A British man took a Pakistani flag down from a public square and is now facing upto three years in jail for the same, causing fears among his family.
There are growing concerns over his well-being. 48-year-old Tanveer Ahmed Rafique is an activist who has said that the Kashmir region which is disputed should be granted independence from Pakistan. He was detained in the city of Dadyal in in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in the month of August. The BBC was told by his wife that he has held many hunger strikes against not being granted bail and consequently, has become very weak.
His wife Fareezam Rajput believes that the intelligence agencies of Pakistan are pressurizing the courts to decline giving him bail continuously.
Police files show that he has been charged with “unauthorizedly” removing the national flag of Pakistan. Rafique’s friend, who is a local MP, raised the issue with the Prime Minister of Pakistan Boris Johnson who assured him that he will raise the issue with the UK foreign ministry.
Rafique was born in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but moved to the UK when he was a child. He traveled back to PoK to meet his grandmother in 2005. Eventually, he left his job in finance to settle permanently in the region.
Rafique believes that Kashmir should be independent from Pakistan. Currently, the region is disputed and claimed by both India and Pakistan and the part where Rafique was arrested is administered by Pakistan. Once his family in PoK had problems in visiting their relatives in Kashmir so he was attracted by the idea that Kashmir should not be divided “and be independent”.
But, authorities in the region are not very fond of his activism. His wife said that he was once detained by the Pakistani military for three days until the British High Commission intervened. Her sister Asma told the BBC that his brother was warned that if he doesn’t stop his activities then nobody will see him ever again.
Rafique spent years conducting a survey of 10,000 people in the region to find public opinion. His survey found that 73% of the respondents identify themselves Kashmiri rather than Pakistani.