Kashmir issue is alive and very much kicking
Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat


The Kashmir Solidarity Day, an internationally recognized day, is being observed throughout Pakistan on February 5. As a national holiday, the occasion is marked by public processions and special prayers in mosques for the liberation of Kashmir and protests that are carried out against the Indian oppression of Kashmiris.

The day is a closed holiday and one-minute silence is observed throughout the country. Also, special programmes are held to demonstrate complete solidarity with the people of the Valley. The occasion shows to the Kashmiris and the world at large that Pakistan and its people care about the long-pending issue that has resulted in several wars between the two neighbouring countries. Officially, Pakistan began observing February 5 as the Kashmir Day to reiterate solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in 2004. On January 31, 2004, speaking at a news conference, the-then Federal Minister for Kashmir and Northern Area Affairs had said the people and the Government of Pakistan would demonstrate on the day their solidarity with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. He said that observance of the day was meant to convey a message to the world that Pakistan would not step back an inch from its stated position on the issue. The-then Pakistani prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, visited Muzaffarabad on February 5 and addressed a joint session of the Legislative Assembly and Council. The Kashmir issue remains an international dispute. However, because of its very weak case on the disputed valley, India terms it a bilateral dispute and avoids internationalizing the issue. With the coming of the Modi Sarkar, the PDP-BJP alliance government in the Held Kashmir is making efforts for complete integration of the valley into India. In this regard, the Indian government is making attempts to change the demography of the valley by bringing in non Muslim retired army men and other law enforcement agency personnel. This is being carried out in violation of laws that prohibit naturalization of non-indigenous settlers in the disputed valley. Also the BJP and the RSS are busy in changing the religious identity of the state. For example, special concessions were given to expand the horizon of Amarnath Yatra to project that Hindus have greater stakes in the IOK than Muslims. For demographic re-engineering in the state, the so-called West Pakistan Refugees are being recruited in Indian armed forces from the IOK quota. Also, allocation of lands for separate cities for repatriating the Hindu Pundits and allocation of Rs2 million for rehabilitation of each Pundit family in the valley are aimed at creating Hindu constituencies in a thorough Muslim region of the Valley through delimitation. Legal experts in India and the Indian Occupied Kashmir High Court have dented the Indian efforts and have clarified the permanent and eternal status of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. It said that the BJP Sarkar could only work within the status quo, not against it. But the Modi government is now aspiring to get the support of 44 or more lawmakers to change the status of the Valley in 2020 elections. For this, BJP MLAs have started controlling health, education, local infrastructure, social support and rural development. Major projects of the State are mostly being announced/ implemented in Hindu dominant/ BJP constituencies, giving the message that only BJP voters are entitled to a standard living. Now, there are greater pressures on the Hurriyat leadership that has been strongly suppressed by the PDP-BJP government. Their leaders are detained at police stations or kept under house arrests during all important events and not allowed to organize rallies for demanding freedom. For example, the detention of Masarat Alam, even after acceptance of his bail by IOK High Court, shows the coercive mechanics of Indian forces/ police in the state. The malicious Indian intent is evident from the blame game against Pakistan for every internal security issue, merely to avoid a serious dialogue on bilateral issues as well as the humanitarian crisis in the valley. As it is, the festering problem has led to the barbaric killings of thousands of people in the valley, including women and children, by the Indian armed forces.The legal protection to the Indian troops in the guise of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is very much there. This brutal law has allowed the Indian forces to deal with the people of the valley as they please with little fear of prosecution. As global players continue to ignore the resolution of the dispute, it has become a humanitarian issue in the region. The BJP Sarkar wants to make the people of the valley and Pakistan, a party to the dispute, irrelevant by ending the special status of the valley. This, however, will never happen; it will only prove to be invaluable in raising the profile of the dispute.