By Faseeh Mangi
Pakistan’s stock market will be shuttered for a second trading session this week to mark solidarity with the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir after India’s government revoked the restive province’s autonomy.
The stock market will be closed for a half day on Friday to mark Defence Day, which is observed in Pakistan to remember the start of the 1965 war with India over Kashmir, the exchange said in a statement on Thursday.
The move to repeatedly suspend trading on the bourse is part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wider strategy of attempting to harden international opinion against India and raise the profile of Kashmir after a marked escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals this year. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full and the mountainous region has been the source of multiple conflicts between the two since independence from British rule in 1947.
On Aug. 5, the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir was scrapped by New Delhi, bringing the country’s only Muslim-majority region under direct federal administration. The government of Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has maintained that its communications blackout and restrictions on movement will be lifted in phases as situation improves and urged the court to not intervene.
Islamabad has continued to protest India’s moves at the United Nations. Last month, Khan appealed to Pakistanis to come out every Friday for half-an-hour to show solidarity with Kashmir, resulting in scattered groups coming out of offices and homes on the streets in major cities such as Karachi, where the stock exchange is based.
The bourse’s closure comes as Pakistan faces a prolonged economic slowdown and the nation’s benchmark KSE-100 Index is the second worst performing market globally in dollar terms.