ISLAMABAD - Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday said that the Kashmir dispute continues casting an ominous shadow over the future of nearly one-fifth of humanity.

He said that Kashmir without a doubt, “poses one of the most serious challenges to regional and international peace and security today.”

“Several recent developments in South Asia have highlighted yet again, the inherent dangers of letting the dispute remain unresolved, and unattended,” the FM said in a message on International Conference on ‘Kashmir Turmoil: Emerging Threats to Peace and the Role of the International Community.’

Qureshi said that the illegal and unilateral steps taken by India in Occupied Kashmir on August 5 in contravention of international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions had brought the entire region to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

“Grave human rights violations are being perpetrated to muzzle the voice of the Kashmiris, and change the demographic composition of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Despite international out-cry and condemnation, physical blockade of over 8 million Kashmiris as well as communication and media blackout have now entered into their fourth consecutive month,” he said.

Pakistan urges world not to forget Kashmiri children

Kashmiri political leaders, he said “remain under detention. Reports of arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extra-judicial killings, denial of basic religious freedoms as well as disproportion use of force against civilians, including the use of notorious “pellet-guns” remain endemic.”

At the same time, he said, another threat to peace and security in South Asia was germinating inside India. “Fanned by a vitriolic and extremist ideology, Islamophobia continues to grip India in its stranglehold, and is manifested in the growing incidents of discrimination, victimization, targeting and lynching of Muslims,” he elaborated.

The FM said that the minorities’ rights to life, liberty and fundamental freedoms were being held hostage to the nefarious designs of the Hindutva ideologues. “Sadly, the entire Indian state apparatus is being used to shield and protect those who preach and practice this divisive ideology. A systematic campaign of incitement to hatred against Muslims as well as Pakistan is underway to swell the rank and file of hate mongers,” he added.

He said that the recent decision of the Indian Supreme Court regarding the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid by adherents of the same ideology once again laid bare the reality of India’s secularism and the status of its vulnerable minorities.

“Pakistan is desirous of peace and stability in South Asia through the resolution of all outstanding disputes, in particular the Kashmir dispute, through dialogue and in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Sadly, all our overtures towards peace have not only been rebuffed, but responded to by further escalation by India. Under these circumstances, the role of the international community has never been more important,” Qureshi said.

Meanwhile yesterday, Pakistan urged world to remember Kashmiri children as the world celebrated adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A foreign ministry statement said: “As we celebrate the Thirtieth Anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world must never forget the children of Kashmir.”

The CRC is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. The Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under national legislation.

Pakistan reaffirms the right of every child to grow, learn, play and flourish with dignity. “Being one of the early signatories and ratifying State of CRC, Pakistan is fully committed to upholding its international and national obligations for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The premises of Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are being lit blue as a manifestation of commitment to upholding the principles and objectives of CRC.”Pakistan has taken a range of institutional and legal measures to eliminate any form of exploitation and has opened up equal opportunities for all children to progress and excel.

The statement said Pakistan believed that advancing and safeguarding the rights of the child was an investment in the future. “We reaffirm our strong resolve to continue to pursue policies and programs that create opportunities and pathways for the empowerment, protection and promotion of the rights of every child in Pakistan,” it said.

On this day, it said, “we must not forget the plight of the children of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, bearing the brunt of Indian brutalities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN experts and international civil society have documented in detail the gross human rights violations committed by Indian occupation forces in Kashmir against unarmed children, including arbitrary detentions, abductions in house raids, blinding by use of illegal pellet guns, denial of travel abroad to families of blinded children for their treatment, difficulty in pursuing education due to prolonged curfew, and adverse impact on children’s physical and psychological health.”