Pakistani authorities expressed their support to the people of Kashmir on Friday, with anti-Indian rallies in the country.
Pakistani leaders called for Kashmir’s right to self-determination. The country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a gathering said: “Pakistan supports the people of Kashmir in their fight for “legitimate rights.”
On Kashmir Day, all government and private offices across Pakistan remain closed, including the State Bank of Pakistan. The day is marked by anti-Indian rallies and speeches.
Kashmir, a former princely state under the British Raj divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both has led to enmity and three wars between the two countries – in 1947, 1965 and 1999. After three wars with India over Kashmir, Pakistan feels they need to devote a significant portion of their national income to military budgets. The Pakistani part of the Kashmir is called Azad Jammu Kashmir. India calls it Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
Before the two countries’ independence from Britain, the Muslim-majority Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu leader, Hari Singh. Hari Singh sought India’s protection when the Pakistan tried to seize control over the region, marking the first war over Kashmir.
A non-working day to highlight the issue of Kashmir was first suggested by Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan-based party in 1990. The idea was supported by Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister at the time, and the Prime Minister at the time, Benazir Bhutto.
Balochistan’s reaction on Kashmir rallies
Kashmir solidarity rallies were organised in a few cities of Balochistan, including the capital city of Quetta, under heavy security of the army. But the rallies were attacked in Quetta and Sibi, by the Baloch “pro-independence” forces. The attacks resulted in killing and injuring dozens of march-participants.
The first attack was carried out in Sibi district of Balochistan by the Baloch Republican Army (BRA). Beebagr Baloch, the spokesperson for the group said: “We did a grenade attack on the Kashmir Day rally organised by Pakistani intelligence agencies in Sibbi, injuring more than a dozen state workers. The purpose of such rallies is to cover up the ongoing state atrocities in occupied Balochistan which is not acceptable by Baloch nation”.
While the second attack on the rally occurred in Quetta, which was claimed by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). BLA spokesperson Jeeyand Baloch said in his statement that the so-called Kashmir rally under the “patronage of the Pakistan Army” was attacked by the Baloch Liberation Army sarmachars [fighters] in Quetta. The attack resulted in killing two state agents and injuring four others. “BLA sarmachars adopted various strategies to protect ordinary passers-by from the blast,” he added.
Jeeyand Baloch further stated, “The Pakistan Army is using all its strength to hold such rallies in Balochistan with the help of its local operatives in an attempt to give the impression that the situation in Balochistan is completely under the control of the Army and the Baloch people are agreed with Pakistan and its army. While the ground realities are quite the opposite, Balochistan and Pakistan are only related as oppressed and oppressor. Our friends, enemies, our interests and the issues of our national survival are completely different. The Pakistani army and its local operatives are using fear and greed to hold such rallies,” Mr. Baloch added.
Pro-Pakistan rallies, events and Independence Day celebrations in Balochistan, have been targeted numerous times by Baloch insurgents in the past. Nationalists allege that Pakistani security forces organise such events across Balochistan to hide Baloch issue and independence movement from the world.
Baloch nationalists claim that Pakistan’s secret services have formed groups, locally known as ‘Death Squads’. The members of such groups are said to be mostly local criminals, who have been given free rein for countering the independence movement. According to local reports, these are the people who carry out anti-Indian rallies under the patronage of Pakistan Army, and threaten the ordinary citizens to join such rallies.
Balochistan – Kashmir relations
On several occasions, Baloch nationalists have said that they don’t have any issues with Kashmiri people but such activities on their soil by [Pakistan] is harmful for their independence movement. They said that Pakistani state spends millions for organising and providing security for such events in the war torn region of Balochistan to defame and counter their movement.
On ‘Kashmir Day’ a statement issued by the Baloch Warna Movement said that by hijacking the struggle of the Kashmiri people through jihadi forces, the Pakistani army has turned the historic struggle for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and independence into a terrorist movement.
The statement further said that a global movement of Kashmiris instead of gaining acceptance, it is heading towards disgrace and decline due to Pakistan’s hypocritical policies.
“Kashmiri people should be given the right to struggle and decide freely and Pakistan should stop bargaining over their sacrifices and struggle,” the statement read.
Where on the one hand, Pakistan calls for the right to self-determination for Kashmiris and supports the idea of its separation from India — on the other hand, it reportedly suppresses the independence movement of Balochistan “by force”. Baloch peoples term this act as Pakistan’s “hypocrisy.”
Baloch leader Dr Allah Nizar, on the occasion of Pakistan’s protest against India over the Kashmir issue had said, “Pakistan’s outcry on Kashmir is the pinnacle of hypocrisy. On what grounds Pakistan claims to be the so-called representative of other nations when its own hands are bathed with the blood of Balochs, Sindhis, and Pashtuns?
Balochistan [the land of Baloch peoples] is a vast region which covers the Balochistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, Sistan and Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran and the Balochistan region of southern Afghanistan. According to aboriginal Baloch peoples, Pakistan and Iran have occupied their land forcefully and the 3rd part was the leased areas merged in Afghanistan by the British raj.
According to Baloch peoples, Balochistan was once an independent state. On August 11, 1947, the province, which is currently under the dominance of Pakistan, gained independence from the British colonisers just three days before the creation of Pakistan. Six months later, a proposal was presented by the then ruler of Balochistan, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, to the upper and lower house of the parliament at Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s request to join Pakistan. But both houses unanimously rejected his proposal and refused to join Pakistan.
After failing to convince the Baloch people in the name of Islam and focal two-nation theory, Pakistan resorted to military forces and invaded Balochistan on March 27, 1948, and annexed it against the will of the Baloch people.
Baloch nationalists celebrate August 11, as their Independence Day and March 27, as a black day following the “occupation by Pakistan”.
Pakistani administrated Balochistan covers almost the 50% of the country, in which, insurgencies by Baloch nationalists have been fought in 1948, 1958, 1962 and 1973 with an ongoing insurgency beginning in early 2000s.
Several prominent human rights groups including Human Rights watch and Amnesty International accuse Pakistan for rights abuses in its suppression of the insurgency.”
According to VBMP, a Balochistan-based rights group; more than 40 thousand Balochs including men, women and children are forcibly disappeared by the Pakistan Army and are still missing. VBMP also alleges that at least 5,000 missing persons have been killed and dumped over last one decade.
Sindh’s movement and Kashmir
Kashmir rallies have not only been targeted in Balochistan but in Sindh as well. Sindh is another province of Pakistan. Sindhi nationalists are also struggling for the independence of Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, from the Pakistani state.
Recently gaining popularity in Sindh, one of the most prominent armed group, Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA) also attacked a Kashmir supporting rally in Karachi, on August 5 this year. At least 33 people were injured in a grenade attack on the rally.
The rally was organised by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the country’s mainstream religious party, in connection with the first anniversary of India’s revocation of Kashmir’s semi-autonomy.
The attack was claimed by SRA. In June, four people were killed including two soldiers in three consecutive explosions claimed by the SRA.