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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expressed deep grief over the demise of senior Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sehrai in Indian custody and urged the Indian government to immediately release the incarcerated Kashmiri leadership and all innocent people, besides expressing concern over lack of precautions against the Covid-19 in overcrowded jails.

“The government and the people of Pakistan are deeply grieved at the demise of senior All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leader and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir Chairman Ashraf Sehrai in Indian custody,” Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said.

He said the senior Kashmiri leader was arrested last year on trumped up charges under the draconian Public Safety Act in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).

He remained incarcerated in Indian jail under squalid conditions, despite serious deterioration of his health and the prevailing Covid-19 crisis.

“India’s blatant attempts to portray the legitimate Kashmiri struggle as “terrorism”, and to prosecute its leaders through concocted cases, is a clear violation of the UN Charter, UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions, and international human rights and humanitarian law,” he added.

As the Covid-19 situation in India deteriorates, he said “we also remain deeply concerned over the health and safety of the incarcerated Kashmiri leaders as well as other innocent Kashmiris, languishing in jails at undisclosed locations. Most of these jails are overcrowded and don’t have any provision for precautions against the Covid-19.”

Reportedly, some of the Kashmiri leaders in Indian jails have already contracted coronavirus. Unfortunately, they are not even provided any medical treatment.

“Given the worst pandemic situation in India, the Indian government must immediately release the incarcerated Kashmiri leadership and all innocent Kashmiris,” Chaudhri said.

The incarcerated Kashmiri leaders include, Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Advocate Shahid-ul-Islam, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Raja Merajuddin Kalwal, Syed Shahid Yousuf, Shakeel Ahmed, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Fehmeeda Sofi, Nahida Nasreen, Zahoor Ahmed and others. Many others are under house arrest including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

“We once again call upon the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to urge India to drop all fabricated charges against political leaders of IIOJK and provide them complete legal protections, including the right to a free and fair trial,” he added.

For its part, he added that Pakistan would continue to support the Kashmiri people in their rightful struggle against Indian oppression till the realization of their inalienable right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, in a condolence message, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed grief over the sad demise of the senior Kashmiri leader.

“I am deeply saddened on the demise of senior APHC leader and Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir Chairman Ashraf Sehrai in Indian custody…My thoughts and prayers are with the late Ashraf Sehrai’s family. I also convey my deepest condolences to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir and the Kashmiri people,” he added.

He said Ashraf Sehrai made a significant contribution to the Kashmiris’ struggle for their right to self-determination and suffered lifelong persecution at the hands of India.

“Sehrai braved his son Junaid Sehrai’s extrajudicial martyrdom last year with exemplary fortitude. Despite his personal loss, he continued his struggle against India’s oppression and illegal occupation,” Qureshi added.

In a statement, PML-N President and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif also expressed great grief over the death of prominent Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Ashraf Sehrai in the custody of Indian occupying forces.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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