Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday expressed solidarity with people of Indian-held Kashmir (IHK), saying Pakistan would always stand by Kashmiris to counter India’s “hegemonic ambitions” the way it had in the past.“There can never be a compromise on Kashmir,” Gen Bajwa said in his Independence Day message to the nation, according to a tweet by the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). “Reality of Kashmir was neither changed by an illegal piece of paper in 1947 nor will any other do it now or in future,” he added, rejecting India’s withdrawal of special status for the occupied territory. Gen Bajwa said the Pakistan Army was “fully alive to the sanctity of Jammu & Kashmir” and would remain prepared to perform its part in line with its national duty for the cause of Kashmir.“We shall stand in the face of tyranny, regardless of the cost,” the COAS vowed. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan had conveyed a similar message, saying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a “strategic blunder” by downgrading occupied Kashmir’s status through the revocation of Article 370. He also warned Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.The messages from the top civil-military leadership come as the nation observes this year’s Independence Day in solidarity with Kashmiris in light of India’s move to annex IHK. The decision to dedicate the occasion to Kashmiris and their “just struggle for their right of self-determination” was made during a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, two days after IHK was stripped of its autonomous status by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India. It was also decided that August 15, India’s day of independence, would be observed as a ‘Black Day’ in protest against the ongoing Indian atrocities, blatant human rights violations and imposition of curfew in the occupied valley.