Every 14th August compels us to ponder over the meaning of the word “azaadi”. Every year, Independence Day reminds us of the difficult and long struggle for freedom that the Muslims of the sub-continent undertook for the dream of a country where they were free from persecution and oppression. Residing in Pakistan, where our constitution grants us the freedom to practice our faiths, we think of how our elders sacrificed their lands, their possessions and their lives for the privilege of self-determination.
Yet on this Independence Day, as the green and white flags adorn the streets and little children have their faces painted green, it is important to remember that the fight for freedom is not over yet for some people. The people of Indian-Occupied Kashmir, who have been suffering atrocities and oppression for seventy years, are still being deprived of their human rights and of their essential freedoms. Since 1947, the Kashmiri people have had their right to self-determination clamped down by India, which has consistently increased military forces in Kashmir, making it officially a ruthless occupier, which frequently subjects the occupied people to use of force, and which has violated all decorum of international law.
This year, it is particularly important that we commemorate the Kashmiris who are fighting against Indian occupation and remind them that they are not alone in their freedom struggle, especially after India’s latest atrocity. India’s violation of United Nations Security Resolutions to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which granted special status to IOK, was a devastating blow to further eroding the Kashmiri people’s identity. This step by India towards cleansing of the Kashmiri people and their identity reminds us of the importance of azaadi, and puts in perspective why our people were willing to sacrifice everything for their own state in 1947.
Thus, in solidarity with Kashmir in this extremely difficult time, Pakistan officially observes its independence day as Kashmir Solidarity Day. Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as many high-ranking government officials and politicians like Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Bilawal Bhutto, will observe Independence Day in Muzaffarabad, where the PM will be making an address to the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly. The theme of the event will be “Kashmir banega Pakistan”, with the word Kashmir, written in red colour on banners, represents sacrifices rendered during the freedom struggle. The meaning behind this event is to send a message that the Pakistani government, opposition and people see the suffering and sacrifices of the Kashmiri people and stand unequivocally in their freedom struggle against India.