Gilgit-Baltistan: Chairman Draws Attention to Human Rights Violations
BNF Chairman Abdul Hamid Khan addressed the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, drawing attention to violations of free speech and expressions.
Below is an article published by Weekly Baang Karachi:
The Chairman of the Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Abdul Hamid Khan has drawn the attention of the international community towards what he said rampant violation of freedom of speech and expression in Gilgit-Baltistan. He said under the 'colonial' rule of Pakistan, people in general and nationalists in particular in the disputed region, which is recognized as such under UNCIP resolution of 13 August 1948, even cannot dream of freedom of expression and speech.
Mr Khan was addressing the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) at Geneva. Mr Khan lamented that fundamentalist religious groups and pro-Pakistani parties were given full freedom in expressing their views and continuing their movements in the region. The BNF chief said more than 200 activists and leaders including him were facing sedition charges for trying to express their views in the public peacefully.
"Many people have been sent behind bars when they only tried to express themselves. Many have been tortured, kidnapped and killed by declaring them as anti state elements," he alleged.
A monthly magazine, the Balawaristan Times, and a book called The Last Colony of 21st Century were banned. The civilian government of Pakistan in 1999 ordered a security agency to invade Gilgit-Baltistan and the Jammu and Kashmir when he wrote a letter to the UN Security Council permanent members against the intrigue. "This is an irony that on the one hand the authorities have allowed the national media to freely function and flourish and on the other any attempt to even launch indigenous media in Gilgit-Baltistan is discouraged."
Numerous instances of victimization and banning of weekly and monthly magazines have been reported by Pakistan based media and complaints were lodged in the UN human rights commission in Geneva. He said that the monthly Kargil Editor in Chief Manzoor Parwana and Editor Shezad Agha were arrested and the magazine was banned. He said that Parwana and Shehzad Agha were also framed in sedition cases when they reported the stories about the Kargil war. Mr Khan said that Kargil International was printing stories of those killed in Kargil war of 1999 and was vocal about the way government of Pakistan portrayed local soldiers of NLI as Mujahideen. He said a book written by him under the title of The Last Colony of 21st Century (Urdu and English) was banned and sedition charges filed against him.
There are a number of cases registered against political and human rights activists who largely refused to subscribe to the pro-Pakistan school of thought. He said local media persons working for print and electronic media were continuously being harassed by law enforcement agencies for expressing dissent against the government policies in Gilgit-Baltistan. During the last year the house of Gilgit Press Club president Khurshid Ahmad was bombed thrice to intimidate him when he asserted that the local journalists would not print the controversial material of different militant organizations.
In October 2005, the bureau chief of Karakorum Publishing Network Manzar Shigri was detained by Pakistani rangers when he insisted to take a snap of an injured person outside DHQ hospital Gilgit. The local newspapers are denied their right of advertisements, whenever they criticized government policies. The regime continues with its policy of banning local trade unions. In 2004 the local administration banned the Northern Areas Lecturers Association in education department. In addition, the government banned unions and associations in government departments, such as NAPWD, Northern Areas Transport Corporation and Post Office.