Why the Kashmir solidarity day façade?
Since 1990, Pakistan has been observing February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.
The 90s was a time in Kashmir when the struggle for freedom perpetuated by the state-sponsored violence against ordinary people took a violent form.
As India was preparing to open itself to world markets and usher in an era of new technology and development, many young men in Kashmir crossed over to Pakistan for arms training to get rid of Indian forces occupying their land.
While the question of Pakistan’s motives in extending support and expressing solidarity with the people of Kashmir is open to debate, especially in the light of its growing camaraderie with India, February 5 is nonetheless an official holiday in Pakistan with protest marches held in select towns and cities.
This year, a news website says, there will be a cultural program in Pakistan where a puppet show will portray 23 years of sufferings of people of Kashmir (someone buy me a ticket!) The dismayed and somewhat agitated audience will revel in moments of nostalgia tinged with sadness.
The horrors seen by the people of Kashmir in the 90s are visiting Pakistan almost daily now.
The country is at war with its own people; disgruntled chickens have come home to roost. Barely a day passes by without the suicide bombers blowing markets and mosques alike; killing has become routine.
However, that doesn’t take away from the duty of expressing solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
On this day, Pakistan tells us that it is outraged over the sufferings of people in Kashmir. It also vows to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people lying at the crossroads of history.
Homage is paid religiously to the victimised people and, for a moment, Pakistan forgets its own colossal failures.
The idea of solidarity assumes romantic overtones as hands are raised towards empty skies, seeking an end to the oppression faced by the people in Kashmir.
Justice rains down in the form of bird droppings on the land of pure!
Following the ritual, Kashmir shuts down in ‘protest’ too.
Why? Because Pakistan has asked it to.
A disjointed All Party Hurriyat Conference fighting for its own political survival in Kashmir valley issues statements of condemnation and praises Pakistan for its ‘moral’ and ‘political’ support.
Protests are organised, and those supposedly fighting for the ‘right of self-determination’ retire to their protected bastions later in the day without any care for the real victims of war; a day to fight for people’s welfare becomes a day of testing waning political clouts.
In Kashmir, protests and shutdowns bring their own trite pleasures.
Over the last 24 years, people have become acquainted to spend a day or two in a week at home due to incessant curfews and calls for shutdown to commemorate the brutalities of a hysterical nation day after day.
Businesses and offices are closed and government forces find an opportunity to exercise their skills of coercion.
On such days, repression fills the air and life becomes paralysed.
These days of protest also bring respite from the crude banalities of life to the people looking at an uncertain future in an uncertain country.
So while the protests are on and repression is in the air, the expression of outrage takes a different form. Disgruntled youth on social websites fed up with a stagnant leadership trapped in its own delusions and claiming to represent them, take to Twitter and Facebook to express outrage against the debauchery of Kashmir’s political class cutting across ideological divides.
They want answers but there is no one to approach, no one to lodge a protest with, and no one to listen to their woes.
India and Pakistan have moved beyond the issue of Kashmir to manufacture peace. Pakistan says Kashmir is ‘one of the issues’ and India has conveniently buried the skeletons of war lying in its backyard, while the leadership claiming to represent the two countries are fighting for their own political survival on the flesh and blood of those who have perished to the war.
The anger is growing but trade and people-to-people contact which benefit the client citizens and client institutions of the two countries have assumed more significance.
Drums of peace must be kept alive, whatever the cost!
While India may have already lost its moral and political ground in Kashmir, Pakistan is making the same mistake. It hs betrayed the political cause of Kashmir more than India over these years of growing bonhomie with India.
Apart from token statements ranging from gratitude to show of solidarity, Pakistan has, especially in the last decade, done very little talk which focuses on Kashmir. Whenever the issue of Kashmir is raised, it is more to gain political and diplomatic leverage over India that any show of concern.
So why does Pakistan show solidarity with Kashmir?
Is it real solidarity or does this stem out of its economic and political interests?
Of course Pakistan needs water to irrigate its crops which feed millions of hungry Pakistanis, but does it need the people of Kashmir?
The answer to this question lies in the recent unilateral trade agreements and the new visa regime that will testify to the change of heart in Pakistan.
The man who probably proposed to observe February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day, the former chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and veteran politician, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, died on January 6.
It is time the tradition is buried with him too.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.