Pakistan began a special joint session of its parliament Tuesday to discuss a possible response a day after rival India revoked the special status for Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region both the countries claim in its entirety.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan plans to address the lawmakers to explain his government’s future plan of action.
India added a special provision to its constitution in 1949 providing autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, allowing the region to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defense and communications. India’s Hindu nationalist-led government scrapped the constitutional provision on Monday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long campaigned for ending the special status granted to Kashmir, saying it hampered development and encouraged youth there to join insurgents fighting Indian rule.
Pakistan swiftly condemned and rejected Monday’s announcements by India as “illegal steps.”
“No unilateral step by the government of India can change this disputed status, as enshrined in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. Nor will this ever be acceptable to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The country’s top military commanders held a special meeting Tuesday to review the security situation in the wake of India’s controversial move.
Following its special meeting Tuesday the Pakistani army said in a statement that Islamabad had never recognized the provisions New Delhi revoked because they were part of what the statement said was India’s “sham” efforts to legalize its “occupation” of Kashmir.
“[The] Pakistan army firmly stands by the Kashmiris in their just struggle to the very end. We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfill our obligations in this regard,” the statement quoted the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, as saying.
Anti-India protests also erupted Tuesday in cities across the Islamabad-administered one-third of Kashmir and in several major Pakistani cities.
American envoy arrives in Pakistan
Meanwhile, a senior American diplomat arrived in Islamabad Tuesday for pre-scheduled bilateral meetings. Pakistani officials said the latest developments in Kashmir were likely to figure high in the talks with Alice Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs.
Ahead of Monday’s announcements, the Indian government deployed tens of thousands of additional troops in Kashmir, arrested local political leaders, including former chief ministers, imposed a security lockdown and cut off all telecommunications as well as cable television networks to deter agitation.
In its immediate reaction on Monday, the United States said it was “closely” following developments in Kashmir. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Monday urged India and Pakistan to “exercise restraint” following India’s announcement.
“We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. She called on “all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control [the de facto Kashmir border].”
India’s move could fuel separatist violence
Critics warn the move will likely exacerbate ongoing bloody rebellion in Kashmir and deteriorate military tensions between India and Pakistan, both armed with nuclear weapons, who have already fought two wars over the divided region.
The Muslim insurgency and the ensuing Indian security crackdown are estimated to have killed 70,000 people in Kashmir over the past three decades. New Delhi has consistently accused Islamabad, particularly the country’s powerful military, of being behind the militancy.
Pakistan rejects the charges and maintains it only provides diplomatic and moral support to the separatists. End.