ISLAMABAD - A high-ranking delegation of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday visited the Azad Jammu and Kashmir and interacted with the Kashmiris, a foreign ministry statement issued on Wednesday said.

The delegation, led by the IPHRC Chairperson, Med S Kaggwa, is visiting Pakistan and the AJK to gain a better understanding of the Kashmir dispute and to interact with the refugees from the Indian occupied Kashmir who escaped Indian atrocities.

India, so far has not responded to the IPHRC’s request for access to held Kashmir to assess the human rights situation there. During the visit to the AJK, the IPHRC delegation called on the president and the prime minister of the AJK who briefed them on the intensified, ongoing human rights violations of innocent Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces in held Kashmir.

The situation has aggravated since July, 2016.  Use of live ammunition and pellet guns by Indian forces against defenceless civilians has resulted in martyrdom of more than 150 innocent civilians, 20,000 have got injured and scores of people, including girls and children are now blind.

While IPHRC delegation was in the AJK, Indian occupation forces in Kashmir killed four more innocent and defenceless Kashmiris, including three teenagers.

The government of Pakistan strongly condemned the killing of four Kashmiris and injuries inflicted on scores of others.

 The delegation also visited refugee camps and interacted with Kashmiri refugees who had migrated from Kashmir to escape Indian atrocities.

The people of the AJK are strongly distressed at the plight of their relatives in held Kashmir. Indian barbarities are a cause of deep anguish and pain for the Kashmiris.

Divided families are unable to share moments of joy and sorrow and are forced to witness marriages and funerals from afar, the statement said. They also interacted with Hurriyat leadership, who briefed them about the situation in Kashmir.

The delegation was informed that the Indian occupation forces prevent people from offering Friday prayers and children from attending schools. Hurriyat leadership either remains imprisoned or under house arrest.

Kashmir is one of the most heavily-militarised zones on the planet with one soldier to every 17 civilians.

The delegation was also briefed on Indian attempts to divert the attention of the international community from the blatant human rights violations in held Kashmir through repeated, unprovoked ceasefire violations. The IPHRC has a standing mechanism to monitor gross human rights violations in Kashmir.

India continues to deny international bodies’ access to held Kashmir.

The visit is a manifestation of Pakistan’s commitment to unflinching political, moral and diplomatic support to the just cause of the oppressed people of Kashmir towards realisation of the right to self determination promised to them under the UN Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday received Benedetto Della Vedova, Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two sides expressed satisfaction at the growing bilateral ties and underscored the importance of further augmenting these relations in a number of important areas, especially trade and investment.

They also emphasised the need to strengthen existing partnership for promoting regional peace and security.

The adviser highlighted the important progress made by Pakistan during the last four years in counter terrorism, economic growth and democratic consolidation.  He said that Italy was a close friend and a leading trade and investment partner of Pakistan and appreciated its cooperation in diverse areas.

The adviser also briefed the Italian foreign minister on the prime minister’s initiatives for regional peace and stability and strong commitment to maintaining cordial relations with all the neighbouring countries. The two sides also discussed regional and global issues.

There was an understanding between both sides that as members of the Uniting for Consensus Group, they would continue working closely on the issue of the United Nations Security Council reform, aimed at making the body more democratic and accountable.

The Italian undersecretary appreciated the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the sphere of counter terrorism.

Acknowledging the positive contribution being made by Pakistan for regional peace and security, Della Vedova reassured his country’s continued support to Pakistan in all areas of mutual interest.