Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday drew attention to the increasingly apparent divisions within India after an 11-member contingent of its opposition parties was prevented from visiting Srinagar in occupied Kashmir, as a security clampdown there entered its 20th day.
“This is the true face of the Indian government which the world is witnessing today,” said the foreign minister as he addressed a press conference in Islamabad.
“Today the fascist attitude of the Modi administration was demonstrated at the Srinagar airport today,” he said, referring to the arrest of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders shortly after they landed.
“I call upon democratic nations of the world to view that footage. When they treat their own this way, what expectation can be had when we [Pakistan] are told to hold a dialogue with them?” said Qureshi.
He then highlighted the stifling communications blockade in the disputed territory which had forced media to use whatever “broken equipment” they have to record footage and send it out through their relatives.
“So in this environment, he [Gandhi] goes to assess the situation and wishes to meet the Kashmiri leadership. He is arrested at the airport and transferred to New Delhi on the next flight,” he said.
He also spoke of how his party’s spokesperson, while attempting to hold a media briefing in protest, was arrested mid conference.
The foreign minister said that he spoke to the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres about this recent event as well as yesterday’s protest in various places after Friday prayers in which “tear gas and pellet guns were employed to injure people”.
He said his aim was to apprise the UN secretary general of the situation in occupied Kashmir since after a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was held.
“He is in Paris and I spoke to him. I thanked him for his statement and the way he presented a legally and politically sound stance on the issue. I’m sure Kashmiris must have also gained courage from his statement,” he said.
Qureshi said he also thanked the United Nations for convening the UNSC session. “With the closed-door meeting the message we got was that it is the wish of all members that the matter be resolved peacefully,” he said.
“But I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that on the one hand we are being advised to move forward peacefully, and [on the other] today is the 20th day of curfew — the curfew continues day and night,” said Qureshi of his conversation with Guterres.
“I also drew his attention to the fact that yesterday prayers were impeded — a fundamental right of every Muslim — a lot of mosques were locked up, and some people who wished to proceed to the UN office there, were fired upon with pellet guns and shelled and were tortured,” he said.
The foreign minister said he had told the UN secretary general that of the three parties to the Kashmir dispute, two had clearly presented their stance regarding the August 5 measures taken by India.
Pakistan, in every possible shade of its political opinion, has rejected the August 5 action which stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, he said. “It has declared the move unconstitutional, illegal, in contravention of the UNSC resolutions, in violation of the UN charter.”
“All Kashmiris have also rejected these measures,” he said.
“The third dispute to the party stands divided. And it was evident in the way things played out at the Srinagar airport today,” said Qureshi.
“I also talked about the human rights violations, thousands of detentions, food shortages, medicine shortages because I feel his voice has weight. This is such an organisation. When the secretary general of the United Nations gives a statement, it has moral weightage. And the world listens.”