Pakistani PM reiterates support to Kashmiris on Indian side
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan's prime minister assured Kashmiri people living in the Indian-administered part of the divided region that he supports them in their struggle for self-determination.
In a statement Wednesday, Imran Khan condemned New Delhi's decision on Aug. 5 to downgrade Kashmir's status, as he began celebrations marking Pakistan's independence day. Khan celebrated the day in the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir to express solidarity with Kashmiris on the Indian-controlled side. In a speech in its Legislative Assembly he warned India against any attack on Pakistan-administered Kashmir to divert attention from human rights violations in the Indian-controlled portion of the Himalayan region.
He said his country has credible intelligence that India could launch an attack and that Pakistan is "fully prepared to respond." Pakistan has strongly condemned India's recent downgrading of Kashmir's status from a state with some autonomy to two territories.
India has imposed an unprecedented security lockdown to try to prevent any violent reaction in Kashmir to its downgraded status. Khan told the lawmakers that he will step up diplomatic efforts to highlight the issue of Kashmir and Indian actions there.
India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947 when British colonialists left the subcontinent. The next year, they fought the first of two wars over control of Kashmir. It ended with the region divided between them, though both claim all of it.
Protests and clashes have occurred daily in the Indian-controlled portion, thought the curfew and communications blackout have meant the reaction is largely subdued. Pakistan has called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council, saying the move by India's Hindu nationalist-led government threatens international peace and could lead to ethnic cleansing and genocide. Poland holds the council presidency this month and Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said members would discuss the letter.
Pakistan's president, celebrating Pakistan's independence in Islamabad, condemned India's downgrading of Kashmir's status as a violation of international law and said Pakistan "will not leave Kashmiri people alone."
India celebrates its independence on Thursday and was finalizing preparations for the festivities in New Delhi and in Indian-administered Kashmir on the 10th day of the near-total security lockdown in the Himalayan region. The lockdown is expected to last at least through Thursday.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this story.