ISLAMABAD/NEW YORK    -   The US has expressed concern over the grim situation in Indian occupied Kashmir following India’s move of abrogating the special status of Kashmir and the ensuing restrictions imposed by the Indian authorities in the territory.

According to Kashmir Media Service (KMS), US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, talking to media in Washington said, “We continue to be very concerned by widespread detentions, including of local political and business leaders and the restrictions on the residents of the region.”

“We are also concerned about reports that internet and mobile phone access continues to be blocked in certain regions,” Ms Ortagus said, adding “We urge authorities to respect human rights and restore access to services such as the internet and mobile networks.”

Meanwhile, a senior US official has praised Pakistan’s “significant” contribution to the war on terrorism, stating that the relationship between the Pakistani and US Armed Forces is one of the strongest pillars in the ties between the two countries.

Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defence, made the remarks at a solemn commemoration of Defence & Martyrs Day organised by the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, according to a press release.

This year Defence Day is also observed along with ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ to express full support for the Kashmiri people, who are suffering under the repressive lockdown by the Indian occupation forces, now in its fifth week.

Schriver, who was the chief guest on the occasion, said that Islamabad and Washington could capitalise on the “good spirit and good environment” created by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to the United States. “We are appreciative of Pakistani leadership in its cooperation in achieving the objective of peace in the region,” he added.

Earlier, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Dr Asad Majeed Khan paid tributes to the resilience of the Pakistani people and the courage and sacrifices of their Armed Forces in defending the homeland against threats to the country’s independence and sovereignty.

“The entire nation owes (the Armed Forces) a debt of gratitude,” he said, adding, “We pledge to continue to promote the ideals of peace, respect for human life and freedom not only at the domestic front but also at the regional and global level.”

Referring to the situation in Occupied Kashmir, Ambassador Asad Khan said that the beautiful Kashmir valley had been transformed into a huge concentration camp.

“We remind the Kashmiri people that they are not alone, Pakistan is also observing this day as Kashmir Solidarity Day,” he said.

“While India continues to target civilians across the Line of Control, we have acted with great restraint and responsibility,” he said.

“However, there should be no doubt. Pakistan and its Armed Forces stand ready to give a befitting response and defend the homeland if anyone dares to breach our sovereignty or territorial integrity.” Regarding US-Pakistan relations, Ambassador Asad Khan said strong and robust bilateral defence relations had been a hallmark of the relationship.

“Our defence cooperation and collaboration has always been a factor for regional peace and the promotion of our shared security interests.” 

Pakistan’s Defence Attaché Brig Kamal Anwar Ch said that the Pakistani nation would always remember supreme sacrifices of the sons and daughters of the nation, who laid their lives for a prosperous tomorrow. Pakistan, he said, had turned a tide against terrorism at a great cost, including the loss of more than 82,000 human lives.

A short documentary was screened to highlight the professionalism and quality of preparedness of Pakistani Armed Forces.

Banners were also placed at the venue depicting India’s grave human rights abuses in the Occupied Kashmir.