Kashmir Day in Pakistan has been a national holiday since 1990, when Punjab state leader Nawaz Sharif called for a national strike to show support for the struggle for freedom of the people of Kashmir.
|2019||5 Feb||Tue||Kashmir Day|
|2020||5 Feb||Wed||Kashmir Day|
Since then, February 5th has been a time when people show such support throughout Pakistan and Kashmir, though not necessarily going on strike like on the first Kashmir Day.
The great natural beauty of the Kashmir Valley has long led to its being thought of as a kind of heaven on earth, and this symbol still persists, but today, the Kashmir Valley is often depicted with blood and barbed wire, something akin to the opposite of a heaven on earth, by Pakistani artists. They do this to show their acknowledgement of the many who have died in the 1947 Kashmir War with India and since that time.
In the days of British India, “Jammu and Kashmir” was a province from 1846 on, but when the subcontinent was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947, conflict over Kashmir began. On the one hand, Pakistan could suppose that the Kashmiri people would want to join Pakistan since many Muslims live in the region, but on the other hand, Kashmir joined India on October 26th, 1947, when its Maharaja feared conquest by Pakistan. He had earlier desired Kashmir to be an independent nation, but after raiders from what is now Pakistan attacked his province, he decided Kashmir needed India’s strong military protection. Today, Pakistan refers to Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir as “occupied territory,” and India does likewise to parts of Kashmir now controlled by Pakistan.
In Pakistan and parts of Kashmir on Kashmir Day, there are parades to show solidarity with Kashmir, prayer services for Kashmir at local mosques, political rallies with high-profile speeches, and long marches where protesters chant slogans in favour of the Kashmir Freedom Movement.
Should you tour Pakistan on Kashmir Day, some events and activities to take part in are as follows:
- Attend various festivals presenting the aspects of Kashmir’s cultural heritage held throughout Pakistan. You can also attend debate forums where students compete in giving a “good answer” on how to resolve the Kashmir conflict. Finally, you can learn of Kashmir, both its land, people, and history, on the TV and radio since the airwaves will be flooded with Kashmir-themed programming at this time.
- If you so desire, attend Kashmir rallies in Azad, the capital city of Pakistani Kashmir. You can then also stop by to see the human chains that demonstrators always form across all routes between Pakistan and Indian Kashmir, which are meant to show Kashmir’s people that “they stand with them.”
- If, on the other hand, you would rather avoid anything “too political” and retreat somewhere to relax, there is no better city to visit than Karachi. You can sun yourself and swim at any of its many beaches, including Seaview, Paradise Point, and French Beach. The city is also full of monuments, historic buildings, and museums. Especially be sure to see the National Museum of Pakistan and the Pakistan Maritime Museum. Finally, Karachi also offers beautiful scenery and a look at exotic wildlife, including gazelles, hyenas, wild goats, and numerous bird species at Lake and National Park.
Kashmir Day is a rather controversial holiday, but Pakistanis celebrate it every year and tourists sometimes join in as well. One can enjoy the fanfare, however, and learn of Kashmiri history even without making a political allegiance.