On February 5, today, my people living in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir(PoJK) will once again be forced by the Pakistani military establishment to dance to the tune of a false jihad-e-Kashmir narrative. Pakistan’s selected prime minister Imran Khan will be visit Kotli city and Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will arrive in Muzaffarabad to fan anti-India (read Hindu) sentiments and accuse the Modi Sarkar of depriving the people of the Valley of basic human rights and committing all kinds of atrocities one could imagine under the sun.
The people of PoJK who are currently struggling to buy our staple diet, flour, gain access to uninterrupted flow of electricity and clean drinking water, control of their natural resources such as forests, rivers, mountains, and above all the right to live a dignified life, will be bombarded with drummed-up rhetorical phrases and religious jingoistic demagogy and presentation of the usurper Pakistan army as the sole defender of ‘our’ ideological as well as geographical boundaries.
For weeks there is no flour available in PoJK. The subsidy on flour given to those unfortunate Jamwals who live along the Line of Control (LoC) has been abolished. From Bhimber to Mirpur and Muzaffarabad the people of PoJK have been ceaselessly protesting against lack of atta, electricity and clean drinking water.
For months, the government employees have been observing pen-down strikes. Several departments have not been allocated enough funds for them to be able to pay salaries to their employees and starvation has now become a reality in most of the households. Men and women walk to work each morning in the hope of being paid their dues only to return empty handed to their wretched pitiful families.
For years, petty shopkeepers, the owners of cottage-sized workshops carving handicrafts and the eager students await the day when the daily routine of 20 hours’ load-shedding will end and they would be able to gain academic excellence, and manufacture and sell their products to fill the bellies of their loved ones who have become so used to hunger and starvation that a full meal could easily make them sick.
In January 1990, at a time when the jihad in Afghanistan had concluded and the Pakistan army could no longer sell a jihad- infested religious-cultural narrative to its subjects to justify its perks and unabated interference in the political and economic spheres of the country, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) devised a new strategy to keep numb the inquisitive conscience of the people of Pakistan and PoJK. It was the Jamaat-e-Islami under the leadership of Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmed which came up with the idea of ‘celebrating’ February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day.
It was commemorated as a concealed celebration of the genocide in the Valley during January 1990 when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to abandon their centuries-old homeland and become wanderers in the plains of India and beyond.
The commemoration of February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day also became a means to gain public approval for the tradition of perpetually stirring religious-fascist-military jingoism before and after the Pakistani military terror organisation, the ISI, unleashed an unbridled, bloody carnival of death and destruction among the people of the Valley through its extended arm: the mujahideen returning from Afghanistan.
Kashmir Solidarity Day is an annual exercise to reinforce a fake political narrative and the evil communal ideology of the two-nation theory initiated by the British divide-and-rule strategy and implemented by Jinnah and his stooges. It is a day when the people of PoJK, PoGB and Pakistan are reminded that the protectors of the ideological and geographical boundaries of Pakistan is none other than the Pakistani military itself. On February 5 this year, once again Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto will descend upon the occupied Indian territories to spread lies against India while concealing the crimes they have committed against our people since October 22, 1947.
The Pakistani military establishment has converted an Indian population living under Pakistan’s occupation against their own motherland. They have bombarded our people with false historical narratives and enslaved them mentally through vigorous propaganda blasted through the loudspeakers of the mosques, the print media, television talk shows and by creating a curriculum that is taught in schools and colleges in which India is presented as a foe, thus providing the Pakistani military establishment with an imaginary enemy.
However, inside the confines of the intellectual iron walls of two-nation theory, our people are faced with a perpetual downward economic, political and social spiral in which their stomachs are starving, politics is controlled by generals with fat bellies and society is fragmented and broken on communal, ethnic and sectarian basis by the mullah.
Kashmir Solidarity Day in actuality is a festival of hate, a celebration of death and destruction and a practice that turns people into fanatics, bloodthirsty zombies and robots who are willing to stab or cut a fellow human being's throat without a second thought.
The speech delivered by Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa last week at the graduation ceremony of Pakistan Air Force Academy in Rawalpindi has caught the imagination of the people of both India and PoJK and PoGB. Unlike previous speeches of war jingoism, he has asked for peace in the region and has said that in order to achieve peace he wants to exercise a policy of "peaceful co-existence". General Bajwa said that it was time to "extend a hand of peace in all directions".
At first this might seem as a genuine change of heart. However, it will only become a reality if General sahib holds negotiations with India and immediately ends cross-border firing, something that is considered a tactic to help terrorists infiltrate into the Indian union territory of Jammu Kashmir by giving them cover fire.
The next step in the direction of establishing peace would be to start closing down the hundreds of jihadi terrorist training camps dotted all over Punjab and PoJK. The third step in the direction of establishing regional peace would be to enter into negotiations with India for the unconditional withdrawal of the Pakistani military from PoJK and PoGB and the return of Indian territories that Pakistan has illegally occupied since October 22, 1947.
And finally, General Bajwa will have to put all CPEC projects on hold until such time when the peaceful transfer of our lands is accomplished.
General Bajwa’s speech has another dimension as well. In the wake of Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation on the world forum, he is sending a message not only to the international community that Pakistan army is ready to negotiate a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan but also is distancing itself from the government of Prime minister Imran Khan who is expected to deliver a fiery speech in Kotli in PoJK on February 5.
The question is whether it is an indication and a polite warning to the embattled prime minister to mellow down his anti-India rhetoric during his speech to gain favour as the Financial Action Task Force meets next month or is he sending a message to the troubled Afghan president who is battling a Taliban onslaught despite attempts for peace made
during the recent Doha negotiations?
Pakistan faces an economic meltdown and a looming political crisis. General Bajwa’s message could also be to a domestic audience since the Pakistan Democratic Movement is in its final preparations for submitting its collective resignations to the speaker of the national assembly and a possible long march towards Islamabad. Or is the military establishment
trying to mend its image before it brings in yet another puppet prime minister?
Only time and actions taken by the General over the next couple of weeks would reveal this. Meanwhile, it is no more than a wait-and-watch game whether the General matches his words with actions, and in which ‘direction’.
(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. Views expressed are personal.)