President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, has certainly set a positive precedent Wednesday by exclusively addressing a special sitting of the Senate, held to express solidarity with besieged Kashmiris, struggling to survive under a relentlessly brute occupation of India since 1947. 

Previously, as the Heads of State, Presidents of Pakistan had only been addressing the joint parliamentary sittings of both houses. The historic significance of August 5, 2020 inspired the pleasant change of the tradition. It also facilitated a large group of Islamabad-based diplomats to attentively listen to Pakistan’s position on the issue of Kashmir. 

Exactly a year ago, on this very day, the Modi government of India had turned more savage in Occupied Kashmir after discarding Artile370 of its constitution. The said article had granted ‘special status’ to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Although seldom observed, in letter and spirit, the said article had been helping India to pretend that it continued to honor the validity of United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, granting the right of self-determination to people of Kashmir. The unilateral revocation of the same article also violated, recklessly, various agreements that India had formally signed with Pakistan to seek resolution of the Kashmir issue through bilateral negotiations. 

After crudelyannexing the occupied territory, India had split it into two parts. Both were declared “Union Territories,” directly ruled from New Delhi. The ‘new status’ of Laddakh, in its immediate neighborhood, also alarmed Peoples Republic of China; of late, we had witnessed the serious consequences of it.

Far more distressing, however, was the complete lockdown that the occupation forces had enforced upon 8 million residents of Kashmir since August 5, 2019. Barbed wires confined them to isolated blocks, which were further disconnected from the world by denying all means of digital connectivity. Even many months before the spread of COVID-19, the said lockdown had completely ruined the local economy, which essentially relied on tourism and production of exotic fruits and eye-pleasing handicrafts. But after expressing “shock and regret” over the new status of Occupied Kashmir, the so-called global community and forums turned almost indifferent to miserable conditions of its residents.

 

After completion of a year of the ruthless occupation on August 5, 2020, Pakistan felt compelled to loudly tell the Kashmir story with a series of some initiatives on diplomatic front and by staging events to express the accumulated anguish of its people regarding the new shapes and forms of repression and suppression. A special sitting of the Senate, where all the provincial units of Pakistan are equally represented, was held with the same intent.

 

For more than four hours, senator after senator from both sides of the house continued taking the floor, primarily to deliver bombastic speeches. But a group of very experienced parliamentarians from opposition parties surely sounded different and impressive. Instead of scoring points against the government, they preferred to articulate a set of doable initiatives for sensitizing the global community regarding the incessant agony of 8 million Kashmiris.

 

Ms. Sherry Rehman of the PPP and Mushahid Hussien Syed of the PML-N took the lead in this respect. Mian Raza Rabbani, the former chairman senate and an eloquent speaker, was indeed passionate and moving. But instead of being ‘political’, he spoke with a troubled heart of a poet.

 

In spite of staying polite and mostly diplomatic, senators like Ms. Rehman and Mushahid Hussien Syed affirmed the feeling, loudly expressed by many of their colleagues, that “market potential” of India had forced powerful and influential countries to act indifferent to the tragic story of Kashmir. In the said context, they sounded doubly bitter while recalling the cold behavior of some of our “brother” countries from among “the Ummah.” Turkey, Iran and Malaysia were acknowledged as formidable exceptions, however.

 

Siraj-ul-Haq, the Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami, took full advantage of this collective mood of disappointment to passionately promote the thesis that perhaps Pakistan should re-discover the relevance and importance of ‘Jihad’ for liberating Kashmir. His party had a long association with militant resistance, both in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But the blowback of 9/11 had forced it to turn discreet on the subject.

 

The recent developments in Afghanistan have surely inspired the Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami for reverting to original message of his party. After 18 years of fighting against Taliban in that country, the Trump administration felt forced to hold negotiations with them to seek a ‘safe exit.’ Recalling it helped Siraj-ul-Haq to fervently plead for supporting Jihad in occupied Kashmir, “without being apologetic.”

 

His speech also inspired Mohammad Ali Saif of the MQM to firmly state that even the UN General Assembly had formally acknowledged that people fighting against occupation forces couldn’t be dubbed as terrorists but “freedom fighters.”

 

Both of them, for sure, expressed the ‘fringe opinion’ if you consider things with here-and-now measure. With or without agreeing to their thoughts, one has to consider them in long-term perspective as a keen student of public perceptions and sentiments.

 

Like it or not, the Trump administration’s dealings with Taliban havecertainly forced a significant section of our youth to seriously re-visit the ideology of Jihad. You can’t afford disregarding the tumult in their minds, if considered in the context of Hindutava onslaught in India.

 

Precisely on a day when most Pakistanis were worryingly thinking of unfortunate Kashmiris, India’s Prime Minister had personally gone to Ayodhia in the UP province of his country to inaugurate the construction of a temple. On the spot selected for it, there had been a mosque for the past three centuries, ostensibly built under the patronage of Zaheer-ul-Din Babar, founder of the Mughal dynasty.

 

Since the early 1990s, the RSS-inspired bigots began promoting the story that one of their gods, Ram, had been born at the same spot. They also initiated a vigorous movement to demolish the Babri Mosque to get the space for building a temple there. This movement eventually led to the rise and rise of Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) on political horizon of the “Secular India.” After many years of a protracted battle, the government of Narendra Modi, who had started his career in politics as a PARCHARAK (Missionary) for the RSS, finally managed the Supreme Court’s verdict in favor of temple’s construction.

 

Modi was obviously deliberate to select the date of August 5, 2020 for inauguration ceremony of the “Ram Temple”. Doing this, he clearly conveyed the message that he felt no remorse over what his government has done in Kashmir. He also is in no mood to reconsider his majoritarian approach to governance, which brazenly emulates the Nazi-associated fascism. Through a series of mindboggling initiatives, he continues to establish and deepen the thinking that heartless subjugation of Kashmiri Muslims was not enough for him; he rather wants all Muslims living in mainstream India to accept the status of second-class citizens. A culture war has surely been declared against them.

 

People in Pakistan, even Bangladeshis, will find it extremely difficult nay impossible to stay indifferent to this war. They feel deeply linked to what was once considered “Indo-Muslim Culture”, which had survived and thrived in erstwhile India for at least 800 years. Seventy-three years since 1947 are surely not enough to erase the memories of it, especially in an age where in so many parts of the world cultural wars are turning frighteningly intense among “identity-based” groups.