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Pakistan urges UN to press India for release of political prisoners in Kashmir

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan conveyed its “deep” concern to the UN over the death of jailed pro-freedom Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sehrai and called for the release of all political prisoners in the Indian-administered Kashmir, the country’s UN envoy has said.

Munir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, said on Saturday in a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres, urging him to ask New Delhi to immediately release all prisoners illegally detained in the disputed Himalayan valley.

Sehrai, 77, died at a hospital in the Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this week.

He was the chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, one of the constituent parties of the Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir’s biggest pro-freedom group.

Sehrai “spent his life struggling for the legitimate right of self-determination of #Kashmiris and suffered persecution at the hands of Indian occupying forces,” Akram said in a series of tweets.

Like hundreds of other Kashmiri political prisoners, Sehrai was kept in jail far from his hometown of Srinagar. He was incarcerated since July 2020 at the Uhdampur jail, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the region’s capital.

He was already under house arrest when he was detained under the Public Safety Act, which has been described as a “lawless law” by global rights group Amnesty International.

With hundreds of prisoners having tested positive for COVID-19 across India, activists and family members of incarcerated individuals have repeatedly appealed to the Indian government to release ailing prisoners from overcrowded jails.

Akram said Pakistan has urged the UN chief to ask the government of India to immediately release all illegally detained prisoners in view of the prevailing COVID-19 crisis and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the disputed region.

Disputed region

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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