Every year, 5 February is observed as Kashmir Solidarity Day in Pakistan which has comes as 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, human chains etc.
The generation that grew up in the nineties can very well relate to the Kashmir cause. It was the era when Pakistanis would get to watch only one television channel i.e. PTV; a time when no day would pass without some news on Kashmir. Places like Pulwama, Charar-i-Sharif, Dargah Hazratbal, Baramulla and Kupwara are 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 aengay ik din…” reminding the viewer of the Kashmir conflict. Also late Nusrat Fateh Ali added his legendary voice to a tune the video of which was specially dedicated to Kashmir where the lyrics went like “Jaanay kab hongay kam, is duniya ke hum…”, the visuals yet again reminding the oppression and occupation in Kashmir. That is how Kashmir became so close to every Pakistani individual.
Pakistan’s state policies on Kashmir may have been fluctuating from time to time; sometimes being the top-most priority while at times being sidelined falling prey to the delusional idea of ‘Aman Ki Asha’, but a considerable section of common Pakistanis still realize it as one of the most important issues of their own. In that context, Kashmir Day every year is observed by the citizens to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir.
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.
Kashmir Solidarity Day deserves to be taken more than just a state’s political gesture. It is very much part of a common Pakistani – a way to relate to the Kashmir cause. I remember one of our family friends – an elderly man who is no more – would always remind every person he met on any occasion (especially Eids) that they should never forget the oppressed Kashmiris during the celebrations. That’s the first thing he’d always mention to anybody who greeted him. He’d always advise everyone to remember Kashmir in their prayers.
There is a strange force that makes the people of Pakistan feel connected to fellow Kashmiris which is reflected in many ways. Some Pakistanis would add the word ‘Kashmir’ to their ventures believing that it would bring good luck to them. Besides, the warm welcome Pakistanis extend to the people of Kashmir – especially those from Indian occupied Kashmir – is also noteworthy. While some get a celebrity treatment surprising them at the level of hospitality they receive, others feel at home when they happen to visit Pakistan.
The necessity to declare the Kashmir Solidarity Day as a national holiday is often questioned where many argue that it does not add any value towards the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. The argument has some logic of its own but the purpose this holiday serves cannot be undermined. It revives the resolve that Kashmir is not forgotten; it is neither ignored nor compromised. It comes as recognition of the issue 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 organizing rallies. Pakistani tweeple are using the power of social media to give out a strong message to the world by trending #ISupportKashmir and #PlebisciteForKashmir – a message that the entire nation is united for the Kashmiris’ fundamental right to self-determination. This unity is certainly not a façade but a 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 Kashmir awaits the longstanding referendum, the Pakistani nation prays for the end of oppression and a peaceful settlement in favor of the people of the disputed land.