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Kashmir Solidarity Day – more than a mere holiday

Every year, 5 February is observed as Kashmir Solidarity Day in Pakistan which is a national holiday as well. Happening since 1990, on this day,the country shows solidarity with the people of Kashmir in form of collective prayers, rallies and human chains etc.

The generation that grew up in the 1990s can very well relate to the Kashmir cause. 1990s was the era when Pakistanis would get to watch only one television channel i.e. PTV; the time when no day would pass without having news on Kashmir.

Places like Pulwama, Charar-e-Sharif, DargahHazrat Bal andKupwaraare few names that I got to learn from the news bulletins of those times.

The same channel would often play the anthem, “Meray Watan Teri Jannat Mein Aengey Ek Din…”reminding viewers of the Kashmir conflict.

NusratFateh Ali Khan added his legendary voice to a tune,the video of which was specially dedicated to Kashmir where the lyrics went like “Jaanaykabhongaykam, is duniyakeghum…”, the visuals yet again reminding the oppression and occupation of Kashmir. That is how Kashmir cause became so close to every Pakistani individual at that time.

In the same decade of 1990’s, PTV had also run two drama serials ‘Laag’ and ‘AngaarWadi’ based on the conflict depicting Kashmir’s struggle for freedom and how it had been affecting the lives of its people.

What does this solidarity imply? It implies that the people of Pakistan empathize with their Kashmiri brethren.

They want the oppression to be ended. They want the aspirations of Kashmiris to be fulfilled. They believe that Pakistan can never be at peace until the Kashmir dispute is resolved.

The Kashmir Solidarity Day deserves to be taken more than just a state’s political gesture. It is very much part of a common Pakistani’s way to relate to the Kashmir cause.

I remember this late elderly gentleman from my neighbourhood who would always remind every person he met on any occasion (especially on Eids) that they should never forget the oppressed Kashmiris during their celebrations. That’s the first thing he’d always mention to anybody who’d greet him. Also, he’d always tell everyone to remember Kashmir in prayers.

Since long, the people of Pakistan have felt connected to Kashmir which has been reflected in many ways from time to time. Some Pakistanis would add the word ‘Kashmir’ to their ventures believing that it would bring good luck to them.

Moreover, the warm welcome Pakistanis extend to the people of Kashmir – especially those from Indian occupied Kashmir – is also noteworthy.

While some really get a celebrity treatment making them feel surprised at the level of hospitality they receive, others feel at home when they happen to visit Pakistan. Besides, Pashmina shawls and the pink tea of Kashmir become very much part of Pakistani lifestyle in winters.

The necessity to declare Kashmir Solidarity Day as a national holiday is often questioned where many argue that it does not add any value towards theresolution of the Kashmir conflict.It may be true butthe purpose this holiday serves cannot be undermined either. It revives the resolve that Kashmir is not forgotten; it is neither ignored nor compromised. It comes as recognition of the conflict on a wider scale. It unites the entire nation in favor of Kashmir by considering it one of the most crucial unresolved issues of the country.

Where a notion prevails that Pakistan being surrounded by several other problems should focus on putting the house in order, 5 February comes as a reminder that Kashmir dispute is also one of those very problems without the solution of which regional peace is absolutely not possible.

As Pakistan observes yet another Kashmir Solidarity Day this year, it definitely is not limited to passing mere political statements and rallies. In today’s time where social media has become a powerful platform to spread the message and raise awareness globally, Pakistanis are effectively using itto give out a strong message to the world by trending various relevant hashtags giving out a clear message that the entire nation is united for the Kashmiris’ fundamental right to self-determination.

This unity is certainly not a façade but the depiction of the sentiments of the people of Pakistan for the people of Kashmir with no other motive than that of empathy, affinity and harmony.

While Kashmiris await the longstanding referendum that was promised to them decades ago, the Pakistani nation prays for the end of oppression and a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir conflict in favour of the people of the disputed land.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent ARY policies or opinion.