(AA) – Pakistan’s prime minister has pledged that Pakistan will continue to support the “freedom struggle” of Indian-held Kashmir.
As rallies and demonstration were held across Pakistan on Thursday to mark the annual Kashmir “solidarity day”, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said any peace talks between India and Pakistan must address their dispute over divided Kashmir.
“Any talks with India, which do not include Kashmir, are incomplete, and will produce no results,” said Sharif, himself a Kashmiri, while addressing the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Muzzaferabad, the capital of Pakistan-held Kashmir.
“Kashmiris and Pakistanis are one entity. No power in the world can separate them,” he said, accusing India of delaying talks on Kashmir. “Only a fair resolution of Kashmir dispute can ensure lasting peace in the region.”
Thousands of Kashmiris made a human chain in Muzzafferabad demanding a plebiscite in Kashmir in line with a 1948 U.N. resolution that followed a full-scale war between India and Pakistan which ended with Muslim-majority Kashmir divided between the two countries.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and other major cities, where a host of political and religious parties held rallies and demonstrations to mark “Kashmir Day” which has been officially recognized since in 1991.
Crowds chanted “India, quit Kashmir,” “Kashmir is ours,” and “Kashmir wants freedom,” as many waved Pakistani and Azad Kashmir flags.
The scenic Himalayan region has been a key bone of contention between the two nuclear rivals in since their independence from British rule in 1947. The two arch rivals have fought three full-scale wars, two of them over Kashmir, in 1948 and 1965.
India suspended secretary-level talks with Pakistan last year after the Pakistani High Commissioner to New Delhi held a meeting with pro-independence Kashmiri leaders.