.
Form of Human Rights
While speaking to Dr Shabir Choudhry, Afzaal Suleria, President of the United Kashmir People's National Party- Azad Kashmir Chapter said:
“Another innocent Azad Kashmiri has become a victim of the ISI. We people are constantly harassed and victimised because we oppose the Pakistani occupation of our motherland.”
According to Mr. Suleria the ISI kidnapped and killed a doctor in May 2011 which lead to a demonstration against the ISI.
Suleria also stated that Pakistani rule here is "imperial in nature".
Other Kashmir National Party leaders, Abbas Butt, Dr Shabir Choudhry, Asim Mirza, Nawaz Majid, and others have strongly denounced this brutal killing and demanded those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.
According to Human Rights Watch,
the Pakistani government represses democratic freedoms, muzzles the press and practices routine torture.
Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of government policy in Azad Kashmir. Pakistan has prevented the creation of independent media in the territory through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion. Under Azad Kashmir’s constitution, which Pakistan enforced in 1974, election candidates are “prescreened” to ensure that only those who support Kashmir’s union with Pakistan can contest elections. Anyone who wants to take part in public life in Azad Kashmir has to sign a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan, while anyone who publicly supports or peacefully works for an independent Kashmir faces persecution.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch:
“The electoral law undermines Kashmiris’ basic political rights by barring them from seeking office if they oppose Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, [..] Those who favor independence invite the ire of Pakistan’s abusive intelligence agencies and military, and they risk being beaten and jailed.”
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that the status of women in Pakistani-administered Kashmir is similar to that of women in Pakistan. Women are not provided with equal rights under the law, and their educational opportunities and choice of marriage partner remain “circumscribed” in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Domestic violence, forced marriage, and other forms of abuse continue to occur at alarming rate.
In May 2007, the United Nations and other aid agencies temporarily suspended their work after suspected Islamists mounted an arson attack on the home of two aid workers; the organizations had received "warnings against hiring women". However, honour killings and rape occur less frequently than in other areas of Pakistan.
Cases of Enforced disappearances
In Azad Kashmir, numerous disappearances are also reportedly being committed, notably by the Pakistani intelligence agencies, which arrest and disappear persons who refuse to join the “Jihad” against Indian-held Kashmir.
Disappearances in the region: Reports indicate that many people have gone missing after their arrest by the intelligence agencies operating in the region. Reportedly “persons are arrested and disappeared if they refuse to join or try to leave the forces engaged in the “Jihad” inside Jammu and Kashmir or don’t provide information to the intelligence agencies about the movements of people across the border control line.”
According to the report, family members of Altaf, Qadeer, Qasim and Mushtaq who were residents of a refugee camp at Solna area, Kotli, who were disappeared in late 2009 after their arrest by Pakistan’s security forces, were told by the local ISI office that they were being held by the ISI and would be released soon. They remain missing to date.
Jehangir, son of Sabir and a resident of Charhoi, Kotli sub district, and Amjad, son of Mohammad Khan, who was a resident of Leepa tehsil, Muzaffarabad district and a soldier in the Pakistan army — both of them went missing after being arrested by ISI.
It is alleged that Amjad was working in favour of families of disappeared persons.
Mohammad Aslam, son of Jan Mohammad, resident of Cherhoi, Kotli sub district, was arrested in July 2009, allegedly by the ISI, and has been missing since then.
Akram, son of Abdullah, resident of Khoi Ratta, Kotli district, who previously provided information from Indian administered Kashmir to the Pakistani security forces, has been missing for seven months after he stopped volunteering information.
Masood, resident of Khoi Ratta, Kotli district, who had previously fought as a Mujahid, has been missing since May 2009 after his arrest by “plain-clothed ISI personnel”.
Mr. Kabir Hasan Shah, resident of Sandok, Neelum district, was disappeared in October 2009, allegedly by the ISI, and subjected to torture for three months by the ISI for using their telephone lines, before being released in the second week of January 2010.
Mr. Naveed Ahmed Khan was arrested and disappeared in November 2009, allegedly by the ISI, having been accused of taking photos of Jihadi training camps in Pallandi, Sudhanti district. He was held and interrogated by the ISI for over two months before being released on January 19, 2010 for lack of evidence.
A Pakistani soldier, Mr. Mohammad Iqbal Awan, was arrested and disappeared for five years and repeatedly subjected to torture, due to which he lost his teeth, his spine was fractured, his legs were burnt, his head was seriously injured and he now can’t walk without assistance, by the ISI on false charges of working for the Indian intelligence agencies’ Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Pakistani-held Kashmir. He was cleared of all charges in a court martial at the Kharian cantonment, Punjab province.
- Human rights abuses in Kashmir
- Human rights in Pakistan
- Human rights violations in Balochistan
- Human rights abuses in Sindh
- Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir
- Asian Legal Resource Centre (27 August 2010). "Pakistan: Thousands Of Persons Remain Missing". Scoop.
- "The quest for missing persons continue". Dawn. February 14, 2012. "reported cases of missing persons during 2011 included 43 from Punjab, 25 from Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, eight from Sindh, two from Azad Kashmir and 17 from Balochistan."
- Watch, Human Rights (2006). "With Friends Like These..." Human Rights Violations in Azad Kashmir. Human Rights Watch. p. 54.
- Piano, Aili (2009). Freedom in the World 2009: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 860. ISBN 978-1-4422-0122-4.
- Human Rights Watch World Report 2007. Seven Stories Press. 2007. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-58322-740-4.
- Adams, Brad. "Pakistan: ‘Free Kashmir’ Far From Free". Human Rights Watch.
- Choudhry, Shabir. "PAKISTAN: Another Azad Kashmiri becomes the victim of ISI butchery". Asian Human Rights Commission.
- "Pakistan: ‘Free Kashmir’ Far From Free". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- "Pakistan: Abuses Feared in Kashmir Elections". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Freedom in the World 2008 – Kashmir (Pakistan), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2008-07-02