Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Azad Kashmir Government: Birth and growth, by Shams Rehman

Azad Kashmir Government:  Birth and growth

 © Shams Rehman
Officially the Kashmir day is celebrated in Azad Kashmir on 24th of October when the present government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was arguably established. However, there is more to this story. Several independent sources including the declaration of the present AJK government itself prove beyond any doubt that another government existed before the 24th October government. The opening paragraph of the 24th Ovctober decleration reads:
“The Provisional Azad Government which the people of Kashmir had set up- a few weeks ago, with the object of ending intolerable Dogra tyrannies and securing to the people of the state, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, the right of the free 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.”[1]
The provisional Azad government refered to in the above decleration was declared on 4th October 1947 with an alias name Mr Anwar (actually Ghulam Nabi Gilkar) as president and Barriester Sardar Ibrahim Khan as Prime Minister. In his Presidential address Mr Gilkar stated:
“With the end of the British rule, the Maharaja Hari Singh’s claim to rule the state (by virtue of the Sale Deed of Amritsar) has also come to an end.”[2]
The declaration stated for the government to be an inclusive of all state people regardless of religion, region or other distinctions and also desired for friendly relations with the neighboring states of India and Pakistan.
Mr Ghulam Nabi Gilkar was a Kashmiri from the Valley who was instrumental in setting up the Reading Room Party along with Sheikh Abdullah and others which introduced new political awakening in the Valley and was later linked with similar political activism in other parts of the state, especially Jammu that initiated the mass movement of 1930s. Barrister Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim Khan of Poonch was made Prime Minister while Nazir Hussain Shah Finance Minister, Mr Faheem as agricultural Minister, Mr Aleem (meaning Knowledge) Education Minister and Mr Karkhana (meaning factory) as the Minister for industry. It is widely believed that the names of the latter two ministers like that of the president were also not their real names.
This government was reorganized on 24th October 1947just two days after the tribal invasion from Pakistani side[3]. The new government clearly acknowledged the 4th October government and adopted its declaration to be a non-communal government having friendly relations with India and Pakistan. The prime minister of the 4th October government Sardar M Ibrahim was made head of the 24th October government. He was woken up at midnight by two Pakistani ‘kingmakers’, Mr Khawaja Abdul Rahim and Ms Nasim Shah Nawaz to be appointed as president of the reconstituted government of Kashmir.[4]
I had been amongst Kashmiri who claimed that the 4th October government was an independent some would say a revolutionary Kashmiri initiative and demanded this government to be restored. However, recently the re reading of this period of Kashmiri history has illuminated some aspects of this government that are usually overlooked but need critical analysis. For example on 25th September 1947, just over a week before the decleration of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ government, a provisional government was formed for Junagarh, a Hindu majority princel state ruled by a Muslim Nawab who announced accession to Pakistan on 15th August[5] but for some reasons the government of Pakistan made that public only on 15th of September 1947.[6] Led by Samaldas Gandhi "[t]he Provisional Government of Junagadh moved to Saurashtra and took possession of the Junagadh House at Rajkot. Young men from all over Saurashtra flocked to its banner of freedom. Large sums of money flowed in, volunteers were armed and trained. On the Dessehra Day, the "Day of Victory" - October 24, 1947 - the volunteers of the Provisional Government began their operations. People rose against the Nawab's rule in several parts of Junagadh[7]."
What that had to do with the Azad Kashmir government? Well look at this account:
 “[W]hen the Government of India ousted the Nawab of Junagarh, the Government of Pakistan approached Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Ahmad of Qadiyan and authorized him to take appropriate measures with regard to Kashmir. Mirza called Gilkar to Lahore. Several rallies were held at Rattan Bagh, Lahore. Besides Gilkar the rallies were attended by Mufti Zia-ud-Din Poonchi, Chowdhury Rahim Dad advocate, Master Mir Alam Kotli, Ammanullah Khan of Khor Pattan, Professor Muhammad Ishaq Qureshi, and Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri. Suggestions put forth by the concerned persons were discussed threadbare and a plan of action was chalked out. It was during these meetings that the issue of forming an ad hoc Azad Kashmir government was discussed. Mufti Zia-ud-Din Poonchi was told to announce the government but he refused. Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri also refused. Finally, Gilkar came forward and declared the government.[8]
Another aspect of this government that deserves attention is the appointment of Sardar Ibrahim as the Prime Minister. It is officially publicised and celebrated by the New Muslim Conference that the party approved a resolution for the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan on 19th July 1947 at the residence of the same Sardar Ibrahim Khan. It is also on record thanks to Professor Ishaq Qureshi the then acting General Secretray of MC that actually the party meeting was held on 18th July 1947. Describing the background of this meeting Professor Qureshi told me in a very long interview in Oldham that with the detention of senior leadership including Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas and Allah Rakha Saghar in 1946 Choudhary Hamidullah and he (Ishaq Qureshi) were appointed as acting President and General Seceretary of Muslim Conference respectively. Subsequently, both of them went to seek advice from Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah and met him on 11th July 1947. This according to Mr Qureshi was the first official meeting of Quaid e Azam in his capacity of Governer General of Pakistan. In that meeting Mr Jinnah advised the Kashmiri Muslim leaders to support Maharaja’s stance for independent Kashmir. The founding father of Pakistan also dictated a press release for Faiz Ahmed Faiz of the Daily Pakistan Times reiterating the Muslim League’s policy of recognising the princely states’ right to independence. On their return from British India, Professor Qureshi and Chaudhary Hamidullah called the meeting of central committee where they presented the report of their visit and informed members of the advice given by the Governer General of Pakistan.While the majority of those present agreed and approved the resolution for independent Kashmir some members including Sardar Ibrahim Khan opposed it. When I asked professor about the next day meeting at Sardar Ibrahim’s residence in Sringar and the resolution of accession to Pakistan, he said that’s all propaganda. At Sardar Ibrahim’s house there was no meeting held. Some members met in an informal capacity and agreed to work for accession to Pakistan. Even then the fact is that it is widely believed in Azad Kashmir through official propagation that a resolution for accession to Pakistan was passed in a meeting held at the residence of Saradr Ibrahim Khan on 19th July 1947. This resolution has been promoted by the Muslim Conference as the official policy of azad Kashmir government. Just two months earlier he opposed the independent Kashmir policy on 18th July 1947 and was now appointed as Prime Minister of the Provisional Government for ‘independent’ Kashmir on 4th October 1947.
I could not find any reference anywhere if Mr Ghulam Nabi Gilkar was present in those meetings of Muslim Conference on 18th and 19th July 1947 and which resolution he supported. However, if we accept the account provided by Din (2009) that when the ruler of Junagrh was ousted from his state the government of Pakistan approached Mirza Bashir and authorized him to take appropriate measures with regard to Kashmir who then called GN Gilkar over to Lahore where the idea of a provisional azad Kashmir government was discussed clearly shows the Pakistani hand in the 4th October government. However, authenticity of this reference needs further proof for which I repeatedly asked Mr Zair Ud Din if he can provide me the original source or reference rgerding this claim but not received a response as yet. Therefore this needs further exploring.
Was Mr Jinnah aware of this? Or was a parallel policy of taking Kashmir existed without the knowledge of Mr Jinnah?  The later events indicate that there was never a coherent policy of Pakistan government from the day one of their interefernce in Kashmir affairs. However, it is not in the scope of this article to indulge in a detailed analysis of that. According to Mr Ishaq Qureshi Quaid e Azam was not aware of the formation of the 4th October government, Tribal invasion or re organization of the Azad Kashmir government. In the same interview he told that Chaudhary Hameedullah and he were brought to Pakistan in late September sometime by two Pakistani officials. The full account of that interview will be published soon in a book form. Inlcuded here only what Professor Qureshi told about the role of Pakistani officials in their invasion of Kashmir in 1947. When they reached to Lahore the president Hameedullah was allowed in the high level meeting which included Chief Minister of Punjab Nawam mamdot, of NWFP Khan Qayum and several others including senior military officials.
Accordig to professor Qureshi, Ch. Hameed Ullah Khan and he did not like this split of New Muslim Conference acting president and secretary by aloowing one in and keeping the other out of the meeting and that was the second shock of our interaction with Pakistan[9]. Professor Qureshi told me that Choudhary Hameed briefed him of the meeting informing him of the invasion plan and told that I told the participants the advise Quiad e Azam gave us on 11th July but they say said forget about that and do as we tell you because they said they want to give Kashmir to Quaid e Azam as surprise.
After few moths Professor Ishaq and Ch Hameed ullah met Quaid e Azam in Karachi where according to professor Qureshi Mr Jinnah asked them annoyingly that why we caused all the mess in Kashmir despite his advice not to indulge in violence? Professor Qureshi said we did not do this. It was your Prime Minister and other top officials who staged the invasion.
Mr Qureshi told me that when I said this, Quai e Azam who was sitting on sofa upwards and leaning towards front, almost fell back against the back of sofa, closed his eyes and did not speak a word for few minutes. Then he opened his eys, sat up and asked us, can you write all this in a report and get to me within 48 hours? We produced that report and then events took over and we saw Quaid after aother few months when he was in Ziyarat in Queta but he was too week to say anything. He only smiled.
Soon we were summoned to the house of Primie Minister Khan Liaqat Ali Khan. He was laying on the kingsize dewan leaning against the round pillow and Raina Liaqat Ali Khan was waving the hand fan and they looked like a king and queen. Liaqat Ali Khan told us somewhat assertively; don’t put any burdon on Mr Jinnah anymore with all these issues. Whatever you have information you have convey that to me. The old man is too fragile.
The Prime Minister had our report in his hand marked with red underlines[10].
What was the need of this independent government when there was the independent government of Maharaja Hari Singh in existence that was supported and recognized by Mr Jinnah and Pakistan government through the standstill agreement signed between Kashmir and Pakistan governments of 12th August 1947?  Especially, when that government of Maharaja was actively introducing political reforms for a constitutional democracy? A closer look at the events of 1940s including such documents as the ‘New Kashmir’, 17th May 1947 statement and 28th May 1947 Press Confrence of Chaoudhary Hamid Ullah Khan, and the 18th July Resolution of Muslim Conference clearly point towards an understanding between the major parties and Maharaja of Kashmir a multiparty constitutional democracy with Maharaja as a figurehead. In this context there was no need for any independent government unless it was for revolution aiming to overthrow the feudal rule in the state. As is clear this government was merely to topple Maharja and presented no revolutionary programme whatsoever. If any revolutionary steps were taken in Kashmir they were taken by the National Conference led by Sheikh Abdullah who introduced land reforms which abolished the feudal system in Kashmir state before any such initiatives were teken by India’s socialist  Prime Minister PJN Nehru.
Indeed as mentioned above, if we accept the claims by such writers as Zahir Ud Din, it appears that indeed it was formed under the instructions of Pakistan government to oust Maharaja and take Kashmir like India took Junagarh. A closer look at the details of Junagarh case supports the claim made here that the Azad Kahsmir government of 4th October that was reorganized on 24th October in fact was set up by Pakistan in reaction to the provisional government iof Junagarh declared on 25th of September 1947.  Indeed it appears that this was the first of the series of covert efforts by that section of Pakistani establishment which viewed Kashmir and the wider situation through communal and feudal lenses and for whom Kashmir is pawn in their game with the Indian communalists.
It seems absurd that this government set up by few dozen people most of whom were not willing to use their real names denounced Maharaja Hari Singh as unrepresentative. While they were claiming to be representatives of the antire population of Kashmir, a little probing would reveal that they were representing only that fection of Muslim Conference which two montrhs ago opposed independence and approved the accession of Kashmir to Pakistani position. The reorganisation of this government soon after the invasion of Pakistani forces in Kashmir clearly indicates that the 4th October Kashmiri government was not as independent and revolutionary initiative as some of us have been led to believe for many years. The head of this reorganised government on 24th of October 1947 was none other than Sardar Ibrahim who was appointed according Professor Qureshi by the Commissioner of Rawalpindi Mr Rahihm.
It was the same Sardar Ibrahim who was head of AJK government on 28th April 1949 when control of Gilgit Baltistan was transferred to Pakistan and he was shown as one of the signatories to the infamous Karachi Pact. While he remained in denial of signing any such documents he was in power then and for several years after that but never challenged the Karachi Pact.
However, that is not to deny the contribution made by Sardar Ibrahim and G N Gilkar and other leaders in the political progress of people around them and in the ideology of Kahsmir’s accession to Pakistan. It also needs to be noted that despite a mysterious and fragile at birth, the Azad Kashmir government not only survived but also made some significant progress over the decades. In the beginning the Azad Kashmir government was consisted of its President and Cabinet with very little resources and administrative infrastructure. Indeed if we compare the Azad Kashmir government of Sardar Ibrahim with the Jammu Kashmir government of Sheikh Abdullah that was formed in the Indian occupied Kashmir, it appears that their political evolution took place on opposite directions in terms of their symbolic identity at least. The Jammu Kashmir government that replaced Maharaja Hari Sing’s rule following the invasion of Pakistani tribes on 22nd October and the Indian troops on 27th October inherited  continuity and a reasonably equipped and resourced material and non-material infrastructure including Sadr e Riyasat (president) Prime Minister and cabinet with proper offices and relatively better resources for carrying out governmental responsibilities. The Azad Kashmir government on the other hand was nothing more than a name and its President and cabinet had no structural, organizational and administrative resources or support available to them.  The government was fully dependent on Pakistan.
However, in the years that followed the AK government became a relatively better organised, structured and resourced body of governance although still lagging far behind the provinces of Pakistan in almost every field except the education ratio that is higher in AJK than Pakistan. While the ministries of defence and Azad Kashmir Regular Force (AKRF) were lost to Pakistan, this government did make some gains in its parliamentary structure, status and protocol. For this people like Sardar Inrahim, Sardar Abdul Qayum and Chaudhary Noor Hussain who are loathed by the younger generation of nationalists played significant role in preserving and promoting the distinct identity of Azad Kashmir. Though still a powerless legislative assembly subdued to the colonial like structure ‘Kashmir Council, the government of ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ has managed to gain some growth and stability in its structure and recognition over the past 63 years.
This government carries almost all symbols of an independent country including the president, Prime Minister, Supreme Court, National Flag and National Anthem. In this respect it is an independent government. The only ingredient missing is the power of independence. The power lies with the Pakistan government which controls Azad Kashmir through Kashmir Council, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, Chief Secretary of the Azad Kashmir civil bureaucracy, Inspector General Police (IGP), Auditor General and Kashmir Council – all institutions are headed by the Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats and head of the Pakistani state respectively. That is not all.  The political and administrative structure that is controlled by the layers of Pakistani civil control is then monitored and controlled by a thick network of intelligence agencies spread across this 4,500 sq. miles strip of Kashmir state vertically and horizontally. That is why the Kashmiris who are aware of this control mechanism insist that this is not ‘Azad’ but ‘Ghulam’ (slave/occupied) Kashmir.
In this respect it is no different from the IOK. However, the level of violence and scale and degrees of human rights violation by the Indian forces in IOK after the current uprising in 1989 has no comparison with that of Pakistani army in POK which at present is not engaged in killing or arresting or torturing Kashmiris except some cases of sexual and economic exploitation of inhabitants around the army barracks and bullying of some nationalists. Countering this position most of the pro independence Kashmiris would argue that there were no killings in IOK before Kashmiris used weapons given by Pakistan against India in 1987 which brought Indian army out to civilian areas. If Azad Kashmiris ever challenge the Pakistani occupation like the Valley Kashmiris did to the Indian occupation, Pakistani military and civil machinary will do the same if not worse. They site the examples of 1953 Poonch Rebellion and the case of Bangladesh. The point of this argument is that India and Pakistan both are occupiers in Kashmir and both use violence and torture even kill when their occupation is challenged.
There is also no comparison in terms of resources available to the two governments. The current annual budget of Indian occupied Kashmir government is over 300 million[11] whereas of Azad Kashmir it is 47 and for Gilgit Baltistan stands at just over 15 million rupees[12].  Keep in mind the difference in value of Indian and Pakistani rupee.

[2] Din, U. Z.  (2009) Ghulam Nabi Gilkar and Kashmir Freedom Movement, available on
[3] Mehmood Hashmi, the most prominent Azad Kashmiri name in Urdu literature and author of the classic of Urdu repertoire tradition ‘Kashmir Udas Hai’ (Kashmir is sad) who was made publicity secretary for Azad Kashmir government after his escape from Indian occupied Kashmir, told this author that the date 24th October was not on which the Azad Kashmir government was actually formed. This date was chosen  long after October as the fictitious’ birthday’ of Azad Kashmir government by some senior Pakistani bureaucrats to coincide it with the United Nations Day.
[4] The Role of Azad Kashmir Government Edited by Dr Shabir Choudhary.
[6] Norani, A.G. (2001), Of Jinnah and Jonagadh, Volume 18 - Issue 21, Oct. 13 – 26 available on
[7] Op.cit.
[8] Din, U.Z. (2009) op.cit.  
[9] First was on the way to Pakistan when we were released from Kohala police post to leave the state and asked the staff where the two other men who were arrested with us are? The staff replied they said they did not know you and only gave you lift so we let them off
[10] Professor Ishaq Qureshi’s biographical interview Ali Adalat and I took about ten years ago is currently in the process of publication.

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