Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Azadi of Azad Kashmir

Azadi of Azad Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry 17 November 2005

One area of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir is known as Azad Kashmir, although some call it PAK or POK, Pakistani Administered Kashmir or Pakistani Occupied Kashmir. In my opinion it is appropriate to call it Pakistani Administered Kashmir (more and more people of the international community are using this term), as it is not ‘azad’ or ‘occupied’ in one sense.

Some say this area is azad, but it is inhabited by people with subservient mentality (ghulamana zainiet), and they are unable to distinguish between azadi and ghulami. Whatever term we use this area is full of resources and is strategically very important to both India and Pakistan; and they are not prepared to compromise on future of this area.

This area, PAK has nearly all ingredients of an independent state, but it lacks sovereignty and leaders with vision and independent thinking. Before the earthquake it had a government and a capital at Muzaffarabad, although its President and Prime Minister liked to spend more time in Islamabad from where they pretended to rule.

Their powers are like that of Queen of Britain, she reigns as a sovereign, but Tony Blair rules and takes decision in her name. Similarly Pakistani officials, Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and IG Police etc. use powers of President and Prime Minister of this region; and President and Prime Minister have no right to challenge their decisions.

Apart from these top officials there is Kashmir Council to keep an eye on the situation, and Chairman of this Council is always a Pakistani Prime Minister or Chief Executive, who has a right to appoint members for this Council and take important decisions and Azad Kashmir Assembly has no right to challenge them.

Powers of PAK were joke and a slap in name of azadi even before 8th October when the earthquake struck this area, but whatever pretension was there it suffered a serious blow after the quake as it completely exposed them; and Karzai Sahib of Afghanistan looked far more powerful than them. This government was no where visible when people desperately needed help, in fact, no help and support was visible in Pakistani Administered Kashmir for some days, and when it did, people saw men in uniform calling all the shots with regard to the relief work.

Apart from the men in uniform, men in militia uniform (members of Jihad outfits) were also seen very actively helping the victims. It is good to note that they have heart and desire to help people in need; but this also worried many as it clearly indicated their manpower, resources and command and control system.

Many people, especially Westerners, thought help of Jihadi organisations will surely create a soft corner in the hearts of these victims, and they could be persuaded to join ranks of these groups, which could seriously damage their war on terrorism. As far as victims of the earthquake are concerned they need help and need it desperately, no matter where it is coming from.

It appears that there are four advantages of inviting NATO and American forces.

Most obvious one is ‘help’ to the earthquake victims, some of whom still have not received any help, and they are lying under the sky in extremely cold weather without proper food and shelter.
Other main advantage was to counter presumed Indian attack in wake of a serious blow to Pakistani defences in the area. Pakistani military officials thought that despite the peace process India could take advantage of the situation; and they might return ‘Kargil’ adventure with interest.
Third advantage is that these forces could ‘find’ Osama Bin Laden, or his remains, as he is presumed dead in this earthquake. Also their presence here will help them to keep track of the Alqaeeda operatives, if there are any, in the Pakistani Administered Kashmir, North Pakistan and Gilgit and Baltistan.
Their help and support and mere presence will keep jihadi groups on guard, and will deter them to do anything else than the relief work.

Some commentators feel that even Pakistan is less visible with the relief work when compared to activities of NATO and America, never mind ‘azad government’ of Pakistani Administered Kashmir; which is taken as a puppet or mere shadow of Ministry Of Kashmir Affairs, Islamabad.

Now that there is no capital and no Assembly, Prime Minister and President of Pakistani Administered Kashmir might find it more convenient to sit in Kashmir House, Islamabad, and pretend to organise and control the relief work. The present government claimed to have done so much development that it can face challenges of 21st Century.

Reality however is that when I last visited the area, June 2005, roads in hometown (Kotli) of the Prime Minister were in shambles; and depicted some run down area of a poor African country. Now he and his Ministers are claiming that all that what was built with hard work is destroyed in minutes by the earthquake.

They know that elections are due next year, and with this disaster destroying almost everything in major part of PAK, no one can think of any kind of elections. But people still need to have some kind of administration to sort out their everyday problems; this logic, however, is not accepted when there are elections in the Indian Administered Kashmir, and people are encouraged and financed to disrupt them.

In view of the prevailing situation, powers that take decisions about PAK are brain- storming to plan a future strategy; and it is believed that they are going to set up a new administration which will not only ‘run’ the affairs of the area, but will also supervise rehabilitation and construction process.

Once they have reached some decision then they will call this government and perhaps some other leaders in a special place, and tell them that they have decided this for the area. And these leaders will sign on the dotted line and come out of the meeting room, and claim we have decided this. This has been the past practise and I cannot see that changing in near future. Long live ‘azadi’ of ‘Azad Kashmir’.

Writer is Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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