Pakistan said on Friday it will observe July 19 as a “black day” to protest against killings in Jammu and Kashmir, drawing an angry reaction from India which again accused Islamabad of interfering in New Delhi’s internal affairs and backing terrorism.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif proposed the observance of the “black day” while chairing a meeting of his cabinet in Lahore that discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been roiled by protests over the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani last week.
Sharif and Pakistan’s foreign ministry have angered India by referring to Wani, a commander of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen, as a “Kashmiri leader” and describing his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. At least 37 people have died in protests following Wani’s killing.
India again dismissed Pakistan’s criticism of its handling of the situation in Kashmir, saying it was “dismayed” at Islamabad’s continued attempts “to interfere in our internal matters” where external parties have no role.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said: “India completely and unequivocally rejects in entirety the decisions adopted by the cabinet of Pakistan on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir…Continued glorification of terrorists belonging to proscribed terrorist organisations makes it amply clear where Pakistan’s sympathies continue to lie.”
Swarup asked Pakistan to “respond constructively” to India’s initiatives for peace and normalising bilateral ties.
Despite the ire expressed by India in the past few days, Sharif again described Wani as a “martyr of (the) independence movement” on Friday. He also characterised the “movement of Kashmiris as a movement of freedom”.
During the cabinet meeting, Sharif trotted out Pakistan’s stated position of extending “moral, political and diplomatic support” to Kashmiris for their right to self-determination. The cabinet also decided to convene a joint session of parliament on the Kashmir situation
Calling on the UN to fulfill its “incomplete agenda” on Kashmir, Sharif said, “I and entire Pakistan nation steadfastly stand by Kashmiris against Indian oppression.” Describing the “freedom movement” as terrorism amounted to sheer dishonesty by India, he said.
Sharif’s cabinet asked India to hold dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and to include Kashmiri leaders in the process. He directed government departments to highlight alleged “atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir at international forums.
The cabinet also offered prayers for what it described as the “martyrs of Kashmir”.
Rebutting Pakistan, Swarup said Islamabad’s “self serving actions” to derive political mileage out of recent developments in Jammu and Kashmir had followed “planned infiltration and terrorism aimed at India”.
He hinted attempts by various players in Pakistan to ingratiate themselves with the Kashmiri people were aimed at forthcoming polls in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “We hope that Pakistan will desist from further interfering in India’s internal affairs and destabilising the situation in South Asia through support to terrorism and other subversive acts,” he added.
Sharif had expressed a desire for better ties with India soon after coming to power in 2013. However, Pakistan’s foreign and security policies are largely decided by the powerful military.
Following recent attacks by opposition political parties for his perceived silence on the Kashmir issue, Sharif and his ruling PML-N party have stepped up criticism of the Indian government’s handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.