Pakistan draws pope's attention to Kashmir clampdown

Pakistan's human rights minister tells Vatican diplomat 'fears of ethnic cleansing'
Pakistan draws pope's attention to Kashmir clampdown

Pakistan’s human rights minister Shireen Mazari (right) with Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis the apostolic nuncio of Pakistan. (Photo courtesy Federal Human Rights Ministry, Pakistan government)

Pakistan’s human rights minister has urged Pope Francis to raise his voice against the ongoing military and communication lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Minister Shireen Mazari wrote on Twitter that she “had an interesting meeting” with Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis the apostolic nuncio of Pakistan.

“Discussed issues relating to Christian community in [Pakistan and] assured him of our support on issues of concern,” Mazari wrote.

“Also drew his attention to situation in IOK [Indian-occupied Kashmir],” she wrote referring to the Indian government’s ongoing clampdown on Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir.

New Delhi has sent thousands of additional troops, imposed a curfew and shut down internet and communications for an unspecified period in the region. These developments followed a presidential decree on Aug. 5 that revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomy and divided the restive Himalayan region into two union territories.

“Hoped he would convey to the pope our fears of ethnic cleansing of Muslims and on how Muslims [were] even prevented from Eid prayers [in Kashmir],” she said.

“He reminded me how the pope had always asked for issues to be resolved [according] to international law etc,” she added.

India says that restrictions on the ground in Indian-administered Kashmir are temporary but necessary to bring the state more into the national fold, help combat cross-border militant infiltration and develop the region.

Islamabad, which also administers some parts of Kashmir, has described the Indian move as illegal saying they are a violation of resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council.

In response to India’s moves, Pakistan has downgraded its diplomatic ties with New Delhi, expelled the Indian high commissioner and suspended bilateral trade.

The Pakistan government say it is considering a proposal to shut down its airspace permanently for Indian aircraft.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in total and administer parts of it. The two neighbors have fought at least three wars since their independence from the British rule in 1947.

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