By Prarthana Mitra
For once, India and Pakistan were united in their stance on Kashmir. Both countries criticised former Pakistan cricket team captain Shahid Afridi after a video, in which he called for an independent Kashmir, went viral. This comes just months after his controversial tweet urging the United Nations to intervene and end the bloodshed in “India occupied Kashmir.”
What Afridi said?
The latest video, which soon made headlines in the Indian media, recorded Afridi saying, “I believe that Pakistan does not want Kashmir, and India too should not be given the state. Kashmir should be an independent country,” further stressing on the “humanity” or “insaniyat” of Kashmiri people. Afridi, who has come under fire for politically controversial comments in the past, was heard attacking Pakistan’s state of affairs, especially its financial breakdown and endless sectarian strife, at a recent press meet with students at the British Parliament in London.
“Say Pakistan doesn’t need Kashmir, don’t give it to India as well, let Kashmir become a country. The people dying there should not die; humanity should stay alive. It pains to see people die there,” he had said, further claiming, “It [Pakistan] is not able to even handle the four provinces it has.”
Criticism from lawmakers and politicians from both sides of the border
Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, on Thursday seized the opportunity to take a jab at Afridi, and at Pakistan at large, saying the cricketer was absolutely right in saying Pakistan should not demand Kashmir. “What he [Afridi] said is right. They are not able to manage Pakistan. How will they manage Kashmir? Kashmir is and will be a part of India,” Singh gloated, at a press conference in Chattisgarh.
Afridi soon found himself in hot water in Pakistan as well as Raja Farooq Haider, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, also slammed him, saying, “It seems that Afridi wants to play in the Indian Premier League and is issuing such statements owing to that … Kashmir is a matter of life and death for us.” ”
The Shiv Sena on Friday also wrote in an editorial that all sane Pakistanis would endorse Afridi’s view, adding that his comments underscored the Imran Khan-led government’s disturbing concern with destroying the structural integrity of India instead of governing their own country.
In their mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena reminded readers of the fact that Pakistan still sought foreign financial aid 70 years after Independence, had been bailed out by China on several occasions, and that the country’s aid request was recently turned down by the IMF.
Not the first time for Afridi
In April, Afridi called for UN intervention and expressed sympathy for the 13 militants who had been struck down in anti-terror operations by Indain forces.
Appalling and worrisome situation ongoing in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.Innocents being shot down by oppressive regime to clamp voice of self determination & independence. Wonder where is the @UN & other int bodies & why aren't they making efforts to stop this bloodshed?
— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) April 3, 2018
Afridi’s tweet did not go down well with most cricketing personalities, on both sides of the border. While former Indian captain Kapil Dev brushed off the remark as insignifcant, Indian skipper Virat Kohli made room for people to have their own political opinions.
Gautam Gambhir called Afridi retarded, as Javed Miandad responded saying he was infuriated by the tweet. Suresh Raina tweeted, “Kashmir is an integral part of India and will remain so always. Kashmir is the pious land where my forefathers were born. I hope @SAfridiOfficial bhai asks Pakistan Army to stop terrorism and proxy war in our Kashmir. We want peace, not bloodshed and violence.”
Perhaps the most scathing reply at the time came from Sachin Tendulkar who said, “We have got capable people to manage and run our country. No outsider needs to know or tell us what we need to do.”
Incidentally, the human rights wing of the UN issued a strict ultimatum for both countries earlier this year to arrive at a comprehensive resolution, and end the decades-long violence across the border. That said, even if Afridi’s comments seem to come from a genuine and impassioned concern for the endless deaths and ongoing violence in Kashmir, they also betray, according to some, an emotional outburst not backed by a proper understanding of the geopolitics of the region.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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