Mr Mirza Wajahat Hassan's Oral Statement at the UN Human Rights Council Raises Awareness on Human Rights Violations in Gilgit-Baltistan
On 22 September 2017, Mr Mirza Hassan, the exiled Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinkers Forum delivered a speech on behalf of the Nonviolent Radical Party at the 36th UN Human Rights Council to bring attention to the situation the indigenous people of Gilgit-Baltistan are facing. While talking about the eradication of culture and language of the community, Mr Hassan was also underlining the ongoing human rights violations under Pakistani occupation, such as freedom of speech - “Freedom of speech is under severe threat. Local press in Gilgit-Baltistan that publishes on human rights violations and defend the rights of the local indigenous peoples have been banned by Pakistani establishment and intelligence agencies.”. Mr Hassan hereby called on the international community to remind Pakistan, that their actions are breaching international law and called on the withdrawal of Pakistani military forces in the Gilgit-Baltistan area.
The full speech of Mr Hassan can be found below:
I am speaking on behalf of the Nonviolent Radical Party to bring to the Council’s attention the situation facing the indigenous peoples of Gilgit-Baltistan, a UN-declared disputed territory currently under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.
As a strategy to erode indigenous identities and the rich linguistic heritage of the region, Pakistan’s educational policy bans mother tongue learning. Moreover, the traditionally Shia people of Gilgit-Baltistan are becoming a minority in their own territory thanks to increased influx of Sunni migrants, largely fueled by Pakistan’s policies.
Freedom of speech is under severe threat. Local press in Gilgit-Baltistan that publishes on human rights violations and defend the rights of the local indigenous peoples have been banned by Pakistani establishment and intelligence agencies. Hundreds of students, political workers, journalists and human rights activists are in jail from many years and some are facing fake sedition charges under the fourth schedule section of the ATA . Baba Jan, for instance, has been in prison in Gahkuch Jail since 2011. His crime was to raise awareness of the rights of displaced peoples following the climate-change induced landslide into the Hunza River. He is facing ATA charges and facing life imprisonment.
Deprived of accountable governance structures as well as of constitutional and human rights, the two million indigenous peoples of Gilgit-Baltistan wait for their fate to be resolved under UN resolutions. The international community must remind Pakistan that their actions in the region are contravening the international law and that the Kashmir dispute can only be resolved with Pakistan withdrawing its army and intelligence officials from the region of Gilgit-Baltistan.