Pakistan to observe Kashmir Solidarity Day today
4 February 2007
Islamabad: It is a day of no particular significance for Jammu and Kashmir but Pakistan will observe Monday, February 5, as Kashmir Solidarity Day, as it has been doing since 1990, shortly after the armed uprising in the State began. Preparations have been on for the past several days. The Government has declared the day a public holiday — government offices, banks, schools and colleges will remain closed. Banners are already up on many important avenues, roads and intersections of the capital, proclaiming Pakistan's solidarity with the Kashmiris. On Monday, across the country, and in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, politicians will lead prayers and a five-minute silence in memory of those killed in fighting in Kashmir. In PoK, the elected Legislative Assembly and the Council or the upper House will hold a joint session in Muzaffarabad. The Jamaat-ud-dawa, the religious charity associated with the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, announced plans for a massive rally in Lahore to be addressed by Hafiz Saeed, the founder of both organisations. Every province has announced its own programmes. In the North West Frontier province, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the alliance of six religious parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamaat-e-Ulema Islami, announced that in view of the recent suicide bombings and generally tense security situation, it would not take out any rallies or processions. Instead, it has organised a day of seminars of Kashmir. February 5 has usually been an occasion for Pakistani politicians to outdo each other on their loyalty to the Kashmir cause and in their expression for those involved in the jihad. This year, with allegations against President Pervez Musharraf of a 'sell-out' to India on Kashmir, the Government's focus is on providing reassurance that there will be no short-changing. President Pervez Musharraf, in a message, said his four-point proposal was aimed at breaking the decade-old deadlock and 'given the sincerity and goodwill, it could provide a durable solution that genuinely reflects the aspirations of all Kashmiris.' 'Pakistan and India have embarked upon a sustained dialogue process and today, I want to reassure all Kashmiris that ultimately, it is their wishes that would guide us as we pursue a just and honourable settlement of this tragic dispute. The recent visit of the leadership of the All Parties Hurriyyat Conference to Pakistan is part of this process and in line with our endeavour to associate Kashmiri representatives with the dialogue process,' he said. He described the Kashmir-related confidence building measures as an attempt 'to bring relief to the day-to-day lives of the people on both sides of the divided territory.' Stressing the importance of restoring peace in the region, he said 'our children should never again live in fear or mistrust but should be nurtured in an environment where honour, dignity and freedom of all is assured.' President Musharraf paid tribute to 'more than 80,000 Kashmiris who lost their lives in upholding the ideals of freedom and liberty,' and to honour their memory, pledged 'to spare no efforts in our quest to win back to Kashmir its lost glory and to make it a citadel of peace and harmony.' Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said he wished to reassure Kashmiris that Pakistan was 'steadfast' and 'unwavering' in its political, moral and diplomatic support to their cause for winning the 'inalienable right of self-determination.' The history of February 5 goes back to 1990. Mr. Nawaz Sharif, then the main Opposition leader and the Chief Minister of Punjab, issued advertisements in newspapers appealing for a nation-wide strike on February 5 to enable the people 'to pray for God's help for the success of jihad in Kashmir.' Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party Government responded by declaring the day public holiday.