Kashmir: Fury and frustration in Islamabad as thousands turn out to protest

Saturday 10th August 2019 06:30 BST

An estimated 8,000 demonstrators came out onto the streets of the country's capital despite a torrential downpour. That speaks volumes.

One young man told me: "Yes, we are angry here. We don't want to fight. The last option is to fight…but if we have to, we will get Kashmir by the sword, by ammunition and guns." These are worrying words.

Another man old enough to be his father said: "We will retaliate. We will fight India."

To many, Kashmir is a matter of pride and it's been a thorn in the side of the two nuclear-armed neighbours for more than 70 years.

It is an anomaly which dates back to colonial days and which generations later, they are still painfully trying to sort out.

What was striking about this demonstration was the spread of ages. There were young boys wearing bandannas emblazoned with the words, "crush India" alongside grandfathers with long white beards.

Some had even brought fold-away stools to rest on whilst the leaders boomed out dramatic rallying calls through giant speakers.

They called for the international community to sit up and take notice, urged China and others to stand with them; demanded justice - and loudly proclaimed how India has flouted international laws.

Young firebrands shouted and thrashed their bamboo sticks against the police barbed wire barriers in frustration - but this was more an outpouring of passion rather than intent to cause trouble.

They're looking to their government to sort this out and it has to be said, right now, they're also relying on the international community to back them up. How long that will last is key.

As they filled the streets of Islamabad and protests simultaneously took place in other Pakistani cities, their prime minister, Imran Khan, met with his cabinet to agree an action plan to try to overturn India's unilateral decision.

The Pakistani foreign minister travelled to Beijing to lobby support from the Chinese and had two-and-a-half hours of talks over the issue.

So far, the government is pursuing economic, political and legal moves insisting the Indian declaration stripping Kashmir of his autonomy is unconstitutional.

Pakistan television channels appeared to deliberately ignore the Indian prime minister's address to the nation the previous night.

In the speech, Narendra Modi announced he had liberated Kashmir from terrorism and he promised more jobs and opportunities as a result of the area's integration with India.

These were not the words of a man prepared to compromise.

At one stage he even appealed to the youth of Kashmir, telling them he cared for them and urging them to take advantage of what he described as an incredible opportunity.

It didn't go unnoticed that his appeal would not have been heard by most of Kashmir due to the blanket lockdown and cutting of all forms of communications there by the Indian authorities.

But India has long blamed Pakistan for fermenting terrorism there and they are sticking to that narrative.

The Pakistan prime minister responded by tweeting his Indian counterpart was acting like Hitler. The rhetoric is dangerous and inflammatory but not surprising.

The former US president Bill Clinton famously called it the most "dangerous place in the world" on account of the nuclear capability of both nations.

The sentiment over Kashmir transcends age and gender. It runs deep in the Pakistan and Indian psyche and no-one should be in any doubt about the strength of feeling over the Himalayan territory.

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