Pakistan stages Kashmir ralliesFebruary 5, 2010
Political parties and religious groups across Pakistan are holding rallies in support of the separatist movement in Kashmir. And in his first public speech since release from house arrest, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is set to address one ‘Kashmir Solidarity’ rally in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Friday.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been accused of being a political front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba network – the group blamed by India for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai in which gunmen killed more than 160 people. Saeed denies involvement and was released in June by a Lahore court which found insufficient evidence for his continued detention.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the rallies this year “hold more fervour because there’s considerable anger”.
Kashmiri separatists have been holding rallies, which often turn violent, since 2008 [AFP]
“It is an attempt to try and muster support within Pakistan and to try and capitalise on the anti-American sentiment that is growing in this particular part of the world. “It will be an opportunity for Saeed to be able to rally the people behind him, and of course on the self-determination of the Kashmiri people,” he said.
Indian troops sealed off neighbourhoods in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, on Friday and arrested dozens of activists to block planned protests over the death of a Muslim boy. The 14-year-old child was struck by a teargas shell fired by police on Sunday during a separatist demonstration. His death has sparked days of angry protests against Indian rule over the region. More than 150 protesters and policemen have been injured in clashes. Kashmiri separatists have been holding regular rallies, which often turn violent, since 2008. More than 60 protesters have died in the protests since then, most of them as a result of police firing.
On Thursday, Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, reiterated that his government will “continue extending political, moral and diplomatic support” to the separatist campaign in Jammu and Kashmir. “We will continue extending our political, moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir” Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister. “We will continue extending our political, moral and diplomatic support to the people of Kashmir and our principled stance will not be changed on the issue of Kashmir,” Gilani said in his talks with leaders of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
In recent years, February 5, has come to be known as a day of solidarity with the Kashmiri people. The date has no specific significance, but is celebrated officially in Pakistan.
It is a public holiday and the government and opposition parties compete with each other to demonstrate their support for the Kashmiri Muslims. Indian-administered Kashmir, which is predominantly Muslim, is claimed by both India and Pakistan in its entirety.
Anti-India sentiments run deep in the Himalayan region, where more than a dozen groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan.