By Farooq Ganderbali
Human rights abuses in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (POK) have been a recurrent issue, ranging from forced disappearances, torture to political repression and electoral fraud and suppression of freedom of speech. According to the human rights commission of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) carries out extensive surveillance operations on the press and pro-independence groups, they have carried out arbitrary arrests in which people have been tortured and several have died.
There is no freedom of expression in POK. Under the garb of National Action Plan, the human rights voices are being suppressed. People of POK, Gilgit and Baltistan live in an environment of harassment and without any freedom of expression. Even the judiciary that is supposed to ensure the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and rights of an individual is with the fundamentalist.
Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) is cited to indicate that dozens have disappeared after their arrests in POK. According to the report persons are arrested and disappeared if they refuse to join or try to leave the forces engaged in the “Jihad” inside Jammu and Kashmir or don’t provide information to the intelligence agencies about the movements of people across the border. A significant number of cases point to the Inter-Services Intelligence’s involvement in these disappearances.
Military is so obsessed with the power, that they never brother about civil society. POK is completely in control of military ad military manages any news pilferage. Pakistani media is having biased attitude towards protest in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Baluchistan freedom struggle. In POK, media never had freedom of the expression of speech as journalists are being murdered. There is government censorship. Government of Pakistan decides what to be published, what to be aired, TV channels are served closure notices by Federal Government of Pakistan.
The media in POK is under constant fear of terrorist outfits, ISI and Pakistani Army. Therefore, media can’t give justice to the POK protest and Baluchistan freedom struggle. The Pakistani authorities govern POK with strict controls on basic freedoms. Those who opposed Pakistan’s position on POK were not allowed to contest regional elections, as an example of political repression. Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of government policy in POK. Pakistan has prevented the creation of independent media in the territory through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion. Under POK’s constitution, which Pakistan enforced in 1974, election candidates are pre-screened to ensure that only those who support Kashmir’s union with Pakistan can contest elections. Anyone who wants to take part in public life in POK has to sign a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan, while anyone who publicly supports or peacefully works for an independent Kashmir faces persecution.
By Farooq Ganderbali