Islamabad — Pakistan’s prime minister said Friday he has warned the international community that India could launch an attack on Pakistani-held Kashmir in an effort to divert attention from human rights abuses in the portion of the disputed Himalayan region that it controls. His warning comes as multiple reports claim abuses of, including torture by Indian forces and threats of sexual violence.
In a speech at a rally in Islamabad, Imran Khan said his country will give a “befitting response” to the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi if it attacked.
“Every brick will be countered with a stone,” he said. “Our armed forces are ready” to respond to any such attack, he said.
Khan said any conflict between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India will not be confined to the South Asian region. “The whole world will be affected,” he said, adding that he will raise the issue when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly next month.
Allegations of torture and abuse
People in Indian-administered Kashmir have been living under a curfew for almost four weeks since New Delhion Aug. 5 and imposed a security clampdown to prevent any violent response.
As CBS News’ Arshad Zargar has reported, the Indian government is blocking most communication channels in and out of Kashmir, and few journalists have been permitted into the region to witness conditions amid the crackdown first-hand.
The Indian government has flatly rejected a BBC News report by a journalist inside the region, who was told by multiple residents that army personnel raided homes and dragged men into the streets to beat them soon after Kashmir’s semi-autonomy was revoked.
“They beat every part of my body. They kicked us, beat us with sticks, gave us electric shocks, beat us with cables. They hit us on the back of the legs. When we fainted they gave us electric shocks to bring us back,” one villager from southern Kashmir told the BBC. “When they hit us with sticks and we screamed, they sealed our mouth with mud.
“We told them we are innocent. We asked why they were doing this? But they did not listen to us. I told them don’t beat us, just shoot us. I was asking God to take me, because the torture was unbearable.”
The BBC article included photos showing large welts and other injuries on the men’s bodies, which they say were from the beatings.
In a statement, the Indian army responded to the report by insisting it had “not manhandled any civilians as alleged.”
“No specific allegations of this nature have been brought to our notice,” army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand told the BBC, which is a CBS News partner network.
A Washington Post article, meanwhile, cited local officials as saying some 3,000 people have been arrested by Indian police in Kashmir since the crackdown began. The post said five children were among those detained, including a 13-year-old boy whose family said he was jailed for a week.
Freelance journalist Rana Ayyub, who has written for a number of major Western newspapers and covered the region extensively, said in a tweet that she had just returned from Indian Kashmir and learned of “twelve year olds detained and beaten in midnight raids. Women threatened with rape. Young boys given electric shocks, families unaware of their whereabouts.” She chided the Indian government for its ongoing claims that conditions in the region remained calm.
“This is the NORMAL you talk about” wrote Ayyub. “This is the worst I have seen in the (Kashmir) valley yet.”
Khan fears “genocide of Muslims”
Khan expressed his government’s full support for Kashmiri people and said he hopes that Indian-administered Kashmir will soon get independence.
He described Modi as a “fascist” and equated him with Adolf Hitler, saying he feared a “genocide of Muslims in Kashmir.”
India on Thursday said it has information that Pakistan is trying to infiltrate “terrorists” into the country. Pakistan’s army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor, rejected the Indian claims, saying Pakistan was a responsible state and “we would be insane to allow infiltration” across the Line of Control that divides the countries in Kashmir.
Rallies were held Friday in almost all cities, towns and villages in Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to express solidarity with Kashmiris in the Indian-held portion. Protesters in the eastern city of Lahore and elsewhere burned Indian flags and effigies of Modi.
In Bangladesh, another Muslim-majority nation, thousands of people marched after prayers Friday through the capital, Dhaka, to protest India’s clampdown in Kashmir.
They demanded independence for Indian-held Kashmir and the restoration of the constitutional provision that gave it autonomy.
The protesters burned an effigy of Modi as they marched through the streets.
Nuclear neighbors’ history of war
The rallies came a day after Pakistan’s military announced that it successfully test-fired a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads up to about 180 miles.
The two neighbors fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
They got close to war again in February, when a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir killed 40 paramilitary soldiers. India responded by bombing an alleged militant training camp in Pakistan. Pakistan then said it shot down two Indian air force planes and captured an Indian pilot who was later released.
India often accuses Pakistan of training and arming insurgent groups that have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.
Pakistan says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to these groups.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.