Thursday, 29 May 2008

Azad Kashmir- is it Azad? Part 1

Azad Kashmir- is it Azad? Part 1
Dr Shabir Choudhry

I receive a considerable response from my readers which includes some non-Kashmiris as well. As a matter of policy I personally respond to them either on phone or by email. Sometimes I give full explanations to their comments and sometimes I simply thank them for their comments.

Some of the response I receive is verbal and some in written form by email, and this communication is really important to me as it gives me some feedback and tells me what people think of the issues I have raised. Some of the comments generate more discussions and help me to write on these topics, and clarify certain points. I have decided to include one such letter in this week’s article and will try to respond to points raised by him. Mr Abid Hashmi from Huddersfield, England wrote:

Shabir Sahib Aslamo Alaykam

I had already read this article in your earlier message to Kashnet. Its quiet interesting read and the analysis you make seem to hit the right places. The only point that seems somewhat contradictory to your own analysis is labelling the Kashmiris on this side of the divide as ‘Azad Kashmiris’. This would surely please Pakistanis, as from their point of view people on this side of the LOC are ‘Azad’, and people on the other side are ‘occupied’ and ‘ghulam’.

However, I am rather disappointed to see this coming from a person who claims and has fought for years for Kashmiri nationalism and united and independent Kashmir. You might not like it but this is my observation; anyhow the contents of your article can certainly promote the cause of British Kashmiris. I suppose you can tell us if Azad Kashmir is Azad, and if it is Azad what Azadi does it have?

Abid Hashmi

I have known Abid Sahib for many years and I find him very honest and dedicated person. Like me he has also worked hard for the Kashmir cause and has made tremendous contribution to the Kashmiri Identity Campaigns in Britain. Also he has made valuable contribution to the charitable work and has helped many people on both sides of the divide.

Abid Sahib knows what is Azad Government and what is its role, perhaps he like me to elaborate this for the benefit of those who are still not sure about it. Like any one else Abid Sahib is entitled to hold an opinion and express it as well. I agree with him, to the extent that the term Azad Kashmiri could be misleading, and could be used in negative sense.

I had my reasons for using this term, and some background to this was discussed in my previous article, Nature of Kashmiri struggle’. People on this side of the divide, for whatever reason, are not clear in their thoughts and actions. They are not sure whether to call themselves Kashmiris, Azad Kasahmiris or Pakistanis. And the unfortunate increasing gulf between different ethnic groups of Kashmir is not helping the matters. People outside the Valley of Kashmir, at times, are not considered as ‘real Kashmiris’, and this weakness in sense of belonging is not helping in ‘nation building’ process.

This topic is an important one and needs complete analyses and clarity, and it could not be done in this article. Also if we can discuss and analyse Azad Kashmir and its ‘Azadi’ then perhaps it would be easier to clarify this ambiguity.

Before we discuss and analyse ‘Azad Government’ and its ‘Azadi’, we need to establish what do we mean by the word ‘Azad’ or ‘Azadi’? Azad could mean something or someone without any restrictions, independent and sovereign; or it could mean liberal. Of course here it is not used in the sense of liberal, but independent and sovereign. The word independent itself has many meanings it could mean self – governing, autonomous, self-regulating, free or sovereign.

If by Azad we mean sovereign, then this like word independent has many meanings. If we take the generally understood meaning of sovereign - a supreme ruler or monarch - someone with absolute powers, then question arises how many countries are there or how many rulers are there with absolute powers in the world.

We have more than 180 independent countries which are members of the UN, but question is how many of them are independent and sovereign in true sense of the word. In one sense they are all independent, but only a few of them have absolute sovereignty, others are heavily dependent on others and certain restrictions are imposed on their conduct. That means independence is a relative term, all countries are independent but not all have complete sovereignty, most countries have a degree of sovereignty depending on their power, geographical location and friendship with other powers with absolute sovereignty.

Many might question if Pakistan, which controls Azad Kashmir, is a sovereign country. We all know that at times Pakistani rulers are not asked to do something but are told to do it, so where is the sovereignty of Pakistan when FBI, IMF and World Bank are calling the shots inside Pakistan, and where was the sovereignty of Yemen when six innocent (every one is presumed innocent until tried and convicted in a court of law) men fell victim to American shelling. There are many more such incidents where sovereignty of countries is invaded by those who think they have ‘right’ to do so.

In view of that Azad Kashmir is certainly not Azad; it is not even semi autonomous. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was semi autonomous during the British Raj, and history tells us that no ruler of Kashmir was ‘sacked and removed’ by the British, although they tried to curtail powers of Kashmiris rulers especially during the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh.

And if we compare the semi autonomous period under the British Raj with the period since 1947, the latter is shameful. I lost the count how many times Pakistani authorities have ‘sacked and removed’ Azad Kashmiri rulers. Not only they were ‘sacked and removed’ but disgraced and imprisoned, and despite that if we want to call ourselves Azad then no one can help us.

Provisional Republican Government for Kashmir announced

Anyhow it would help the readers if we could explain how the Azad Kashmir Government was formed, and what happened to it afterwards. The provisional Government for Kashmir was announced on 4th October 1947. It is important to note that at that time the future status of three Princely States was not decided: Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad and Jungadh. The last two had Muslim rulers with non- – Muslim majority population; and Kashmir had non – Muslim ruler with Muslim majority population.

The Muslim ruler of Junagadh declared to accede to Pakistan, even though there was no land link with Pakistan, and the majority of the people were not Muslim. Pakistan accepted this ‘accession’, and in response to this a provisional Government for Junagadh was announced in Bombay on 1 October 1947.

Encouraged by this some Kashmiri activists, namely Ghulam Nabi Gilkar, Bashir Din, Mehmood Ahmed, Mufti Zia- U- Din, and Mohammed Abdullah Qadri, gathered in Lahore to do something for Kashmir. They agreed to set up a similar type of Provisional Government, but no one was prepared to face the consequences. At last Ghulam Nabi Gilkar took the challenge, and as a matter of precaution, he used a fake name Mr Anwar, and sent a statement.

The statement, signed by Mr Anwar, described him as the President of the Provisional Republican Government of Kashmir read like this:

‘With the termination of the Paramountcy of the British Crown the ruling family of Kashmir have lost whatever rights it claimed under the treaty of Amritsar, under which Kashmir was transferred by the British to Maharaja Gulab Singh, a forefather of the present ruler, for a paltry sum of Rs. 50 lakhs, and that the people have set up a Provisional Government with Headquarters at Muzaffarabad’.

‘If after 1pm on 4 October Hari Singh (the present Maharaja) or any person acting under his orders or instructions claims to rule over the State, he shall be punished according to the laws of the Provisional Government. Henceforth all the laws, orders and instructions promulgated by the Provisional Government shall be respected and obeyed.’

Over the years Pakistani and Azad Kashmir Government official find it convenient not to mention the Provisional Government of 4 October 1947, and focus of attention has been the government which was set up on 24 October. It is unfortunate to note that even the historians and academics have increasingly failed to acknowledge the first Provisional Government. To be continued….

Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and
booklets on Kashmir.

Azad Kashmir- is it Azad? Part 2
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Provisional Government Reorganised
It was absolutely clear that those who announced the Provisional Republican Government for Kashmir had an independent Kashmir in mind, and this did not go down well with the authorities in Pakistan. In order to serve what they perceived as their national interest, they decided to ‘kill’ this idea of an independent Kashmir, and install their own men in charge of this Provisional Government. So in the name of ‘reorganisation’ a new set up was put in the place of the Provisional Government, and it was announced on 24 October 1947.

Nowadays very few people make any reference to the Provisional Government announced on 4th October, and every effort is made to highlight the one announced on 24th. Some even deny the announcement of 4th October, and claim that it was a ‘conspiracy of some Qadianis’. No doubt those who made that announcement on 4th October had some Qadianis among them, but they did that as Kashmiri nationalists rather than ‘Qadianis’. Anyhow this was another reason why authorities in Pakistan felt it necessary to ‘topple’ this Provisional Government. Only good thing in the announcement of 24th October was a reference to the Provisional Government of 4th October, and it reads like this:

‘The Provisional Azad Government, which the people of Jammu and Kashmir had set up a few weeks back with the object of ending intolerable Dogra tyrannies and securing to the people of the State, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, the right of
self – government, has now established its rule over a major portion of the State territory and hopes to liberate the remaining pockets of Dogra rule very soon. In view of these circumstances it has been reconstituted with Mr Ibraim, Barrister – at –Law, of Poonch as its Provisional head and its headquarters has been moved to Pulandri, in Poonch’

The statement claimed that the Provisional Government is non – communal and ‘will include Muslims as well as non – Muslims in the Provisional Cabinet’. It expressed its desire to have friendly relations with both India and Pakistan, and expected that ‘both the Dominions will sympathise with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their effort to exercise their birthright of political freedom………..’

Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim was appointed the President of new Provisional Government at the age of 30. It is interesting to note that when he went to bed on the night of 23rd October he didn’t know that he would become a President of Provisional Government next day. Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim himself acknowledges that he did not know anything about this until on the night of 23 October ‘I was awakened almost at the dead of night by Khawaja Abdul Rahim and Nasim Shah Nawaz…..who told him that it had become necessary to announce the formation of a reconstituted Government with himself as President, and that the announcement could not be delayed.’

Those who played leading role in ‘King making’ were Khawaja Abdul Rahim, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot, Chief Minister of Punjab and Nasim Shah Nawaz, who was married to General Akbar Khan. This clearly shows that the decision to ‘reorganise’ was planned and executed by the Pakistani officials. They, of course, would not appoint anyone as President who would disobey them. Full credit goes to them, they selected the right man who has served the Pakistani interest through out his life; even in his old age he is still carrying his duty loyally.

Two main reasons are given for this ‘reorganisation’ one is that Ghulam Nabi Gilkar, head of the first Provisional Government, was Qadiani, and that he had no permission from the party leaders (Muslim Conference leadership) to set up a Provisional Government. Both arguments are illogical, if Ghulam Nabi Gilkar was Qadiani then so was Sir Zafarull Khan, first Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Why wasn’t he removed from his post, and if he was ‘suitable’ to represent Pakistani interest, why Ghulam Nabi Gilkar could not have remained as Head of the Provisional Government of Kashmir.

As for getting the permission is concerned all the prominent leaders of the Muslim Conference, such as Choudhry Hameedullah Khan, Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim, Mir Waiz Mohammed Yousaf Shah etc, were present in Rawalpindi. If this logic makes the first Provisional Government ‘illegal’ then it also makes the second one ‘illegal’ because the Muslim Conference leadership was not consulted on this occasion as well.

The main reason for toppling Ghulam Nabi Gilkar’s Provisional Government was that it was in hands of those who believed in an independent Kashmir and Pakistani authorities were only interested in getting Kashmir, and not in Azadi of the people. What happened to Ghulam Nabi Gilkar afterwards is not known. After taking this daring step he decided to go back to Srinager to organise people in support of this government, but he was arrested on the way, and mystery still surrounds his arrest and what happened to him afterwards.

To what extent Azad Kashmir government is Azad could be seen from the fact that its first President was selected and appointed by some people in Rawalpindi in October 1947, and its present President is also selected and appointed by some people in Rawalpindi. He is also Sardar like the first President, and like him probably didn’t know if he was getting a ‘new job’ in a form of a ‘promotion’, when he was planning his week as a general before becoming the President of Azad Kashmir.

Only difference between the two Presidents is that the present one is selected and appointed in 21st Century, and Azad Kashmir Assembly was told to rubber stamp his appointment as a President, and in October 1947 there was no such assembly. However this debate will continue as people in Azad Kashmir and especially some of their leaders think they are ‘Azad’.

It might be argued that deep inside their hearts majority of people in Azad Kashmir know they are not ‘azad’ by any stretch of imagination, but they would still like to be called ‘azad’ because of two reasons:

1. It gives them some sense of false pride that they are azad;
2. But more importantly if they say they are not ‘azad’ then question would be what are they doing to change their situation. Despite better facilities Kashmiri people on the other side of the LOC were considered as not ‘azad’ and they felt necessary to rebel against that situation.

People of ‘Azad Kashmir’ feel it is better to declare them, as ‘azad’ then there would be no obligation to ‘rebel’ or do something to change the situation. So in other words one can take this as another kind of escapist attitude, and refusal to call spade a spade.

It would be interesting to note that in ‘ghulam Kashmir’ Chief Minister has right to travel to all parts of Kashmir on that side of LOC, and this right is not denied to other leaders. Despite a large concentration of army, some Kashmiri leaders like Shabir Shah have used this right to travel to Ladakh and Jammu to conduct political activities. But on this side of the LOC where apparently ‘azad people live, President and Prime Minister of ‘Azad Kashmir’ have no right to travel to Gilgit and Baltistan, areas of State of Jammu and Kashmir.

At the height of Freedom struggle in mid 1990s, one popular Azad Kashmiri Prime Minister expressed his desire to visit Gilgit and Baltistan. He was told categorically by officials of Ministry of Kashmir Affairs (Pakistan) that he CANNOT go there; and that he was Prime Minister of ‘Azad Kashmir (area of around four thousand square miles), and Gilgit and Baltistan (area of around 28000 Sq miles) DOES NOT fall under his jurisdiction. The ‘poor’ Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir had to accept this ‘order’ and come back to Muzaffarabad.

Not only that these high officials cannot travel to Gilgit and Baltistan, no Kashmir organisation or group is entitled to go there and hold any political activity. Many years ago some activists of National Students Federation from ‘Azad Kashmir’ tried to go to Gilgit and Baltistan to hold political meetings. They were arrested on their arrival, tortured, head and moustache shaved, disgraced and ‘dishonoured’ and thrown in remote areas of North West Frontier without any food or means to travel back.

Without any food and money to travel back they really had hard time getting back home. And above all the way they were ‘dishonoured’ by their own Muslim brothers put shame to them, and since then no group has attempted to go back there. Who says we are not ‘azad’, those who say we are not ‘azad’ must be enemy ‘agents’. To be continued
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

Azad Kashmir- is it Azad? Part 3
Dr Shabir Choudhry

Azad Kashmir has nearly all the ingredients of a government minus sovereignty. For example, it has offices of President and Prime Minister, ‘elected’ Assembly, Kashmir Council, Supreme Court and its own flag. What it doesn’t have is sovereignty over the area on this side of the LOC, and free hand to rule this area. There are many other things which independent countries have and Azad Kashmir doesn’t have them, we’ll discuss them later on.

President Bush is the strongest man on earth with mightiest forces at his command, yet he cannot walk into Cuba, a tiny troublesome neighbour and build a dam or powerhouse to meet energy requirements of the USA. He cannot even build a dam or powerhouse in any of the American States without a series of negotiations and agreement with that State even though that dam or powerhouse is in the larger interest of the USA.

Here we have ‘an independent state of Azad Kashmir’ where Mangla dam was built without any consultation or any written agreement with the Azad Kashmir government of the time. The dam was built to meet energy requirements of Pakistan, yet thousands of ‘Azad Kashmiris’ were made homeless, and to rub salt in their wounds, to date no royalty is paid to ‘Azad Kashmir government. Apart from that appropriate arrangements were not made to relocate the suffering people of Mirpur who lost their homes and graves of their forefathers to meet energy requirements of Pakistan.

As if that was not enough, Pakistani authorities after failing to build a dam in Kala Bagh, decided to have another go at the people of Mirpur. New plans were made to upraise the dam and uproot thousands of people again, but our ‘Azad government’ was not even consulted at planning stage. They had to talk to the Azad Kashmiri authorities at implementing stage, which they did, and that is generally to ensure that there is no trouble and some compensation is paid to the people.

If ‘elected government of Azad Kashmir’ is not consulted on this major issue, then of course there is no question of consulting the people as it is expected of them to give in to this demand, because if they don’t then they would be considered as ‘anti Pakistan’, and in worst case ‘pro India.’

There would be many to oppose what I have written above and say that this is not true, and that we are ‘azad’, and can do what we want in ‘Azad Kashmir’. Of course we are azad to open our grocery store and fancy goods shop around the corner or clothes shop, go to mosque five times a day as well, and free to go to Islamabad and Lahore but not to Gilgit and Baltistan. If only this is our concept of ‘azadi’ then we are ‘azad’.

I am sure during the time of the British one had right to open a shop in any part of the country and go to mosque as well. And it was because of this false sense of being ‘azad’ to which Allama Iqbal said:
Mullah ko jo hai Hind main sajday ki ijazat
Nadan yeh samjta hai ke Hindustan hai azad

Meaning of that is that Mullahas have permission to freely pray in India and because of this these ignorants think India is independent.

Those who claim that we are ‘azad’ need to ask themselves if the government of Azad Kashmir can make a policy on the following:
1. Plan its own economic policy and open State Bank of Kashmir where expatriate Kashmiris could send money directly that Azad Kashmir government could make use of this foreign exchange?
2. Take control of resources in its territory, for example, take control of Mangla Dam and take control of Gilgit and Baltistan and development of these areas.
3. Directly make contracts with foreign countries for help and support and for other development projects?
4. Make a policy on nationality, citizenship and naturalisation, migration from or into Azad Jammu&Kashmir, admission into, and immigration and expulsion from AJK including in relation to the regulation of the movements in AJK;
5. Make a policy on Post and Telegraphs, including Telephones, Wireless Broadcasting and other like forms of Communications; Post Office Saving Banks;
6. Make a policy on Aircraft and air navigation; the provision of aerodromes;
regulation and organisation of air traffic and aerodromes;
7. Make a policy on Railways, Electricity, Curriculum, syllabus, planning, Tourism, Duties of customs, including export duties, State Property in Pakistan, Mineral oil and natural gas.

In short, according to the INTEREM CONSITUTION OF AZAD KASHMIR ACT, 1974, there are 55 important policy areas where Azad Kashmir government has no jurisdiction at all; and it is this Act and the Karachi Pact which strongly controls and curtails powers of the Azad Kashmir government.

The Karachi Pact, gave Pakistan power to control Gilgit and Baltistan and assume all the following responsibilities:
1. Defence (as modified under....).
2. Foreign policy of Azad Kashmir.
3. Negotiations with the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan.
4. Publicity in foreign countries and in Pakistan.
5. Co - ordination and arrangement of relief and rehabilitation of refugees.
6. Co - ordination of publicity in connection with plebiscite.
7. All activities within Pakistan regarding Kashmir such as procurement of food, civil supplies running of refugee camps and medical aid.
8. All affairs of Gilgit - Ladakh under the control of Political Agent.

It is claimed that Sardar Ibrahim Khan, signed the Karachi Pact, as the President of Azad Kashmir, but interesting thing is that during his visit to UK some years ago he denied this claim, and categorically stated that he never signed the Karachi Pact. This news was also published in Pakistani and Kashmiri newspapers. If he has not signed this Agreement then who did, and what is the legal position of Pakistan with regard to all the above.

That aside, ACT 1974 does not allow anyone to contest elections of any kind in AK without taking oath of allegiance to Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. If someone refuses to sign this allegiance, his nomination would be rejected for not filling in accession to Pakistan oath document.

Similarly no Minister, Prime Minister or President in Azad Kashnir can assume office unless he takes the oath of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. In other words if you want a job of any kind in Azad Kashmir you have to sign oath of allegiance. Section 7.2 of the Act 74 clearly says: "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".

Section 21 explains about the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council:

There shall be an Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, and Prime Minister of Pakistan shall be the Chairperson of the Council. The Chairperson (Pakistani Prime Minister) will appoint five members to the Kashmir Council. Other members are: The President (AJK), the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir or a person nominated by him; and six members to be elected by the Azad Kashmir Assembly.

Moreover to make sure that Azad Kashmir government does not make any ‘silly’ move, Pakistan has ensured that all high ranking officers like Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary, Inspector General Police etc for Azad Kashmir are sent by Islamabad government.

At one time Azad Jammu and Kashmir government had its own army with its own Chief of Staff. Azad Jammu and Kashmir Forces were disbanded by Pakistan, and now Azad Kashmir governments have no right to have its own army, whereas ‘Azad’ countries take it as their right to have their own army. The story does not end here, section 31.3 states that AJK Council and the Assembly does not have power to make any laws concerning the following:

v The defence and security of Azad Jammu and Kashmir;
v The current coin or the issue of any bills, notes or other paper currency;
v The external affairs of Azad Jammu and Kashmir including foreign trade
and foreign aid.

And Section 35 further degrades the Azad Kashmir Constituent Assembly, which says: Bills passed by the Council shall not require the assent of the President (AJK) and shall, upon its authentication by the Chairperson of the Council, become law and be called an act of the Council. (Please remember that the chairperson of the Council is always the Prime Minister of Pakistan).

Let us look at the oath that rulers of Azad Kashmir take and see what ‘Azadi’ they have. Azad Kashmiri rulers solemnly declare: "That as a President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir I will remain loyal to the country and to the cause of accession of the State of Jammu&Kashmir to Pakistan"
We have habit of calling areas of Azad Kashmir as ‘azad’, and areas under India as occupied. One can see from the above that Azad Kashmir is not ‘Azad’, but if people for whatever reason want to live in this false sense of being ‘Azad’, then it cannot be helped.
Writer is a Kashmiri leader based in London and author of many books and booklets on Kashmir.

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