Pakistanis have come out in droves on streets and avenues across the country to participate in rallies and make human chains on the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day being observed today.
Members of the federal and provincial governments joined citizens at the various rallies, public meetings and seminars being held to express support for the people of occupied Kashmir and their right to self-determination under the United Nations resolutions.
Every year, February 5 is observed as a day of solidarity with Kashmiris. This year, however, it comes after India stripped the region of its special status and imposed a lockdown.
The Indian government had on August 5, 2019, repealed Article 370 of its constitution, stripping occupied Kashmir of its special status. It also divided up occupied Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories; one Jammu and Kashmir, and the other the Buddhist-dominated high altitude region of Ladakh. The bifurcation of the territory came into effect on October 31 last year.
A strict lockdown and communications blackout has been in place in occupied Kashmir since August 5. Forcing people offline has crippled the economy and made it impossible to pay utility bills, make applications or just send a message to family outside the stricken zone.
Last month, limited mobile data services and internet were temporarily restored in the region.
In Islamabad, a rally was held to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people. It was attended by female members of the parliament and women belonging to different walks of life.
Government's chief spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan addressed the event, saying the day had arrived for "India's illegal occupation of occupied Kashmir" to end.
She said the innocent people of Kashmir were looking towards the people of Pakistan for help with their cause. Awan demanded that occupied Kashmir's residents be granted their right of self-determination.
In Karachi, a rally was taken out from Kashmir Road to Mazar-i-Quaid to express solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir.
Organised by the Sindh government, the rally was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Governor Imran Ismail, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, provincial ministers, advisers, special assistants, provincial secretaries and senior police officers.
Addressing the rally, Shah said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unleashed a wave of terror against the Muslims of India and has launched a genocide in occupied Kashmir.
“Your hands are stained with the blood of innocent Kashmiris and one day you will have to face cases of war crimes in the International Court of Justice,” he said, referring to Modi.
During the rally, songs of solidarity with the people of Kashmir were played and a special band performed until the event's conclusion.
Lahore's Mall Road was decorated with the flags of Pakistan and AJK while camps were set up across the city to show support for the people of occupied Kashmir.
Addressing a rally at Charing Cross, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said there was a strong connection between the residents of Lahore and occupied Kashmir.
Condemning Indian atrocities in the occupied valley, he demanded the implementation of the United Nations resolutions on the Kashmir dispute.
"We stood with the Kashmiris in the past, do so today and will continue to stand with them in the future," the chief minister said, adding that the "hearts of Pakistanis beat with Kashmiris".
Meanwhile, a large number of people living in Sialkot's border villages formed a chain of human hands in Sucheetgarh Sector along the Working Boundary.
They carried pro-Kashmir banners and waved the national flags of both Pakistan and AJK.
While expressing solidarity with the Kashmiri people, the protesters condemned the "Indian state terrorism" in the occupied valley.
They said that freedom was the basic right of the oppressed Kashmiri people and that "the sacrifices of thousands of Kashmiri people will soon bear fruit".
As in other parts of the country, scores of people marched through the streets in Balochistan to express solidarity with Kashmiris today.
Rallies were taken out in Quetta by political parties, civil society and people belonging to various walks of life.
Balochistan Governor retired Justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai and Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan participated in one such event where they vowed to raise their voice for the Kashmiri people at all forums.
Chief Minister Khan expressed concern over the atrocities being perpetrated by India against the Kashmiri people. "Indian barbarism has now been exposed and we, the people of Balochistan, stand with our Kashmiri brothers and sisters," he said.
Rallies were also taken out in Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Musakhel, Gwadar and other parts of Balochistan by various political parties to express solidarity with Kashmiris. Strict security measures were adopted by the administration to prevent any untoward incident.
Rallies were held in various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Shangla, Kohistan, Battagram, Torghar, Mansehra and Swat in solidarity with the Kashmiri people.
In Shangla district, a large number of students, civil society members, teachers and traders participated in the rally, while markets remained closed in protest against India and in support of Kashmir's residents.
In Bisham, a rally was taken out on the Karakoram Highway in which participants shouted slogans against the Indian prime minister and in support of Kashmiris.
Addressing the event, speakers condemned the Indian army's aggression in occupied Kashmir as well as the revocation of the occupied region's special status.
They demanded of the UN and human rights organisations to take note of the Indian aggression and push for the holding of a referendum in occupied Kashmir.
'True manifestation of Indian state-terrorism'
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his message on Kashmir Solidarity Day said that the "unprecedented length" of restrictions imposed in occupied Kashmir have "fully exposed the fiction of India's democracy and its scant regard for basic human norms," Radio Pakistan reported.
The premier said the occasion is being observed to reaffirm support for Kashmiris who have been "subjected to an inhuman lockdown and communications blockade for six months now".
He also addressed a special session of the AJK Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad.
Prime Minister Imran said Kashmirs, the ummah, Pakistan as well as the international community have rejected "India's travesty of law and justice".
"India has turned 8 million Kashmiris into prisoners in their own land through the deployment of over 900,000 occupation troops. History has few precedents of such suffocation and violation of the fundamental rights at this scale. Tens of thousands of innocent people have been arbitrarily detained and thousands of young boys abducted and incarcerated at undisclosed locations.
"This is a true manifestation of Indian state-terrorism," he said.
He said that India had been exposed before the world as a "majoritarian and authoritarian polity".
The premier said that Pakistan demands that the military siege and communications blackout in the region be lifted and India's illegal actions are rescinded, adding that those who are under arrest should also be released.
Additionally, he said that international human rights organisations and international media should be given access to the region to evaluate the human rights situation.
"We urge the international community to play its role in ensuring respect for the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Kashmiri people and averting grave risks to global peace and security posed by India’s belligerent rhetoric and aggressive action," Prime Minister Imran said.
He said that Pakistan would always stand shoulder to shoulder with Kashmiris.
"Pakistan will continue its full moral, political and diplomatic support until the Kashmiri people have realised their legitimate right of self-determination in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."
'Battle of hope against overwhelming odds'
In his message on the occasion, President Dr Arif Alvi said the nation is expressing soldiarity with the people of occupied Kashmir "who have rendered unmatched sacrifices for their legitimate right to self-determination over the course of past seven decades in an indomitable struggle for freedom from oppression".
"It has been a battle of hope against overwhelming odds, of courage against fear, and of sacrifice against tyranny; but through all of it, the Kashmiri people have persisted, unrelenting and proud like they have always been, to deny India the perverse gratification of subjugating them," he said.
Alvi said that Pakistan will continue to extend "political, moral and diplomatic support" to Kashmiris until they are given their legitimate right to self-determination as per the UNSC resolutions.
International community should do more
In his message, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the international community to do more for the people of occupied Kashmir "in this time of trial and tribulation", Radio Pakistan reported.
The foreign minister said that "each additional second on the lockdown clock is a burden on the world’s collective conscience".
He also called on India to allow a UN fact-finding mission to visit occupied Kashmir and assess the reports of human rights violations in the region.
A day ahead of Kashmir Solidarity Day, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling for India to reverse the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir. The Senate also unanimously adopted a resolution assuring its support to the people of occupied Kashmir in the struggle for their right to self-determination.