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Pakistan condemns 'extrajudicial killings' of Kashmiris

Families allege Indian army killed 3 cousins in staged gunfight last month

Pakistan on Tuesday condemned alleged "extrajudicial killings" of three Kashmiris by Indian forces in disputed Jammu and Kashmir.

"Pakistan strongly condemns the extrajudicial killings of three Kashmiri laborers from Rajouri (district) by the Indian occupation forces in a fake encounter in Shopian region of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)," read a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

Indian army claimed to have killed the three cousins in a clash in the Amshipora village of Shopian district in southern Kashmir on July 18, declaring them "militants". Their families identified the trio through their photos circulated on the social media. Muhammad Yusuf, a sheep farmer, told Anadolu Agency that his son Abrar Ahmad, 25, and his two cousins, Abrar Khatana, 18, and Imtiyaz Ahmad, 21, left home on July 16. Yusuf said the local civilian administration did not permit them to visit Kashmir so that they could apply for exhumation of the bodies.

"They said we will permit you but they did not say when. My demand is that their bodies should be handed to us and their killing should be investigated. They had gone to earn a livelihood but were killed for no sin of theirs. My son was married only four years ago. He has an 18-month-old son," he said. Hailing from Rajouri area of Jammu region, the three were bound for the neighboring, apple-producing Shopian district in Kashmir Valley, where they planned to work in orchards.

The family members alleged that the Indian army killed them in a staged gunfight last month and passed them off as militants.

Pakistan's statement further said that these condemnable crimes against Kashmiri youth by the Indian forces were being perpetrated with "complete impunity, under the cover of draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Public Safety Act (PSA) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)." "The killings of innocent Kashmiris and destruction of their properties is a part of the Hindutva agenda of the RSS-BJP combine which is attempting to target defenseless Kashmiris with mindless violence and perpetuating collective punishment to break their will," it added. It urged the international community to take immediate note of "state terrorism and grave human rights violations being perpetrated by Indian occupation forces."

"India's efforts to subjugate the Kashmiri people through killings, torture, forced disappearances, incarcerations and brutalization have failed in the past and will not succeed in the future. Nor will India succeed in bringing illegal and forcible demographic changes in IIOJK in violation of international law and conventions," the statement added. "Pakistan will continue to call for holding India accountable for its crimes against the Kashmiri people and extend its full support in the just struggle for the Kashmiris' inalienable right to self-determination," it concluded. There is no immediate response from New Delhi on the statement.

Indian army investigating

A police spokesman said the deceased were buried in a remote northern Kashmir village. According to a procedure, police collect DNA samples of unidentified militants killed in gunfights. Army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said on Monday they are investigating the matter after the families filed a missing people report with the police. Last month, four UN special rapporteurs asked the Indian government to investigate the alleged torture and custodial killings of several Kashmiri Muslim men since January 2019. Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir. Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

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