It’s ‘Azad’ – ‘Free‘.

Okay? It’s Azad! Free!

This is Pakistan’s official position on ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir!

But ‘free’ of what exactly?

According to the Pakistani state-enforced narrative, we’re free from Indian tyranny. Women aren’t being raped by Indian soldiers, and by ‘Indian’ they mean ‘non-Muslim’ soldiers, without failing to mention there are as many Muslim soldiers in the Indian army as there are Muslims in India. Youth aren’t being disappeared and we don’t have curfews. So in the minds of our Pakistani brothers and sisters, because the ‘Pakistan’ army saved the Muslims of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir from blood-thirsty despots, we should be grateful, even if we’re not really Pakistani – we’re from “Azad” Kashmir, not Pakistan, India or Indian OCCUPIED Kashmir.

So we should be counting our blessings, right?

So, why then do so many people from the region, particularly in Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad bemoan ‘discrimination’ and the exploitation of their natural and human resources? We have thousands of activists in ‘Azad’ Kashmir – yes, it is in the thousands – who refuse to toe the Pakistani line and say, with risks to their persons and families that Pakistan is exploiting ‘Azad’ Kashmir’s resources giving little in return.

Why do international organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International agree with them?

Sure, loads of Pakistanis love conspiracy theories but why would NGOs that criticise, for instance, Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, that always speak up for refugees across the world, and vociferously defend minorities everywhere, all of a sudden decide to besmirch Pakistan’s ‘impressive’ reputation?

Just think about that for one moment?

Why would organisations, that criticise dictatorships all across the world, with no connections with India, Pakistan or Kashmir write reports on the political and economic exploitation of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir at the hands of Pakistani Officials if what they’re saying wasn’t true?

The same organisations that criticise Pakistan, also criticise India for its human rights violations in Indian-administered-Kashmir.

Furthermore, these organisations are charities. They have been set up by altruistic people who want to promote human rights, liberties and freedoms whatever an oppressed nation’s background.

These are people of conscience.

The Pakistanis have no credible response to this glaringly obvious fact. ‘Pakistan officialdom’ – I’m not speaking of ordinary Pakistanis – is absolutely abusing its de facto control of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir.

It’s that simple.

If this offends the sensibilities of ordinary British-Pakistanis who know nothing of Pakistan’s reality, we shouldn’t care. Pandering to echo-chambers gets you nowhere. But, don’t be stupid either looking for an ‘identity’ to attack or a particular ‘group’ or ‘nation’ to blame. What is happening to ‘A’JK is happening because the Pakistani State is built on unjust power-dynamics where the rich and powerful own the economy, are guaranteed state jobs, and move in their own circles.

The poor are excluded from this club. And they happen to be the majority in Pakistan. Pakistan is in a bad place not because of the tens of millions of ordinary people who happen to live in it but because of the tiny minority who runs it.

It’s not rocket science. Had ‘British-Paharis’ not left the slither of land they call ‘Azad’ Kashmir to work and live in Britain, even before Pakistan existed in 1947, originally as the hereditary state subjects of Kashmir State, they would have been treated terribly in Pakistan, and no one from Pakistan would have cared!

It’s only because they’re ignorant of the sacrifices made by their simpleton parents, grandparents and in some cases, great grandparents, who weren’t very politically astute in the first place that they’re now flying Pakistani flags in Birmingham, Bradford and London on Eid day or on Pakistan’s ‘independence day’ even though they have their own flag, country and constitution.

Imagine that for one moment. Azad Jammu Kashmir has its own flag, own constitution, own parliament, own courts – all the hallmarks of an autonomous State, all the while it is controlled by officials in Islamabad.

The architects of this huge political scam have managed to dupe an entire population into thinking they are Pakistanis when in fact they are not. Even on the Pakistani identity cards of such people, it says in red ink, the “FREE STATE OF JAMMU & KASHMIR“.

Worse still, this free and independent State has its own Independence Day, 24 October 1947. This is the day when ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir was born.

Yes, Absolutely!

You don’t know this history? Okay, let’s backtrack a little for you.

When India and Pakistan came into existence because of the two-nation theory, Pakistan for the Muslims, India for the non-Muslims, it was mired in death, carnage and mayhem. Muslim and non-Muslim populations, now on the wrong side of the religious divide, had to find their own way to the other side. Women and children were kidnapped, raped and murdered. The perpetrators of this evil came from both sides of this crazy ‘religious’ divide and their ‘communalist’ actions can only be described as pure evil.

Jammu & Kashmir remained separate, territorially intact and ‘sovereign’.

It was not partitioned like British India. Why? Because it was never part of British India (the Raj). It was part of the British Indian Empire as a Princely State. The Ruler of Kashmir had to decide the fate of his State. All rulers were squarely told by the British, “sign over your State to either India or Pakistan“, on the grounds of how close the State is to India or Pakistan and the religious majority of the people. There was no third option for independence although I would be remiss to not point out that Muhammad Ali Jinnah countenanced the option of independence for Kashmir State.

But the wider point remains. So, think about this for just one moment, of all the 565 Princely States that had not been part of British India but the British Indian Empire, how many are independent today?

How many of these States have their own “nationalities”?


Independence had never been countenanced by the colonial British or their two successor States – the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.

And so on both counts and criteria, Jammu & Kashmir should have become Pakistan. It borders the hills and mountains of Northern Pakistan, in the same place where we’re all from – the Western Himalayas. The culture of Jammu & Kashmir spreads westwards into the hills and mountains of this region, not southwards onto the Indian-Panjab Plains. All the major historical routes into the region, went through the hills and mountains of northern Pakistan.

Likewise, the majority of us were Muslims.

Our Ruler, Mr Hari Singh, at this point an autocratic dictator thinking about his prospects, hesitated.

He wanted an independent State, to be ruled like modern-day Britain. He would be demoted to that of a constitutional monarch all the while he retained for himself and family, his hereditary titles, privileges and wealth.

Kashmir State would become a democracy with its own identity separate from India and Pakistan’s.

Some of us liked this prospect. Others didn’t. The Muslims where we live now in AJK and in Gilgit Baltistan, but also in many other parts of the wider State, said “hell no, we want to join our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, this guy can get lost!” They had experienced tyranny of the worst kind under the brutal rulers of this State and wanted to be ruled by people like themselves – who they thought would have more empathy because they were Muslims.

Fighting broke out between them and the Dogra army. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for the Dogra Forces, these guys were all ex-military men, veterans of World War II. The Maharaja was cocooned in the Valley. He used to move between the State’s summer and winter capitals, Srinagar and Jammu respectively. His regular troops were outnumbered, outgunned, and didn’t quite have the same spirit of liberation as the natives fighting for a new future.

The rebels were not far from him and they had a lot of old scores to settle.

Under enormous pressure from the British, he signed the accession agreement, signing over his territory to India, who refused “to save his State“, until he signed over every bit of it to India. He was compelled to do this to save his own life I add. Moments later, the Indian army intervened, and he was airlifted to India.

And so legally speaking, whether Pakistan likes it or not, Jammu & Kashmir belongs to India, not Pakistan. Yes, like many Pakistani laws in AJK, this particular colonial-induced law was unjust. From this reading of history, Pakistan invaded, India was merely defending its territory that was acquired legally through an accession document. That’s the colonial law of accession for you. But there’s a twist. Per the same legal norms, once the territory was ceded, the people had the right to ratify or reject the decision. So ultimately, it was for the people to decide.

This never happened.

The peoples of Jammu & Kashmir, an ethnically and religiously diverse place, have never been given this right. And a lot has changed since those early days. People’s attitudes have markedly changed, even in AJK.

India accuses Pakistan of not vacating the territory, which was a precondition for the vote to take place – this is the famous plebiscite all the activists talk about. Pakistan was required by the international norms it had voluntarily signed up to, to leave the territory, because it had invaded the territory as Kashmir, post-partition, belonged to India de jure, by right. It’s usually the occupying force that needs to leave, not the force with the legal right to administer the territory to ensure law and order per the laws of this post-colonial polity. This fact was recognised by the United Nations. Pakistan was told to remove its army from the territory. Only then could the people without fear of intimidation decide their own fate – the democracy element in the reasoning behind the UN resolutions.

Pakistan refused to leave the parts it had occupied.

Now let me ask the pro-independence activists a sincere question. If you happen to be a supporter for accession to Pakistan, knowing what you know of this conflict, and how deranged people kill each other, and the blood-letting was utterly evil I repeat, would you want the Pakistan army to leave your areas given how you distrust the other side? Yes, those who fought to liberate themselves were indeed staunch defenders of Pakistan.

In the early days, there was a lot of love for the Pakistan army, not so much for the civilian governments in Pakistan, but the army was seen positively. Even to this day, the AJK regiment is disproportionately represented given the tiny population of AJK when compared to the rest of Pakistan. We shouldn’t rewrite history so it fits our subsequent narratives because of changing social attitudes in light of unjust political policies.

We should be honest and balanced. We should do the complete opposite of the propagandists, because ultimately their propaganda will unravel.

We should narrate the facts for what they are as honestly as possible.

The 24 October 1947 became the auspicious date on which the Muslims of what is today ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir formed their own government having rebelled against the Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Rajput Ruler of Kashmir State. The rebels were from mostly Poonch and Mirpur, veterans of World War II, who hadn’t forgotten the inequities that had been committed against the powerless peoples of this Princely State. Everyone was a victim, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jat, Rajput, Kashmiri, Pahari, Balawar, Gujjar, even Kashmiri Pandits, from whichever community you came from, the ruling elite of this State was a parasite assisted by an equal number of local collaborators from the various regions. [Note; these are not separate group identities, but how the people of the State were identified as social units; these groups comprised the native or indigenous occupants of the State, some 85000 square miles of territory]

The Pakistan army had intervened covertly of course on behalf of the Muslims with the help of some tribes from the North West Frontier Province. They couldn’t intervene openly, because that would have gone against the letter and spirit of partition. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a lawyer, so he knew this better than anyone else. And so the Pakistani leadership claimed ordinary Muslims aggrieved at what was happening in the State intervened to support their Muslim brethren!

With the ensuing fighting, the State was dismembered, and eventually a cease-fire line was agreed – what we today call the “LOC”, “Line of Control”. It wasn’t plain sailing though. Some of the tribal rebels when they got to Uri, Muzaffarabad District, now in India, committed crimes against the locals, kidnapping women, some of whom were Muslims, raping nuns in a church, stealing property, terrorising people, which got a lot of people thinking, “is life really going to be different in Pakistan?

Others put it down to moral failings on the part of some rebels.

The AJK flag was duly created for the territory, an imposition from the Pakistanis as our activist brothers tell us; Pakistani Officialdom designed the flag, and it supposed to symbolise the identity of this ‘liberated‘ part of the old Kashmir State. For many of us this flag, whatever its dubious origin, is incredibly symbolic not least because our own grandparents, “the ex-military men”, were involved in the rebellion against the oppressive rulers of this State.

But, you don’t see our youth flying this particular flag in the UK.

Why is that then?

Because there is a huge disconnect between AJK and its one million strong UK Diaspora.

Some of these youngsters don’t feel British because of racism, so you won’t see them flying the Union Jack. Ironically, having accrued no tangible benefits from Pakistan, all the while they have accrued real material benefits from Britain, they still feel the urge to fly the Pakistani flag on Eid.

And despite this, the leaders of Pakistan tell the whole world that ‘Azad’ Kashmir is separate from Pakistan. And not because the people of ‘Azad’ Kashmir want to be separate from Pakistan – if they did, why would so many of their children be flying Pakistani flags in British cities, as so many in AJK are now switching to the AJK flag? It’s because Pakistan insists that ‘Azad’ Kashmir is a separate territory from its own, and on the day Pakistan finally liberates the Valley of Kashmir – and cows start flying – it will then give the peoples of this diverse State a vote.

The awaited UN Plebiscite! – Click on link to read UN Directive!

The liberated ‘Kashmiris’ – and by this they mean every national of the territory, will then choose, either India or Pakistan, freely and without compulsion. After all, Jammu & Kashmir State belongs to her indigenous peoples. And in spite of this good will – Pakistani intentions are always noble apparently according to their mass-produced social media profiles – Pakistan’s rulers demand that everyone in ‘Azad’ Kashmir support the secession of the territory to Pakistan.

You are forced to profess your love for Pakistan by oath!

You can’t even stand for elections in ‘Azad’ Kashmir if you don’t support the pro-Pakistan narrative.

You can’t even get government jobs. These are poorly-paid subordinate jobs to Pakistanis flown in from the Panjab if you toe the Pakistani line – most ordinary Panjabis are similarly disenfranchised in Pakistan, so let’s not get caught up on that old chestnut, “it’s the Panjabis who control Pakistan!” Pakistani Panjabis are also victims of the unjust power-structure. If they were living it large in the Panjab, they wouldn’t be living in the diaspora as oversees Pakistanis, proudly flying Pakistani flags, unaware of how hard life is for ordinary Pakistanis.

As for state patronage in AJK, all government jobs are paid for by the natural resources of AJK State – for instance, the amount of money Mangla Dam generates alone, is much more than the total budget of the AJK government. But, there’s one problem, the royalties of the Dam, in the billions of dollars, is not paid to the government of AJK.


Because AJK is not a Province of Pakistan. It is a separate territory. Yes, it is “Azad” – Free. So the sophistry involved means there is no process to transfer this money to the legitimate representatives of this State.

This is how exploitation begins and ends in Azad Jammu & Kashmir.

Who is this Pakistani elite kidding?

And yet to the entire world, Pakistani Officials say ‘Azad’ Kashmir is ‘free’!

For obvious reasons these guys aren’t very creative when they create their ‘fictions’.

And their “agents” in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, the few ‘dignitaries’ from the region with little to no power but official-sounding titles, usually from the old clan-backgrounds (their clan members are now aggrieved), are more than happy to rent out their persons to promote this outrageous lie. This description might be a little harsh, but this is how they’re seen by the people of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, from every corner, from Bhimbar all the way to Neelum.

There’s a reason why Pakistan is laughed at internationally. I’m not being facetious. I’m being serious. It pains me to say this. Pakistan’s position on the Jammu & Kashmir conflict – claiming to be a neutral supporter of ‘Muslims’ – they tend to forget that East Pakistan ceded away in 1971 amidst allegations of rape and murder – is seen for what it is – hogwash. Ordinary Pakistanis might be deluded who have never once questioned what Pakistan Officialdom teaches them. The world that watches this farce is anything but deluded.

Pakistan’s political elite do not care one iota for the lies they spread in Pakistan about the Kashmir Conflict to what honest, sincere and ‘intellectual’ Pakistanis describe as a ‘dumbed-down’ population that has some of the worst life opportunities of any nation.

The elite is squarely to blame.

The vast majority of Valley Kashmiris want independence for the entire State. The youth of the Valley are much more politically astute than their counterparts in AJK. They view AJK as being exploited by Pakistan.

Are they wrong about the political and economic exploitation of AJK?

They do not want to join Pakistan, or India. Speak to them and they will say, “are you having a laugh!”. The Muslim Paharis of Indian Jammu; the Shias of Kargil; the Buddhists of Ladakh all want to remain in India. If they don’t, they probably want independence, but you can bet your last pound, they wouldn’t even countenance the idea of becoming part of what looks like a failed State. They have no stomach for a merger with Pakistan terrified that they will accrue ‘no benefits’ whatsoever from joining Pakistan, a country affected by sectarian violence and huge political inequalities, where middle-men control everything. And compared to India, Pakistan is a lot poorer whatever the Chinese and Japanese sponsored investment of recent years.

India seems to be going in the right direction, as it stamps out corruption, opens up the economy for foreign investment, as ordinary people hit the streets demanding their rights, speaking up for victims. India is far from perfect, but it understands that the peoples of India own India. Pakistan seems to be going in the opposite direction, as bloggers are disappeared and dissent is ruthlessly crushed.

And yet many people in AJK, dwindling in size, have continued to show loyalty to Pakistan, as their politically-astute children now ask their parents what have they gained in return?

There’s an irony here.

Pakistan spilt from ‘Hindu’ India, on purportedly religious grounds, to have a homeland where India’s ‘Muslims’ were free from “Hindu” persecution and inequality. We are still looking for these Hindu demons, as Muslims commit equally egregious crimes against other Muslims?

Years later, the elite decided to become strong allies of Communist ‘Godless’ China, ceding and selling bits of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir to curry favour with their new ‘atheist’ friends. They got these lands for free so they didn’t lose sleep from giving them away. India, on the other hand, has fought wars with China to retain these lands as formally belonging to Kashmir State. Of course, Pakistanis want to defend Muslims everywhere in their natural homelands against the non-Muslim aggressor, in particular the ‘Palestinians’. But there seems to be complete silence on how ethnic ‘turkic’ Muslims are being persecuted in Xinjiang Province, China, suffering at the hands of communist officials. Many Pakistanis profess their love for the Turkish Turks, but they seem to have less love for the Muslim Turkic Uyghurs being oppressed by their Chinese allies.

Not even a peep about this maltreatment!

Now that’s an interesting proposition when we conflate ‘Islam’ with ‘Pakistan’ don’t you think?

Atheist or not, it is not for us to decide what people believe, each to his own, courtesy of the values we’ve learnt in the West. Not that the West has a monopoly over secular values on tolerance, India has had a rich tradition of religious skepticism, millennia old, that has co-existed peacefully with theistic beliefs. But, we shouldn’t be remiss to not point out the inconsistencies in political propaganda masquerading as “Islamic” empathy.

Peoples everywhere are tired of state-enforced propaganda. Peoples everywhere want to throw off the shackles of political oppression irrespective of the tribal flags foisted upon individual members. The Free World should support activists of democracy and human rights, and not support the dictators against their own peoples because of trade deals and issues around ‘sovereignty’.

We know who the tyrants are, their victims claim asylum in the ‘Free World’, or seek sanctuary in the West. The 12 year old Malala Yusuf was one such example.

In discussing identities and wellbeing and the benefits we accrue from our group identities, I hope to have shown from the examples given, that it is the case that ethnic Paharis of so-called Azad Jammu Kashmir are a dispossessed people, as their more wealthier peers in the UK are similarly a marginalised community. We make up approximately 4 million people in Azad Kashmir, almost entirely a Pahari ethnic sphere (wrongly and deliberately conflated with the Pakistan Punjab for the purposes of political propaganda) with sizeable pockets of ethnic Kashmiri speakers living amongst us, as members of the same landmass, we call Jammu & Kashmir. In the UK, we comprise more than one million people; more than 1 in 3 British-Muslims has roots in Jammu & Kashmir, and almost 1 in every 3 British Asians is from the supposedly liberated part of Jammu & Kashmir.

For our youngsters to not even know that our ancestral regions in Jammu & Kashmir are not part of Pakistan, claimed by India, and ironically labelled “free” to the laugher and chagrin of almost every international observer, including Indian and Pakistani ones, proves how disconnected AJK’s diaspora is from the wider JK region.

Worse, AJK’s natural resources are exploited by Pakistani officials, sealing our fate with a non-reciprocating nation, or socio-political order, that does not recognise us as genuine Pakistanis in the first place. Moreover, our youngsters know absolutely nothing about their past, and the indigenous Kashmiri freedom struggle in this part of the old State before 1947, which makes them targets for the cocky jokes of uneducated Wikipedia Experts that they’re all somehow confused and deluded in the UK. And yet a lot of these Pakistani patriots insist on a Pakistani identity that subordinates their British identity, all the while indifferent to the many benefits that accrue from living in Britain otherwise denied to them in ‘Pakistan-administered-Kashmir’.

Britain has been a true friend to the people of AJK. In many ways, Britain has been a much better friend to all diaspora Pakistanis from whichever part of Pakistan they come from. Just because you have safety and opportunities courtesy of your adopted homeland, does not mean you should forget about all the poor people in Pakistan and AJK.

The truth of that claim needs no advocate.

Sadly, Pakistan Officialdom continues to exploit the powerless, and has shown no compunction either. It does not fear any backlash from AJK’s diaspora to the advantage of a pro-democracy movement in so-called AJK, given how it perceives AJK’s people, whether at home or abroad.

It has been noted by many observers that Mirpur, a historical backwater in the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir, has benefited Pakistan immeasurably. It’s the only place in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir that has the semblance of affluence courtesy of its diaspora in the UK. And this in the near absence of any government infrastructure projects. The pro-independence activists tell us, the Pakistan government is disinvesting Mirpur which might explain why the service sector is completely reliant on UK remittences. Lot’s of oversees Mirpuris have bought properties in Islamabad to be close to amenities they take for granted in the UK.

Whether this is true or not, it is a credit to British Paharis from Mirpur that they never forgot about their relatives, and extended families, whatever the strains of being separated in two different worlds. The area is much wealthier than the capital, Muzaffarabad – in which other country is this the norm, not least in the absence of government investment projects?

Pakistani newspapers find it funny that the beggars of Mirpur, some of whom come from the Punjab, having fled huge inequality and destitution, demand their donations in British pounds! Hilarious. Where is the respect for ordinary human beings wherever they are from? See Pakistani article.

It’s a joke!

One can just cite the Mangla Dam that produces huge amounts of electricity for Pakistan. This is a Dam that belongs to the residents of Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, having made more than a 110 thousand Mirpuris homeless when it was first created. Not only do the elected representatives of ‘Azad’ Kashmir not benefit from the Dam and the royalties it accrues – more than the entire AJK budget, but the people of the area have actually been disadvantaged by the Dam. They were promised free electricity in the wake of the huge sacrifices borne by them, one amongst many promises that never came to fruition, including the anticipated airport in Dadyaal. Mirpuris have realised Pakistani promises are false.

We’re still waiting for this airport, decades on. Numerous projects have been completed in mainland Pakistan with the help of the Chinese. And how much electricity does Azad Jammu Kashmir get – go ask the locals and they’ll tell you in very colourful language!

When one ponders the amount of money being spent by British-Paharis in Pakistan, in the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and neighbouring areas – part of our ethnic homeland albeit in Northern Pakistan – the remittances they have been sending since the early 50s, we’re talking many tens of billions of pounds just from the UK! And what about the thousands of Mirpuris that travel PIA yearly to visit their hill/mountain hamlets, and have done so since the 1950s? It is a shame, this aspect of their ‘generosity’ is never celebrated.

These numbers are now dwindling, but the socio-political grievances still remain.

They have been no reciprocal benefits for this ‘largess’, no kind words, not even an acknowledgement from the rulers of Pakistan about the huge sacrifices borne by the AJK people.

Instead some British-Pakistanis want to slur the community by accusing its members of illicit activities, blame-shifting Pakistan’s bad reputation onto “the Mirpuris”. And when British-Paharis point out the huge imbalance in the ‘A’JK-Pakistan ‘partnership’ – a master-client relationship – they are accused of being ‘Indian’ agents even as the community waves Pakistani flags.

Ironies are seldom this poetic.

Pakistan Officialdom is in denial about the reality on the ground in AJK. They pretend to their domestic audiences that everything is great in Pakistan’s “Kashmir“, as they seek to demean and slur the reputations of those who speak up against this economic and political injustice.

Ordinary Pakistanis not from AJK are absolved of these attitudes or antics, as some of them think it is “patriotism” on their part to deny AJK its grievances. This is herd-mentality, nothing more. Patriots like this can’t change anything for their own communities in Pakistan, so we shouldn’t be too concerned about the slurs they throw at us.

I did say identities are complex things though. And in many ways, we are victims of our identities, even as we identify with “nationalities” who have no desire to return the fraternal love. The difference, however, is that most victims know the identities of those oppressing them.

Sadly, my people don’t.

Here’s another irony for you, Shaheed Bhat is considered a hero all over Jammu & Kashmir State. India views him as a terrorist. In all areas of the divided State, in ‘A’JK, the Valley of Kashmir, you will see his murals on walls and buildings. Pakistan Officialdom seeks to honour his memory as a freedom fighter, as numerous organisations in Pakistan that purportedly seek justice for the peoples of the State, particularly against human rights violations in Indian-administered-Kashmir deploy his picture. He was imprisoned and then subsequently executed in India for terrorism related charges. He is thus a hero for the Pakistanis. He was also the founding member of the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front, and a key figure in the “Kashmir” pro-independence movement.

And yet the writings of Shaheed Maqbool Bhat are banned in Pakistan – see page 35 of Human Rights Watch Report. Maqbool Bhat was similarly imprisoned and tortured in Pakistani prisons for his pro-independence leanings.

How’s that for an irony?

He was very clear about the duplicitous nature of Pakistan Officialdom in its dealings on the Kashmir Issue. It seems his words have yet to sketch themselves on the conscience of all those who seek to speak in his name whilst unashamedly profiting from his memory. This type of cynicism is the ugliest form of political propaganda. See, – 1984.

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Blogger at Portmir Foundation; liberal by values, opposed to tribalism in all its guises; love languages and cultures – want to study as many as I can; proficient in some; opposed to social and political injustice wherever it rears its ugly head even from within my own British-Pahari community (a little unsure about the juxtaposition. The term ‘Pahari’ can mean different things to different people – stay posted. Grandparents from the Himalayan mountains of Jammu, presently split between India and Pakistan – get the impression no one cares about the people stuck between the LOC – currently researching the ‘Pahari-cultural-heritage’ outside political and territorial paradigms and the narratives of the political ‘mainstream’. Ultimately, hoping to create a space for members of the British-Pahari community to discover their own wonderful heritage. I believe – ‘life’ is a wok in progress so nothing is fixed even our thoughts! If you’re from the region, feel free to contact me – always prepared to widen my intellectual horizons and stand corrected – don’t insult me though. Be grown up and tell me why you think I’m wrong. If you make sense, I’ll change my views.

My opinions are not necessarily those of the Portmir Foundation; the Foundation does not do censorship; if you disagree with any us, and you’re from our background, write your own opinion piece and we’ll publish it. You can contact us at


  1. I read this from a young blogger from Indian-administered-Kashmir (Arsilan), and it puts your post into perspective.

    “Farooq Bajwa, a Pakistani Lawyer and Historian whose book Pakistan: A Historical and Contemporary Look is a compulsory read for all O Level Pakistan students, told BBC in 2016 that, “I have spoken to senior Pakistani officials. They can live with an Independent Kashmir but they want to hang on to PaK (with Northern Areas) at all costs”.

    In a letter to Azra Mir, daughter of Ghulam Muhammad Mir, the then President of National Liberation Front, Maqbool Bhat clarified that the people of Pakistan have and will always support Kashmirs’ demand for freedom. However, the ruling class of Pakistan had played politics of interest over Kashmir and by tagging people like us (Maqbool Bhat) as agents, they had actually helped India. He termed Pakistan’s attitude towards Kashmir as “mere lip service” which should not be trusted.

    One should understand that Pakistan never has nor will ever support us unconditionally. It can only hoodwink us into believing so. The only way for an independent Kashmir to become a reality is when we (Kashmiris) take the center stage. As Maqbool had once said:

    “The war of liberation cannot be fought by beggars or by those who seek aid from others. Freedom fighters are characterized by the grace of the Mu’min… If you think that Kashmir’s freedom struggle can be fought with the help of Pakistani money, Indian money, American money or any other country’s resources, then you are only deluding yourself. Kashmir’s is a war to reclaim the home of Kashmiris and it must be run with our own money. We cannot fight our war of freedom if we rely on the resources of others. Because finance is the lifeline of any resistance movement and if your lifeline is in the hands of others then you are completely dependent on them. They can sever your lifeline anytime and cripple your movement. . . whatever the requirements of Kashmir’s freedom struggle, be it tools or financial resources, they must be generated by Kashmiris. We must furnish the resources by the dint of our physical and mental efforts. Everything must come from our own resources. And unless we are ready for this, we cannot fight for our freedom.””

  2. The ground realities are different. In Jammu (indian) part there is a huge pro indian constituency and they do NOT want an independent state and DO NOT want to Join Pakistan and are happy with the status quo. Jammu ( Pakistan part) of which our beloved Mirpur division is a part also DO NOT want to be an independent state and are happy with Pakistan and so the only issue is the valley of Kashmir.
    If you ask what is my justification for this, well in the last 60 years that our Mirpuris have lived in the UK they have never held rallies against Pakistaan and they all celebrate 14th August and you all remember Birmingham when Pakistan won the cricket, all Mirpuris were on the streets. But all the same Mirpuris go on anti India rallies and dislike India.
    These are just facts and one cannot escape them no matter how much they wish it is like your myth of ummah article the Ummah is a myth and so is our affinity to Kashmir a people who are nice and great but we cannot speak their language and have less in common with them then we do with the Punjabis. These are just facts and that is why I personally think that we should strive not for Kashmir but for AJK to be included as a FULL PART of Pakistan and to end this AJK nonsense once and for all, we need to send our representatives down the road from Dadyal to Islamabad in the Pakistan Assembly and senate.
    We want full rights as Pakistanis and no longer want to be with this J&K problem.

    Finally I know that Pakistan was made by the British but so was Jammu and Kashmir. After all Jammu and Kashmir was made by the Treaty of Amritsar of 1846 I beleive. We are no more Kashmiri than we are Pakistani or Punjabi, these are all administrative places we live in the same land we have always lived in and the administrations have changed and that is it. Personally I think we are better off working to just be full regular citizens of the de facto land we are a part of for the last 70 years.

  3. Reiss you said
    One can just cite the Mangla Dam that produces huge amounts of electricity for Pakistan. This is a Dam that belongs to the residents of Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad, having made more than a 110 thousand Mirpuris homeless when it was first created.

    Why does it belong to residents of Poonch and MZD. I can understand Mirpur but why choose the other two Dist. Mangla in fact is closer to both Jhelum and Pindi then Poonch and even closer to Gujarat and Sialkot then MZD. Reiss I cannot get your logic behind ownership of Mangla going to Poonch. ALL borders and modern states in Asia and Africa were created by Europeans and that includes the Durrand Line Radcliffe line and the Mc Mahon line borders and so are we going to just accept them without thought and if we are, then why this anti Pakistan stance. British made Pakistan and J&K.
    I can never get the reason why we want to be closer to Poonch than Jhelum ( personally I respect both).

    Your insight would be useful Reiss.

    • Hi Punyal. Thanks for your response.

      Let me just clarify my position.

      You may have gathered from the sentiments in this post and others, I’m not a pro-independence activist; although I respect the activism of the pro-independence “Kashmiris” to advocate on behalf of Jammu Kashmir “nationals” whichever part of the divided State they are active in. I’m a democrat not a nationalist. I don’t necessarily agree with their vision for AJK but I support the empowerment of people to have agency in their affairs. If people want independence, that’s their right. I wouldn’t vote for independence if I was given the vote in AJK (it’s not going to happen), but I would respect the vote in the same way Britain respected the Scottish and European referenda.

      Why do I feel like this?

      Personally I cant see how independence from Pakistan is going to improve the conditions in AJK and I don’t think it’s right to undermine the amount of support that exists in the region for Pakistan however dwindling the numbers – and let’s not delude ourselves, the numbers are dwindling. Separating has never made things better, it just creates a more toxic and noxious environment; and we should try our best to improve living conditions and not create false expectations that once we’ve separated cows are going to start flying and gold will fall from the skies.

      But whose to blame for the emerging cleavages between AJK and Pakistan? I think I’m correct in pointing my finger at the establishment even as I point out that we shouldn’t re-write history and present the people of AJK as pro-independence Kashmiris. They weren’t. To say otherwise is propaganda. Pro-independence activists will disagree with me but the historical facts speak for themselves. I concede, things have changed noticeably after the fact of 1948; this history has been decades in the making and the writing is now on the wall for everyone to see.

      But it is also propaganda and disinformation to write the AJK people out of their territory and ignore their history of dispossession even before 1846 when these areas were ruled by foreign occupiers as collective territories. All these hill principalities were ruled by the same rulers (including Hazara etc.,), so we cant now say, 100 years later, this is “Jammu” and that is “Kashmir”, this bit is “Poonch” and that bit is “Mirpur” – and people must live within the geo-administrative spaces courtesy of those who want to rule over them in the 21st century. This is a profoundly unjust situation and the people on the ground are aware of what is happening. Every expert out there knows the real impulses behind such claims not least because they are historically disingenuous.

      There is a reason why Jammu & Kashmir is configured in the way it is – the British weren’t innovating anything new when they lumped all these areas together and sold them to the Dogra Raja of Jammu with the possible exception of Gilgit Baltistan. This history predates the Dogras by centuries; a lot of people don’t understand this history because of their own political anxieties. I’m sure you’ve heard or read that Mirpur was part of the Patwar? What does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything, this is a trope spread by people who think they are making clever statements. They don’t understand cartography and how regions were historically mapped. This isn’t a precise science, this is more to do with power dynamics than anything tangible or material about ethnicity.

      The Patwar areas were similarly controlled by people who didn’t control many areas in the Panjab – as in the Plains of the Panjab, but the claim is of no significance to the idea that Mirpur is part of Jammu & Kashmir not the Panjab or the Patwar whichever geo-political configuration you want to use. There are areas of Mirpur that made up the old District of Mirpur which were much older than the actual tribal settlement of Mirpur with the corresponding name, and these areas had always been part of the Mughal Subah of Kashmir. But so what. This doesn’t prove anything either.

      What has geo-administrative spaces got to do with people, how these regions were mapped and who these people should live with per a governance system? Absolutely nothing.

      This is the reason why I’m not into nation state politics as I understand that the idea of nation states has always been illusory and mythic. Nation states have never existed previously, territories existed, people were subjects of rulers not nationals of ethnic spaces with cleverly designed borders and immigration checkpoints. Geography and ethnicity are not the same things as territories. The people who say, “these people belong here, and those people belong over there, are making ahistorical claims”. In the case of Kashmir, it amounts to propaganda and disinformation. All of Pakistan is ethnically diverse. India is ethnically diverse. Afghanistan is ethnically diverse. Which nation state is strictly conterminous with the artificial borders of its state? Why is Jammu Kashmir being denied this reality? These are the ironies people forget when they say Mirpuris are Patwaris so they should live with Patwaris as separate to the rest of an independent Jammu Kashmir State as fellow nationals even as the Panjabis live in separate countries, Pakistan and India; Baloch live in separate countries, Pakistan and Iran; Pashtun live in separate countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan; Bengalis live in separate countries, India and Bangladesh. This is political propaganda not ethnic arguments for such illusory claims.

      These are dangerous arguments because they weaken the resolve of people who want people to live together as united people whatever our diversity and not in separate spaces because of illusory differences.

      If we want to separate the people of Jammu Kashmir as an argument of principle, we should separate the peoples of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, where is this going to stop? And yet ironically, Azad Kashmir is an ethnically homogenous region with ethnic commonalities on both sides of the LOC and also in the direction of the Pothohar Uplands and the Hazara Hills. This is one ethnic space. Does that mean we create one “ethnic” territory for these specific people as separate from Khyber Pakhtunkwa, the Punjab Province and undivided Jammu & Kashmir State?

      So you see I generally don’t like this whole “us and them” type narratives that pity peoples against peoples, communities against communities, individuals against individuals. For me, having spent a lot of years understanding how identities emerge, I now know conclusively that national identities are all but illusory, fluid and ever changing – they are not primordial or fixed, and so it makes no sense to posture through one identity as opposed to another when in fact, what nationalists are really fighting for, is better governance models, rights and liberties – i.e., economic and social opportunities. The national myths and ethnic arguments follow these initial impulses. If there was no injustice, people wouldn’t even dream of posturing through these sorts of national myths, or start dividing people into false categories as “us” against “them”.

      The dysfunctional nature of AJK has complicated all this. There is a tangible sense of powerlessness in the air and people are really frustrated. Our young in AJK are graduating without the prospect of jobs; they feel insecure in their own lands. Nothing gets resolved in AJK, not even a simple land dispute as “advocates” ensure the litigants fight one another endlessly so they get paid; if you want something resolved, you have to go through the middle men with power – and so people are fed up and they are looking to blame Pakistan given the status of AJK as an ambiguous territory, not independent and not even a Province of Pakistan.

      These people are in limbo. And so they are looking for answers now.

      I’ve tried to be honest with how I’ve narrated the history of AJK, it’s emergence as a separate polity from Pakistan and all the problems that have come from AJK’s ambiguous status courtesy of the Pakistan Establishment.

      The simple fact is AJK diaspora particularly in the UK is disconnected with the events unfolding in AJK. This is a clear indication that their forebears did not believe in independence for AJK; but they are sorely deluded about the ambiguous status of AJK which is what I was trying to get across in my post.

      Certain areas of AJK have become hotbeds for the independence narrative, other areas are more sympathetic to the grievances which are generally felt across the territory, but generally these people do not advocate to separate from Pakistan. We ignore these realities to our peril. To deny the widespread grievances is to give oxygen to the forces that want to divide us – I’m not talking about the activists who are really fighting for civic rights. Poonch is the same place as Mirpur as is Muzaffarabad. This is one place, whether bits of it fall in Jammu or Kashmir, it’s the same place. The grievances are the same, and these people feel attached to their AJK – their “Kashmir” in Pakistan.

      So you see however you want to frame the wider discussions outside AJK, and you are absolutely right – there is no shared voice for the re-unification of the State, the fact of the matter is AJK is homogenous and the people have every right to speak up for their grievances within AJK. People from Pakistan should be helping these people so they don’t feel “separate” from the rest of Pakistan given how bad Pakistan is managed.

      For my part, I wish they could pursue these grievances as part of a movement that demands rights all over Pakistan without the need for us to separate as brothers and sisters. We shouldn’t create illusory demons. Not everyone in the government is bad. Not everyone in the army is bad. Not everyone in the police is bad. These people too want some sort of settlement for AJK. We need to stop polarising the debate and fighting people to blame.

      We have too many links for us to poison our relations. Loads of Mirpuris are married outside Mirpur to families from all over Pakistan, and AJK. Mirpuris feel comfortable all over AJK as they would in Pakistan; why should we poison these social relations because of political injustices in AJK? I’m sure you would feel at home in Lahore as you would in Islamabad or Mirpur? If our parents could come and live in the UK as foreigners, why cant we live in our own ethnic homelands as brothers and sisters of the same country?

      Partition has happened. We cant re-live the old arguments, and open the old wounds. We need normalisation between India and Pakistan. There needs to be a settlement of this conflict.

      And so when I say, who are our oppressors? It is and will never be the peoples of Pakistan – our people, but unjust processes of individual actors and interest groups who have never once believed in fraternity as they are ready to jeopardise the wellbeing of 200 million people, as they show scant regard for AJK, and many parts of Pakistan, as they shout slogans for the “oppressed” peoples across the LOC.

      Yes, in terms of Mangla Dam, I was merely saying that the stakeholders of the State own the natural resources of the territory, in much the same way Panjabis own the natural resources of Panjab and Sindhis own Sindh. The idea is one of taxation and accountability; if you pay into a system, you are a stakeholder in that system. You thus own your assets. Mirpuris bore the huge fallout of this Dam and they suffered the most when their ancestral lands were immersed within the waters. We all know why this Dam was created, and I doubt anyone really cared about the actual consequences for the ordinary communities living in the area. This area was the size of Birmingham. I’m asking sincerely, if a Dam was going to be built in Lahore or Karachi, how would the people react – no one cared for Mirpur’s people back then because they were seen as simpletons back then? Why were so many people inadequately compensated and yet we have people who think they are experts when they narrate this history to the chagrin of Mirpuris in the UK who are perfectly capable of understanding ironies. It’s these sorts of descriptions that irritate people as they start to think maybe life would be better for us far from these people who want to insult the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents.

      My argument is this is a false consciousness. Ignoring the problem will only make the situation worse. History is replete with such examples of territories imploding.

      I hope this explains my own position on AJK. Take care brother.

  4. We have no future in Pakistan. When are you going to get it? Fly your Pakistani flags if it makes you feel better, Azad Kashmir is not part of Pakistan! It’s Azad, according to the Pakistanis, it’s a separate territory from Pakistan supposedly to give the Pakistanis the moral high ground against the Indians who have annexed Kashmir to India.

    70 years have passed and the region is still being exploited. Where is the government investment in any part of AJK? Big mansions in Mirpur and nothing else. Amazing prosperity on the back of remittences. Is this the prosperity Pakistan bought Mirpur, or was this on the back of people who worked incredibly hard in the UK?

    We are from Jammu and Kashmir. We are not from Pakistan. Ok, I want to be Pakistani, I want to kiss the Pakistani flag, it doesn’t make us brothers and sisters of the same country. Positive vibes, and hoping for the best doesn’t resolve the problems in AJK. The rulers of Pakistan talk about Azaadi for Indian-Kashmir but it has consistently denied our “Kashmir” tangible rights. They cant even give Azadi to the Pakistanis, what Azadi are they going to give us? Look at what is happening all over Pakistan? And so in the absence of addressing these self-evident facts, Pakistan propagandists want to lie about our origin to Jammu Kashmir State, speak bad about us, try to divide us, because they have no answers to the glaring fact that Pakistan has been exploiting AJK for decades. Why are they denying pro-independence parties from participating in their own elections in Azad Kashmir if indeed we are one people? I thought we were “Azaad” in our own country called Azad Jammu Kashmir?

    Do you really think Pakistan is going to solve this problem of AJK’s dysfunctional nature? The rulers don’t seem to care until they have to deal with a mass movement.

    AJK people need to get off the fence and join the rest of their people from Jammu & Kashmir. The diaspora should hang its head in shame, or at least those of us who know what is going on in AJK and the rest of this divided State.

    • Thanks for your response.

      You are merely re-stating the problem. No one has disagreed with the basic argument that Azad Kashmir is an ambiguous territory, neither a Province of Pakistan, and neither independent or even remotely semi-autonomous. Everyone with basic literacy and some familiarity with this conflict, knows this to be the case.

      So what is your ‘exact’ point?

      If you can demonstrate to me how you’re going to improve the well-being of the ordinary people of AJK, I’ll agree with you. I’ll become a pro-independence activist? I’ll join you, help raise funds for the cause, help mobilise the people. But, no one to date has even offered a vision of life post-Pakistan, as they carry on shouting slogans for Azadi.

      In the UK, the pro-independence activists have yet to reach out to the diaspora, the hundred of thousands of young people who speak English and not Urdu or Pahari. Isn’t it odd, that to date they continue to move in their own circles with little regard for these “co-citizens” now living in the West?

      Why have they failed to reach out? Why are they unable to share these experiences with all our young people?

      How are you going to improve the prosperity and wellbeing of Jammu & Kashmir – 17 million or so people? What will the ethnically diverse people of this State be called? What will be the name of their nationality; Kashmir is merely one part of this State, what about all the other parts – whose ethnic labels are we going to use? Have the activists even thought about these realities?

      So please be tempered in your views.


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