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Pakistan calls for UN resolutions on Kashmir holiday
Pakistan celebrated its 16th Kashmir Solidarity Day on Friday, a national holiday to highlight the plight of Kashmiris in the area. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for the UN Security Council to resolve the situation in the region by applying decades-old resolutions.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947, with both claiming sovereignty in a dispute that has sparked two wars between the neigbouring countries.
Decades-old UN resolutions call for a referendum, but New Delhi views them as obsolete and is firmly opposed to intervention from the international community.
Olivier Guillard, a specialist of the region, says Kashmir Day is one way for the Pakistani government to revamp its efforts for a unified Kashmir and to garner international support for a United Nations resolution:
"Kashmiri Day is a chance for Pakistan to get on India's nerves, by reminding them that the world's second-most powerful country in South-East Asia will not lower its guard.
"It's a chance for Pakistan to say, make their position clear," he adds, "that the question should be settled by the United Nations against India's will.
The day began with a minute of silence for the thousands of Kashmiris who have died in the conflict. At Kohala Bridge, Mangla Bridge and other points connecting Pakistan and the Pakistani-controlled region of Azad Kashmir, human chains were formed in a show of solidarity. The day was also marked by rallies and public meetings to draw attention to the Kashmiris' plight.
But behind the many slogans and calls for solidarity, the celebration has taken on different meanings on both sides of the border.
In Pakistan, politicians and government supporters are keen to emphasise the importance of a unified Kashmir, under Pakistani authority.
But for many Kashmiris living in the second most-heavily militarised region in the world, Kashmir Day is a chance to express their frustration at being trapped in a decade-long stalemate between neighbouring powers.
One Pashtun student from Azad Kashmir, who preferred to remain anonymous, used the celebrations to denounce Pakistan and India's involvement in Kashmir.
"For the last 60 years Kashmir has been torn apart by their national self-interests," she said. "Leaving the two countries to resolve the conflict has produced no results."
"Kashmiris need leaders who raise their voice for the oppressed, like Gandhi, or the independence activist Bacha Khan Baba."
According to Olivier Guillard, a lot of people in the region share the student's criticism of both regional powers, and wish for the two countries to resume peaceful relations as soon as possible:
"The region has been at war for almost 60 years. Every family in the region has been hit by tragic events or had youngsters recruited by military groups. Most of the population simply hope for a return to normal relations between Pakistan and India."
In recent years, political leaders in Pakistan have struggled to resume bilateral talks with India in the face of mounting political pressure from the country's powerful military.
On Friday Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for a renewal of talks which were supposed to be held in January but were delayed following an attack on an Indian air base.
But with both India and Pakistan still claiming full sovereignty over the region, and the international community reluctant to get involved, the status quo is unlikely to end soon.