It’s ‘Azad’ – ‘Free‘.
“Okay!?” “It’s Azad!” “Free!”
This is Pakistan’s official stance on ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir.
But what is Azad Kashmir ‘free’ of?
According to the Pakistani state-enforced narrative, Azad Kashmiris are free from Indian tyranny. Women aren’t being raped by Indian soldiers, and by ‘Indian’ they mean non-Muslim soldiers, without failing to mention that there are an ample amount of Muslims in the Indian Army, as there are Muslims in India. Youth aren’t being disappeared and they 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 (AJK liberated itself where one turns to documented history and not political propaganda), they should be grateful, even if they’re not really Pakistanis. They’re from “Azad” Kashmir not Pakistan, India or Indian OCCUPIED Kashmir.
So they should be counting their blessings, right?
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 with impunity.
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 Palestinians, that always speak up for refugees across the world, vociferously defending minorities everywhere, all of a sudden decide to besmirch Pakistan’s impressive global reputation?
I’m speaking about a country at the bottom of human development indices with one of the worst passports of any country. Yup, Pakistanis need to apply for tourist visas to visit other countries, and frequently their applications are rejected. Not because they are bad people, but because Pakistan – the State – is not trusted in the world. The Army took money from America to find Bin Laden, whilst its military had been hiding him a mile from a military cantonment.
This is the same military that the Taliban accuse of being corrupt – the Taliban? Whatever our views on the Taliban, they are motivated by religion and conviction, however misguided and socially regressive. The Pakistan military has been funding and arming the Afghan Taliban to destabilise Afghanistan according to the Afghan government, whilst fighting homegrown Taliban in Pakistan. For Pakistan’s military-controlled media, the Afghan Taliban are freedom fighters, but the ones in Pakistan are terrorists and extremists. In response, Afghans, sick and tired of Pakistan’s Army meddling in its affairs, call the Afghan Taliban – “Punjabis”; the term “Punjabi” has now become an insult in Afghanistan! What crime did India’s Punjabis commit to have their group label dragged through the mud?
Just think about these scenarios for one moment, and how outsiders are viewing the behaviour of Pakistan’s rulers towards neighbours and allies?
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 by Pakistani Officials, if what they’re saying wasn’t true?
The same organisations that criticise Pakistan, have criticised India for its human rights violations in Indian-administered-Kashmir.
Furthermore, these organisations are charities. They’re not in the habit of receiving money from the Pakistan Army to lobby American or British law-makers in favour of granting aid to Pakistan and supporting its position on Kashmir.
These charities are run by principled people, who are motivated by humanism and liberal values. They’ve 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, and objective people are prepared to listen to them.
The Pakistanis have no credible response to the damning reports aside from the usual stupid slurs. I’m not speaking of ordinary Pakistanis (dispossessed broken souls), but their government and army, the “rulers” who are absolutely abusing their de facto control of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir.
It really is that simple. It’s not rocket science if you let your mind think for itself.
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 own and run Pakistan. Pakistanis have become tenants in their own homeland!
Had the forebears of today’s ‘Azad’ Kashmiris not left the slither of land their descendants call ‘Azad’ Kashmir to work and live in Britain, before Pakistan existed in 1947 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 the pioneer generation, grandparents and in some cases, great grandparents, who weren’t politically astute in the first place that they’re flying Pakistani flags in Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester and London on Eid day or on Pakistan’s ‘independence day’ even though they have their own flag, country and constitution.
The bona fide Pakistanis for their part laugh behind their backs and say, “look at these morons flying Pakistani flags when they have their own green and yellow flag!” “Why are they embarrassing us like this, we don’t want to be mistaken for them!”
Imagine that for one moment?
‘Azad’ Jammu Kashmir has its own flag, constitution, parliament, courts, anthem – all the hallmarks of an autonomous State, all the while it is controlled autocratically by officials in Islamabad. But, the ‘Azad’ Kashmiris in the UK are happily ticking the “Pakistani” [box].
The architects of this huge political scam have managed to dupe an entire population of almost 1 million people in the UK into thinking they are Pakistanis when in fact they have none of the rights that genuine Pakistanis have, or at least on paper. Yes, bribes in Pakistan can take people very far, but which decent person wants to live in a society where bribes can be paid to jump queues?. Even on the Pakistani identity cards of ‘Azad’ Kashmiris, it says in red ink, the “FREE STATE OF JAMMU & KASHMIR“. These words do not trigger any type of reflection.
What is even worse, the free and independent State of ‘Azad’ Kashmir has its own Independence Day, 24 October 1947. This is the day when ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir was liberated from the “big bad bully in India”.
You don’t know this history? Okay, let’s backtrack a little.
The History Bit…!
The dominions of India and Pakistan were created by an Act of the British Parliament in 1947. Pakistan was not created by an Act of God. It was the product of an ideological claim that Muslims are a separate nation from Hindus; we call this theory the “two-nation theory”. Pakistan came into existence for Muslims, and India for everyone else. British India was thus partitioned to make this priority a reality; the actual event was mired in death, carnage and mayhem. Muslim and non-Muslim populations, now on the wrong side of the religious divide of the new borders, had to find their 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 was an independent Princely State. On the day of partition, when Hindus and Muslims started to kill one another, it remained 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. The Ruler of Kashmir had to decide the fate of his State.
All rulers were squarely told by the British, “sign over your States to either India or Pakistan“, on the grounds of how close the States were 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. Think about this for one moment; of all the 565 Princely States that had not been part of British India but the British Indian Empire, how many do you think are independent today?
How many of these States have their own “nationalities”, “countries” and “borders”?
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 ‘Azad’ Kashmiris are from – the Western Himalayas. The culture and languages of Jammu & Kashmir spreads westwards into the hills and mountains of the wider region, not southwards onto the Indo-Gangetic Plains. All the major historical routes into the region, went through the hills and mountains of northern Pakistan. There were no alternative routes in India.
Likewise, the majority of its inhabitants were Muslims.
Kashmir’s 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, hereditary titles, privileges and wealth.
Kashmir State would become a democracy with its own identity separate from India and Pakistan’s.
Some of his subjects liked this prospect. Others didn’t. The Muslims where we live now in ‘A’JK and in Gilgit Baltistan, but in other parts of the 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 the Muslims and the State’s small army. Fortunately for the Muslims, and unfortunately for the state forces, the former were all ex-military men, veterans of World War II. The Maharaja was cocooned in the Vale of Kashmir in his summer residence. He used to move between the summer and winter capitals of the State, Srinagar and Jammu respectively. His 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 acceded 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 safety in India where he was eventually pensioned off. He wasn’t allowed to return to his State, but his son was encouraged to become the State’s ceremonial head.
And so legally speaking, whether Pakistan likes it or not, Jammu & Kashmir belongs to India, not Pakistan. Like many Pakistani laws in AJK that stop the nationals of Azad Kashmir from participating in independence politics, this particular colonial-induced law was unjust. From this reading of history, Pakistan invaded Kashmir State militarily without any legal right to the State; 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, nationals of the State, had the right to ratify or reject the decision of the Ruler. So ultimately, it was for the people to decide. The accession had to be ratified democratically speaking.
This never happened.
Since 1947, the peoples of Jammu & Kashmir, an ethnically and religiously diverse population, have never been given their democratic right to decide the future of their own homeland. A lot has changed since those early days. People’s attitudes have markedly changed, even in ‘A’JK where people have grown tired of Pakistan’s undemocratic antics and propaganda on Kashmir.
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 wherever they are in the State. Pakistan was required by the international norms it had voluntarily signed up to, to leave the territory, because it had invaded the territory. Kashmir belonged to India de jure, by right. It’s the occupying force that needs to leave, not the defending force with the legal right to administer the territory to ensure law and order. This fact was tacitly recognised by the United Nations, it told Pakistan 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 scared it would lose Kashmir to India.
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 conflicts, and how deranged people kill each other, would you want the Pakistan army to leave your areas given how much you distrust the other side?”
We can categorically say, those who fought to liberate themselves from within the State were indeed staunch defenders of Pakistan.
In the early days, there was a lot of love for the idea of Pakistan, its army, but not so much the civilian governments. The army was seen differently to the political parties. 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, Bahadur Hari Singh, the last independent Ruler of Kashmir State. The rebels were mostly from Poonch and Mirpur, veterans of World War II, who hadn’t forgotten the inequities that had been committed against the powerless peoples of the State. Everyone was a victim, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jat, Rajput, Kashmiri, Pahari, Balawar, Gujjar, even Kashmiri Pandits, from whichever community they 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 group identities do not make the people distinct from one another, they are merely social units of identification for the indigenous occupants of a State that comprised some 85000 square miles of territory]
The Pakistan army had intervened covertly 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!
The Indian side responded, “yeah, right, whatever!” “Pakistan is an intruder in this conflict, an interloper!” They were not wrong.
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, many of whom were Muslims, raping nuns in a church, stealing property, abducting women, terrorising people, which got a lot of Muslims thinking, “is life really going to be different in Pakistan?”
Others put it down to moral failings on the part of the rebels, their anxieties about the Pakistani Rulers were realised shortly afterwards.
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 the ‘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 ‘A’JK and its one million strong UK Diaspora.
Some of these youngsters don’t feel British because of racism, so they feel uncomfortable flying the Union Jack. They feel that they belong to Pakistan, even though they don’t really belong to Pakistan but ‘Azad’ Kashmir. Ironically, having accrued no tangible benefits from Pakistan or ‘Azad’ Kashmir, whilst they have accrued real material benefits from Britain, they still feel the urge to fly the Pakistani flag on Eid.
For them, the Pakistani identity is not politics but a sense of belonging; they are quite literally divorced from the realities of Pakistan’s culture of authoritarianism. These patriots are not accustomed to self-introspection.
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 their children be flying Pakistani flags in British cities boisterously, whilst in ‘A’JK the population is switching to the ‘A’JK 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 the “vote”!
The liberated ‘Kashmiris’, and by this they mean the 17 million nationals of the territory (as of today), will choose either India or Pakistan, freely and without compulsion. After all, Jammu & Kashmir State belongs to her indigenous peoples, says Pakistan. But in spite of these pure intentions – Pakistani intentions are always virtuous according to their mass-produced social media profiles – Pakistan’s rulers demand that everyone in ‘Azad’ Kashmir support the accession of the territory to Pakistan.
They are forced to profess their love for Pakistan by oath!
The people of so-called ‘Azad’ Kashmir cannot stand for elections in their own homeland until they support the pro-Pakistan narrative and oppose independence for Kashmir, something that Pakistan advocates for India’s Kashmir dishonestly.
‘Azad’ Kashmiris are denied government jobs until they pay homage to the Pakistan Project. These are poorly-paid subordinate jobs to Pakistanis flown in from the Panjab. 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 victims of the unjust power-structure like everyone else. 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 ‘A’JK, all government jobs are paid for by the natural resources of ‘A’JK State. For instance, the amount of money Mangla Dam generates annually is three to four times more than the total budget of the government. But, there’s one problem, the royalties of the Dam, in the billions of dollars, is not paid to the government of ‘A’JK.
Why, you might ask?
Because ‘A’JK is not a Province of Pakistan. It is a separate territory to Pakistan. It is “Azad” – Free. So the sophistry involved means there is no process to transfer this money to the legitimate representatives of the State. Billions of pounds worth of royalties, owed to the legitimate authority in Kashmir on behalf of its 4.5 million people, have just vanished, disappeared into thin air! No one can give an account of where this money has gone, but everyone knows it’s gone into the pockets of the sinecures of the Pakistan 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’.
Their local agents in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, the few dignitaries from the region with no genuine power to effect any change, usually from the same tribal backgrounds (biraadrism is a curse for ‘A’JK), are more than happy to rent out their persons against the interests of 4.5 million people. This description might sound harsh, but this is how they’re seen by the people of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, from every corner of the State.
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 Jammu & Kashmir, claiming to be a neutral supporter of Muslims (the Ummah delusion) is seen for what it is – hogwash. Ordinary Pakistanis might be deluded about the virtues of their army, but the world that watches this farce is anything but deluded.
Pakistan’s political elite do not care an 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 ‘A’JK or its diaspora in the UK. They view ‘A’JK as a client-state.
Are they wrong about the political and economic exploitation of ‘A’JK?
They do not want to join Pakistan. 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 dare 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 from joining Pakistan, a country affected by sectarian violence and huge political inequalities, terrible gender disparity, 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, ordinary people are hitting the streets demanding their rights, speaking up for victims, challenging the illiberal tendencies of the right-wing rabble rousers. 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.
There’s an irony here.
Pakistan spilt from ‘Hindu’ India, on purportedly religious grounds, to have a homeland where India’s Muslim minority would be free from “Hindu” persecution and domination. We are still looking for these Hindu demons, as Muslims commit equally egregious crimes against each other?
Years later, Pakistan’s elite decided to become strong allies of Communist China, ceding and selling bits of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir unilaterally to curry favour with their new ‘atheist’ friends. They got these lands for free so they didn’t lose sleep over them. 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! According to Imran Khan, “there are no problems in Xinjiang; the Chinese are private people and they want to sort out their problems privately!”
Now that’s an interesting proposition when we conflate Muslim victimhood 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 liberal values we profess 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 years 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.
Everywhere people are breaking 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. Kashmir absolutely needs the help of Britain and the Free World, not to take sides with Kashmiris against India or Pakistan, but by empowering genuinely democratic voices in divided Kashmir against state-sponsored authoritarianism.
We know who the real tyrants are, their victims claim asylum in the ‘Free World’ or seek sanctuary in the West, not because they need urgent surgery having been shot in the head by gunmen, but because they remind us of all the things we take for granted. The schoolgirl Malala Yusuf was one such example; what was her crime? She spoke in defence of little girls attending school. The Taliban who shot her in the head used to be clients of the Pakistan Military not so long ago.
Picking the right side; fraternity is not about imaginary group identities
In discussing identities, wellbeing and fraternity, or the lack thereof, I hope to have shown from the examples given that it is the case that Britain’s ‘Azad’ Kashmiris are a dispossessed people. They may have more wealth than their peers in so-called ‘Azad’ Kashmir but they are marginalised because of a false fraternity with Pakistanis, who are intent on controlling their lands in ‘A’JK and their minds in the UK. The community makes up approximately 4.5 million people in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, (wrongly and deliberately conflated with the Pakistan Punjab for the purpose of political propaganda) with sizeable pockets of ethnic Kashmiri speakers living amongst them. We call this disputed landmass Jammu & Kashmir. In the UK, the community comprises more than one million people; 1 in 3 British-Muslims has roots in Jammu & Kashmir, and almost 1 in every 3 British Asians is from ‘Azad’ Kashmir.
For our youngsters to not even know that our ancestral regions in Jammu & Kashmir are not part of Pakistan, claimed by India, ironically labelled “free” to the laugher and chagrin of almost every international observer out there, proves how disconnected ‘A’JK’s diaspora is from reality.
Worse, AJK’s natural resources are exploited by Pakistani officials, sealing our fate with a non-reciprocating nation, a socio-political order, that does not recognise us as genuine Pakistanis in the first place. Our youngsters know absolutely nothing about their past, and the indigenous freedom struggle in their part of the old State before 1947, which makes them targets for the cocky jokes of Wikipedia Experts that they’re all somehow confused and deluded about their real identities. They become the butt of jokes, and insist on a Pakistani identity that subordinates their British identity, casually indifferent to the many benefits that accrue from living in Britain denied to their peers in ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’.
Britain has been a true friend to the people of ‘A’JK. In many ways, Britain has been a better friend to all diaspora Pakistanis from whichever part of Pakistan they come from. Just because a people has safety and opportunities courtesy of its adopted homeland, does not mean its members should forget about the poor people who never left their nightmares.
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 ‘A’JK’s diaspora that could bolster a genuinely pro-democratic movement for rights and freedoms in ‘A’JK.
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. Lots 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 (our ethnic group identity) that they never forgot 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, 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, but the people of the area have 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. ‘Azad’ Kashmiris have realised Pakistani promises are false.
They are 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, the remittances they have been sending since the early 50s, we’re speaking of tens of billions of pounds from the UK alone! What about the thousands of Azad Kashmiris 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.
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 ‘A’JK 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. Ironies are seldom this poetic.
Pakistan Officialdom is in denial about the reality on the ground in ‘A’JK. Pakistanis pretend to domestic audiences that everything is great in Pakistan’s “Kashmir“, whilst demeaning the reputations of those not afraid of speaking the truth.
Ordinary Pakistanis in the millions, are absolved of these attitudes; they think it is “patriotic” to deny ‘A’JK 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. We should free ourselves from the fake fraternity of the British Pakistani identity for an ‘A’JK-based one.
I did say identities are complex things. And in many ways, we are victims of our identities, even as we identify with “nationalities” incapable of reciprocating fraternity. The difference, however, is that most occupied nations know the identities of the outsiders oppressing them.
Sadly, our 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 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, ExectuedToday.com – 1984.