New Delhi: Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s announcement that July 19 would be marked as a ‘Black Day’ to protest the recent killings in Jammu and Kashmir has drawn a sharp reaction from India with the external affairs ministry saying that such strident remarks were part of the political rhetoric for the upcoming elections in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on July 21.
On Friday, Sharif chaired a special cabinet at Governor House in Lahore after which the announcement to mark “the worst outbreak of violence in Kashmir” was made.
A declaration issued after the cabinet meeting also said that a joint session of parliament would be convened to discuss the Kashmir situation next week. It also described Burhan Wani – the Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed in an encounter with Indian security forces last Friday – as a “martyred representative of [the] new generation”.
For the first time, India connected the sharply escalating words from both the Pakistan government and opposition leaders like PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and PTI’s Imran Khan to the elections in ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ – the name Pakistan has given to part of the area of Jammu and Kashmir that it administers.
“The attempts in Pakistan by various players to ingratiate themselves to the people of J&K in the run up to the so called elections in territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation will not succeed,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
He added that “self-serving actions by Pakistan in the last few days to derive political mileage out of the recent developments in J&K follow planned infiltration and terrorism aimed at India from across the Line of Control and the International Boundary”.
Swarup “completely and unequivocally” rejected the decision of the Pakistan cabinet on Kashmir. “We are dismayed at the continued attempts by Pakistan to interfere in our internal matters, where, we reiterate, Pakistan or any other external party has no locus standi. Continued glorification of terrorists belonging to proscribed terrorist organisations makes it amply clear where Pakistan’s sympathies continue to lie”.
India hoped that “Pakistan will desist from further interfering in India’s internal affairs and destabilising the situation in South Asia through support to terrorism and other subversive acts”.
“We also hope that Pakistan will respond constructively to India’s initiatives for peace and normalising the India Pakistan relationship,” he added.
In his address at the special cabinet meeting, Sharif had said that “Pakistan will continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris in their just struggle for right to self-determination”.
In a post on his twitter account, Pakistan’s defence minister, Khawaja M. Asif, raked up 2002 Gujarat riots in connection with Kashmir violence:
Massacre & genocide in Indian Occupied Kashmir is extention & re enactment of ethnic cleansing started by Modi in Gujrat..
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) July 15, 2016
Pakistani politicians from the ruling PML-N and opposition PPP have been competing to highlight Kashmir during their campaigning for the AJK elections. On Thursday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced that he called up Hurriyat separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to express solidarity. The Bhutto scion has deliberately targeted Sharif for his reportedly close ties with Narendra Modi with slogans like – “Jo Modi ka yaar hai, gaddaar hai, gaddaar hai” (He who friends Modi is a traitor).
Meanwhile, US state department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said on Thursday that Washington has had talks with both India and Pakistan on the issue of violence of Kashmir. This represents a shift from the statement the spokesperson issued Monday that Kashmir was an “internal matter” for India, as per the PTI report.
Sources however indicated that there was no organised dialogue on this subject, and may have figured in one of the numerous conversations held at various levels.