Why Azad Kashmir Is Called Azad?27 April 2010
London: The United Kashmir Peoples National Party arranged a seminar in London, titled: Challenges, Options and Role of Kashmiri Diaspora was attended by around 150 people from all walks of life; and addressed by many important leaders. Among them were pro-independent prominent Kashmiris, Pakistani leaders, Pakistani analysts, Baloch and Swiss leaders. The topic was important and all the speakers made a valuable contribution to enrich the debate, but what caught my attention and attention of many other people was the remarks of Baloch nationalist leader and a former provincial minister, Sardar Hyrbayar Mari, the son of Sardar Kher Baksh Mari and a brother of Balaj Mari who was killed by the Pakistani forces after the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti. In his speech, Mari paid glowing tribute to the struggle of the Kashmiri people, which was in many ways similar to the struggle of the Baloch people. He said like Balochistan, Kashmir was also an independent country, but it was soon occupied and now Kashmir is divided and occupied. He said one part of Kashmir that is occupied by Pakistan is called Azad Kashmir. He said: 'There are hundreds of independent countries in the world, but no country write independent with its name, as it is understood that they are all independent. However, with Kashmir Pakistani authorities have included Azad (independent), it clearly means there is something wrong - daal main kuch kala hai - something sinister is at play; and they have something to hide. This Word is included to fool people of Jammu and Kashmir, just to give them false sense of independence. He further said: 'All oppressed and occupied people should unite and coordinate their activities to fight forces of occupation. We have no other choice, but to fight for our rights and our national independence.' One can disagree with the kind of politics promoted by Mari, but no one can dispute that he is very committed to his cause and is sincere nationalist Baloch leader. Furthermore, his observation on Azad Kashmir truly represents the situation in Azad Kashmir. Of course Azad Kashmir is not Azad or independent. It is a 'colony' of Pakistan, in which they have established a political set up that is more interested in promoting and protecting national interests of Pakistan than the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Those people who become Prime Ministers or Presidents in this set up are not even allowed to travel to other constituent parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. For example, no Prime Minister or President of Azad Kashmir is allowed to visit Gilgit Baltistan which is part of the State and which is on the Pakistani side of the LOC. They don't need a visa or a passport to go there, but they do need NOC (No Objection Certificate) from Pakistani authorities. The main complaint the people of Gilgit Baltistan have from the leadership of Azad Kashmir is that they left them at the mercy of the Pakistani agencies and bureaucrats who ruled the territory of Gilgit Baltistan with an iron fist; and denied people of their fundamental human rights. Because of lack of communication and people to people contact, distance between people of Gilgit-Baltistan and rest of Jammu and Kashmir, especially Azad Kashmir widened and sense of belonging weakened. These Pakistanis decide what is good for the people of Azad Kashmir; and subservient Azad Kashmiris leaders happily come back and implement those decisions. These helpless and impotent rulers of Azad Kashmir have to declare that they will be loyal to Pakistan.