The Kashmiri solidarity sham

While Pakistan goes on a holiday to show solidarity with the Kashmiris, its army is setting up permanent positions in Gilgit

Old pledges will be renewed, banks will be closed, sirens will be sounded, prayers will be said, silence will be observed, endless programmes will be aired on radio and TV — because it is Kashmir Solidarity Day in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary unit of the Pakistani Army will begin to take up permanent positions in Gilgit and its surrounding areas — parts of the old Jammu & Kashmir state that Pakistan has placed the constitutional limbo of the Northern Areas. Its Shia population, long subjected to official sectarian repression, would like some of the solidarity and self-determination too, if only the Pakistani government would let them have it.

And for the part of Kashmir it controls, apart from rhetoric and the Azad (Free) in its name, there is little else by way of self-determination or representative government. Pakistan, by the way, has been in continuous control of this region ever since its independence, and while it has been enthusiastic in taking annual public holidays in honour of its cause, political rights have remained firmly outside the reach of its azad Kashmiris.

But it is unlikely that ordinary Pakistanis will get a chance to contemplate on this as they watch television today.

Pakistan Television will air a marathon Kashmir related transmission and messages from the president, the prime minister and the AJK prime minister will be aired. [DT]