Kashmiris Celebrated August 14 Half-heartedly
17 August 2007
The News International
Islamabad: Kashmiris in Karachi celebrated August 14 half-heartedly as a majority of their kith and kin are still shelterless due to the October 2005 earthquake. A number of Kashmiris are disappointed by the present situation in Pakistan. They claim that the eventualities in Pakistan under the current regime have put the Kashmir issue on the backburner. They also expressed disappointment at the sudden U- turn in the Pakistani government's foreign policy regarding the Kashmir issue. Advocate Mir Altaf said that Independence Day is also important for Kashmiris but they cannot enjoy this day whole- heartedly as long as those affected by the earthquake are not rehabilitated. 'I am in Muzaffarabad these days and the place is in a despicable condition. Many people are still living in tents, even though it has been almost two years,' he said. He says Kashmiris will celebrate Independence Day when they have their own homes, as they did prior to the earthquake. He said earthquake-affected families who lost their homes were promised Rs200,000 for their rehabilitation but they have only been awarded Rs100,000 so far. He blames the authorities for using different tactics to harass affected families during the process of granting the amount. In fact, some times even bribes are demanded in exchange for grants for affectees. Altaf said the Kashmiris have no hopes from the government and they believe that they should do everything. 'Some time back, the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Sardar Attiq announced that Kashmir will be transformed into Switzerland, but not a single road has been constructed despite these tall claims,' he said. Nevertheless, he is optimistic that real democracy will be established in Pakistan and AJK will also benefit from this positive change. Chairman Jummu and Kashmir Welfare Forum, Sardar Akhlaque Khan, while expressing his views on Independence Day, said that Kashmiris consider August 14 their Independence Day. However, he said that generally the Kashimiris are not too happy. Also, the Kashmir issue is hardly being talked about now. 'These days, the government has been digressing from the Kashmir dispute to other issues such as the judiciary and the emergency situation. He said that natural calamities are also part of life. According to him, the earthquake badly affected the lives of Kashmiris but in the end, it is government policy which is affecting their lives now.