Integrating Kashmir

Posted by Admin On Thursday, 7 February 2013 0 comments

Kashmir Solidarity DayBeing celebrated since 1990, Kashmir Day reminds people all over the world about the violence in a disputed segment of India and Pakistan which has claimed and continues to claim thousands of lives. Atrocities and violence from both sides have resulted in the loss of lives of approximately 93,714 Kashmiris in the last 20 years. Children have lost their parents and siblings to target killings, rape and inhumane laws imposed by the Indian government in Kashmir. The place that was once quoted by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to be “Heaven on earth” is today the most militarized area in the world with a 1:17 soldier to civilian ratio. Ill will, mistrust and conspiracies have complicated the relationship between Pakistan and India. Both point fingers at each other. But how far is Pakistan really concerned with the issue of Kashmir?
So far, Pakistan has passed resolutions, formed committees, hosted conferences, appealed to the international community but how far do these sentiments reflect the public opinion? Kashmir Day for many of us is the much welcomed holiday which we get to relax in the middle of the week; but a small number of people in north of Pakistan hold protests against Indian atrocities in IHK (Indian-Held-Kashmir). From the very beginning in schools, children are taught about the geography of their country with the area of Kashmir shown in an unclear and confused state. Textbooks would explain the provincial dresses, languages and customs but hardly ever of Kashmir. How many of us are acquainted with the local cuisines, traditional dresses? Do we know that many languages such as Pahari-Potwari, Kashmiri, Gojri, Punjabi and Pashto are spoken in Kashmir? What do we know about their literary figures, sufi saints and public representatives? Inadvertently, children do not develop an association with their Kashmir brothers. In the media too, Kashmiri culture and customs are hardly promoted. Tourism has indeed suffered here due to the conflict between the two countries. But compared to India, Pakistan has done a poor job in promoting and facilitating tourism in Kashmir.
This year too Kashmir Day was observed through a variety of activities. Pakistan’s rulers and senior politicians expressed their solidarity with their Kashmiri brothers. They reiterated their support for Kashmir’s right to self-determination and urged for international community’s help to find a solution to end this conflict. Kashmiri martyrs were honored for their sacrifices at the Kashmir Convention in Islamabad. Cultural performances were organized by different art councils while Kashmiri art and paintings were showcased at galleries. Rallies and demonstrations in various cities of Pakistan were organized. Similar activities were held all across the world to pledge support for the Kashmiri cause.
Unfortunately most of this excitement lasts for a day. As the clock strikes twelve, Kashmir’s fairy god mother’s magic  withers away; husbands prepare for a busy work day, house-wives return to their gossips, students go back to studying for their exams, politicians fall back into petty bickering and TV channels lose their somberness for spicy scandals. What benefit did the activities of this special day render to the Kashmir cause? As the nation takes a day off, all business activities are halted. Is Pakistan in a position to bear the loss of another day’s earning? In his article, Mukhtar Butt offered a very practical and noble way to contribute to the Kashmir cause. He proposes working overtime, even as little as an hour, without charges on this day so that we can have a surplus of 180 billion working hours. This collective spirit to improve our country’s conditions can in the longer run have a more tangible effect on our efforts to improve conditions in Kashmir.
For Kashmiris fighting a seemingly never-ending battle, one day of concern out of 365 days is pathetic. But these rallies, posters, cultural events and speeches can be consolidated if they are backed with heart-felt sentiments and determination.  After twenty two years of observing this day, let the next year be different; let us promise to include Kashmiris in our lives, consider their input in our nation’s development, provide them with even better opportunities to be productive citizens of Pakistan, allocate even more resources for their socio-economic development and show the world that Kashmir is  integral to the identity of  Pakistan.
By Nida Afaque


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