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Rights activist says can’t talk of violations

Khalid Gul

Srinagar, March 07, 2008:

Asma Jehangir
Official Itinerary: Asma Jehangir with Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad

Noted Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jehangir on a visit to Indian administered Kashmir Friday said that she had no mandate to speak on the human rights violations in the region.

Jehangir, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is visiting the conflict ridden disputed region as a Special UN Rapporteur.

Asked by journalists here about her views on the rights violations by state troops in the region, Jehangir said she was not authorised to speak on the issue.

“This time I am here as a Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion and belief and the United Nations has not given me the mandate to speak for the human rights violations,” she said.

Asked if that meant her freedom of speech was curtailed she said, “My predecessors have been here many a times and we have compiled a report on rights violations, here but this time I am for a different purpose.”

“India is country of diverse religions and there has been religious harmony but there have been occasions when it has witnessed communal riots too, so we are here to discuss and debate that with the civil society and other organisations.”

She did however speak her mind on a question regarding election boycott call given by some Kashmir separatists.

“I can’t comment on that but I am against snatching of ones freedom of expression. If someone has made up his mind to vote he should not be stopped, neither should he be coerced to vote if he does not wish to,” she said.

Jehangir arrived in the region on Thursday with her first stopover in the winter capital Jammu, where she met most of state officials including the Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

She arrived in Srinagar Friday, where she said she would try to meet politicians as well as people from civil society.

Kashmiri separatists have criticised her visit because of what they called her official itinerary – her meetings with pro-India and ruling parties in the region.

She also annoyed separatists by her call for participation in general elections which they boycott.

An anti-India insurgency broke out in Indian administered Kashmir in 1989 with popular demands for right to self determination.

Allegations of human rights violations against Indian troops and police have been rampant since the outbreak of the armed insurgency.

An estimated 700000 Indian troops are deployed in the region.

Jammu and Kashmir is claimed in full by both India and Pakistan and divided between the two by a ceasefire line.



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