Pakistan Celebrates Kashmir Solidarity Day, Decries Indian Abuses

Pakistan observed Kashmir Solidarity Day with a minute-long moment of silence at 10 A.M. on February 5. The News International describes this public holiday as a reminder to Kashmir and the world that “Pakistan and its people have not forgotten the long-pending issue.” Though the Pakistani government only officially started observing this day in 2004, its unofficial origins back to 1990. According to Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest English language newspaper, Kashmir Solidarity Day has been observed every year since then with a moment of silence. In addition to the moment of silence, many Pakistanis take to the streets in protest on this day. The Daily Express reported that citizens from all over Pakistan took the holiday as an opportunity to demonstrate against the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

These protests decry both the Indian control of Kashmir and the treatment of Kashmiris in Indian Kashmir, which protesters characterize as an abuse of human rights. The Daily Express of Pakistan even calls this treatment state terrorism. The protesters emphasized the right of Kashmiris to self-determination, according to Jang.

The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has experienced periods of great unrest in the past. The death of Burhan Wani, described by The Hindu as a popular figure on social media who advocates for Kashmiri insurgency, in July sparked protests in the northern state which escalated. Kashmiri youth clashed with Indian police and unrest characterized Jammu and Kashmir for months. NDTV reports that these clashes killed nearly 100 people and injured over 12,000 as police and security forces used tear gas and pellet guns in a series of escalations that further destabilized the already precarious region. On January 18, 2017, NDTV also reported that the Indian government is currently withdrawing the auxiliary security forces sent to deal with the unrest, now that the situation has calmed down. Despite the deescalation, the sharp divisions between Kashmiri locals and the Indian government were clear and give evidence to the Pakistani claim of Indian abuse.

Dawn quotes Syed Ali Gilani, the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of Kashmiri separatist organizations, for stating “...people in India-held Jammu and Kashmir are challenging a big power and Pakistan is the only country that acknowledges our right to self-determination and extends its persistent support to us.”

Insurgency has plagued Kashmir for decades. Pakistan funds or otherwise supports a significant proportion of these attacks, according to both BBC and The Hindu. Even after the ascension of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir to India instead of Pakistan in 1947, the Pakistani government never surrendered its claims to Kashmir. Pakistan continues to this day to take steps to undermine Indian authority and control, both officially through Kashmir Solidarity Day or unofficially through the support of insurgent groups.