Kashmir Solidarity Day

It is safe to assume that political banners are already up on important avenues of Lahore, Islamabad and other regions in Pakistan. It’s anybody’s guess what the banners would proclaim from the roads and major intersections as the nation prepares to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day. In case you don’t know, 5 February is a national holiday in Pakistan as the nation dedicates this day to show solidarity with the people of India-administered Kashmir and pay homage to Kashmiris who died in the conflict.

Why was Kashmir Solidarity Day Proposed?

Two theories prevail as to who had first proposed the observance of Kashmir Solidarity Day. One theory gives credit to Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, who had presumably suggested a “non-working day to highlight the issue of Kashmir”. On that note, major anti-India protests were held across Pakistan in 1990. The Benazir Bhutto-led government was believed to have succumbed under pressure and declared 5 February as a national holiday.

According to the second theory, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was the one who spearheaded the campaign to observe Kashmir Solidarity Day. Sharif was then the Chief Minister of Punjab and the leader of the main opposition party in Pakistan. His party had issued advertisements in newspapers calling for a nation-wide strike on 5 February so that people can “pray for God’s help for the success of jihad in Kashmir”. The Pakistan People Party Government, headed by Benazir Bhutto, responded to the call by declaring the day as public holiday.

How is Kashmir Solidarity Day Observed?

While seminars and functions are held all over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK), disparate incidents of unrest are often reported in Indian-administered Kashmir. It’s almost a norm for politicians in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to hold a five-minute silence in memory of those killed in Kashmir conflict.

Pakistan turns into an epicentre of activity with political rallies, speeches about Kashmir and marches dominating the proceedings. It’s a ritual for the people of Pakistan to form a human chain on the route from Pakistan to the Kashmir. In fact, the political leaders try to cash in on this important day and try to “outdo each other on their loyalty to the Kashmir cause and in their expression for those involved in the jihad”.

When Pervez Musharraf was the President, demonstrations held on the Kashmir Solidarity Day gave a warning to the governing that Pakistan should not be short-changed when it comes to resolving Kashmir issue. Such is the power of these demonstrations!
Far away from the subcontinent, the Mirpuri Kashmiris in the United Kingdom – who are originally from the Mirpur district in POK – also hold solidarity rallies. Reportedly, 60 to 70 per cent of British Pakistanis have origins in the Mirpur district.

Promotion of Kashmir Solidarity Day on Social Media

One shouldn’t be surprised to see discussions about Kashmir Day on social media. The sympathisers of Kashmiris flood Twitter timelines and Facebook pages with their stirring thoughts on the unjust treatment meted out to the people of Kashmir by the Indian government. What surprised me is the fact that this more than a two-decade-old campaign has travelled quite a distance. It has spread its tentacles as far as Scandinavia. I stumbled upon a Facebook page created by a group – Tahreek-E-Kashmir Denmark. The community has already created an event page making an appeal to “join hands with all Pakistani and Kashmiri organizations in Denmark” and oppose the Indian occupation of Kashmir and “Indian oppression and state terrorism in Kashmir”. According to the details of the event, the like-minded people will hold a demonstration outside the Indian Embassy in Copenhagen today.

Pakistan’s Support for Kashmir Solidarity Day

It’s no secret that the Islamic Republic of Pakistan supports the observance of such a day. Every year, it comes up with a press release showing its solidarity with the “oppressed brethren” of Kashmir. In one such communiqué, the official website of the Pakistan Embassy in the US announced its “unwavering political, moral and diplomatic support to the just struggle of our Kashmiri brethren for their right of self-determination”.

In no ambiguous term, the official release termed the Kashmir Solidarity Day as “an occasion to pay tribute to the countless sacrifices of the valiant people of Kashmir who have remained resolute and steadfast in the face of oppression spanning more than six decades”.

If you read deep, you find certain dichotomy in what the official communication tried to convey. Although it harped on the fact that “Ultimately, Kashmiris would be the final arbiter of their destiny”, it didn’t fail to mention that “their (Kashmiris) goals are our goals and their dreams are our dreams”. Isn’t it a tacit way of saying, “You must share the dream that we are dreaming”?

 

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