The Birth of ‘A’JK Public Agency

Kotli, Mirpur Division, Jammu & Kashmir; 16 January 2016

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This is our first attempt at making a documentary in ‘A’JK with ‘bells and whistles’. Many thanks to all my co-citizens for taking part. Some of the background music was borrowed from Shigeru Umebayashi: Yumeji’s Theme (In The Mood for Love) Courtesy of Emotion Music Co., Ltd. Official site [fr]: http://www.inthemoodforlove-wkw.com/ The other background music is a local remix, borrowing vocals from the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
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Our time has come to transition from ‘subjects’ to ‘citizens’!
Working all hours to develop civil society in ‘A’zad Jammu & Kashmir.
“A solution to Jammu & Kashmir’s unresolved status can only be executed if the citizens of the territory create a solution without external interference” – Tanveer Ahmed.

Okay, now the official bit… My opinions are not necessarily those of the Portmir Foundation; the Foundation does not do censorship and neither does it endorse my opinions; if you disagree with any of us and you’re from our background, write your own opinion piece and we’ll publish it; info@portmir.org.uk

16 COMMENTS

  1. What do you hope to achieve with your efforts?

    Whatever you are doing or trying to achieve, are the people of Azad Jammu & Kashmir ready for it?

  2. A choreographed solution to the ‘claimed’ territory of the erstwhile State of J & K, designed and driven by its people’s ‘aggregate public opinion’ but taking into account the views of each region, religion, language and cultural sphere, ultimately using ‘direct democracy’ methods and communications technology.

    I hope that is not a mouthful.

    Put more simply, in my personal opinion the whole state of J & K should be a neutral territory a la Switzerland and its internal governance framework should be broken down into autonomy for each village (or moza) subject to practicality. I think we can learn a lot from the development of at least 5 countries who have either a similar land-mass or population-size (give or take a few thousand square miles of territory or a few million people here or there).
    For example:
    1) Switzerland – For its consistently neutral status amidst a powerful neighbourhood, consensus amongst a very diverse population within and a governance structure that gives full scope to direct democracy whereby even one citizen can change the constitution subject to a procedure of obtaining signatures from like-minded citizens.
    2) Singapore – For its advanced research on public policy and effective implementation. Despite having little land (278 square miles compared to 5,134 square miles of just AJK) and little internal resources, to be amongst the most competitive economies in the world.
    3) South Africa – For its most advanced constitution (in the world) which was created after many decades of a freedom movement (against apartheid) that we can also learn a lot from.
    4) Estonia – For its almost 100% digital governance and its ability to wean away from Russian influence.
    5) Tunisia – For its ability – despite being a Muslim majority country and Arab nation – to derive a consensus on democratic norms between pro-sharia and anti-sharia forces and to come up with an inclusive constitution. Its relative stability in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011 despite many hurdles is also admirable.

    Now, all the above may seem like idealistic codswallop but when you break the forthcoming hurdles on this path into tiny little targets and line them up against the potential that certainly we in AJK or the diaspora possess (for example, count the number of people we have living in the ‘developed’ world and their opportunites for mastering the art of state (re)formation, geo-politics and governance), then it isn’t such a mammoth task after all.

    My or rather ‘our’ efforts are on AJK as it has far more advanatge relative to other parts of the divided state to assert its will over its occupier. Thus, it should be a model for the parts to learn from and aspire to.
    Of course, it is not easy and our efforts on the ground in AJK have tried to mobilise the public according to their capacity to understand, engage and fund the various public initiatives we have taken thus far since 2009 in particular (and 2005 in general). So, in response to your second question, the public of AJK are not quite ready for change (at least not to the extent desirable though inroads have been made) but that is where ‘AJK Public Agency’ as a concept comes in and I’m working on a write-up that will elaborate on its genesis, significance and utility in relation to all the ideals listed above. Please bear with me: It will be up very soon.

    • The following sentence from the above comment needs to edited somewhat and I couldn’t find an editing option for the comment so thus:

      My or rather ‘our’ efforts are on AJK as it has far more advantage relative to other parts of the divided state to assert its will over its occupier. Thus, it should be a model for the other parts to learn from and aspire to.

    • You should start writing a regular post here and contribute vlogs to the site. You could teach us a lot. I never knew nothing about my culture, heritage, background until I came here, and now I am reading on my own initiative a lot about how insincere Pakistan is about Kashmir, and about the plight of Azad Kashmiris even as so many Mirpuris in the UK know nothing about their actual identity. Every day, loads of Pakistanis in Britain want to insult us because we are not ‘Pakistanis’ but rather from the hills and mountains of so-called Azad Kashmir. This HATRED IS REAL. IT IS NOT A FIGMENT OF ANYONE’S IMAGINATION. I’ve got so many screenshots from twitter, facebook, google. It is endless. They make fun of our language, culture, even spread rumours and gossip about our people, telling mainstream society to distinguish “Mirpuris” from “Pakistanis”. The Pakistan government exploits Azad Kashmir. So many writers and journalists not even from Pakistan or Azad Kashmir have written about this exploitation. But in Britain, our people fly Pakistani flags. I ask you Tanveer, is this not insulting the sacrifices of everyone fighting for justice in Azad Jammu Kashmir. You need to start reaching out to us and get everyone else from Azad Kashmir to reach out to us. How can I support you, financially, morally, in whatever way I can?

      • Tanvir and all the other activists need to be financed properly. They cannot hold the people running ‘A’JK accountable, and neither can they expose how deleterious various agencies of Pakistan are in their near-absolute control over ‘A’JK. The people of ‘A’JK have no agency in conducting their own affairs in the interests of their own people. It is a client-state.

        Our parents and grandparents in the UK didn’t know, or care about this, because they were literally fleeing poverty. They were mostly illiterate and uneducated, and became the butt of mostly Pakistani ‘Urban’ jokes – the legacy you refer to in your comments Rizwan. They came to the UK so they could give us a better future. We are three and four generations in the UK, and we owe it to our people in ‘A’JK to help improve their future. Why should we ignore their plight because we have individuals amongst us who want to fly Pakistani flags whilst knowing nothing of Pakistan’s corrupt culture, even as the corrupt Pakistani elite wouldn’t even look at them!?

        There are others here that love and care for all of Pakistan. The Pakistan of the ordinary person is beautiful, as are Pakistan’s native cultures and languages. I respect that, but let’s be honest, our people have no future in this current set-up, they can’t even visit their relatives on the other side of the LOC. This is tyranny.

        And so the only other people who could challenge this unfortunate situation in Pakistan is the ‘A’JK diaspora in Europe, North America, and the Gulf States, most notably those in the UK, because we care about ‘A’JK, or at least we should care about ‘A’JK. We are a million strong here, and we have substantial funds that could seriously challenge Pakistan by paying for our own government services. These efforts will benefit us here, as they benefit our people in ‘A’JK.

        We don’t need Pakistan. LITERALLY, PAKISTAN BENEFITS FROM ‘A’JK. ‘A’JK DOES NOT BENEFIT FROM PAKISTAN.

        Pakistan needs ‘A’JK, and to date ACCORDING TO EVERY INDEPENDENT STUDY AND REPORT OUT THERE, PAKISTAN HAS CONSISTENTLY EXPLOITED ‘A’JK. Ordinary Pakistanis are absolved of these crimes, but if they want to defend this corrupt structure, and insult us for saying this by calling us traitors or ignorant or Indian agents, I would respectfully tell them to attend to their own oppressed people in the various Provinces and Districts of Pakistan, and improve their lot.

        Either Pakistan becomes a democracy for all the people, and every ethnic group is respected equally, or the various peoples of Pakistand decide their own future. What right do the elites of Pakistan have maltreating almost 200 million people whilst their children get to go to the best universities whilst the children of the poor die of malnutrition?

        They have imposed Urdu on everyone – the language of the nation – whilst they speak English at their own dinner tables!

        We remit more money to Pakistan annually, and have remitted more money to Pakistan since we’ve become a diaspora, than successive annual budgets of the ‘A’JK government which is nothing compared to the needs of the country. The time has come for us to stand up and be counted.

        THIS IS NOT ABOUT HATING PAKISTAN, A COUNTRY SO MANY OF OUR GRAND-PARENTS FOUGHT FOR, INCLUDING MY OWN, BUT ABOUT STANDING UP FOR ONE’S OWN PEOPLE AS OUR OWN CORRUPT LEADERS IN ‘A’JK HAVE SOLD OUT TO CORRUPT LEADERS IN PAKISTAN.

        I’m trying to set up a fund for the activists. The major concern is corruption, and fears the money will get squandered, but there’s definitely the will, as a lot of our educated people like the idea of trying to remit money to ‘A’JK to improve the situation of the entire country, from Bhimbar to Neelum, than merely handing out money to our cousins, and building these ridiculous mansions amidst terrible infrastructure courtesy of the polity we call ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir.

        Singapore, UAE all started out a lot worse than ‘A’JK, and look at the prosperity they are now offering their citizens.

        Rizwan, if you really want to help, give Tanvir, and all the others, money, and help us raise the funds here in the UK.

  3. Thanks for your comment Rizwan. I wasn’t aware of ‘actual’ Pakistanis in the UK targeting our community in the manner that you’ve described. I’m hoping you can share some of those screenshots with me via email at: sahaafi@gmail.com

    I agree that there needs to be much more communication between AJK and its diaspora abroad, especially with those of you in the UK, who are concerned with our predicament and/or inquisitive about their roots. It would be an honour and a duty for me to use this platform to increase that level of communication. Indeed, I’ve been meaning to write a detailed essay explaining my work and how ‘public agency’ in AJK can meet its objectives.

    As finance is the ‘energy’ needed in activism, shared contributions from the diaspora will go a long way in sustaining and cementing the paramountcy of ‘public interest’ here.

    • You are doing a fabulous job Tanvir. You may be alone now, or with a small group of activists, but eventually your numbers will increase because your cause is a just and noble one. However the security agencies treat you, try to intimidate you and the people listening to you, through propaganda and vile accusations, writing online comments against you pretending to be from ‘A’JK, they are the tyrants. The ‘sheep’ who follow them here and there, thinking it is the definition of patriotism stand condemned for the joke they have become.

      Nothing worse than a patriot who has nothing to show for his patriotism.

  4. So In AJK there are two options one to stay with Pakistan and one to be independent. The third one about joining India has I guess hardly any support.
    In 1947 Mirpuris did join Pakistan and we did fight the Maharaja’s forces and we did liberate our own area and we did hand it over to Pakistan. Later on many of my Mirpuri brothers became disheartened with Pakistan as they felt it never lived up to their expectations. They also felt that some Pakistanis were not up to scratch and racist against them.
    As a result of this we were told that our future and happiness lay in two scenarios greater religiosity and the creation of the Khalifat or in a great and independent Kashmir where we will be the masters of our destiny, prosperous, fulfilled and respected.
    However we need to see why we were unhappy with Pakistan and how we by supporting any of these movements are just jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
    Firstly I am against Urdu as the national language of Pakistan. But Urdu is also the national language of Kashmir on both sides and so how will that change.
    Secondly economic disparity is as great in Kashmir as in Pakistan and so how will that disappear.
    Thirdly and importantly, alot of mirpuris have rightly shown their disgust at racism levelled against them by people of Pakistan such as the people of Pindi and Jhelum and others. But brothers do you really think that Poonch people are better with us. I have met many in the UK and they have a very bad attitude towards mirpuris as do those from Bagh, Muzzafarabad and occupied Kashmir.
    I often therefore wonder is it not better to develop ourselves first. Why can’t we work for the betterment of Mirpuris in the UK and in Mirpur. Why can’t we ask for our rights before we ask for all of the Ummat e Islaam and Kashmir. Yes we have some political and economic clout but should we at present not just use it for our own people namely the Mirpuris only. Our demands should focus on the UK and back in Pakistan what concerns us is a local Airport in mirpur, schools and roads and infrastructure in Mirpur and not in Kashmir as a whole. I remember over the last few decades the fights has been over the budget and the poonch people never compromise and want all the funds spent on themselves and yet as ever the mirpuri bumkin has to be magnanimous.
    I personally don’t like to identify with these Kashmiris as I have no time to argue about who or what a Kashmiri is. Let the Kashmiris sort out there problems as they always call us Punjabis and Mirpuris. I personally do not think that they accept us and are pretty much the same as the Pakistanis with respect to their treatment or our people. I think we need to go back to basics and develop our people economically and educationally and also develop our culture ( language, history, music, dramas and films).

    BTW Reiss have you travelled extensively in the Divisions of Poonch and Muzzafarabad. If so what was your experiences.

  5. Thank you for your comments Jatt Punyal. Greatly appreciated.

    I don’t have conclusive answers to your specific questions. I hate this whole let’s join this group or that group.
    I’m not that way inclined. I’ve always found groupie behaviour unappetising. I have an absolute loathing for nationalism, patriotism, communalism, sectarianism, casteism, whatever “ism” is fashionable.

    Even genuine ’causes’ today have become fashionable. People want to care about ‘fashionable’ victims, no one wants to care about people where cameras have no reach.

    I have a loathing for sheepish behaviour, and let’s face it, most of us are sheep in Pakistan. Thats’s the joke about Mirpuris, the flag-waving Pakistanis who aren’t even really Pakistanis – courtesy of the genuine “Pakistanis”. But a dislike for “isms”, “brotherhoods”, – let’s be gender neutral – “sisterhoods” – (another “ism”); “fraternities”, “groupisms”, doesn’t necessarily furnish answers to problems of structural inequality.

    And this is the quagmire we are in.

    What I do know, and what I can say with conviction, Pakistan Officialdom is exploiting this so-called ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir State. And I will continue to say this until enough people of substance hear this, and finally come to the realisation that Pakistan is an utterly corrupt country. And no amount of patriotism can ever dislodge the reality of Pakistan for the fraud it has become.

    And why do I feel so angry about this? Because people fought and died for this country, including our grandparents, and for what? More than a million people died for partition, so that a new ‘elite’ could send its children to Oxford and Cambridge, and become a joke for their unaccomplishments!

    And for waht?

    This “Pakistan” where even the starving and destitute “Muslims” who bought into this lie of Pakistan, aren’t even safe from other Muslims?

    Ordinary people wherever they are, are always the victims.

    What about our ordinary people in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir?

    Whether it’s Mirpur or Neelum, we’re talking about ordinary people. Our people.

    As for the people of Poonch, ‘A’JK, they have no power other than what Pakistan gave them. These are our brethren, the people of Poonch, of Shams Khan, they were sold a lie by their leaders who got their mansions in Islamabad as the rest of them die unnoticed. Go to Poonch, it is battered, there is nothing there but hills and rubble. We are one people, Jatt Punyal, and it has nothing to do with the ‘identities’ of arrogant people who can’t offer their own communities running water.

    How is Mirpur different? We have wealth and prosperity, and no roads. No schools. No hospitals. No jobs. Nothing but remittences. A big Dam and no electricity.

    Whether we should, in Mirpur, follow our own course, I don’t know. A lot of people are saying this today. And I understand why they say this. No people like being insulted, especially by those who we think are our ‘inferiors’ now – look at Poonch, Muzaffrabad, nothing but rubble and battered homes. Power dynamics always change. But at least we should recognise our common humanity as far as we can, in terms of the ‘region’ we occupy.

    Azad Jammu & Kashmir is our country.

    And our region is one region, from Bhimbar to Neelum. It is one region. This is not “Kashmir”. This is not “Jammu”. This is the fringe of Jammu & Kashmir State. And only we can improve the condition of our people.

    And this burden now falls on our shoulders here in the UK.

    Maybe the people of Mirpur can teach the others why we should stand up against ‘tyranny’ whatever its collective identity.

    And who knows, may be we might create a country full of vision and prosperity for all our ‘citizens’ irrespective of background.

  6. In response to both Jatt Punyal and Reiss Haidar’s comments, I think it is important to initially identify the territory and in particular the geographical boundary of the polity where we seek change. Our rights as citizens are directly linked to the geographical boundary in which we reside. It would be hard – if not unfair – to concentrate on developing just one part of a territory and impractical to widen our efforts beyond the territory we live in. In other words, we should concentrate on defining and designing a system for AJK as a whole. Not for a part of AJK or for Pakistan or indeed other parts of the divided State of J & K. Pakistanis should concentrate on reforming the area within their jurisdiction and the citizens of Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu, the Valley and Ladakh should do likewise in their respective territories. In this way, we would be able to measure progress, make our public officials accountable and make sense of the link between taxation and representation. In AJK, we need to navigate ourselves out of the constitutional ambiguity we suffer from. In other words, the fact that we are not legally a part of Pakistan and neither are we an independent territory is precisely the vagueness that Pakistan is fully exploiting, whereby maximum power equals minimal responsibility.

    • And that is exactly what is going on. The constitutional ambiguity of ‘A’JK has allowed the region to be exploited for decades, and we are now seeing the shoots of a consciousness rooted in that imagined “territoriality”, – yes it’s definitely a territory separate from Pakistan, but why are there no corresponding rights for the people who live in this territory? People thus ask the pertinent question; why are we being treated like this? Is it because we’re not really citizens of Pakistan, but worse, we have no real agency in this supposedly ‘Azad’ polity that only exists has a launchpad to recover the rest of Jammu & Kashmir for Pakistan with all the fanfare of Kashmir Day in Pakistan? And then, when you add the prejudice and bigotry of outsiders to ‘A’JK who want to deny Azad Kashmiris an “identity” connecting them to the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir (which is just a fact of history), it becomes really personal. I can’t even listen to Pakistani politicians lecturing India about Indian-Occupied-Kashmir, and the human rights violations over there. It really irritates me as if Azad Kashmir is a paradise from which the “Kashmiris” are free from Indian tyranny. Explain that to the Kashmiri refugees living in tents in Neelum, who have yet to be resettled. And they are aware of how they get treated as “Paharis” from the Indian side – as if they’re not from Kashmir – when people start to talk about the “Kashmiris of the Vale”, whose political representatives, appointed by Islamabad, are offered mansions in Islamabad and generous salaries to do Islamabad’s bidding. Everyone in AJK calls them Pakistan’s puppets for a reason.

      I’ve discovered I’m not alone, there are thousands of us, who feel like this. So clearly Tanveer the tide is changing.

      • in stating the above point, I am becoming mindful of the language we use in light of some of the comments here, and I do not want my words to be misconstrued as “us” and “them”. Puppets is a harsh word, and I retract from its use. I was trying to convey the idea that people in AJK have no agency to conduct their own affairs. Whether AJK remains part of Pakistan, or not, I offer no solution, either of which will become irrelevant if the people of AJK have tangible rights to pursue their own interests. If they fail, they are responsible to their voters and they cant then blame “outsiders” for their failures. In saying this, we must never forget that the people of AJK during the troubles of partition wanted to be part of Pakistan, (right or wrong) that’s history and we shouldn’t try to re-write or re-imagine history either.

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