PoK: Locals Support Independent Kashmir
26 November 2004
The Asian Age
Muzaffarabad: The drive from Pakistani capital Islamabad to Muzaffarabad, the gateway to the Kashmir Valley from the west, is fascinating. After taking on the velvet green plateaus, we spin into a varied mountainous landscape. Down Murree, known as the queen of hills, goes the fair weather road that runs parallel to the Neelam river. A newly-constructed concrete bridge spans the river about a furlong ahead of the old one at Kohala. It was on the old bridge of Kohala where Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was arrested by Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh's forces prior to the Independence. Nehru wanted to enter the erstwhile princely state to show solidarity with Sheikh Muhammed Abdullah who had just been arrested for rising in revolt against the autocratic rule. The event had a tremendous impact on the future politics of Jammu and Kashmir. The road between Srinagar and Rawalpindi used to be the main link between Kashmir and the rest of the sub-continent in pre-Partition days but was replaced by what was then known as the Srinagar-Jammu cart road. The rest is history. As one crosses the bride, the territory what people here call is 'Azad (free) Kashmir' begins. 'Kashmir banega (will join) Pakistan,' reads a slogan tinted on a roadside bulwark. The ruling Muslim Conference persevere the tag that fairly helped it in winning the elections in the past. Sardar Sikandar Hayyat Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, says, 'I don't feel ashamed when I endorse the demand.' But if the people of the state choose India or independent, sovereign Kashmir in the promised plebiscite. 'I, for one, would migrate to Pakistan,' he added. The first set of people that comes in the way of the visiting journalists from the Indian side of Kashmir and their partners based in Delhi currently on a goodwill and fact-finding mission are activists of Mr Yasin Malik's JKLF. 'We want freedom Yasin Malik. We salute your valour. Kashmir will become khud mukhtar (independent),' they yell at an instant roadside rally but pledge their support for the proposed Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service. 'We're not against the peace process but want the armies of the two countries to quit Kashmir beforehand,' said Sirajuddin, alias Dawood Mir, who has been declared a fugitive by the police across the de facto border. The dissent with India and Pakistan, is voiced vigorously at our meetings with the local intelligentsia, including attorneys and journalists, at meetings held at a hotel later during the day. 'Press for peace,' says a banner put up by the local journalists at the venue. The missive was straight. 'It is not an ordinary development that journalists from across the ceasefire line and India have made it to Azad Kashmir,' said Saleem Akhtar Parwana, a local journalist.