Article: AJK prisoner’s staged killing in occupied Kashmir warrants int’l intervention

By Humayun Aziz Sandeela

Indian troops have been engaged in the genocide of people in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) for the past seventy four years for opposing India’s illegal occupation of their soil and demanding their right to self-determination.

The killing of innocent youth in fake encounters near the Line of Control after arresting them from different parts of the occupied territory has been a decades-old practice of Indian troops. The main aim behind such actions has been to malign the Kashmiris’ ongoing freedom movement by portraying the victims as intruders. The Pathribal fake encounter, Machil fake encounter, Shopian fake encounter of July 2020 and the extrajudicial killing of Burhan Wani and thousands of other Kashmiri youth, and now the recent killing of Zia Mustafa from Rawalakot Azad Jammu and Kashmir on October 14, 2021 are the glaring examples of this wicked practice.

Zia Mustafa from Rawalakot, Azad Jammu and Kashmir had been an under trial prisoner for 18 years and lodged in Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu. The Indian police claimed that Zia Mustafa was taken to Bhata Durian for identification of a hideout during a cordon and search operation in Poonch and subsequently killed in cross fire.

However, his family lamented that Zia was killed in a fake encounter, questioning the cruelty of Indian forces for doing it to a person who was in prison for more than 17 years.

Zia Mustafa son of Abdul Kareem was a resident of Burmag Kalan Tehsil Rawalakot District Poonch Azad Jammu and Kashmir who was arrested by Indian forces on January 13, 2003, when he unknowingly crossed to another side of Line of Control (LOC) in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. According to Zia’s brother, Amir Hamid, he (Zia Mustafa) was 15-year-old at the time of crossing over the LoC.

India did not divulge details of his arrests, as it agencies wanted to use his arrest for their advantage, so Zia’s formal arrest was shown in March 2013 from South Kashmir’s Islamabad District in a Nadimarg incident, in which 24 Kashmiri Pandits were shot dead by the unidentified gunmen.

Zia was facing trial before district court Shopian where the IIOJK authorities failed to produce any single evidence against him. The trial court closed the prosecution evidence and accordingly the authorities in Indian illegally occupied Jammu Kashmir filed the criminal appeal before Jammu Kashmir High court, Srinagar Wing which was also dismissed.

The authorities in IIOJK again filed Criminal Appeal 39899/2018 with condonation of delay application In Zia Mustafa’s Case before Supreme Court of India and in its order SC “condoned the delay in filing the writ petition”.

A day after Pulwama incident took place where 40 Indian armed forces personnel were killed,  the authorities in IIOJK moved a petition to the Supreme Court of India to shift seven Pakistani prisoners including Zia Mustafa outside of Jammu Jail. All this authenticates the presence of Zia Mustafa in an Indian prison for past over 17 years.

The Government of Pakistan also admitted Zia Mustafa as the state subject of Azad Jammu Kashmir in the prisoners’ list on January 23, 2006 and registered him under number SS382577.

Pakistan also sought an explanation on the reported killing of a Pakistani prisoner, Zia Mustafa from the Indian government.

The Indian Charge d’Affaires was summoned to the Foreign Office on October 27, 2021 and a strong protest was lodged on the reported killing of Zia Mustafa, in the incident involving Indian occupation forces in Poonch sector of Indian illegally occupied Jammu And Kashmir (IIOJK).

The Indian Cd’A was told that the reported killing of the Pakistani prisoner, who was in Indian custody since 2003, under mysterious circumstances at a location away from the prison where he was interned, was not only intriguing but also raised serious questions about the well-being, safety and security of other Pakistani prisoners in India.

Regrettably, this was not the first such incident. in the past as well, Pakistani civilian prisoners in India have been found dead under inexplicable circumstances.

A prisoner, identified as Shakirullah, was beaten up by inmates and died on February 20, 2019 after the Pulwama incident. Pakistan reiterated its condemnation of the dastardly Indian practice of extra-judicial killing of Pakistani and Kashmiri prisoners in fake encounters.

Such extrajudicial killings are also violation of International Law and Geneva Conventions under which even the killing of combatant after taking him into custody is a serious crime. It is the established practice across the world that the arrested persons are tried in court of law and extrajudicial killings are not justified by any established law. However, Indian forces are grossly violating all such norms by killing the dissident Kashmiri youth in fake and staged encounters.

The Indian forces’ personnel have so far killed over 7,207 in custody and subjected more than 10,000 innocent Kashmiris to custodial disappearance since January 1989. The discovery of thousands of unnamed mass graves across the occupied territory has raised apprehensions about the safety of the disappeared persons.

These are the credentials of a country, which projects itself as the largest democracy of the world. In fact the aforementioned figures expose the real face of the so-called secular India. Unfortunately, instead of taking steps towards settling the Kashmir dispute, Indian government continues with its intransigent attitude. The continued silence of the international community over India’s genocidal actions in occupied Kashmir has emboldened New Delhi to carry on its brutalities in occupied Kashmir.

The increasing incidents of fake encounters and extrajudicial killings in occupied Kashmir should be a matter of serious concern for the world community, which must hold India accountable for the war crimes being committed by its forces in the occupied territory.