Kashmiri protestors march on Indian embassy in Pakistan

Other News Materials 5 February 2008 12:33 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Hundreds of Kashmiri protestors demanding self-determination for their homeland marched on the Indian embassy in Islamabad on Tuesday as Pakistan observed a national holiday highlighting the region's plight.

More than 200 Kashmiri men holding placards demanding freedom and chanting pro-democracy slogans marched into the capital's heavily-guarded diplomatic quarter and held a brief protest outside the Indian High Commission building.

The protestors were escorted by Pakistani police who searched them for weapons as they entered the diplomatic enclave but otherwise did not interfere with the annual Kashmir Solidarity Day march.

"We are missing more than 10,000 people ... We've had 93,000 dead in the past 20 years," said Syed Yousuf Naseem, leader of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, a Kashmiri rights umbrella organization.

"There will be no peace in this region without a resolution to the Kashmiri issue," he said.

Pakistan and India have been fighting over Kashmir since the countries' partition in 1947, including going to war three times. Islamabad, which supported armed Muslim independence fighters operating in Indian-controlled Kashmir in the 1990s, wants a referendum in hopes that both regions of Muslim-majority Kashmir will vote to join Pakistan.

However, there has been little international interest in Kashmir in recent years, with international media attention in the past year focusing squarely on Pakistan's domestic political crisis and resurgence of Islamic militancy along its western border with Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, the protestors said they were hopeful that the world's focus would return to the Kashmir issue after Pakistan's crucial upcoming parliamentary elections on February 18.

"A time will come where we will get support from the international community," Naseem said. "If there's a resolution (in Kashmir), then there will be no more al-Qaeda."