Worsening situation of minorities in South Asia highlighted at UNHRC

Activists gather at UNHRC to highlight the plight of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan

Representative image of UNHRC meeting (photo: IANS)
Representative image of UNHRC meeting (photo: IANS)


An event highlighting the worsening situation of minorities in South Asia, especially in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, was held at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva where activists criticised the policies pursued by the Pakistani government.

The side event held on Friday, 22 March, was organised by the NEP-JKGBL (National Equality Party Jammu Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Ladakh) and was attended by various activists.

The panellists were Prof. Nicolas Levrat, special rapporteur on minority issues; Konstantin Bogdanos, a journalist and former member of the Greek Parliament, according to a press release from the organisers.

Tsenge Tsering (Search); Humphrey Hawksley, British journalist and author and an expert on South Asian affairs; and Sajjad Raja, founder chairman of the NEP-JKGBL were also on the panel. Joseph Chongsi of the Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy acted as the moderator.

The side event was focused on the situation of minorities in Pakistan, especially in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, the press release said.

In his address, Bogdanos insisted on the need for politicians, but also for European citizens to take “an interest in these issues, even if they are physically far away from our borders”.

He strongly criticised the policies pursued by the Pakistani government about minorities and the militarisation of the territory, turning prosperous areas into hostile places. He also referred to the situation in his country in Northern Cyprus, arguing that they are fighting against the oppressors.

Levrat, the special rapporteur, spoke about the issues relating to minorities in this region, highlighting a historical “oversight”, as only one visit had been made since the creation of the rapporteurship to Sri Lanka in 2006.

He stressed the difficulty of his mandate because there is no closed list of minorities and each group faces different vulnerabilities in different sociological contexts.

Tsenge Tsering, a native of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, located between Pakistan and China, explained the importance of this place in the trade relations between the two countries and that, despite being a prosperous region, the population lives in poverty, without educational and medical infrastructures and at risk of food security, used as an instrument of blackmail by the Pakistani government.

He also denounced the fact that they live without constitutional rights, without the right to vote and without the right to legislate, despite being the majority in this territory.

Hawksley defended peaceful resistance to the oppressor and the need to develop these regions as the only strategy to avoid disaster.

He made a historical comparison of the situations in Palestine and Taiwan, defending the strategy of the latter, which has become a prosperous and technologically advanced democracy by avoiding armed struggle.

A member of the democratic forum denounced that minorities in Pakistan are suffering genocide and that the international community ignores this situation which is why events such as these and the work of committed rapporteurs are important.

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