Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday held a rally in Muzaffarabad to show solidarity with residents of occupied Kashmir, who have been under a lockdown for more than 40 days after India moved to annex the territory.
The premier began his address to the mammoth gathering by thanking them for giving him a splendid welcome.
“The reason for me becoming an ambassador of Kashmiri people is that I am a Pakistani, a Muslim and a human,” he said.
PM Imran Khan, accompanied by AJK PM Raja Farooq Haider and FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi. — AFP
“Kashmir issue today is a humanitarian problem.”
Addressing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said: “Only a coward man can commit such cruelty against human beings; today 900,000 Indian soldiers are committing atrocities against the people of occupied Kashmir.
“A brave man can never do this. No matter how much injustice you commit, you will never succeed.
“Because the people of Kashmir, be it women, children or the elderly, are not scared of death anymore.
“We all should know that Modi has been a member of the RSS since he was a child. It is a Hindu extremist group and they hate Muslims, Christians and all minorities.
“They believe in Hindu supremacy and they hate Muslims because they ruled over India for [hundreds of] years.
“They are walking the same path as Hitler’s Nazi party, which committed atrocities against minority groups.
“Since RSS was formed, they have wanted an ethnic cleansing of Muslims, i.e., to rid India of Muslims and this is all in accordance with their plan.
“Today Kashmir has been internationalised. United Nations Security Council held a meeting on Kashmir issue for the first time in 50 years.
“The European Union, for the first time, said that the Kashmir issue should be resolved as per UN resolutions. OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) also said that India should lift curfew in Kashmir.
“More than 40 MPs in Britain raised the Kashmir issue. I am happy that US senators wrote a letter to President Donald Trump and urged him to intervene in the matter.
“I am going to the UN General Assembly in New York and I will not disappoint the Kashmiri people.
“I will raise this issue on every international platform. If possible, watch my interview on RT tonight and tomorrow on Al Jazeera.
“First I want to tell India that you are pushing people towards extremism. If you mistreated me, the women and kids of my family, I would have fought because I would have thought that death is better than this life.
“Not just the Kashmiris, but other people as well. What message are you giving to the Muslims of India? That you will live here like second-class citizens, like animals?
“You are telling them that you can oppress people in a Muslim-majority region by deploying 900,000 soldiers who blind kids, mistreat women and the elderly?”
“1.2 billion Muslims are looking at Kashmir. They will be pushed towards extremism as well. Islam means peace, we are peaceful people. But when you see that your people are being mistreated and the world is quiet, you react.
“India blamed Pakistan when a Kashmiri youth blew himself up because they did not want to tell the world that it was because of the Indian government’s brutality that Kashmiris were turning towards extremism.
“They blamed us and sent in their jet. Our airforce then brought down their jets and captured their pilot. We returned him because we wanted to solve issues through dialogue.
“They (India) said that we returned him because we got afraid. Believers do not fear death, we did not return the pilot because we are scared of you.
“They have started to [paint this narrative] again that Pakistan is sending militants.
“I have said this before; we will answer every brick with a stone.
“I urge the international community to stop this Indian Hitler.
PM Imran Khan (L) and former cricketer Shahid Afridi attend a rally in Muzaffarabad. — AFP
“We want this issue to be solved in accordance with UN resolutions. Through a referendum, Kashmiris should have the right to choose whatever they want. We will support the Kashmiris’ choice.”
Addressing the youth of Azad Kashmir while concluding his speech, Prime Minister Imran said: “I know you want to advance towards the Line of Control, but don’t go until I tell you. First let me go to the United Nations and fight Kashmir’s case.”
A number of celebrities including Shehzad Roy, Faakhir Mehmood, Javaid Shaikh, Humayun Saeed and former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi then riled up the crowd. Faakhir and Sahir Ali Bagga also performed.
Lift the curfew: Qureshi tells Modi
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, addressing the large gathering earlier, said that while residents of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have access to news and internet, occupied Kashmir was under a lockdown and a communications blackout.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the large gathering in Muzaffarabad. ─ DawnNewsTV
He demanded that Indian premier Modi lift the curfew and challenged him to hold a rally like the one being held in Muzaffarabad and address the residents of occupied Kashmir.
“The prime minister of Pakistan is addressing AJK people in public in Muzaffarabad. Modi, I challenge you, can you go to Srinagar and address people like this?”
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider thanked the people and government of Pakistan for their support.
“We don’t know how our relatives in occupied Kashmir are doing,” he said, adding: “Do not get entangled in the bilateral dialogue narrative because that undermines the Kashmir issue.”
The prime minister was accompanied by Qureshi, Senator Faisal Javed, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, among others.
Several celebrities and public figures were also in attendance.
The premier had announced the plan in a tweet on Wednesday and said that he means to “send a message to the world about the continuing siege of India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir by Indian occupation forces; and to show the Kashmiris that Pakistan stands resolutely with them”.
It is the prime minister’s third visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 when India scrapped the special status of occupied Kashmir through a rushed presidential order and imposed a strict lockdown and communications blackout in the region, that has been in place for more than 40 days.
Prime Minister Imran had visited Muzaffarabad on Independence Day, when he addressed AJK’s legislative assembly. He paid another visit earlier this month on Defence Day, when he visited the Line of Control and met the families of martyred soldiers as well as those of civilians who were killed by shelling by the Indian forces.