Saturday Sep 14, 2019
MUZAFFARABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan branded Indian counterpart Narendra Modi "cowardly" on Friday and promised to raise New Delhi´s decision to strip Indian-occupied Kashmir of its autonomy at next week´s United Nations (UN) General Assembly session.
Khan, speaking to a crowd of around three thousand supporters at a rally in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, warned that Modi´s move on August 5 would have repercussions beyond the disputed Himalayan territory.
"When you give a message to 200 million Indian Muslims that India is only for Hindus, you will push them to violence," he warned.
"I particularly want to give a message from here to you, Narendra Modi, that only a cowardly man would suppress people as India has done in Kashmir", he told the flag-waving, chanting crowd.
"I will attend the UN General Assembly next week and God willing will not disappoint the Kashmiri people. I will take a stand there that no one has ever taken."
He also insisted that Pakistan does not want to go to war with India again -- but said Islamabad will respond to any hostility.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which they both administer in part.
Tensions have spiralled since New Delhi´s move on its side of the de facto border - the Line of Control - to change the status of the occupied territory, with Pakistan repeatedly likening Modi to Hitler and calling for international intervention.
For weeks on the Indian side, security forces severely restricted movement and cut mobile phone services and the internet, severing communication with millions under lockdown in occupied Kashmir.
Thousands of people are believed to have been arrested in recent weeks by Indian authorities, while extra troops have been deployed to reinforce the 500,000 soldiers already stationed in one of the most militarised places on the planet.
The crackdown has also spread fear among Kashmiris with families on the Indian-occupied side of the border.
Earlier this week, Kashmiris who had been visiting family members in the Indian-occupied part of the valley when the clampdown began told AFP how they had been stranded, caught in Delhi´s security dragnet for weeks until authorities allowed them to go home.
They were distraught at leaving their relatives behind to face an uncertain future.
"Nobody knows what will happen to them next... There is desperation among the people," Muhammad Sadiq, who went to Indian Kashmir to mourn the death of his brother, told AFP recently.
"Our relatives are angry... They believe that India is becoming anti-Muslim. It wants to become a Hindu state."
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PM AJK Raja Farooq Haider addressed the gathering in Muzzafarabad.
The solidarity rally is the part of a diplomatic campaign to stir world conscience over the plight of Kashmiris suffering the history’s worst kind of state-terrorism and violence at the hands of Indian forces.
PM Imran is set to address the United Nations later this month to highlight Indian atrocities in the occupied valley in front of world leaders. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the UN the same day.
Earlier this week, PM Imran had welcomed the growing concern from leaders and organisations around the world pertaining to India's rights violations in occupied Kashmir.
In his Twitter post, PM Imran said he appreciated the calls by the international community, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) "for India to lift its 6-week long siege of IOJK"
"The international community must not remain indifferent to the massive human rights abuses by Occupation Indian forces under cover of a brutal siege," the premier said.
Speaking of the UNHCHR, he said he really appreciated its statement issued on Monday that had called on India to ease the restrictions in occupied Kashmir.
PM Imran requested the UN Human Rights Council to set up an independent probe right away to investigate human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.
India PM Modi had revoked the special constitutional status of occupied Kashmir on August 5 and imposed a military curfew in the valley, imprisoning thousands of ordinary Kashmiris.