Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said India has no option but to “accept defeat” in the face of a “freedom wave in Kashmir” as Pakistan observed a “black day” on Wednesday to express solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sharif personally mooted the observance of the day last week as part of his government’s protest against the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, where 44 people have died in two weeks of violence following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
The “black day” coincided with Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed leading a “Kashmir Caravan” from Lahore to Islamabad to protest against the situation in the Indian state. Saeed on Tuesday also vowed to march towards Jammu and Kashmir.
Observers said the posturing by the Pakistan government could be linked to elections to the assembly of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to be held on July 21. The Pakistan People’s Party is currently in power in PoK and Sharif’s PML-N party has launched a concerted bid to win the polls.
In a special message issued on Wednesday, Sharif said: “The current freedom wave in Kashmir would not subside and when nations arose in such a way, nothing could stem their way towards freedom. India had no other option but to accept its defeat before the heroic struggle.”
Pakistan, he said, is a stakeholder in the Kashmir issue and is observing the “black day” to protest “against atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Pakistan stands with the Kashmiris in every hour of trial and this relation is not only based upon religion, civilisation and humanity but also related to blood,” he said. “We will never leave Kashmiris alone and their case would be fought at all the diplomatic, political and human rights fora.”
The government has directed all officials to wear black arm bands and special prayers will be offered for the Kashmiris on Wednesday afternoon. All Pakistani missions abroad will organise special ceremonies to highlight the issue and Pakistani diaspora will join demonstrations in front of UN offices around the world.
Sharif and his government had recently angered India by referring to Burhan Wani as a “Kashmiri leader” and describing his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. Sharif and his cabinet decided last week to observe the “black day” on July 19 but as Pakistan observes the day as “Kashmir’s Accession day”, the “black day” was moved to Wednesday.
India has dismissed Pakistan’s protests, asserting Kashmir is an internal matter. Foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said last week, “India completely and unequivocally rejects in the entirety the decisions adopted by the Pakistan cabinet on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
In his message, Sharif referred to “continuous incidents of human rights violations” in Kashmir, including “depriving the children of their eyesight” and said “India had neglected two vital issues while dealing” with the Kashmir issue.
“Kashmir could never be regarded as (an) internal issue of India because the United Nations had already declared (Jammu and Kashmir) as disputed territory after India itself approached the UN and promised the world to honour Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and to hold plebiscite,” he said.
“Secondly, the human rights violations had a long history in (Jammu and Kashmir). Human rights violations are now an international issue.”
Meanwhile, The “Kashmir Caravan” organised by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), comprising scores of trucks and buses and stretching for several kilometers, began making its way to Islamabad on Wednesday.
Members of the JuD, Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties joined it along the way.
Saeed, for whom the US has offered a $10-million bounty, told supporters in Lahore that the rally would have three phases.
In the first phase, the caravan would go to Islamabad to “wake up” members of the national assembly and senate so that they raise their voice for the rights of Kashmiris.
In the second phase, the caravan would travel to Muzaffarabad and Chakothi in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to campaign for the “freedom of Kashmiris”. “And in the third phase, we will march into occupied Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) and we will continue marching till Kashmiris get freedom,” Saeed said.
Like the Pakistan government, Saeed, too, has called Wani a “freedom fighter” and said his death would strengthen the “jihad” in Kashmir. Saeed wants the Pakistan government to suspend diplomatic and trade ties with India, expel the Indian envoy and recall its high commissioner from New Delhi.