Civil and Political Rights in Azad Kashmir-Should Act 74 be abrogated?
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
March/ April 2005
Text of Dr Shabir Choudhry’s speech at the 61st Session UN Commission on Human Rights. Produced here for the interest of readers.
Thank you Chairperson
Despite hard work done by the UN Commission on Human Rights, millions of people around the world are still denied of their basic human rights, and they suffer from tyrannical and colonial rules.
People are still suffering because some UN member states give little value to the human rights, and continue to oppress and intimidate people. It is unfortunate to note that human rights are violated even by those states who are members of this commission; and they become members of the Commission not because they want to enhance the human rights, but they have some other motives.
This point was pertinently made by the UN Secretary General Kofi Anan in his speech in New York, as published in the British daily, Independent, on 22 March 2005, and I quote:
“States have sought membership of the Commission not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticise other.” Unquote
India and Pakistan are signatory to the UN Charter, and they are also signatory to the UN Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, which acknowledge Kashmiri peoples basic human rights which includes right to self determination.
Despite this we know that people of Jammu and Kashmir suffer on both sides of the Line of Control. Even when peace process is going on, and certain confidence building measures are put in place, innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to suffer and die.
While speaking on DEBATE ON RIGHT OF PEOPLES TO SELF-DETERMINATION, Pakistan’s Representative, RAJA PERVEZ ASHRAF appreciated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and remarked: “Fifty-seven years ago, the United Nations had conferred the right to self-determination on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.’’
I admire Pakistani representative’s sentiments about rights of the people of Kashmir, but wish to remind that this right was not exclusive to the people living on the Indian side of the divide. This right was extended to the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, and we people living on the Pakistani side of the divide are also entitled to benefit from this.
Pakistani officials like to focus on the rights of the people on the Indian side, and pay little attention to the plight of the people living in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit and Baltistan.
We have recently experienced taste of Pakistani democracy and freedom in Azad Kashmir, when we tried to convene an International Kashmir Conference in Mirpur in February 2005. Aim of the conference was to support the peace process and strengthen people to people contacts. We assured Pakistani officials that we were sincere in our efforts, and we requested that their High Commission in New Delhi, issue visas to Kashmiri leaders who wanted to take part in this conference.
Not only Pakistani officials refused to issue visas to Kashmiri leaders, denying them of an opportunity to take part in the conference, and meet their fellow countrymen living on this side of the divide; the authorities imposed rule 144, according to which no political activity can take place, effectively sabotaging a conference which wanted to support the peace process. This shows what freedom we enjoy in Azad Kashmir; and how sincere the government is about people to people contacts.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its report entitled ‘State of Human Rights in Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, and published in Pakistani English newspaper ‘Daily Times’ on 14 October 2004, stated, and I quote:
‘The fundamental rights of the residents of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) are being violated at different levels and its autonomy is threatened by the contentious surveillance of intelligence agencies and intervention of the Pakistani government…. Fundamental freedoms such as freedom of movement, expression, assembly and association are often infringed in AJK.’
Many problems of Azad Kashmir are related to the Act 74, which was prepared in Islamabad, and imposed on Azad Kashmir. This Act has usurped our rights and rights of Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly; and has also enabled Pakistani officials to take top administrative posts, and intervene in matters of Azad Kashmir. Therefore we demand abrogation of this Act; and implementation of decision of Azad Kashmir High Court regarding the status of Gilgit and Baltistan.
I thank you Chairperson.