Any Doubt? -It's Azad' Kashmir!
28 August 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Two developments have again drawn attention to the Pakistan-occupied territory which is locally known as 'Azad' Kashmir. One is the statement by an amalgam of the overseas Kashmiri outfits lashing out at Pakistan for 'strangulating' rights of Kashmiris in the area under its control. The other is that two persons eliminated by the Iraqi militants belong to this part. There is hardly any exaggeration when London-based organisations operating in the name of Kashmir claim that the leadership in Muzaffarabad (capital of 'Azad' Kashmir) 'is an instrument of the establishment in Islamabad'. In fact, their accusation is rather meaningless. It is directed ironically against those who don't fight shy of admitting their open liaison with the Pakistan Government and the commitment to that country. The reality is that the expression 'Azad' in the nomenclature of their region appears totally misplaced. For all practical purposes it has been usurped by Pakistan and its name is being retained merely as an idea to hoodwink the innocent young persons who nurse the dream of a united and independent Jammu and Kashmir, as it had existed in 1947. Although it would be unfair to say that all ruling leaders in 'Azad' Kashmir are foisted - at least two of them are quite popular - the grim fact nevertheless is that instead of being truly 'free' as it claims it is a mere extension of the pernicious two-nation theory that has no place for non-Muslim citizens. 'Azad' Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Sikander Hayat Khan has set all doubts at rest about what his government and notably the political party, Muslim Conference, have been targetting to achieve. Addressing a public meeting in his Capital city he has asserted: 'In 'Azad' Kashmir only we are the heirs to the Muslim League as Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah called the Muslim Conference as an alternate to the Muslim League. We are securing Pakistan's interests.' In fairness to him, the Sardar, who is a distinguished son of the undivided State, has spoken the truth, as it exists in their case. Further elaborating their clear-cut intentions, he has recalled that the MC has been guiding the 'Kashmiris for the last half a century' and that 'both Pakistan and Kashmir are incomplete without each other being part and parcel' of the same superstructure. Possibly the Sardar has indulged in these outbursts to strengthen his position in the eyes of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf: he evidently wants to ensure his survival in the office in the wake of the continuing challenge he faces from his friend- turned-foe Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan and his ambitious politician-son Sardar Attique Khan. What certainly can't be denied, however, is that his utterances are within the contours of the agreement signed between the Pakistan Government and the MC on April 28, 1949. Under this accord the MC is to watch Pakistan's interests not merely in 'Azad' Kashmir but also in this part of the State. Not only subsequent political, administrative and legislative but also the terrorism-related developments have by and large taken place within the parameters of the pact signed by the Pakistan Government (through its then Minister without Portfolio M.A. Gurmani), President, 'Azad' Kashmir (Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim had held the office at that time) and President All-J&K MC (the late Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas). If at all, there have been two noteworthy exceptions: one, the emergence of the People's Party of Ms Benazir Bhutto (it happened when her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was alive) as a rival of the MC in this territory and, the other the judgment of the High Court of 'Azad' Kashmir asking Pakistan to hand over the control and administration of the Northern Area to its government. As is only too well know, 'Azad' Kashmir is only one part of the Indian territory that Pakistan has grabbed. The Northern Area, which consists of Gilgit and its surroundings and is administered as an integral unit of Pakistan, and a piece of land Pakistan has surprisingly gifted to China in 1961 are the other two parts. It is only in 'Azad' Kashmir that there is a semblance of political activity with the existence of what is virtually a two-party system. We in this country have also known it as the base camp of all terrorism on this side of the Line of Control. So-called jihadis can be seen roaming around freely in Muzaffarabad. Whatever their brave utterances their influence over the local population is negligible. There are strains of freedom movement in this region and they become visible when the organisations like the Amanullah Khan-led Jammu- Kashmir Liberation Front file nominations at the time of elections only to get them rejected because of their refusal to swear by the Pakistan constitution. This resistance is daring considering that the chances of their oppression are high in a society that has been made inaccessible for the international media. Notwithstanding this, so far as Sardar Sikander is concerned it is clear that he keeps harping on liberation knowing full well that he does not mean what he says. More often Sardar Attique too speaks a similar forked tongue. Sardar Qayum too at times gives the impression that his occasional suggestions about a dialogue among people on either side of the LoC although well-meaning are not to be taken seriously. In sharp contrast to their public posturing they have become the reason for blocking the dialogue. They have encouraged militancy by extending patronage to and arming the young men while actually using them as fodder for their own vested interests. Sadly there is no change in their approach despite a bitter lesson they have learnt in Iraq recently. Among the first victims of the militants in the ravaged country are two citizens of 'Azad' Kashmir. This should have alerted them to the peril of flirting with the terrorism which, however, has not happened as they continue to shield the men wanted in this country for perpetrating murder and mayhem. While professing total loyalty to Pakistan they spare no effort to keep the pot boiling in this State. As a consequence they are not giving a boost to the highly acclaimed peace processes between India and Pakistan. Instead, their double-edged speeches pose a threat to the prospects of normalcy and tranquility in this region. One can notice the glaring difference between the assertions of the leaders on either side of the LoC: those in this part regardless of their political philosophies are whole-heartedly backing the two neighbours to resolve all bilateral issues, including the fate of this State once and for all, while those on the other side are singing the same old tune on the question of accession. Unfortunately, therefore, any conclusion that the 'Azad' Kashmir leadership is amenable to reason would not reflect the existing actuality. It seems their mindset has not undergone any transformation despite winds of positive thinking sweeping the sub-continent. Does this leave any doubt that they are 'azad' only in the name? They are mindlessly pursuing their self- professed unfinished agenda of 1947: it was entirely irrelevant even at that time and is now increasingly seen as a symbol of religious obscurantism that is happily losing place in the modern world.