By Dr Shabir Choudhry
03 September 2011
The former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir is forcibly divided between India and Pakistan; and people suffer on both sides of the divide with varying degrees. Whereas every aspect of suffering is highlighted in the Indian side of the divide, very little is said about what goes on in the Pakistani side. This article explains some of the situation in a territory known as Azad Kashmir.
Pakistan has two territories of State of Jammu and Kashmir under its control, namely Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. Although Azad Kashmir has its own President, Prime Minister, its own flag, but the territory is not azad or independent by any stretch of imagination. Human Rights Watch (and some other international NGOs) described Azad Kashmir as anything but "Azad"; and it is because of this fact the territory is also known as Pakistani occupied Kashmir.
Lal Hussain, a prominent writer and political analyst of Pakistan, in his article, ‘Agony of Azad Kashmir’ writes:
‘So-called Azad Kashmir has a President and Prime Minister. However, the powers of these two offices are less than those of the Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad, itself one of the weakest ministries in Pakistan's federal government.’
Ruling elite and other people of Azad Kashmir have been mentally enslaved through Pakistani propaganda, in name of Islam, brotherhood and through educational system prevailing in this territory for past 63 years. Educational syllabus of so called Azad Kashmir is prepared and approved by bureaucrats of Islamabad. The prime purpose of this is not to educate people; rather it is designed to make people good and obedient slaves of Pakistan.
In the past demand was that Azad Kashmiri leaders and other employees and aspirant express their allegiance to Pakistan, as prescribed by Act 74 prepared and imposed by Islamabad, which stated:
"No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the state's accession to Pakistan".
(Part 2 of section 7 of the Act 74 - Interim constitution, which remains interim after 37 years).
However, demands from Azad Kashmiri leaders have changed with time, and now the rulers of Pakistan and other key players demand personal allegiance; and even allegiance to their dead ones. One can measure depth of this mental slavery by a statement of recently appointed Prime of Minister of Azad Kashmir Chaudhry Abdul Majid, who after becoming a Prime Minister went to graves of Bhutto family in Larkana, Sind, proudly said: ‘I am not a Prime Minister but Majawer of Gari Khuda Baksh’.
Majawer is a man, who is a follower of a saint and like a slave or unpaid servant, looks after shrine after saint’s death. There are no saints in Bhutto family; however, they are all buried in a grave yard in Gari Khuda Baksh. What Prime Minister of so called Azad Kashmir means, he is a slave or unpaid - caretaker of graves of Bhutto family buried in Gari Khuda Baksh. A man or Prime Minister with that level of mental slavery could be called anything but not azad or a free man.
Azadi of azad Kashmiri rulers or Prime ministers could be understood from the following incident. Mumtaz Rathore was an elected Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir. He was a stalwart of Peoples Party Azad Kashmir, and when Benazir Bhutto government fell in Islamabad, he faced problems with the new government. He had certain disagreements with Islamabad, bureaucrats of Islamabad or those control Kashmir policy do not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Few policemen were sent from Islamabad who arrested Mumtaz Rathore, and brought him to Islamabad and imprisoned in 1991. There was hardly any protest against unfair this dismissal from politicians of Azad Kashmir; however, Benazir Bhutto protested over this and said:
“Pakistan had arrested the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, rigged the state election, and alienated the Kashmiris to such an extent that they want an independent Kashmir.”
(Vernon Hewitt, ‘Reclaiming the Past - The search for political and cultural unity in contemporary Jammu and Kashmir’, page 120)
Lal Hussain, a prominent writer and political analyst of Pakistan, comments on the attitude and relationship between the ruling elite of Islamabad and Azad Kashmiri in following words:
‘The Pakistani ruling elite has superficial and hypocritical policies for the appeasement of the Kashmiris. Yet their attitude towards them is not much different from the attitude they had towards the Bengalis when West and East Pakistan were one country. The irony is that most Kashmiri leaders have sold out and blindly follow the dictates of Islamabad. The vast majority of Kashmiris, who belong to the oppressed classes, are the ones who suffer.’
Despite this mental slavery and so many restrictions, as to who can contest elections, control through Kashmir Council, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, General Commanding Officer Murree and Pakistani secret agencies, Islamabad does not trust these leaders of Azad Kashmir. They have appointed four Pakistani senior officials to control all matters of their colony – Azad Kashmir. These people are also called ‘Lent Officers’, who go there not as public servants but as viceroys or overlords. These Pakistani officers are
Chief Secretary, who heads the entire administration;
Finance Secretary, who manages budgetary matters;
Inspector General Police, who control issues related to law and order;
Accountant General, who keeps a watchful eye on all kinds of expenditures.
These four officers are stationed in Islamabad and summon anyone they need to their office; and no office holder can defy them in Azad Kashmir. These overlords, from time to time, do visit their colony and get ‘royal treatment’.
Role of the Azad Kashmir government is limited by Act 74, Article 19 section 2 which reads, ‘The executive authority of the government [of AJK] shall be so exercised as: (a) not to impede or prejudice the responsibilities of the Government of Pakistan; (b) to secure compliance with the laws made by the [AJK] Council.’
As if that was not enough, so called Azad Kashmir and its citizens are further controlled by Kashmir Council, which is effectively a supreme body of this colony; and its Chairman is Prime Minister of Pakistan who appoints five other senior Pakistanis as members of this body. All major decisions, including who will get promotions and what projects should be initiated, are taken in meetings of the Kashmir Council; and elected Assembly of Azad Kashmir has no right to challenge any of the decisions.
In practise, it is the Pakistani Prime Minister who exercises the executive power of the Kashmir Council with help of his Pakistani members and officials present in the meetings; and Azad Kashmiri members which include President and Prime Minister are merely puppets nodding heads. Their prime interest is to make financial gains as membership to the Kashmir Council is literally purchased by Azad Kashmiri members, paying as much as 2 Cror rupees.
And despite these restrictions and bondage, some people of this territory feel they are ‘Azad’ – meaning free. These people live in fantasy world and DONOT understand meaning of azadi – independence. They do not want to come out of this illusion and face real world, because mentally they are slaves and are unable to distinguish between azadi – independence and ghulami- slavery.
In the past, at least, local political parties were allowed to select their candidates for Assembly seats; now even that right is taken away from them, and who will be our Assembly Member is decided by ‘masters’ in Islamabad. These ‘masters’ are in the form of Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, and other heads of Pakistani parties which dominate the politics of this unfortunate territory.
Lal Hussain, after studying the situation of so called Azad Kashmir said:
‘The army and other state agencies want to control this part of Kashmir with an iron grip behind the façade of democracy. Apart from the traditional Kashmiri leaders, they propped up Islamic fundamentalism not only as an auxiliary force in its conflict with the Indian army, but more importantly as force to crush left-wing forces and groups that refused to toe the official line. They try to buy every emerging leader.’
He further writes:
‘This “Azadi” has only brought them deprivation, misery, poverty, and disease. It has forced them to migrate from the beauty of their homeland into the drudgery of far away lands. They have learnt the real meaning of “Azadi”. Without food, shelter, clothing, health services, education, water, electricity, and other basic needs, freedom is a mirage, a utopia, and a deception.’
Water resources and Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression is strictly controlled by various agencies of Pakistan. Those who defy their instructions have to face different kinds of social, political and economic problems. However, those writers and political activists who promote Pakistan’s Kashmir policy are generously rewarded and are presented as loyal Kashmiris and leaders of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Muhammad Saeed Asad is the author of numerous books on Kashmiri. Three of his books were banned by Pakistan, and one book was on upraising of the Mangla Dam which explained exploitation of Kashmir’s water resources by Pakistan. While talking to Human Rights Watch, he said:
‘I was suspended from my government job for writing on the Mangla Dam issue. The ISI called me upon publication of the book. It was a major in the ISI. He verified that I had compiled the book and had not been forced into writing it. The book represented the views of Kashmiris on Mangla and indicates that Pakistan was exploiting Kashmir for its own gains. Two weeks after publication, I had a three-hour-long meeting with Pakistan Military Intelligence. They told me that this was a sensitive matter and I should not have written about it. The public does not know why you have brought this into the public domain, the officer said. I replied that people had a right to know what Mangla Dam was and who derived advantages from it. It was my national duty, as a Kashmiri, to bring this out. This is precisely your crime,’ the officer said. The meeting had majors from GHQ Rawalpindi and officers from Military Intelligence. You should avoid writing such books. We are placing you under surveillance one said. They keep giving me trouble by stopping pay raises, suspending me from the job periodically and posting me from district to district in order to make life difficult. But, I am determined to keep on writing and to keep on working.’
Pakistan heavily relies on water of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers which all flow through the State of Jammu and Kashmir before reaching Pakistan; and many experts believe that Pakistan is more interested in water of Jammu and Kashmir then the welfare of the people of this territory. Pakistan's former Foreign Minister Zafarullah Khan once said:
“If Kashmir should accede to India, Pakistan might as well, from both the economic and strategic points of view, become a feudatory of India or cease to exist as an independent sovereign state.”
(Michael Brecher, ‘The Struggle for Kashmir’, page 48)
Apart from books, print and electronic media is also under strict control of Pakistani agencies; and no journalist is allowed to expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy or Pakistan’s exploitation of Azad Kashmiri resources. Anyone who dares to cross the red line drawn by secret agencies of Pakistan is immediately warned and punished.
Water and other resources of Azad Kashmir are exploited by Pakistan without impunity; and Azad Kashmiri governments are not even in a position to complain or criticise. Mangla Dam was built inside the Azad Kashmir territory against the will of the local people; and tragedy is that despite our suffering and uprooting we do not benefit from its electricity or its water. We have no control over it at all; and we were not paid any royalty.
Total electric requirement of Azad Kashmir is around 335 megawatt; and Mangla Dam alone produces more than 1000 megawatt. Azad Kashmir has potential to produce more than 18,000 megawatt; at present total electric production of Azad Kashmir is around 1500 megawatt. How sad, despite this local production of electricity, we are not given 335 megawatt, and the people of my country suffer in dark. Their business and economy is hit by lack of power; and their agriculture is deprived of much needed water because they cannot use water stored in the Mangla Lake.
Tragedy is that the Azad Kashmir government cannot start any project without the approval of Kashmir Council which is controlled by Prime Minister of Pakistan and other Pakistani officials. For example, Pakistani government does not allow Azad Kashmir to use electricity produced by Mangla Dam or by any other power projects in Azad Kashmir, but Azad Kashmir CANNOT start a power project to meet its electricity requirements. The Act 74 lists fifty-two subjects—virtually everything of any importance—that are under the jurisdiction of the Azad Kashmir Council, which has been described as the “supra power” by the Azad Kashmir High Court. Its decisions are final and not subject to judicial review.
By using name of Islam and Two Nations Theory India and Muslims of the Sub Continent were divided, not to serve Islam but to protect and promote political, economic and strategic interests of Western Imperialists. Lal Hussain while commenting on Two Nations Theory said:
‘The two-nation theory requires constant rivalry and hatred against the Indian adversary. It is Kashmir that provides the material for this conflict.’
He further said:
‘If the Indian army has the biggest concentration of military forces in Indian-Held Kashmir, then it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Azad Kashmir is a garrison and cantonment for the Pakistan army. There is hardly any aspect of life in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir where there is no interference of the army, whether overt or covert. Ministers and politicians in Azad Kashmir are often seen lining up outside the offices of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Muzaffarabad. For almost three decades the two most important areas of Pakistan's foreign policy, Afghanistan and Kashmir, have been run by the intelligence agencies.’
To conclude, ‘it is suffice to say that the people of Kashmir should not expect the government of Azad Kashmir to play any positive role in the freedom struggle, because it is not free to act independently. The name of the government may be Azad (free) but it is not free by any stretch of imagination, and its role is to look after the interests of Pakistan, and in doing so its rulers are by and large given a free hand to accumulate wealth and enjoy themselves. They are allowed to do everything else as long as they DO NOT concentrate on the freedom struggle. Whatever lip service is being paid by politicians of Azad Kashmir, it is on individual basis, and it is largely to satisfy the masses, rather than to support the freedom movement.’
‘How Government of Pakistan and their officials treat people of so called Azad Kashmir could be seen from the events of the recent elections or a shameful drama managed and controlled by officials of Pakistan. Who is going to be a candidate of the two biggest Pakistani parties operating in Azad Kashmir is decided by President Asif Zardari of Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.’
Source: The International News Magazine