By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) - The president of Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Thursday praised the people and government of Turkey for raising their voice against the continued human rights abuse of Kashmiris on the Indian side.
Talking to a group of Turkish journalists in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, Sardar Masood Khan appealed to Turkey to "raise this [Kashmir] issue and highlight its humanitarian dimension".
“I learned about humanitarian diplomacy during my last visit to Turkey and how this was succeeding be it in the Philippines or Horn of Africa,” Khan told the visiting delegation, according to a voice recording of the meeting available with Anadolu Agency.
He went on to say that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had raised the issue of Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 2017 visit to New Delhi.
“President Erdogan is loved and revered, respected in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan,” he said, referring to Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Turkey is the only country which understands the intricacies of the Kashmir dispute and has extended "unqualified support" to Kashmiris for their right to self-determination, he said.
The president urged immediate international intervention following India's unilateral move to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
- 'End lockdown'
"There is a communication blockade, prolonged curfews, streets are deserted and people are imprisoned in their own houses, are not allowed to come out,” he said, referring to the situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
The Himalayan region has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5, after India scrapped its special status, with the government blocking communication access and imposing restriction on movement to thwart any protests in the region.
He said the steps India took violate international laws and UN Security Council resolutions.
There are several resolutions of the UN Security Council which call for plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.
Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.
India has said that 93% restrictions have been eased in the conflict-ridden region, a claim that Anadolu Agency could not verify independently.
Khan alleged that there were “no medicines in the pharmacies [while] hospitals cannot operate” in Jammu and Kashmir.
- Unabated arrests
“And occupation [Indian] soldiers raid the houses during mid-nights; they kick, beat them [Kashmiris] up; they threaten women with sexual violence; they threaten Kashmiris that they have conquered Kashmir and [say] 'now you are our property… you [women] are spoils of war and you can marry us either voluntary or we will abduct you',” he said, calling it a “reign of terror”.
Khan said that though there was no accurate data available but “thousands of people have been arrested including those minority Kashmiris who were loyal to India, but majority are those who oppose occupation of India”.
“Young children have been arrested and because the number of arrested people is big, they have been jailed outside Kashmir in Indian jails,” he added.
“It is responsibility of international community to put pressure on India to lift the curfew and remove the security lockdown [and] humanitarian crisis,” he added.
From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws. The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
Also, the Indian government further downgraded and divided the disputed region into two centrally controlled “union territories”.
- 'Muzaffarabad, our Turkish city'
The president praised efforts by Turkey in rebuilding parts of the region which were devastated by a 2005 earthquake.
"Turkey helped us rebuild three cities; Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawlakote […] Muzaffarabad is practically our Turkish city, it has many places named after Turkey,” he said.
India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.