July 2004 News

Azad Or Ghulam

29 July 2004
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: Only the na´ve will be surprised by the concern expressed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its latest report on our part of the State which is under the neighbouring country's illegal occupation and is locally known as 'Azad' Kashmir. It has observed that the Pakistani intelligence agencies are interfering in the region. According to the report, 'the people are of the view that the poll process was manipulated by the government, military and bureaucracy'. It is stating the obvious. Who does not know that Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan had the support of the majority of the legislators but he had to cool his heels as the Musharraf Government showed preference for his friend-turned-foe Sardar Sikander Hayat Khan and facilitated his elevation to the post of the Prime Minister? As a result, the feud continues between the two Sardars even today affecting at times the working of the legislature itself. Some times it appears that Sardar Sikander would stay put in the office. There are occasions when he seems to be down in the dumps. Despite their seniority and professed loyalty to Pakistan, they have their wires invariably pulled from Islamabad. So much for democracy in an area which claims to be independent! In April this year, the delegates from the occupied Kashmir had shocked the United Nations Commission for Human Rights in Geneva with the following revelations, among others, about their plight: the violation of their human rights by the security forces and intelligence agencies of Pakistan; deliberate attempt to keep the local population illiterate, ignorant, poor and backward; ruling politicians playing second fiddle to Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police who are the de facto rulers; constant persecution of political workers; the denial of royalty to the Government accruing from the Mangla Dam that has also rendered one lakh people homeless; and the pressure on the people to listen only to Pakistani propaganda on its radio and television network. It hardly bears any reiteration that Pakistan has not agreed to extend the jurisdiction of the 'Azad' Kashmir Government to the other parts of the State, mainly Gilgit, under its control despite a directive to this effect by the 'Azad' Kashmir High Court. The UNCHR has been informed that Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, has made Gilgit and Baltistan a safe haven for international terrorists. This is the continuation of the disturbing scenario that a Belgian human rights activist had seen in the mid- nineties. She was not able to hide her sense of disbelief over the atrocities inflicted on the majority population in this region. More than once in these columns we have focused on the sectarian tensions prevailing in Gilgit with the Shias bitterly complaining about the perversion of their school syllabus. In reaction, quite a few organisations have emerged to defend their rights. They include the Balwaristan National Front, Karakoram National Movement and the Karakoram Students Organisation which are speaking up for their basic liberties in the face of intimidation, harassment and murderous attacks. In this context, it is relevant that there are hundreds of political activists who don't take part in the 'Azad' Kashmir elections because they refuse to take oath of allegiance to the Pakistan Constitution that is mandatory under their legal and Constitutional framework. One can only describe such situation as unfortunate and sympathise with the suffering masses. It is true that there are some people on our side of the Line of Control also who nurse the similar grievances. However, even they can't overlook the advantages available to them in terms of unhindered access to the media as well as other forums for redressal of their genuine problems. It is not surprising that some of them, whatever their actual influence on the home turf, have become international names. They are part of an open society in one unified administrative and geographical dispensation. On the other hand, their separated twins are made to live in a closed environment in which any bid to give vent to one's feelings faces the threat of being crushed in a ruthless manner. To make matters worse for them, they are in addition clearly divided into two distinct parts. It is thus a sweet- and-sour tale of the same State having two different atmospheres: on this side there is a free flow of ideas while on the other side they are being repeatedly told to just shut up and salute the order of the day.


Return to the Archives 2004 Index Page

Return to Home Page