An international human rights group has slammed Pakistan for manipulating polls in occupied Kashmir and asked it to ensure free and fair polls in the July 11 election by repealing constitutional law and rules which allows only pre-screened candidates to participate.
Reminding Islamabad that it had arbitrary arrested, detained, harassed and beaten up candidates who belonged to independent groups and wanted to contest elections in 2001, it asked Pakistan to ensure that they are allowed to take part in the coming elections.
In a statement, United States-based Human Right watch sharply criticised the law which was imposed in 1974 and calls for pre-screening of candidates to ensure that only those supporting Kashmir's union with Pakistan are allowed to contest.
It pointed out that about 60 pro-independence candidates belonging to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the All Parties Nationalist Alliance and some groups had filed nominations for the election but all have barred from contesting by the election authorities.
"The electoral law undermines Kashmiris' basic political rights by barring them from seeking office if they oppose Kashmir's accession to Pakistan," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"Those who favor independence invite the ire of Pakistan's abusive intelligence agencies and military, and they risk being beaten and jailed.
"Behind a civilian facade, the Pakistani military effective rules with little regard for basic protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other maltreatment," it said.
"The restrictions on political participation and the harassment and persecution of Kashmiri nationalists violate international standards on free expression and expose the Pakistani government's hypocrisy about Kashmir."