Pakistan’s joke: ‘Kashmir Solidarity Hour’

Pakistanis with placards with their supposed
Pakistanis with placards with their supposed "solidarity" with Kashmiris.

Suggested in 1990 by Qazi Hussain Ahmad of Jamaat-e-Islami, ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ is observed on February 5 every year in Pakistan ever since 1991. But except for providing an opportunity to manufacturers of billboards, placards and buntings to earn an extra buck, as also bringing joy to school children for a welcome holiday, this annual ritual has failed to attract global attention. Surprisingly, even though this event has achieved nothing in the last 28 years so rather than toning it down Islamabad has been increasing the frequency of this sterile act of expressing solidarity with Kashmiris.

In 2016, Nawaz Sharif who was the then Prime Minister of Pakistan first declared July 19 as a ‘black day’ and subsequently converted it into yet another ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’. A month later, the then Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit went on to dedicate Pakistan’s Independence Day to “Kashmir’s Freedom” (which in reality implies it coming under tutelage of Pakistan). The very next month, Sharif once again dedicated that year’s Eid-ul Azha “…to the supreme sacrifices of Kashmiri people and we will continue doing so till the Kashmir issue is resolved according to their wishes.”

But while Sharif forgot to keep his promise of dedicating subsequent Eids’ to the Kashmir struggle, Prime Minister Imran Khan has resurrected this practice by declaring that on this year’s Eid-ul-Azha, Pakistan would “express solidarity with Kashmiris.” He then went a step further by announcing that Pakistan would observe its Independence Day in solidarity with Kashmir but ended up making a humungous diplomatic faux pas by declaring that federal government of Pakistan would observe India’s Independence Day as a ‘black day’ that shocked the entire international community.

Islamabad’s fascination with ‘black’ and ‘solidarity’ days is understandable because even after more than seven decades, it has failed miserably to project India as the villain in Kashmir. Khan frequently voices his frustration regarding the international community’s silence on Kashmir, but being a newcomer into politics, he can’t be blamed since it appears that he doesn’t know that the international community is very discerning and gets convinced by facts and logic, not rhetoric and symbolism. Therefore, while he may feel that observing Pakistan’s Independence Day in solidarity with Kashmir would compel the international community to take note and side with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, just the opposite has happened.

Imran Khan has now come out with another novel idea of observing ‘Kashmir Hour’, which requires “all Pakistanis to come out on Friday between 12 noon-12.30 PM to show solidarity with the Kashmiri people and send the Kashmiris in Kashmir a clear message that the entire Pakistani nation stands in solidarity with them.” Unlike observing ‘solidarity’ days, which are still manageable since they are annual events, ‘Kashmir Hour’ will be a weekly affair and whether Khan will succeed in bringing the entire nation to a grinding halt for this purpose at noon on every Friday would be something that would be interesting to watch.

Reactions to first “Kashmir Hour” are mixed; some say it was a grand success, others claim that Khan’s appeal could only receive a lukewarm response. Yet with reports of commuters being harassed and even intimidated by the police and local authorities in Pakistan to ensure that they observe the first ever ‘Kashmir Hour’ it is evident that this weekly show of solidarity, will like all other such initiatives end up proving to be more of an embarrassment than a psychological victory for government. So, the question is – why is Pakistan resorting to antics that will only embarrass it in the international arena?

But, with its recent rebuke at UNSC (United Nations Security Council) that certainly is the ‘mother’ of all failures as far as internationalising the Kashmir issue is concerned, coupled with the lukewarm response of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and US President Donald Trump making a U-turn on his offer to mediate and help in resolving the Kashmir issue, Islamabad has little to show in terms of what it has proudly claimed to be “Pakistan’s big success at diplomatic front that had landed India in utmost panic.” Whereas New Delhi is exhibiting no signs of “utmost panic” whatsoever, this phenomenon is clearly manifesting in Islamabad in the form of knee-jerk reactions. Aren’t unilateral decisions like downgrading diplomatic ties, threatening to take the Kashmir issue to the International Court of Justice and talking about not only the possibility of a conventional war but also adding in the nuclear exchange dimension, clear signs of panic within Pakistan?

For Pakistan these are desperate times and New Delhi needs to watch out for any desperate measures that Islamabad or Rawalpindi may initiate. It is evident that by repeatedly raising apprehensions regarding a “false flag operation”, Khan is only preparing grounds to deny Islamabad’s involvement when Pakistan Army and the ISI employ their “strategic assets” (a euphemism for terrorists). If this hasn’t been done so thus far, it’s not because Rawalpindi doesn’t have the capability or will to do so, but only because it can’t afford to get involved in terrorist strikes at a time when the fear of Pakistan being placed on the ‘black-list’ of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is looming large in the horizon.

It is no secret that it’s Rawalpindi that dictates Pakistan’s Kashmir policy and the latest US Congressional report titled “Pakistan’s Domestic Political Setting” has once again reiterated this unique feature that can only be found in Pakistan’s polity. With Islamabad losing out on the diplomatic front as far as Kashmir is concerned, Rawalpindi will surely step up terrorist activities in Kashmir and this is what New Delhi needs to be cautious about. Since Kashmir symbolises the monumental failings of the Pakistan Army’s repeated attempts to gain control over it by force, Rawalpindi will do anything as a face-saving measure.

But since it doesn’t have the capability to militarily wrest Kashmir, the Pakistan Army will surely (to borrow Gen Pervez Musharraf’s words) continue to “incite” Kashmiris and take vicarious pleasure in seeing India ‘bleed through a thousand cuts’. It makes no difference to the Generals in Pakistan if Kashmiris continue to die and suffer due to the misdeeds of terrorists. What matters to them is the perverted satisfaction that they derive by playing dog in the manger in Kashmir and following the mutually destructive philosophyof “Hum toh doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” (We will definitely sink, but we’ll also take you with us)!

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