ISLAMABAD - Pakistan, on Thursday, said India had unleashed a wave of terror in held Kashmir and the occupant forces were targeting the youth.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said India was seeking to take advantage of the international community’s focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to push through the ruling BJP’s sinister Hindutva agenda.

“It not only encourages, but is practically predicated upon the systematic and institutional marginalization of minorities especially Muslims,” she added.

Pakistan, she said, had consistently maintained that instead of providing the vulnerable segments of its society with much needed relief in this crises, the Indian government was targeting the vulnerable.

 “Continued restrictions on communication and movement in held Kashmir are preventing unfettered supply of medicines and other essentials to affected Kashmiris, as well as dissemination of information needed to combat the disease, which needs to be immediately remedied,” she added.

Aisha Farooqui said it was the 270th day of the continued oppression faced by the innocent people in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Under the garb of so-called cordon-and-search operations, Indian occupation forces in held Kashmir have been particularly targeting Kashmiri youth.

In April alone, 29 innocent Kashmiris have been martyred, including 7 since the onset of the holy month of Ramazan. In addition, harassment and intimidation of Kashmiri journalists has further intensified under the notorious “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act” while the Indian occupation forces continue to operate with complete impunity covered under draconian laws such as PSA and AFSPA, she contended.

She said voices from within India and around the world continue to condemn the increasing wave of BJP-inspired hate crimes against minorities. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its annual report, has once again placed India into its list of ‘Country of Particular Concern’ for engaging in and tolerating systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations.

The report, she said, highlighted that the Indian government “allowed violence against minorities and their houses of worship to continue with impunity, and also engaged in and tolerated hate speech and incitement to violence. The report also stated inter-alia that “mob lynching of persons suspected of cow slaughter or consuming beef continued with most attacks occurring within BJP ruled states”.

Aisha Farooqui said China had also helped and facilitated Pakistan in commercial procurement of medical supplies from different Chinese manufactures.

“We are immensely grateful to the Government and people of China for extending both moral and material support to Pakistan in the wake of outbreak of COVID-19. The compassion, generosity, and thoughtfulness shown by the Chinese Government and the people will be long remembered by the people of Pakistan,” she said. She added: “Notwithstanding the outbreak of COVID-19, both countries are taking relevant measures which will help timely completion of CPEC projects that will be a catalyst for growth and prosperity in the region.”

The spokesperson said that Pakistan was making all efforts to repatriate Pakistani citizens around the world in an orderly manner and keeping in view the COVID-19 protocols. A significant number of Pakistani Zaireen were also brought back from Iran through the cooperation of the Iranian government, she said.

She said that Pakistan had always supported efforts at building lasting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. “The US-Taliban Peace Agreement provides a historic opportunity that the Afghan leadership should now seize to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. We hope the agreement will be implemented in full by all sides,” Farooqui said.

To a question, she said, according to one estimate, the number of deaths of Pakistani nationals abroad by COVID-19 was 163.

She said more than 50,000 Pakistani citizens were expected to return in the near future from the Middle East. Regarding capacity available with the government to quarantine the arriving citizens, NCOC and NDMA would be in a better position to provide such details, she said.

She said that no conditions had been imposed by any country in the Middle East against Pakistanis. She said that around 13,000 Pakistanis had lost their jobs in the UAE due to the pandemic. She said that being the founding member of SAARC, Pakistan attached great importance to SAARC and remained committed to the principles and objectives of the SAARC charter.

 “Pakistan has played an important role in efforts aimed at realizing the true potential of SAARC and making it a useful organization for regional cooperation,” she said.

The recent organization of SAARC Heath Minister’s video conference on COVID-19 by Pakistan was a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the SAARC process, Aisha Farooqui maintained.