The Independence Day, normally a day for celebration, came on the third day of Eid-ul-Azha this year and yet, due to Indian transgressions in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), featured muted celebrations throughout the country. Leaders from both the government and the opposition spent time with Kashmiris in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) with Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Shah Mehmood Qureshi reciting Eid prayers in AJK and the Prime Minister addressing a special session of the AJK Assembly on August 14 to show his support.

The move by political leaders of the country to stand with Kashmiris at this difficult time must be appreciated. Not just that, but standing shoulder to shoulder to pray for Kashmir – as the Foreign Minister and Mr Bhutto-Zardari did – tells us that there might be hope for unity at this difficult time, even though recent evidence has shown otherwise.

Even though many of them cannot see eye to eye within parliament, supporting the right of self-determination of Kashmiris is non-negotiable, and celebrations for independence are of no value if many of our brethren are being oppressed by Indian forces in IOK. No connection to the outside world, a restriction on free movement and dwindling supplies of food and water means that while Pakistanis could celebrate their Eid comfortably, those in the disputed region fear for their lives and freedoms with no hope for respite.

The forced occupation of IOK by the Modi government is also a reminder of the price of freedom. Quaid-e-Azam’s vision in creating a separate homeland for Muslims in the Subcontinent stands vindicated 72 years later. Protecting our freedom from any and all external threats – especially India – is a cause greater than any other for Pakistanis. The Prime Minister’s address in AJK also mentioned this fact – the revelation that Azad Kashmir may be next in India’s plans to subvert the region is a grim reality that we must all face. The capabilities of our armed forces however, are enough to inspire confidence in the fact India’s devious designs in the region will not be fruitful.

Pakistan is indeed a smaller country in many respects, but our staunch conviction to protect our country and be ready to defend it in this difficult time trumps any larger force that might threaten us. Right now, India is using a large number of troops in Kashmir to prevent the indigenous movement from fighting for its independence. But this is not a permanent solution; as soon as the curfew is lifted, India can expect massive demonstrations against this brutal occupation. Until that happens, each and every Pakistani supports the Kashmiris with every breath in their body. Pakistan Zindabad. Kashmir Zindabad.