Gilgit-Baltistan not free, activist tells U.S. Senators

Suppression of the occupied region of Gilgit-Baltistan bycame up for discussion in an event sponsored by Senator Tim Kaine and a few other senators and held at the Hart Senate Office Building in D C.
Senge Hasnan Sering an expatriate from Gilgit-Baltistan, now settled in the U.S. and director of the Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, briefed the audience on the situation in his native place.
While emphasising that the UNSC Resolution 47 declares Pakistan an occupier and aggressor in Gilgit-Baltistan he quoted a Freedom House report conclusion that Gilgit-Baltistan is not free.
The 2015 report on Freedom, according to Senge, has noted severe restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and association in Gilgit-Baltistan. Journalists face persecution for speaking against the government and many local publications have been banned. Government curbs speech on subjects pertaining to the armed forces and judiciary. The police, the military, and the intelligence services enjoy impunity for indiscriminate and excessive use of force.
In July 2014, Pakistani parliament expanded the already significant power of law enforcement agencies to detain without due process of law, engage in electronic surveillance, search and seizures, and the use of deadly force. As a result freedom fighter and activists are being subject to arbitrary arrests, torture, and deaths while in custody.
In 2014, 12 political activists in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) were sentenced to life imprisonment under the country's anti-terrorism laws for speaking out for local rights. Local leaders such as Babajan, Iftikhar Hussain, Mumtaz Nagri, Qayum Balawar, Tahir Ali and DJ Mathal are facing terrorism charges for demanding the just rights for their people and for challenging Pakistani rule. Military and intelligence agencies have seized thousands of acres of private land in Gilgit-Baltistan for military use resulting in the displacement of locals and a state sanctioned demographic change.
In yet another serious development during the last few years, fundamentalist organisations have established their presence in the region. They are targeting the indigenous Shia population and blatantly working towards affecting a change in the demographic change by settling Pathans and Pushtuns over there. Senge has specially referred to this emerging threat in his address.
"Gilgit Baltistan cannot end rights abuses without the help of the international community," said Senge Sering in culmination of his address. India has chosen to remain silent with regard to the oppression and atrocity that is being heaped on the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan. India should insist on greater accessibility to the region and its people.



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