By News Desk

UNITED NATIONS, GENEVA—UN’s top human rights official has elevated Kashmir Conflict to the top of the international agenda. He did this for the fourth time in his policy statement at the inauguration of the 36th session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva this week.

Kashmir Conflict was all but ignored and neglected at UN forums despite remaining on Security Council’s agenda for the past nearly seven decades.

This changed in September 2016, when Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, added Kashmir to the list of international conflicts that require urgent attention like Syria and Ukraine.

In September 2016, and then March, June and now September 2017, Al-Hussein made Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of his policy statement at the start of every session of UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Policymakers and human rights activists see the Council as a testing ground for emerging issues in the world today.

On September 11, High Commissioner Zeid Al-Hussein did it for the fourth time, listing Kashmir in his policy statement along with other pressing international conflicts.

In this statement, Al-Hussein took on both India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir:

“I regret the reluctance of both India and Pakistan to engage with my Office on the human rights concerns I have raised in recent months. This includes their failure to grant access to Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) to verify the worrying developments that continue to be reported there. In the absence of such access, my Office is undertaking remote monitoring of the human rights situation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control, with a view to making the findings public in the near future.”

This type of engagement by top UN official on Kashmir is unprecedented in recent years. And it is a welcome development.

“The world is beginning to rediscover Kashmir,” said Ahmed Quraishi, Executive Director of YFK–International Kashmir Lobby Group. “As human rights defenders, we thank Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, and the entire team of human rights mechanisms for making this happen. This is a win for justice and fair play.”

Quraishi believes Azad (Free) Kashmir, which is Pakistan-administered, should prepare itself and its people for more international scrutiny.

“We in Azad Kashmir need to be ready for more international interest as the UN starts focusing on what Indian occupation authorities are doing in the Kashmir region under its control,” he said.

This is a key point in today’s Kashmir advocacy: the focus must remain on the blatant human rights violations in Kashmir in the territory occupied by India since 1947. Trade and business interests of key world powers should not distract from this.

Altaf Hussein Wani, from Indian-occupied Kashmir, currently leading the Kashmir Delegation to UNHRC’s 36th session, believes the inherent indigenous and peaceful nature of Kashmir freedom movement won the hearts of people around the world, including the officials at UN.

“Kashmiris faced disinformation and the propaganda machine of a big country. They succeeded in breaking through the siege and conveying their message to the world,” Wani said.

While High Commissioner Al-Hussein has complained against both India and Pakistan, Islamabad has made it clear it welcomes a UN fact-finding mission as long as India allows one inside the Kashmir territory it occupies.

“Nearly half-million soldiers, the worst treatment of civilians, disappearances, rape as a tool of war, all of this is the hallmark of Indian control over Kashmir,” said Sardar Amjad Youssef Khan, Executive Director of Kashmir Institute of International Relations (KIIR).

“There’s little comparison between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. But even then, UN fact-finding teams should visit AJK but politics should not distract them from the massive rights violations by India in Kashmir,” Khan said.

YFK–International Kashmir Lobby Group (Youth Forum For Kashmir) is a non-partisan, international non-governmental organization, working for the peaceful resolution of Kashmir Conflict in accordance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

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