September 2004 News

Unreported Suppression In PoK

7 September 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Samuel Baid

Jammu: India-Pakistan Secretary-level talks on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) proceeded cordially to nowhere. Of course, nobody expected any change in their well-known stated positions. Some people have called them cosmetic talks. The last round of talks, which ended in Islamabad on August 12 was on trade. The talks ended without any progress. Pakistan linked trade with the solution of Kashmir. In June 1978, Gen Zia-ul-Haq snapped private trade between the two countries because his fundamentalist cronies said it militated against Pakistan's ideology. Since then, private trade or, for that matter, normal relations have remained hostage to Pak ideology and its Kashmir policy. Counting the fallacies of what Pakistan calls its 'principled' stand on Kashmir will be like saying the obvious. This 'principled' stand relates to Islamabad's oft-repeated demand of the 'right of self-determination' for the people of Kashmir. This demand may have impressed people in Pakistan and perhaps outside because of accompanying violence perpetrated by Pak agents and pro- Pakistan slogans raised by a very small section of the population in Kashmir. Because of democracy in India, the Kashmiris here are free to raise such slogans but what about the people in Pakistan occupied Kashmir? Here people are free only to raise slogans in favour of the Establishment in Islamabad but if they must talk of denial of rights and their treatment as slaves, they must flee PoK to do so. A very large number of people from the two parts of PoK- 'Azad' Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan- has fled to Europe to carry on a campaign for the liberation of their State from Pakistan. Some of them have formed an organization called the International Kashmir Alliance (IKA). The United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP), a constituent of this Alliance, wrote an open letter to the dummy President of PoK Maj. Gen Sardar Mohammad Anwar just when he was about to leave for Geneva this month to speak on Pakistan's 'principled' stand on Kashmir before a press conference. The 17 letter writers introduce themselves 'as exiled political workers from that hapless region, which has suffered the brunt of oppression and tyranny unleashed by successfive client regimes installed by the military dictatorships that have ruled Pakistan for most of the fifty seven years of existence, we consider it our duty to share some of our thoughts with you through this letter.' The letter tells Maj Gen Anwar that the right of self-determination for Kashmiris remains disseminated in parts of Kashmir that are under Pakistan's occupation, 'Pakistan's hidden agenda in 'Azad' Kashmir has always been to bring about accession to Pakistan through fraudulent means.' Here it quotes the 1974 constitution of PoK, which bans any activity 'prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State's accession to Pakistan'. Nobody who does not subscribe to this ideology can fight an election. Thus, only those candidates can participate in elections who are approved by the establishment in Islamabad. Others who stand for secularism and Kashmiri nationalism find their place in prisons on trumped up charges of sedition and conspiracy. Many leaders and members of nationalist parties have been abducted, tortured, killed or forced into exile by Pakistan's intelligence agencies. These agencies are deeply involved in the affairs of PoK. Many Kashmiri nationalists say Pakistan is actually following a policy of pre-determination of Kashmiris' choice rather than their self-determination. Related to this is the problem of media. There is no way Kashmiris in PoK can know the views of nationalist leaders. In fact they have no media of their own to know the real problems of their State. Journalists work under pressure from intelligence agencies. In Gilgit-Baltistan there is no newspaper, radio or TV. The people here have no access to the international electronic or print media. They are 'condemned to have access only to broadcasts by radio stations and television channels controlled by Pakistan. The people of Azad Kashmir are compelled to read, see and hear only what is contained in the print and electronic media of Pakistan.' As compared to Kashmiris in India, the literacy rate in PoK is shockingly low. (One may recall that in the initial years of Pak-supported terrorism in Kashmir two important targets of terrorists were school buildings and bridges. ) While discouraging literacy in PoK, the Pak military intelligence establishment made this region a sanctuary for international terrorism. 'The notorious intelligence agencies of Pakistan recruit innocent Kashmiri youth for activities of sabotage and subversion across the Line of Control where they are killed either by the Indian Army or by terrorist groups trained, armed and financed by Pakistan itself. This has resulted in unfold misery and mental torture for hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri families.' As in the matter of education, the region is being kept backward economically, too. Agriculture, which is the mainstay of PoK economy, is neglected while tourism is discouraged for security reasons. The development schemes announced occasionally stay on paper only. But Kashmiri nationalists believe if they are made owners of State's natural resources and given all the money due to it from different sources, it will become a progressive and prosperous region. The New York branch of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front sometime ago published a pamphlet in Urdu titled 'Economic Condition of Azad Kashmir. Reasons and Remedies of its Backwardness'. Author of the pamphlet G M Mir writes that despite its bountiful water resources, mineral wealth and manpower, PoK is cursed with economic backwardness and unemployment. He says Pakistan is responsible for this state because it refuses to pay 'Azad' Kashmir its rightful royalty from the Mangla Dam, income due to it from Kashmir state property and its share in Pakistan's Federal revenues although Kashmiris are made to pay all the taxes which the people of Pakistan pay. The Mangla Dam was built in 'Azad' Kashmir by Ayub Khan to ensure regular water and power supply to Pakistan. Thousands of Mirpuris were dislodged from their homes because of the construction of this Dam but they are yet to get compensation. Not only this, Ayub Khan did not even employ them for the construction work. Islamabad pays royalty to North-West Frontier Province for the Tarbela Dam and to Balochistan for the Sui gas. But nothing to 'Azad' Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh's property worth billions and trillion of rupees exist in many parts of Pakistan, especially in Punjab. Kashmiris say it is Kashmir State property and income from it should be given to 'Azad' Kashmir. But in 1993, the Pakistan Government sought to finish this demand once for all by announcing that it was Evacuee Property with which the Government of 'Azad' Kashmir or the Government of Jammu and Kashmir had nothing to do. In other words, Islamabad told Kashmiris not to treat Maharaja Hari Singh's property as a source of income for their State. About the demand for share in Pakistan's Federal revenues, Mir wrote : 'For all practical purposes Azad Kashmir is under the control of Pakistan although it is a separate political entity. Therefore, Pakistani Federal Government's taxes are imposed on the people of this region, directly or indirectly. But when the budget is prepared at the end of the financial year, the income through taxes is distributed among the Centre and the Provinces...Azad Kashmir does not figure in this distribution..' Mir further writes that 'Azad' Kashmir is also denied the foreign exchange, which comes to it in the form of remittances from Kashmiris working abroad. Mir concludes by saying '........Pakistan's support to the right of self determination becomes meaningless if it continues to deny these 40 lakh Kashmiris ('Azad' Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan together) their basic birth rights, which include the governance of their territory in accordance with their own choice, and to have control over their natural resources......' Pakistani rulers are really not bothered about Kashmiris. The recent killing in Iraq of two hostages, belonging to 'Azad' Kashmir and Pakistan rulers' indifferent attitude towards them is but a small indication of this fact. But these rulers are very much interested in keeping peace out of this region in the name of Kashmiris because only then the tradition of usurped power can survive in Pakistan. This is the tragedy of this region.


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