ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday told the Senate that coronavirus lockdowns were making the world realize about the restrictions of fundamental freedom imposed by India on the people of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) since last year.

“Today the world is realizing what a lockdown feels like. But Kashmiris have been under a continuous military siege and lockdown for the last nine months,” he said in the upper house.

The foreign minister was winding up the debate in the opposition-requisitioned session on the effects of COVID-19 outbreak on the country and the “ongoing repression of the people of IHK as well as the apartheid like conditions faced by Indian Muslims under the (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi regime.”

He said that Kashmiris had been deprived of their fundamental freedom such as right to life, right to health, right to food, right to assembly and right to expression since Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government had striped the region of its special status, last year. “There was a communication blackout going on in IHK,” he said.

The foreign minister said that India was continuously committing violations along the Line of Control (LoC) to divert the attention of the world and to give a wrong impression that an infiltration was going on in India from launching pads. “From January this year till date, India has committed 975 violations (along LoC) in which 6 civilians were martyred and 69 were critically injured.” He said that international community and other human rights bodies were criticizing the BJP-led government due to Pakistan’s diplomatic initiatives and outreach.

Reading out a policy statement in the house about the objectives of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s government regarding the Kashmir dispute, the minister said that the government wanted that India should be held accountable for its human rights violations in IHK and in other parts its of own country. “We want the international media and international observers to be allowed to visit IHK to witness the situation there,” he said, adding that lockdown had been enforced in the valley since August 5, last year, and restrictions on peaceful assembly should be lifted from the disputed region immediately. “Food supplies should be restored (in the valley)… and draconian laws in IHK should be scrapped once and for all,” he noted.

The foreign minister demanded that India should immediately withdraw its 900,000 occupational forces from IHK and should reverse its step of annexation of the disputed region. “We want to say that Pakistan will continue to highlight state terrorism of India at international forums and we stand by the wishes of the people of Kashmir about their right to self-determination,” he said. The minister said that they could have their political differences but were on the same page when it came to Kashmir.

Pointing out the grave situation of human rights situation in the valley, the minister said that India made the situation more complex after August 5. “The people are living there under constant fear,” he said. He alleged that BJP-led government having Hindutva ideology has tarnished the democracy and secular face of India to an extent that no one could have done in the past. He said voices were also being raised within India about worst human rights conditions in Kashmir and the bad treatment being given to minorities across the country.

The foreign minister highlighted that Indian forces were raiding houses in IHK, youth were being abducted and subjected to severe torture. He said that these atrocities were being used as a deterrent to Kashmiri people’s right of self-determination. Quoting figures of an Indian non-government organization, he said that as many as 13,000 youth were tortured and 6,000 were kept under illegal incarceration in IHK. He said that the BJP government wanted to impose an agenda of Hindutva in IHK by eliminating the cultural identity of Kashmiris. He said that Indian government was making efforts to change the majority into a minority by amending the domicile related laws in Kashmir.

There were reports that martyrdoms had increased there during COVID-19 because of unavailability of medical equipment and limited supplies of medicines due to restrictions on movement, he added.

The foreign minister said that as many as 209 countries of the world were affected by COVID-19 but Indian government was blaming Muslims for the spread of virus there and they were being called super-spreaders and the terms like “Corona-Jihad” were being used for them in India. “A discrimination against Muslims is under way in India,” he said adding that their lives and livelihoods both were under threat.

He said that their diplomatic outreach had started yielding results and the EU parliament and British House of Commons had raised the issue of rights violations in IHK. As many as 80 US Congressmen have shown their concerns on rights violations there, the foreign minister said.