PoK: A Colony of Pakistan
New Delhi: Pakistan’s long professed concern for the right of self- determination for the Kashmiri people is mere camouflage. The fact is that Pakistan covets the land that is Jammu and Kashmir and its water resources, not its people. Not only did Pakistan not vacate the territories occupied by it, but it also ceded parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to China and amalgamated Gilgit, Skardu and Baltistan with Pakistan by redefining these as the Northern Territories administered directly by Islamabad. The arbitrary takeover by Pakistan of these territories was challenged in the High Court of POK and even the court felt impelled to declare Gilgit, Skardu, Baltistan etc, as part of POK. There were public protests even in these so-called territories as well as in POK but the Government in Islamabad not only ignored the protests but also the courts verdict. Not content with this, the Pakistan Government made a goodwill gesture to China by ceding 5180 km of the Northern Territories to it. Northern Territories, stretch across 60000 km with a population of 10,00,000. Pakistan further imposed constitution of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, wherein the people inhabiting the area have no right to opt out of Pakistan even if they wanted to. This also implies that, the people in PoK have no right to decide their own future, leave aside the right which it demand for the rest of the Jammu and Kashmir. People living in the PoK are virtually reduced to the level of serfs. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with one stroke of his pen, virtually annexed the POK, by promulgating the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Act of 1974, declaring Islam to be the state religion of POK vide Article 3, forbade activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan (Article 7), disqualified non-Muslims from election to the Presidency and prescribed in the oath of office the pledge ‘to remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan’. It then proceeded to set up a State Council for POK named and controlled by Islamabad. This was not a provisional regime but a declaration proclaiming POK as an integral part of Pakistan. Part 2 of Section 7 of the POK Constitution states: ‘No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan’. Under Section 5(2) (vii) of the POK Legislative Assembly Election Ordinance 1970, a person would be disqualified for propagating any opinion or action in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, the ideology of POK’s accession to Pakistan, or the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan. The same caveat applies to anyone who ‘defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary of AJK, of Pakistan, or the Armed Forces of Pakistan’. On 28th May 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered a stinging blow to Islamabad’s oppressive, undemocratic and colonial subjugation of the Northern Areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by pronouncing ‘it was not understandable on what basis the people of Northern Areas can be denied the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution’ i.e. right to equality before law, right to reside and move freely, right to vote, right to be governed by their chosen representatives, right to form political parties, right to assemble peacefully, right to freedom of speech and expression, right to habeas corpus and against illegal detention, right to acquire, hold and dispose property, and the right to have access to an appellate court of justice for the enforcement of all other rights guaranteed under the latest constitution of the country. Since independence, Pakistan has devised and changed three written constitutions and the fourth one was drawn up in 1985. The verdict was an eye opener to the world on the brutality, abuses and exactions perpetrated upon the inhabitants of POK and a vindication of the long-standing efforts of human rights activists within and outside the country to alter the grossly unfair treatment meted out to what is officially called ‘Azad Kashmir.’ For more than SIXTY years, Pakistan has flouted every norm of civilised policy and behavior in POK. Taking a cue from their Chinese mentors’ ‘pacification’ of Tibet by ethnic flooding, successive governments uprooted and cleansed Kashmiris from their homeland and flooded the area with more loyal and dependent Punjabis. A shocking statistic as per the 1991 census, far more grotesque that Dawa Norbu’s estimate that ethnic Han outnumber natives in Tibet by a 70-30 ratio, is that residents of ‘Azad Kashmir’ are mostly Sunni Muslim and predominantly Punjabi-speaking, with barely 20 percent Kashmiris. No one from PoK can appeal to the Supreme Court or have any legislative representative in the Pakistan National Assembly. It lacks any constitutional status whatsoever. The court in POK does not entertain even writ petitions against human rights violations. All the rules in the name of law in POK are just summary administrative justice handled by an Executive Council of which 50% are non Kashmiris and it is directly responsible to the centre. The puppet ‘legislative assembly’ in Muzaffarabad, requires Islamabad’s prior approval for all enactments of statutory rules, appointments, public property, budget, loans, taxes, internal security and civil supplies. During ’emergencies’, even these semblances of institutional representation are silenced to facilitate the army’s scorched earth raids. Azad Kashmir is now neither inhabited largely by Kashmiris nor is it Azad. The only freedom for those who live in PoK is the freedom of practicing Islam. There is no media and whatever public opinion is there gets squashed under the jackboot in a minute’s notice. There is no way you can go out and hold a protest march. Chances are either the cops or the jackboots will gun you down. There is no civilian establishment in this region and if at all there were any pretension of any such set-up, there would be a hawk-eyed General standing close by. The entire administration is in the hands of the Pakistani army. The army runs the schools, the water department, the power stations, and the transport. Mohammed Mumtaz Khan a senior leader from Rawalakote and one of the representatives from this area had once said: ‘Pakistani army was using POK as a training camp for terrorists, as for development, the area lags behind Jammu & Kashmir by ages, where development had moved at almost the same pace as that of other cities in India.’ Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) has got neither freedom nor basic human rights. Even the self-styled government of PoK has got only puppet status. ‘The government is unable to solve their problems on their own. Last year National Students Federation of Azad Kashmir had raised a banner of revolt against Pakistan Government for forcing the residents of PoK to accept Pakistani national identity cards. On this move of the Pakistani establishment Arif Shahid the General Secretary of the All Party National Alliance stated in a rally that ‘relations are never made by force and if any relation is made forcefully it won’t last. The people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Northern Territories have been up in arms against Islamabad. Some of the political parties which have been actively involved in the anti Pakistan crusade include Shabir Choudhry’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Abdul Hamid Khan’s Balawaristan National Front, All Party National Alliance, Karakoram National Movement, Karakoram Students Organization and Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization All these political parties have time and again reiterated their demand for empowering the people of PoK and Northern Territories to decide their future both political and economic outside the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The basis of their whole campaign is that the Pakistan has reduced the inhabitants of these areas as non entity. These parties have been expressing themselves against the Pakistani establishment and its policies from time to time ever since 1948. All- Parties National Alliance (APNA), the Gilgit-Baltistan National Alliance (GBNA) and other political groups have been frequently raising their voice against Pakistan establishment. APNA had organised a ‘black day’ on April 28, for it was on this day they said that ‘Karachi Agreement’ was signed between Pakistan and that of the so-called ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government in 1949. Following this agreement, Gilgit- Baltistan, the so-called Northern Areas, which are geographically and historically part of Jammu and Kashmir, were given to Pakistan by the puppet rulers of AJK. Participation of the general public in various civilian protest programmes has increased since April. In June the JKNAP had organised an international convention which was attended by APNA leaders from PoK. The step motherly treatment and human rights atrocities in POK is no longer tenable because active national liberation movements for freedom from repression have sprung up all over the region and are giving headaches, if not nightmares, to Pervez Musharraf’s government. According to Farooq Haider, chief of JKLF in charge of liberating POK, ‘people’s urge to win their rights is simmering’ due to decades of suppression of self-determination voices. One of the reasons why the ISI prefers subcontracting its anti-India subversion devices to jihadi terrorist outfits like Lashkar and Jaish rather than JKLF is due to the latter’s support for the POK liberation groups. According to information gathered by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRPC) people in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) have suffered gross violations of their rights, from being continuously ‘watched and monitored’ by Pakistan’s ISI to denial of basic fundamental rights including access to judiciary and fair trial. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has a strong presence in the region (PoK) and people here continuously feel they are being watched and monitored,’ said a report released by an 11-member delegation of the commission which had been on a fact finding mission in PoK. As per HRPC ‘People feel that civil and political rights of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC have been infringed’, it further said that, ‘under the guise of the ‘Maintainance of Public Order Ordinance, which prohibits activities that are prejudicial to public safety, the fundamental freedom of the public is violated’. The delegation of HRPC which visited the districts of Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Bagh and Rawalkot from July 16 to 19, also met government officials including top politicians, journalists, lawyers, judiciary members and various political parties of PoK. The report include press freedom, status of women and children, education, health and employment, prisons and militancy which reflects on the human rights issues involved in these sectors. The report is published by the agency under the title ‘Visionaries’. On the freedom of press in PoK, the report quotes journalists as complaining that their freedom of expression is restrained. The report said citing cases of abductions and execution of journalists in the region that ‘journalists frequently face harassment at the hands of intelligence agencies, jihadis and the government’. Continuing its protest against the ‘repressive policies’ of Pakistan, All Party National Alliance (APNA), an amalgam of several political outfits in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit and Baltistan, has recently challenged the decision of Pakistan Government for imposing a ban on their participation in local elections. Chairman of APNA, Arif Shahid said, ‘it was unfair that Pakistan Government had been choking the voice of genuine Kashmiri political parties who were opposing to sign the declaration form in which Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan has been termed final’. The election papers of all the APNA candidates were rejected by authorities in PoK and they claimed that it was done at the behest of Pakistan Government. He said APNA had filed a petition in the High Court of PoK and if they failed to get justice here, they would move to International Court of Justice. If Pakistan is so serious regarding the rights of its brethren across, why should it ban teaching history of Kashmir? Forget about everything else – this only gives out its game plan that it is not bothered about Kashmiri identity but it is only interested in its landmass and water resources. Pakistan cannot survive without water from Kashmir so it wants to colonize Kashmir like it has colonized PoK.