As the lockdown in Occupied Kashmir continues for the third consecutive month escalating regional tensions, anger and frustration have been building up in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). Many have been preparing to storm the Line of Control (LoC) despite Prime Minister Imran Khan's admonition that anyone going across would be an enemy of the Kashmiri people as it would amount to assisting Indian narrative that seeks to divert attention from the indigenous freedom struggle by trying to label it as ‘Islamic terrorism' driven by Pakistan. Once again, on Saturday he said in a tweet, “I understand the anguish of the Kashmiris in AJK seeing their fellow Kashmiris in IOJK [Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir] under an inhumane curfew for over 2 months. But anyone crossing the LoC from AJK to provide humanitarian aid or support for the Kashmiri struggle will play into the hands of the Indian narrative."

Yet on Saturday, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) went ahead with its planned “People's Freedom March" from Muzaffarabad to Occupied Kashmir carrying AJK and its own flags and shouting pro-independence slogans. The marchers were stopped the next afternoon at Jiskool, 11 kilometers ahead of the LoC, their path blocked with containers, barbed wire and other barriers to prevent them from proceeding any further where they would be exposed to Indian shelling. It is not something new for the JKLF, whose late leader Amanullah Khan advocated independence from both Pakistan and India, to want to infiltrate the separation line. Notably, while in Jiskool the marchers also went to the nearby Chinari to pay respects at the grave of Sajjad Anjum, who was among seven JKLF activists killed in February 11, 1992, when Pakistani forces tried to stop a similar march to the LoC. At present, among the thousands of Kashmiri politicians, businessmen, activists and journalists imprisoned by the occupation forces is the JKLF leader Yasin Malik. Many AJK citizens have close relatives on the other side facing arrests, custodial torture, denial of medical help, and loss of livelihoods. How they feel about the situation is perfectly understandably, but any attempt to go across, as the PM has rightly been warning, can only undermine the resistance movement.

Some untoward incident can still spark a conflict between Pakistan and India. Unfortunately, so far the international community has done little beyond expressing concern over the prevailing humanitarian crisis. Although sections of the Western print media have been publishing news and critical comments about gross rights violations, the two major international news networks, the BBC and CNN, have continued to display double standards, almost completely ignoring what is going on in Kashmir at the same time giving extensive news coverage to protests in Hong Kong. Be that as it may, the siege of J&K cannot last forever. What is to follow will be hard for the Delhi government to control. That may well lead to consequences no one in this region or friends of India would like to see. One can only hope before things come to such a pass the international community will intervene, impelling the Narendra Modi government to ease restrictions and release all political prisoners as a first step, and then find a way to resolve the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of Kashmiri people.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019