The day, which was also marked in the U.S., Britain, Belgium, and other European countries, has been officially observed every Feb. 5 by Pakistan and Azad (liberated) Kashmir since 1990.

The day began with a moment of silence, bringing traffic across the country to a halt for a minute as a mark of solidarity with the Kashmiris in the occupied valley.

A human chain was formed by thousands of people across roads at several points connecting Pakistan with Azad Kashmir. The song You Can Blind Our Eyes But Cannot Steal Our Dreams -- released by the Pakistan army to denounce Indian forces’ brutal use of force against protesters in the valley -- has gone viral on social media.

In recent months hundreds of Kashmiris have lost their eyesight after being shot by Indian forces through pellet guns.

Crowds chanting slogans such as "We want freedom," "India out of Kashmir," and "We won't rest till we get freedom" took part in demonstrations and rallies in both Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, organized by various political and religious groups.

Jamat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s largest Islamic parties, considered to have spearheaded Kashmir Solidarity Day, also held scores of rallies and demonstrations across Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.

In a message marking the occasion, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said, "Kashmir is unfinished business from the division of the sub-continent" -- a reference to end of British colonial rule in 1947, which led to the creation of Pakistan and India as two independent countries.

"Until and unless the Kashmir dispute is resolved, there will be no peace in the region," Sharif said, vowing that Islamabad will continue to lend political, diplomatic, and moral support to the Kashmiris’ just cause. 

Highlighting the issue

Meanwhile, Syed Ali Gilani -- chairman of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), a conglomerate of pro-freedom political parties in occupied Kashmir -- and Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) leader Shabbir Ahmad Shah expressed their gratitude towards the government, people, and army of Pakistan for supporting the Kashmiri people.

In their statements, the two leaders said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are challenging a major power, and Pakistan is the only country that extends its continuous support to their cause, local English daily Dawn reported.

“We are highly thankful to Pakistan for its categorical support and hope the country plays a more effective role in this regard by activating all its embassies and giving them the task of highlighting the Kashmir issue and human rights violations,” Gilani was quoted as saying.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India -- as Azad Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir, respectively -- with both countries claiming it in full.

The two neighbors have fought three wars -- two of them over disputed Kashmir -- since 1947.

Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.

The decades-long freedom struggle was galvanized late last year following the killing of a young Kashmiri commander, Burhan Muzzafar Wani, sparking a wave of protests across the valley. 

Anadolu Agency