Birmingham: Kashmiri political activists from all over Europe gathered here on Saturday to hold a conference on the atrocities committed by Pakistan on people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The conference, named "International Kashmir conference on Peace, Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism," also focused on the discussion of rampant destruction of land and resources in the region.
"Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the most deprived areas in the world. Unfortunately, Pakistan has still not changed its policies. Even now, they are still using terrorism as a tool. The government of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir has no say in the Imran Khan-led government. Since the past three months, people are protesting against the diversion of Neelum-Jhelum Rivers. They are sitting continuously on strikes," Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, chairman at the United Kashmir Peoples' National Party (UKPNP), told ANI.
"The security agencies of Pakistan have arrested more than 30 volunteers and have also demolished the temporary camps of the protesters. We have no freedom of expression and the terrorist infrastructure is underway. They are more powerful because the ISI and other security agencies are supporting them while the local population is very deprived of the basic resources," he added.
Ali, however, noted that the world community cannot imagine the level of oppression that is being faced by the people of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan has lately sanctioned multiple projects in the PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan region that essentially aim to further suppress and marginalise the locals.
The construction of hydropower projects on the Neelum river has severely affected the daily life of the locals with a large number of them migrating to other areas.
Islamabad has also proposed the construction of Kohala project on Jhelum river which is likely to aggravate the situation.
Any voice of dissent that seeks to resist the exploitative agenda of Pakistan has been muzzled with extreme high handedness.
Recently, a number of protesters were manhandled and put behind bars for carrying out a demonstration against the government.
"The situation in Pakistan administered Kashmir or Azad Kashmir, although it is called Azad there is no Azadi, is becoming worse, especially with the diversion of rivers. It is creating enormous problems for the local people as they may be forced to migrate from the region in the near future," Shabir Choudhary, a writer and activist from PoK, told ANI.
"Water is fundamental in people's lives and because of this diversion people in Muzaffarabad and neighbouring towns and villages are suffering. All benefits are being received by Pakistan. The others who speak about the oppression and injustice become the victims," he added....