36th Session UNHRC: Side-event Human Rights in South Asia
Mr. Junaid Qureshi, Director EFSAS and Ms. Yoana Barakova, Research Analyst EFSAS, spoke at a Side-event on the Human Rights Situation in South Asia during the 36th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
Mr. Qureshi discussed the implications of China’s presence in Gilgit Baltistan (disputed territory, part of the State of Jammu & Kashmir), alongside the construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and aimed to elaborate its effects on the indigenous people of this region and on the future of the wider Jammu & Kashmir issue. The region, together with Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir, Aksai Chin, Shakshgam Valley and Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir, is an integral part of the Jammu & Kashmir issue, which is disputed between India, Pakistan, China and the people of the state. CPEC is an ambitious project of $60 billion dollars and part of this 3,000-kilometer long network of roads, railways and pipelines, will pass through Gilgit Baltistan, which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. However, it is important for China that Gilgit Baltistan has a political status within Pakistan, since Beijing cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan.
Mr. Junaid Qureshi and Ms. Yoana Barakova (both EFSAS) speaking at the Side-event on the Human Rights situation in South Asia
The corridor plans have been strongly opposed by people living in Gilgit Baltistan and the rest of Jammu & Kashmir. According to the local population and International observers, the region is deprived of all fundamental human and civil rights and it has no representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan or any other national legislative body. The people of Gilgit Baltistan have no say over their natural resources and minerals and all decision-making powers in relation to forest, power, tourism and minerals are under the direct control of the Gilgit Baltistan Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Mr. Qureshi stressed that since the people of Gilgit Baltistan, through whose territory the corridor passes, have had no say in CPEC projects, it means that Pakistan has virtually sold out the territory to China under the rubric of infrastructural development.
Ms. Yoana Barakova discussed the presence of numerous Pakistani aided terrorist groups at the territory of the Indian subcontinent. She argued that the remarkable expansion of ISIS has not only sent shockwaves throughout the Western world, but has also instigated other extremist forces like Al-Qaeda to strengthen their reach in South Asia and adopt new strategies.
She further elborated that Pakistani and Kashmiri religious parties and their militant squads have in the past been used as a front to escalade armed attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and succeeded in injecting the ideology of communalism in the Valley of Kashmir. Pakistan’s motive to annex, and not to liberate Jammu and Kashmir, aimed at causing disintegration within India, is corroborated by the fact that majority of terrorist- and separatist group’s objective remained merger with Pakistan.
Ms. Barakova explained that the violence in the Kashmir Valley is religious in character and is dominated by group of militant leaders acting under a Pan-Islamic ideology. Among the groups that are active in Kashmir, the most important and still supported by Pakistan, are Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, United Jihad Council and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Videos of Mr. Junaid Qureshi and Ms. Yoana Barakova (both EFSAS) at the Side-event titled, 'Human Rights situation in South Asia'
She ended her speech by saying the fact that the Pakistani Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) still see terrorist groups and terrorists differently is also one of the major bottlenecks. The Army along with the ISI still distinguishes between ‘bad’ terrorists, those who target Pakistani Security Forces, and ‘good’ terrorists, those who advance its strategic objectives vis-á-vis Afghanistan, India and Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir. Ms. Barakova argued that an alternative national narrative is required to fight terrorism at the ideological level as it seems to be entrenched in the national ethos of the country and large sections of its population. A narrative, that can only bolster if the country and its people realize that there is a risk of permanent state of instability and international isolation if Pakistan does not adopt a resolute policy towards all terror groups operating on its territory.