JASKOOL, PAKISTAN – Police blocked a march Sunday by thousands of protesters in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir who wanted to move toward the highly militarized Line of Control that divides the territory between Pakistan and India. The marchers are protesting the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Police placed shipping containers on the road and deployed a large contingent of officers near Jaskool, 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the frontier to stop the supporters of the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, which announced it intended to cross the frontier to help Kashmiris under Indian oppression.
India imposed a strict curfew on Aug. 5 after stripping Indian-controlled Kashmir of its statehood.
JKLF wants Kashmir to be independent from from both India and Pakistan. The group has a history of attempts to cross the de facto frontier in the last three decades, including once in 1992 that ended in violence.
Abdul Hameed Butt, a leader of the JKLF, said the protesters would stage a sit-in until the blockade was removed.
The JKLF march, termed the “Freedom March” began Friday and reached the blockade after two overnight stops.
Police officer Arshad Naqvi said protesters won’t be allowed to continue because of the threat of “unprovoked enemy fire” from the Indian side.
“We want to go and [the Pakistani administration] should let us go to help our people,” said Tahir Hussain, a college student.
Also on Sunday, the main religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, held a protest march in the eastern city of Lahore with thousands protesting against the situation in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Maggie Hassan, along with Ambassador Paul Jones, charge d’ affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, visited Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
A Foreign Ministry statement said the purpose of the visit was to see the ground situation and gauge public sentiment following Aug. 5 “illegal Indian actions” in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Hollen and Hassan met with President Masood Khan and Prime Minister Farooq Haider of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, who both urged the senators to play a role in saving the people of Kashmir from India’s repressive measures and pressing India to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.