Pakistani FM Qureshi calls change in Kashmir demography "a form of genocide"

Kashmiri relatives cry during the funeral of civilian Adil Magray, was killed when government forces opened fire on protesters. [AP Photo]

"If you convert a Muslim-majority state [] into a Muslim-minority state, through a demographic change and that is a disputed area, which is forcibly occupied, that is a form of and that concerns me," Pakistan said in an interview to Turkey's state-run news agency in Geneva.

Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that attempts to change Muslim-majority status of the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir amount to a "genocide".

"If you convert a Muslim-majority state [] into a Muslim-minority state, through a demographic change and that is a disputed area, which is forcibly occupied, that is a form of and that concerns me," Qureshi said in an interview with Anadolu Agency in Geneva.

He was referring to the Indian government's move on Aug. 5, scrapping special provisions guaranteed to Jammu and Kashmir under the Indian constitution.

The foreign minister said that in post 9/11 era, "India in a very crafty manner used the struggle for the right to self-determination [of Kashmiris] and… tried to dub it as terrorism."

"They [Kashmiris] are not terrorists; they are fighting for their rights and it should not be equated as terrorism," Qureshi said.

Already soured relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals, have further plummeted after New Delhi's move of scrapping special provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5.

Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.

Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 90% of the region.

From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.

The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.

The Pakistani minister said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was likely to visit his country "in near future".

"Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Turkey have always been good, they have always been excellent," Qureshi said.

He said that there is a "lot of goodwill on both sides".

"The Turks have always stood by Pakistan and Pakistan has always stood by Turkey. And we saw a manifestation of that at the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] forum," he added.

Qureshi said that more than 50 countries signed a joint statement, submitted to the UNHRC on Kashmir.

"You know the Turkish ambassador [in Geneva] was in the lead. He was the first one to comment on our joint statement," Pakistan's foreign minister said.

"So, our relations are good. We are expecting President Erdogan to visit Pakistan in the near future and in which we will be talking about a comprehensive economic arrangement between Turkey and Pakistan," he added.

He further said that Turkey and Pakistan enjoy "good cooperation" at the military level.

Expressing concern at the rising menace of "Islamophobia", Qureshi said his country along with Turkey and Malaysia are hosting a debate on the issue in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, later this month.

Pakistani foreign minister also articulated support to the peace process in Afghanistan.

"We [Pakistan] have facilitated the peace process," Qureshi claimed.

"And [our] message is that you know peace is about reduction in violence and give peace a chance," Qureshi said about Afghanistan peace process.

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