Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday Pakistan will observe July 19 as a “black day” to protest against what he described as “Indian barbarism” in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been roiled by protests over the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
Sharif proposed the observance of the “black day” while chairing a special meeting of his cabinet in Lahore to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. His proposal was accepted by the cabinet, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
The premier and Pakistan's foreign ministry recently angered India by referring to Wani, a commander of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen, as a “Kashmiri leader” and describing his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. At least 37 people have died in the protests following Wani's killing last week.
India has already dismissed Pakistan's criticism of its handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and accused it of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Despite the ire expressed by India, Sharif again described Wani as a “martyr of (the) independence movement”.
During the cabinet meeting, Sharif trotted out Pakistan's stated position of extending “moral, political and diplomatic support for Kashmiris in their just struggle for right to self-determination”. He described the “movement of Kashmiris as a movement of freedom”.
He alleged that “Indian brutalities will give impetus to the freedom struggle” and said the Indian soldiers deployed in Jammu and Kashmir “could not suppress the struggle of Kashmiris”.
Sharif said the “Kashmiri people will get their right to self-determination for which the whole Pakistani nation is standing behind them”. He directed relevant departments to highlight alleged “atrocities” in Jammu and Kashmir at international forums.
The cabinet also offered prayers for what it described as the “martyrs of Kashmir”. Sharif had expressed a desire for better ties with India soon after coming to power in 2013. However, Pakistan's foreign and security policies are largely decided by the powerful military.
Following criticism from opposition political parties for his perceived silence on the Kashmir issue, Sharif and his ruling PML-N party have stepped up criticism of the Indian government's handling of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.