ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday unveiled a detailed programme for Kashmir Day observance and emphasised that it was “effectively” promoting the freedom struggle in occupied valley.

The programme was announced at a press conference by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office. He was on that occasion accompanied by Minister for Communications Murad Saeed, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan and Senator Faisal Javed.

The eight-day programme of activities — which starts from Jan 25 and continues till Kashmir Day on Feb 5 — Mr Qureshi said is meant to create awareness among the people, especially the youth, about the Kashmiris struggle for right of self-determination and their sufferings at the hands of Indian occupation forces.

It should be recalled that the government had last week during a high-level meeting on Kashmir decided to hold this year’s Kashmir Day with greater enthusiasm and renewed vigour. The Kashmir Day is observed every year on Feb 5 to express solidarity with the Kashmiris living under Indian occupation. This year’s Kashmir Day would have added significance because it would be the first such observance since India annexed the occupied Valley in August 2019.

PM will address AJK Legislative Assembly and a rally in Mirpur on Feb 5

The activities planned for this year would climax with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to Kashmir’s Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad and a public rally in Mirpur on Feb 5.

Other activities to be held as part of Kashmir Day commemoration include a launch of media campaign (Jan 25), cultural show in Islamabad at the National Council for Arts (Jan 27), photo exhibitions at major art galleries across the country as well as in country’s missions overseas depicting the struggle by Kashmiris (Jan 28), seminar on Kashmir in Islamabad (Jan 30), press conference on Kashmir by Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir chairman Fakhar Imam (Jan 31), a youth event at the Islamabad Convention Centre (Feb 3), ration distribution at Kashmiri refugee camps (Feb 4), Kashmir Day at Aiwan-i-Sadr (Feb 4), and a human chain in AJK and ‘Kashmir solidarity’ rallies in all provincial capitals (Feb 5).

The president and prime minister of Azad Kashmir would write letters to world leaders informing them about the plight of Kashmiris.

Pakistan’s policy on Kashmir is very clear, the foreign minister asserted. He said Pakistan would continue to “honestly” highlight Kashmir issue politically, morally, and diplomatically.

Mr Qureshi, while referring to a couple of visits arranged by Indian authorities for EU parliamentarians and Delhi-based diplomatic corps, said that India was trying to deceive the world by suggesting that situation was becoming normal in the Valley. “It isn’t so, the lockdown by the occupation troops is now in its 175th day ; and all fundamental rights of the Kashmiris have been usurped,” he said.

He recalled that Pakistan, with the help of China, got the UN Security Council to twice discuss the issue after the situation took a dangerous turn in the aftermath of illegal annexation of the Valley on Aug 5. PM Khan, he said, had raised the issue with President Donald Trump during the meeting on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos.

Explaining Pakistan’s expectation from Mr Trump on Kashmir, the foreign minister said, Pakistan wanted him to make India realise that any military misadventure would be an escalatory step and a dangerous path to pursue.

Mr Trump was informed of the likely consequences and implications of a confrontation between two nuclear powers and clearly told that silence on the crisis was no more an option, he said.

Vehemently rejecting the impression that Pakistan’s campaign on Kashmir has been ineffective, he said intricate problems like Kashmir could not be resolved overnight and diplomatic processes progress slowly. Moreover, BJP’s government, as seen from its response to anti-citizenship law protests, was indifferent to the public opinion, especially on issues concerning the minorities and did not mind damaging India’s secular and democratic façade.

Alluding to JUI-F sit-in in Islamabad in October/November 2019, Mr Qureshi blamed media and opposition parties for taking the focus away from Kashmir when government efforts for building narrative on Kashmir were in full swing and the crisis had peaked.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2020