FO concerned over health, safety of Kashmiri leaders imprisoned in India’s jails

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addressing a press conference in Islamabad. — RadioPakistan/Files

The Foreign Office has expressed serious concerns over the health and safety of imprisoned, innocent Kashmiris and their leaders who are languishing in jails across India on fabricated charges.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, in his weekly media briefing, said the coronavirus situation in India has been worsening and most of the jails are overcrowded and do not have any provisions against the COVID-19.

The incarcerated Kashmiri leaders include Aasiya Andrabi, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Ashraf Sehrai, Advocate Shahid-ul-Islam, Altaf Ahmed Shah, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Raja Merajuddin Kalwal, Syed Shahid Yousuf, Shakeel Ahmed, Farooq Ahmed Dar, Fehmeeda Sofi, Nahida Nasreen, and Zahoor Ahmed.

“Reportedly, some of the Kashmiri leaders in Indian jails have already contracted the coronavirus. Unfortunately, they are not even provided any medical treatment,” the spokesperson said.

Given the worst pandemic situation in India, the Indian government must immediately release the incarcerated Kashmiri leadership and all innocent Kashmiris, he demanded.

“We once again call upon the international community, particularly the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and human rights organisations to take cognisance of this dire humanitarian situation,” he said.

The FO spokesperson also reiterated Pakistan’s expression of solidarity with the people of India in the wake of the current wave of COVID-19 that has hit the region hard.

As a gesture of solidarity, Pakistan has also offered relief support to India, he said, adding: “We are ready to immediately provide ventilators, Bi-PAP, digital X-ray machines, PPEs, and related items.”

Regarding Dr Aafia Siddiqui, he said the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC and the Consulate-General in Houston remain in contact with her and her attorney.

Upon seeing media reports, Pakistan’s mission has once again contacted the concerned US authorities and did not receive any such information as is being reported in the media, he said.

“Our Mission has made an urgent request for another consular access/visitation to Aafia Siddiqui. The mission will remain in contact with the concerned US authorities regarding Siddiqui’s welfare,” he added.

India’s disaster deepens

Meanwhile, India’s coronavirus disaster deepened today with its daily death toll climbing above 3,600, as more than 40 countries sent urgent medical aid to help the country tackle the spiraling crisis.

The United States and several European nations have started to ease restrictions this week as vaccination campaigns have picked up, but the pandemic continues to worsen in many parts of the world.

Among the most devastating of those waves is in India, where death and infection rates have been rising exponentially throughout April.

On Thursday, India reported 3,645 deaths over the past 24 hours, while confirmed new cases hit a new global record with more than 379,000. The official numbers are widely believed to be far lower than the reality.

In many Indian cities, hospitals are running out of beds as relatives of the sick crowd outside pharmacies and suppliers for medicines and oxygen cylinders.

The spiking body count has also overwhelmed crematoriums and graveyards and caused a shortage of wood for funeral pyres.

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