UKPNP chief urges UNHRC to put pressure on Pakistan to release Gilgit Baltistan activists

PoK leader Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri

Geneva [Switzerland], September 28 (ANI): Exiled Chairman United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri at the 45th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council urged the council to put pressure on Pakistan for the immediate and unconditional release of all activists and journalists protesting against Islamabad's human rights violations against activists in the Gilgit Baltistan region.

"Kashmiri nationalists, journalists are harassed, kidnapped, abducted, tortured and in some cases eliminated by secret agencies and armed forces," he said.

"At the behest of Pakistan, the local administration has brutally beaten, arrested, and jailed him. In Gilgit Baltistan peaceful political activists Baba Jan Iftikhar Hussain and their colleagues were tried under Anti-Terrorist Act and were awarded 40 to 90 years imprisonment. We urge the Human Rights Council to put pressure on Islamabad for the immediate and unconditional release of all activists," he added.

The UKPNP chairman added that the authorities intensified their crackdown on the right to freedom of expression. He further pointed out that political activists and journalists "are targeted and charged" under draconian laws, including the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), the Anti-Terrorism Act, and sections of the penal code on sedition and defamation.

"The government curtailed media freedoms and media workers reported that they were experiencing a growing culture of censorship, coercion and harassment by the authorities," the exiled PoK leader said.

Kashmiri told the council that enforced disappearances remained pervasive with no one held accountable for them. The government failed to uphold its commitments to legislate against torture and enforced disappearances. "The victims of enforced disappearances included political activists, students, journalists, human rights defenders," he said.

Last week, Pakistan President Arif Alvi had announced that the polls will be conducted on November 15.

This move to change Gilgit Baltistan's status and turn it into a province by giving it representation on all constitutional bodies is being seen as a "belated response" to India's moves to nullify Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).

In response to Pakistan's decision to usurp Gilgit Baltistan, India had responded strongly saying that "any action by Pakistan to alter the status of the militarily occupied so-called 'Gilgit-Baltistan' has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab-initio. Our position has always been clear and consistent." (ANI)
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