Imran Khan leads Pakistanis in pro-Kashmir rallies

People in Peshawar (top) shouting slogans as Pakistan observed "Kashmir Hour" from noon yesterday, while Prime Minister Imran Khan (above) addressed the nation in Islamabad. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
People in Peshawar (above) shouting slogans as Pakistan observed "Kashmir Hour" from noon yesterday, while Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation in Islamabad. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
People in Peshawar (top) shouting slogans as Pakistan observed "Kashmir Hour" from noon yesterday, while Prime Minister Imran Khan (above) addressed the nation in Islamabad. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE
People in Peshawar shouting slogans as Pakistan observed "Kashmir Hour" from noon yesterday, while Prime Minister Imran Khan (above) addressed the nation in Islamabad. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, EPA-EFE

ISLAMABAD • Thousands rallied across Pakistan yesterday in mass demonstrations against New Delhi's actions in its state of Jammu and Kashmir, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan leading the most ambitious public protests targeting India in years.

The protests come weeks ahead of Mr Khan's scheduled trip to the United Nations General Assembly, where he has vowed to act as an ambassador for the people of Kashmir, after New Delhi stripped its portion of the Himalayan territory of its autonomy earlier this month.

Tensions soared between the nuclear-armed rivals since India launched a sweeping crackdown in Kashmir, which included cutting phone and Internet access and placing restrictions on movement and arresting thousands.

Thousands gathered in Islamabad in front of the Prime Minister's secretariat, where Mr Khan vowed to continue fighting for Kashmir until it was "liberated".

"We will stand with Kashmir until our last breath," said Mr Khan, as he launched into a blistering attack on the Indian government, comparing his counterpart Narendra Modi's administration to Nazi Germany.

Ahead of his speech, sirens rang out around the country, followed by broadcasts of the national anthems of Pakistan and Kashmir. Traffic ground to a halt for several minutes in solidarity with the rallies. Thousands more rallied in Lahore and Karachi - Pakistan's biggest cities - where large crowds waved flags and chanted pro-Kashmir slogans.

The demonstrations were the first in what will be weekly rallies held nationwide until Mr Khan leaves for the UN late next month.

In the weeks since Mr Modi issued the executive order stripping Kashmir of its autonomy, Mr Khan has launched a diplomatic offensive, vowing to fight India "until the end" if attacked and making occasional references to the possible outbreak of nuclear conflict.

 
 
 

Yesterday's protests came as The New York Times published an op-ed by Mr Khan, where he warned of rising hostilities between the countries.

"World War II happened because of appeasement at Munich. A similar threat looms over the world again, but this time under the nuclear shadow," he wrote.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence and has been the spark for two major wars and countless skirmishes between the rivals.

Earlier this week during a summit in France, US President Donald Trump said there was no need for him to intervene in the row between Pakistan and India sparked by Kashmir, saying Mr Modi had the situation "under control".

The comments were made weeks after Mr Trump had personally offered to mediate in the Kashmir conflict during Mr Khan's visit to the White House last month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'Khan leads Pakistanis in pro-Kashmir rallies'. Print Edition | Subscribe