Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Saturday called out India for its “illegal” and “hostile” actions in held Kashmir as the nation marked four years since New Delhi stripped the valley of its special autonomy.

The premier, in a tweet, said: “Today marks the completion of four years since India deprived Kashmiris of their statehood by unilaterally annexing Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The last four years have represented the culmination of the worst human rights abuses including but not limited to the demographic changes, issuance of fake domiciles, internet shutdown, complete information blackout and imprisonment of Kashmiri leadership of all hues and colours.”

He said India, through these “illegal and immoral measures”, attempted to “alter the internationally recognised status of IIOJK and undermine the Kashmiris’ fundamental right to self-determination”.

PM Shehbaz also continued to extend “unwavering diplomatic, moral and political” support to Kashmiris in their struggled and called upon India to reverse its Aug 5 actions.

“History bears witness to the fact that brute force has never succeeded in extinguishing the fire of freedom and rights,” the prime minister added.

Meanwhile, the military’s media wing said in a statement that Pakistan’s armed forces stood in solidarity with the brave and resilient people of occupied Kashmir in their struggle for the right to self-determination as per the United Nations resolutions.

“The continuation of inhumane military lockdown, illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory and the gross and systematic transgressions of human rights are all manifest violations of international law,” it said.

The ISPR added that such actions “coupled with the Indian government’s belligerent rhetoric and hostile actions” continued to perpetuate humanitarian and security crises in occupied Kashmir and posed a “perpetual threat to regional security”.

It also stressed that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute according to UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people was imperative for enduring peace and stability in the region.

“Pakistan Armed Forces pay rich tribute to the martyrs of IIOJK for their supreme sacrifices and affirm full support of Pakistan for provision of political, moral and humanitarian support to Kashmiris in their just struggle against tyranny and illegal subjugation,” the military media wing added.

State-run Radio Pakistan reported President Dr Arif Alvi as saying that Pakistan would continue to be the voice of its Kashmiri brothers and sisters, who have been making invaluable sacrifices and will extend all possible support for the fullest realization of their legitimate rights.

“We have no doubt that durable peace and stability in South Asia can only be achieved through a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he stated.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said India’s actions in India-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) could neither accord legitimacy to its occupation nor suppress the true sentiments of the Kashmiri people as coercion and intrigue could not replace legitimacy.

The foreign minister stressed that the international community must demand an end to India’s gross and widespread human rights violations in the region, reversal of its unilateral and illegal actions of August 5, 2019, repeal of draconian laws, and implementation of relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.

“Pakistan wants good relations with all its neighbours, including India. However, good relations can only be achieved through dispute resolution and not through dispute denial. The durable peace in South Asia remains contingent upon the settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” a foreign office (FO) statement quoted Bilawal as saying.

As a party to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, he said, Pakistan stands ready to play its role to ensure a free and impartial plebiscite in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.

“Our strong and steadfast moral, political, and diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people will continue till the realisation of their inalienable right to self-determination,” he reiterated.

The foreign minister further said “Youm-e-Istehsal” was a sombre occasion to recall India’s illegal and unilateral actions of August 5, 2019 in IOK.

That day, India scrapped the special status of IOK and bifurcated it into two so-called “Union Territories” to alter its internationally-recognised disputed status and undermine the right to self-determination of the Kashmiri people.

The Indian actions triggered a process of demographic change and political engineering. As a result, the Kashmiri people were confronted with the danger of becoming a disempowered minority in their own land, he added.

FM Bilawal further said India had unleashed a new reign of oppression in IIOJK since August 5, 2019.

“The harassment of innocent people, arbitrary detentions, cordon, and search operations, and extra-judicial killings have become a matter of routine,” he added.

“The Kashmiri people remain deprived of their fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and religion. Above all, they are unable to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.”

Rally in Islamabad

Separately, a rally was held on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad to express solidarity with oppressed Kashmiris.

 Rally held at Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue on Saturday to express solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir. — Radio Pakistan
Rally held at Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue on Saturday to express solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir. — Radio Pakistan

According to Radio Pakistan, the rally — led by Adviser on Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira — was taken out from Radio Pakistan Chowk and culminated at D-Chowk. People from all walks of life participated in it.

The protesters chanted slogans in support of Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. They also raised banners inscribed with slogans in support of the Kashmiri people and against Indian oppression.

Speaking to the participants of the rally at D-Chowk, Kaira paid glowing tributes to the sacrifices of Kashmiris. He said the Indian occupation forces had been committing oppression and atrocities in the occupied territory over the last 75 years but had failed to weaken the resolve of the Kashmiri people for their right to self-determination.

He reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding commitment to Kashmir cause and urged the international community to fulfil the promises made with the Kashmiri people for the right to self-determination.

Kaira added that the incumbent government had raised the Kashmir dispute at all the international forums and during bilateral meetings with the leadership of other countries.

India’s 2019 revocation of Article 370

On August 5, 2019, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had revoked occupied Kashmir’s special status by repealing Article 370 of the constitution. The move allowed people from the rest of the country to have the right to acquire property in occupied Kashmir and settle there permanently.

Kashmiris, international organisations and critics of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government saw the move as an attempt to dilute the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir with Hindu settlers.

Last year, the Indian government said a delimitation commission had finalised 90 assembly constituencies for the held Kashmir, excluding Ladakh, with 43 seats for Jammu and 47 for Kashmir. Earlier, Jammu had 37 seats and the Kashmir valley had 46.

The delimitation commission claimed it had been difficult to accommodate competing claims from various sides, citing in a statement the region’s “peculiar geo-cultural landscape”.

Subsequently, the Pakistan Foreign Office had handed over a demarche to Indian charge d’affaires, conveying the Government of Pakistan’s categorical rejection of the report of the so-called ‘Delimitation Commission’, which was aimed at disenfranchising and disempowering the Muslim majority population of occupied Kashmir.

The FO had called on India to refrain from bringing about any illegal demographic changes in the occupied territory, stop forthwith its oppression in the occupied territory, and let the Kashmiri people determine their own future through a free and fair plebiscite under the UN auspices.

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