Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday described the act of supporting Kashmiris as jihad, which he and his country were doing because they wanted to make Allah happy. Khan made the remarks immediately after returning from a trip to the United States for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Jihad is an Arabic word that literally means a struggle for a noble cause.

In a speech on Friday at the session in New York City, Khan had lashed out at India for revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and putting the state under an “inhuman curfew”. Pakistan lays claim to the entire Kashmir, and has fought three wars with India over it since Independence.

“Even if the rest of the world is not standing by Kashmiris, Pakistan is,” the prime minister said at the Islamabad airport, where he was given a grand welcome by workers of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Sunday evening. “It is jihad. They’re facing tyranny...we are doing it because we want to make Allah happy... It is a struggle and do not lose heart when the time is not good. Do not be disappointed as the Kashmiris are looking towards you, and hopefully they will win independence.”

Khan reiterated a claim that he had made in his UN address on Friday, that the Indian military had “kept 80 lakh Kashmiris locked down under a curfew”.

In his 50-minute speech on Friday, Khan had said that the United Nations must urge India to lift prohibitory orders in Kashmir, and insist on the region’s right to self-determination. He expressed the fear that Muslims in India would be radicalised seeing Kashmiris “locked up”. Khan had also called Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrogant and had compared the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideology with that of the Nazis.

Modi had addressed the same audience minutes before Khan but did not make any mention of Pakistan or Kashmir. He had merely said the world must unite to fight the scourge of terrorism.

In an interview to CNN later, Khan said: “The moment the curfew is lifted, there are 9,00,000 troops there. I fear there is going to be a massacre.”

India had criticised Khan’s remarks at the UN, wondering whether the Pakistan prime minister could deny the presence of 130 UN-designated terrorists in his country. India also said Pakistan has reduced the size of it minority community from 23% in 1947 to 3% now, and subjected Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Shias, Pashtuns, Sindhis among others to draconian blasphemy laws, systemic persecution, blatant abuse and forced conversions.

Pakistan has been furious ever since India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and responded by suspending trade, downgrading diplomatic ties and writing letters to the United Nations in an effort to internationalise the matter. India, however, has resisted attempts to discuss Kashmir at global platforms, calling it an internal matter.

Nearly two months after the decision to bring Jammu and Kashmir fully under the Indian Constitution, restrictions continue to be in place in many parts, with several Opposition political figures also under detention. The government defends its measures citing law and order concerns.

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