UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan on Tuesday drew attention to the “grim reality” facing children in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which is under a repressive lockdown for over two months now, and fervently called on the world community and the UNICEF, the UN’s children agency, to come to their aid.

“It is time for the international community to act, by demanding that India fulfil its obligations, including to protect and safeguard  the children, in the occupied territory,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural matters.

Speaking in a debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children, the Pakistan envoy said that it was also time for UNICEF to speak up and to live up to its responsibility and come to the aid of children who are incarcerated or suffer in curfew-bound Occupied Kashmir.

“After all,” she added, “when the lives and rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses; silence means complicity.”

In her remarks, Maleeha Lodhi said that children were worst affected by armed conflicts, foreign occupation, and humanitarian crisis.

“Nowhere is this grim reality more stark than in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” she said, adding, that since India’s “illegal” annexation of Occupied Kashmir on Aug. 5, a large number of children have been picked up in night-time raids.

“Two months on, harrowing and spine-chilling stories abound of widespread torture and arbitrary arrests; of how thousands including children have been picked up from their homes by occupation forces in the still of the night – taken away without any trace.,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said, and quoted one mother from Baramulla as stating, “Nights fill us with dread”.

“Innocent Kashmiri children and youth, like 16 year old Asrar Khan, who succumbed to pellet gun injuries and tear gas shells last month; or 18 month old Hiba Jan, blinded by a pellet gun in 2018, are victims of an illegal occupation,” she said.

“These tell unremitting tales of an occupation force, which has no regard for the norms of international law or respect for the rights of children.”

“For Kashmiri people,” Maleeha Lodhi said, “life under this brutal occupation is to live in an armed cage in the silence of a graveyard.”

Noting that the recommendations of two reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights were yet to be implemented, the Pakistani envoy said that it was time for the bloodletting of innocent Kashmiris, including Kashmiri children, to stop.

As far as Pakistan was concerned, Maleeha Lodhi said that the country was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of all children at home and abroad.

“For the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, children are not only repositories of our greatest hopes and aspirations; they are also the cornerstone of the government’s people-centric policies of sustainable and inclusive development, and charting a pathway to provide a ‘better tomorrow’ to our children and future generations,” she added.

Maleeha Lodhi also recalled that she had the privilege of co-facilitating the modalities resolution on commemoration of the 30thanniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child during the last session of the General Assembly.

That too was acknowledgement of the priority her country accorded to the rights of children, she added.