Statement by Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, on Agenda Item 68 (a & b): Rights of Children 74th Session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee (New York, 8 October 2019)

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation thanks the Secretary General and his Special Representatives for their comprehensive reports.

We meet at a historic inflection point. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), it is clear that while tangible progress has been made in many aspects of the well-being of children, challenges remain and our work is far from finished.

There has been a remarkable decline in child mortality rates, yet thousands of children still die from treatable diseases every day.

While there are more children in school today than ever before, millions of children of primary and lower secondary age are still out of school in the world today.

Despite tougher global safeguards to protect children from violence and exploitation, they continue to remain vulnerable across the globe and their rights often forgotten, disregarded, or violated.

Mr. Chairman,

Children are also some of the worst victims in situations of armed conflict, humanitarian crisis, foreign occupation and longstanding and unresolved disputes. Last year in fact was the worst ever for children caught up in conflict.

We note, in particular, the 2018 report of the Independent Expert leading the UN global study on children deprived of liberty. It affirmed that children under foreign occupation are “routinely detained by the government forces and are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, most often for intelligence gathering purposes or forced confessions of involvement or association with the armed groups.”

Nowhere is this grim reality more stark than in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

A veil of darkness has been imposed on the occupied territory following its illegal annexation by India, on 5 August. Two months on, harrowing and spine-chilling stories abound of widespread torture and arbitrary arrests; of how thousands including children have been picked up from their homes by occupation forces in the still of the night – taken away without any trace. “ Nights fill us with dread”, is how one mother from Baramulla described these nighttime raids.

Innocent Kashmiri children and youth, like 16 year old Asrar Khan, who succumbed to pellet gun injuries and tear gas shells last month; or 18 month old Hiba Jan, blinded by a pellet gun in 2018, are victims of an illegal occupation. These tell unremitting tales of an occupation force, which has no regard for the norms of international law or respect for the rights of children.

For Kashmiri people, life under this brutal occupation is to live in an armed cage in the silence of a graveyard.

These gruesome facts are amply documented in two reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Yet its recommendations await implementation.

It is time for the bloodletting of innocent Kashmiris including Kashmiri children, to stop.

It is time for the international community to act, by demanding that India fulfill its obligations including to protect and safeguard children in the occupied territory.

After all, when the lives and rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses. Silence means complicity. It is time for UNICEF to speak up, to live up to its responsibility and come to the aid of children who are incarcerated or suffer in curfew bound occupied Kashmir.

Mr. Chairman,

Pakistan attaches the highest priority to protecting and promoting the rights of children.

We were one of the co-initiators of the 1990 World Summit for Children, which led to the adoption of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, children are not only repositories of our greatest hopes and aspirations; they are also the cornerstone of the government’s people-centric policies of sustainable and inclusive development, and charting a pathway to provide a “better tomorrow” to our children and future generations.

In keeping with this tradition, I had the honor and privilege of co-facilitating the modalities resolution on commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child during the last session of the General Assembly.

Let me conclude by reaffirming my country’s commitment to promote and protect the rights of all children at home and abroad.

I thank you.