Shehryar Afridi writes to Antonio Guterres, calls for UN probe into custodial killing of Syed Ali Gilani

Islamabad, September 10 (KMS): Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, Shehryar Khan Afridi Friday wrote letters to United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, calling for an impartial but immediate UN investigation into the custodial killing of veteran Kashmiri Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Gilani, desecration of his body and registration of criminal cases against his family members.

Shehryar Afridi was briefing media persons outside the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad after delivering the letters to the United Nations Military Observers’ Group in Pakistan (UNMOGIP). Member Kashmir Committee Senator Sarfraz Bugti, Hurriyat AJK leaders Muhammad Farooq Rehmani and Faiz Naqshbandi were also present on the occasion.

Shehryar Afridi said that the UN Secretary General must order an immediate investigation into the custodial killing of Syed Ali Gilani which is part of a series of custodial killings of Kashmiri leaders. “Hurriyat leaders are being killed in custody by the illegal occupational regime of India in Jammu and Kashmir in the garb of Covid-19 Pandemic. Had the UN investigated the custodial murder of Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai, Gilani’s life could have been saved. Now we fear that other imprisoned Kashmiri leaders including the new APHC chief Masarrat Alam Butt, Shabbir Ahmed Shah, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Aasiya Andrabi, Dr Qasim Fakhtoo and others may also be killed the same way,” he said.

Shehryar Afridi said that there is a design to kill all top iconic pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders in the garb of Covid-19 pandemic and Syed Ali Gilani is second such high profile killing. He said the veteran leader’s longtime comrade and successor, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Chairman Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai was also killed in custody earlier this year. He was on purpose kept in jail where Covid-19 was raging and millions of people were dying.

The Parliamentary Committee Chairman said Syed Ali Gilani, an influential and uncompromising leader of Kashmir freedom movement who died on September 1, was under house kept arrest by the Indian authorities in Srinagar. He said with Syed Ali Gilani’s departure, the Kashmiris have lost their most primal leadership.

“This loss may turn out to obstruct Kashmiri people’s voice and compromise their long struggle for freedom. I would also like to bring to attention here the matter in which Mr. Gilani’s death was handled by the occupational Indian government where they shut down the internet across the Kashmir valley and beefed-up security forces when word of his death spread,” he said.

Shehryar Afridi said the Indian police snatched Syed Ali Gilani’s body from his family members away just hours after he died and deprived the bereaved family their right to funeral, for a resistance leader who could once summon thousands of people into the streets to protest.

“As if it was not enough, the Indian illegally occupied regime in Jammu and Kashmir has booked the family members of Syed Ali Gilani under black law called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for resisting the Indian forces’ bid to snatch his dead body. Though UAPA is an anti-terrorism law but the Indian regime has been misusing this law against civilians and rights activists. More recently, Syed Ali Gilani’s family is the latest victim of this law,” he added.

“Against this backdrop, we fear Kashmiri voices will further be muffled and jailed Kashmiri leaders would be killed the same way. In absence of their fast-disappearing leaders, how will the Kashmiri people exercise their fundamental rights of freedom of expression, hold the government to account, and channel critical information on violations of human rights in the valley,” he argued.

The Parliamentary Committee Chairman said the circumstances leading to the death of Syed Ali Gilani are shrouded in mystery and warrant an immediate inquiry. He concluded that the Kashmiris see the veteran leader’s death as a custodial killing by the Indian government to silence the strong and rational voice against its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir.