When Pakistan fist marked February 5 as Kashmir Solidarity Day back in 1989, it was on the call of then Jama’at-i-Islami Amir Qazi Hussain Ahmad, now deceased. Then Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif, and then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, herself now deceased, declared closed days to mark the day. The occasion was started then because the Kashmiri freedom struggle had moved to a phase of armed rebellion. The Kashmiri people began what became known as an intifada, after 42 years had passed since partition and their illegal occupation by India. Now, over two decades on, it needs to be asked whether Kashmir Solidarity Day is now much more than a holiday, and whether it contributes to the Kashmiri people’s struggle for self-determination, a right which has been denied by India not just because the family of its first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hailed from there, or because it wanted to continue its illegal occupation, but because it wanted to use it to pose an existential threat to Pakistan. Pakistan’s people well know that this day marks their moral support to the Kashmiri people, but they should also be aware that since India has never accepted Pakistan’s right to exist, the dispute over Kashmir is being used by India to destroy Pakistan. Since the Solidarity Day was first marked, the Indian attempt to strangle Pakistan, by its theft of Pakistan’s water guaranteed to it by the Indus Waters Treaty, depends on its illegal occupation of Kashmir.

However, though there are a series of questions which niggle at Pakistan, with the water and Siachen disputes prominent among them, caused by the Kashmir issue, the essence of the problem is that India refuses to fulfill its own commitments, to the international community to the solution it proposed in the shape of UN Security Council resolutions on the subject, for a UN-supervised plebiscite to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan continues to press for this solution not just because it is a principled stand, but because it is strongly supported by the Pakistani people.

However, this Solidarity Day, which is the last before a general election, also marks an occasion to ask whether the government has been doing as much as it should, to provide the moral and diplomatic support. It is unfortunate for the Kashmiri people that the present government has concentrated on currying favour with India by granting it Most-Favoured Nation status. It was noticeable that the talks on this issue, which was part of the Indian imperial project for the region, saw Pakistan virtually as careful to keep Kashmir off the table. That is behaviour that is bound to be noticed by the Pakistani electorate when it votes later this year. It is not merely a question of making the right noises, but of actual performance. That India has made the Line of Control only recently a subject of dispute lends emphasis, not that any was needed, to this Solidarity Day.