Tue, 22 Sep 2020

Thousands of people rallied in Pakistan's major cities on August 5 to mark the date a year ago when neighboring India scrapped the special status of territory under its administration in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Political leaders, trade unions, councils for lawyers, and rights activists attended the rallies to condemn what they called a 'repressive Indian decision.'

Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the largest rally in the capital, Islamabad, where protesters chanted anti-India slogans and urged world powers to intervene on behalf of residents in the Muslim-majority Indian administered region.

The Indian government announced on August 5, 2019, that it was changing the status of territory under its control in Kashmir -- a Himalayan valley controlled in parts by New Delhi and Islamabad but claimed by both in its entirety.

Islamabad rejects what it sees as an annexation of Kashmir by India, which in turn opposes Islamabad's position that the region's fate should be decided through a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations with India, suspended a cross-border bus service, and halted bilateral trade in response to New Delhi's move.

'The Indian move in Kashmir is the worst rights violation,' Alvi said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the world to intervene against the move that he says has made 8 million Muslims prisoners in their own homes.

On August 4, Pakistan's cabinet approved a new map showing the entire Kashmir region as part of Pakistan and renamed a major road in Islamabad Srinagar Highway, after the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Khan, addressing the nation on August 4 alongside Qureshi, said the new national map had been approved by the cabinet and will be the official map of Pakistan.

The new map marks the Himalayan region as "Indian illegally occupied' Jammu-Kashmir, clearly stating it is disputed territory awaiting final status to be decided by UN resolutions.

Khan said the Kashmiri people have a right of self-determination. But he said this promise has not been honored by the international community.

The map will be used in educational institutions across Pakistan.

India responded by calling the map "an exercise in political absurdity' that establishes "untenable claims" to Indian territory.

The status of Kashmir has been a key dispute between Pakistan and India since the two split in 1947 after British colonial rule. The nuclear-armed rivals each control part of Kashmir and have fought three of their four wars over the region -- including major conflicts in 1947 and 1965, and a limited conflict in 1999.

India accuses Pakistan of sending militants across the Line Of Control that is the region's de facto border to commit violence.

New Delhi also accuses Pakistan of supporting militants in Indian-administered Kashmir -- charges that Islamabad denies.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to change the status of Kashmir led to a weeks-long clampdown in the region and well-documented human rights abuses.

Indian and Pakistani soldiers have traded gunfire across the highly militarized Line Of Control almost daily for more than a year, killing dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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