13:31 GMT28 February 2021
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    Pakistan had announced a weekly march across the country after the Narendra Modi government, in a sudden move, withdrew the special status guaranteed to Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. The Imran Khan government later approached the United Nations to seek support in restoring the region's special status that was revoked in August 2019.

    Pakistan's civilian and military institutions have extended their solidarity to the people of Indian-administered Kashmir claiming the Pakistani people "stand united and resolute" with the people from the region in their "legitimate struggle for self-determination". As part of the Kashmir Solidarity Day, observed since 1991, people in Pakistan organised rallies across the country on Friday.

    Seeking a solution to the disputed region's status in accordance with UNSC resolutions, Khan said that over seven decades of "Indian occupation & oppression have failed to weaken the Kashmiri people's resolve to struggle for their right to self-determination".

    “To the Kashmiri people, my message is that your goal of self-determination is not far. Pakistan will stand with you till you achieve your legitimate rights", Khan added in a video message on Kashmir Solidarity Day.

    One minute of silence was observed at 10:00 a.m. across the country. Solidarity marches are being held in Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, and four provincial headquarters.

    The latest government data released by the Modi government in 2017 suggests that over 41,000 lives have been lost since the eruption of violence in the Kashmir Valley in 1991.

    The casualties include 14,000 civilians, 5,000 security personnel, and 22,000 militants between 1990 and March 2017, then-Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had stated at the United Nations. While New Delhi blamed Islamabad for fuelling militancy in Kashmir, Pakistan claimed that these youths are fighting for independence.

    Talks on the Cards?

    On Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that if India demonstrates sincerity in seeking a just solution to the Kashmir issue, in accordance with UNSC resolutions, "we are ready to take two steps forward for peace".

    ​Diplomatic relations between the two nuclear-armed nations stalled after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status in August 2019 as the Narendra Modi government claimed it was necessary to repeal Article 370 (the law granting special status) to synchronise the development of the region with rest of the country.

    However, speculation about the resumption of diplomatic relations were rife after Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said in a surprise statement on Tuesday that "it is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions".

    Asked about Bajwa's remarks, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday reiterated India's stated position that there couldn't be any talks as long as Pakistan failed to end cross-border terrorism.

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