Millions of Muslim refugees could flee India: Pakistan PM Khan

Imran Khan says millions of Muslims could flee India due to the lockdown in Kashmir and India's new citizenship law.

    Khan said the Indian government was planning to change the demography of Kashmir [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]
    Khan said the Indian government was planning to change the demography of Kashmir [Denis Balibouse/Reuters]

    Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has said millions of Muslims living in India would be forced to leave as a result of India's new citizenship law, and the ongoing curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir - creating what he termed "a refugee crisis that would dwarf other crises".

    Addressing the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva on Tuesday, the Pakistani leader said his country would not be able to accommodate more refugees and urged the world to "step in now".

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    "We in Pakistan are not just worried that there will be a refugee crisis. We are worried that this could lead to a conflict, a conflict between two nuclear-armed countries," said Khan.

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    Last week, India passed a law, which was an amendment to 1955 legislation, allowing Indian citizenship to "persecuted" minorities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians - from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but makes no reference to Muslims.

    Indian legal experts say the law violates the country's secular constitution, while thousands of Muslims and civil society groups are protesting in the country, fearing the legislation could marginalise the country's 200 million Muslims.

    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were in attendance as Khan spoke.

    Kashmir lockdown

    On the four-month-long lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir, Khan said the professed aim of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi's government was to change the demography of the region.

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    "The most important thing the world needs to understand is that the professed aim is to change the demography of Kashmir from a Muslim majority to a Muslim minority," he said.

    "We know from our past experience prevention is better than cure. If the world acts right now and put pressure on Indian government to stop this illegal activity, we can prevent this crisis."

    Ties between the two nuclear rivals plummeted to a new low following India's August 5 move scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Later in October, New Delhi divided the state into two federally-run territories.

    The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between the two neighbours in parts with both claiming it in full.

    Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

    Indian-administered Kashmir, home to nearly eight million people, remains under lockdown for more than four months, with internet and mobile phones suspended since August 5.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies