By Tilak Devasher
Feb 24, 2020
Pakistan observes February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day since 1990. The genesis of the day is the February 4, 1990, all-party conference that Benazir Bhutto had called to establish a non-partisan, ‘national’ position on the Kashmir issue. This was a pre-emptive move to ensure that the opposition did not outwit her. Recognising that Benazir had stolen a march, Nawaz Sharif, who was then the Chief Minister of Punjab and Benazir’s staunch opponent, gave call for a strike on February 5. This one-upmanship was done even though international affairs did not come within the remit of a provincial government. Benazir, however, finessed Nawaz’s call for a strike by declaring February 5 a public holiday that became Kashmir Solidarity Day. Pointedly, no mention was made then, or now, of the people of Jammu and Ladakh.
This year’s Solidarity Day was supposed to be special since it came in the wake of the August 5, 2019 developments that did away with the special status of J&K under Article 370. As in the past, several events were held in the country and in several world capitals. The moot point is, apart from the hype and rhetoric, what has the Kashmir Solidarity Day achieved after being observed for three decades?
The simple answer has to be — nothing. As one Pakistani journalist aptly noted, all resolutions, conferences and demonstrations were meant to burnish the government’s image and make it look good for domestic audiences, but it has had no impact on the ground reality. Moreover, the Kashmiris are well aware of Ayub Khan’s assertion in 1965 that never again will Pakistan ‘risk 100 million Pakistanis for five million Kashmiris’.
In his keynote address on February 5, to the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Assembly, all that Prime Minister Imran Khan could come up with was the announcement of the setting up of yet another Kashmir committee in consultation with the so-called AJK government to further highlight the issue. This presumably would be in addition to the various Kashmir committees and cells already existing. Imran Khan had earlier declared himself as the ambassador of Kashmir, though many in Pakistan would rather wish that he be the Prime Minister and start governing.
The Pakistan National Assembly and Senate passed routine resolutions expressing solidarity with the people of Kashmir. What was noticeable was that the session of the National Assembly was thinly attended. This even compelled the Minister for Aviation to state: “The lack of interest within our ranks on the Kashmir issue is regrettable.”
Another Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislator said the empty chairs had exposed the ‘seriousness’ on the part of the members who were present in large numbers when the extension of the service chiefs’ Bill was being passed. The Speaker, Asad Qaiser, had to plead with parliamentary leaders to ensure the presence of their members in the House, ‘at least at the time of the passage of the resolution’.
The Senate session was even a bigger mockery. The Deputy Chairman, who was presiding, adjourned the House till February 7 without the solidarity resolution even being tabled, let alone adopted. It was then that the Senate Chairman rushed to the House and announced a 10-minutes recess, instead of adjournment. Thereafter, the resolution was ‘adopted’. However, parliamentary experts pointed out that once the session was adjourned, the Chairman was supposed to complete the formalities for a fresh session. This was not done. Hence, the resolution had no validity.
Nothing hurts Pakistan more than the lack of support for its Kashmir narrative from most of the Muslim world. Symptomatic of Pakistan’s frustration was Imran Khan’s rebuke of ‘brotherly Islamic countries’. In his address to a gathering in Malaysia on February 4, he regretted that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) could not come up with one voice against the alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
As the Daily Times wrote editorially on February 6: ‘Every year, we go through the motions of Kashmir Solidarity Day…yet nothing really changes.’ In its editorial, The Express Tribune noted on February 10: ‘The day was marked the same way as it always is...statements that by now any Pakistani would be able to recite by heart.’ Political analyst Imran Jan wrote in The Express Tribune on February 6 that Pakistan was relentlessly telling the Kashmiris that it stood with them against India. ‘It is like signing a cheque of an account that has no money or strenuously offering lunch to a visiting guest during Ramazan.’
Hence, for all the bombast, rallies and conferences, Kashmir Solidarity Day this year, as on previous such days, was a damp squib. What is significant is that February 5 coincides with the anniversary of the brutal murder of Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre, posted in Birmingham, UK. Pakistan-backed Kashmiri terrorists had kidnapped Mhatre on February 3, 1984, and killed him two days later. Thus, Pakistan has been observing a national holiday on the day when an Indian diplomat was murdered by Pakistan-backed Kashmiri terrorists and calling it Kashmir Solidarity Day. Symbolically at least, Pakistan’s support of terrorist activities in Kashmir begins from this date. That it continues to be observed each year says something about Pakistan’s mentality. It is not surprising, therefore, that observing a terrorist act as a solidarity day gets no international traction.
It is perhaps time that India started observing February 5 in an appropriate manner, like a day when Pakistan-sponsored terrorism commenced in Kashmir.
Tilak Devasher is a Member, National Security Advisory Board Views are personal
Original Headline: Few takers for Pak’s Kashmir Solidarity Day
Source: The Tribune India