ISLAMABAD: Conversation between a top UN official and a top Kashmiri leader played out in front of more than 500 representatives of major international human rights organisations, where the top UN official issued his latest statement on the urgency of the crisis in Kashmir.
The unprecedented conversation occurred at the UN Headquarters in Geneva when Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, held a rare meeting with dozens of representatives of the international civil society, on the sidelines of the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which will continue until March 23.
Syed Faiz Naqshbandi has become the highest Kashmiri leader to date to have directly engaged the UN’s top human rights official in a major global civil society meeting. This is a significant development because Zeid Al-Hussein holds the distinction of breaking United Nations’ half-century of silence on Kashmir when he added Jammu & Kashmir to a formal list of urgent humanitarian crises, along with conflicts like Syria and Myanmar, in his policy statement in September 2016.
Al-Hussein did this after the extrajudicial murder of Kashmiri youth activist Burhan Wani. The High Commissioner created a second history when he sustained the focus on Kashmir throughout 2017, culminating with his announcement this month that the UN will be launching a major report on the situation in Kashmir in June 2018.
The UNHRC will hold its next session in June. Naqshbandi, who is the Convener of the APHC, the alliance of pro-freedom political parties in Indian held Kashmir, stood in a packed hall, with over 200 global NGO representatives, and addressed the high commissioner on the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
“We seek the appointment of a special UN representative on the situation in Indian held Kashmir,” Naqshbandi said. The Kashmiri leader thanked Al-Hussein on bringing Kashmir to the top of the international agenda and ending UN silence on the 70-year-old conflict. Al-Hussein acknowledged Naqshbandi’s point and reiterated his official position on obstacles to UN’s access to Indian held Kashmir. Pakistan has agreed to allow a UN team to visit Azad (Free) Kashmir if India does as well.
A Kashmir delegation, representing both parts of the conflicted region, is in Geneva to participate in the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council. For the first time in decades, Jammu and Kashmir has become a top agenda item in the policy statement of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights. The OHCHR has included Kashmir in the list of other urgent international conflicts, like Syria.