By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Thousands of people on Friday formed a human chain in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad to express solidarity with Kashmiris in their protest against India’s scrapping of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir’s longstanding special rights in August.
Waving national and Azad Kashmir flags, the protesters amassed at D-chowk roundabout, which breaks through the capital, and formed a human chain, which was also joined by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Cabinet members.
In his brief address aired on state-run Pakistan Television, Khan questioned the “disproportionate” amount of coverage accorded by the international media to the dire human rights situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, especially in context of the widespread coverage of the Hong Kong protests.
“International media is highlighting disproportionately protests in Hong Kong, which is not a disputed region, and only a few protesters have been injured there. It is part of China”, Khan observed, adding: “On the other hand, Kashmir is an internationally-recognized disputed region but unfortunately, the world media is more worried about Hong Kong.”
“It has been over two months, Indian army has imprisoned 8 million Kashmiri men, women, and children in their homes but the international media continues to give headline coverage to Hong Kong protests and ignores the dire human rights crisis in Indian-occupied Kashmir,” the premier, donned in off-white shalwar kameez (national dress) and a brown waistcoat, said.
The former cricketing hero said that the world leaders had started to understand Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir, and had openly decried New Delhi over human rights violations in the disputed valley.
Khan warned that as soon as the lingering curfew in the disputed valley was lifted, Kashmiris would take to streets in hundreds of thousands as they had rejected New Delhi’s move.
“I want to assure Kashmiris that Pakistan will always stand beside them,” the premier added.
Already fraught ties between the two South Asian nuclear rivals plummeted further after India scrapped the special provisions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state has been under a near-complete lockdown since Aug. 5.
Several rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions and release political detainees.
Indian authorities, however, claim that daytime restrictions have been lifted in 93% of the region, a claim Anadolu Agency could not verify independently.
From 1954 until Aug. 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed special status under the Indian Constitution, which allowed it to enact its own laws.
The provisions also protected the region's citizenship law, which barred outsiders from settling in and owning land in the territory.
India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan who have fought two wars over Kashmir.