So what’s the big deal with these labels – who cares!?

Let’s get a couple of things clear from the outset.

We’re not speaking about how individuals view themselves, but about the underlying realities of identity labels that mean different things to different people. You’re thinking, what the heck is this guy talking about?

Okay, just hear me out.

Just because you think you’re a “Pakistani” or “Kashmiri” or both or neither, doesn’t mean others from these groups agree with you. There’s a reason why the experts say identities are fluid, ambiguous and contested.

So let’s try to make sense of all this.

  1. In the case of the Pakistani ‘label’, we are speaking about nationality laws as set out and defined by the official institutions of that territory. This is akin to speaking of citizenship and reciprocating rights and duties between a state and its ‘nationals’. You can be born into your citizenship; you can apply for citizenship (i.e, naturalisation); and you can give it up, lose it or have it revoked.
  2. In the case of the ‘Kashmiri’ label, we are speaking about ‘attitudes’ of ordinary people, their lived experiences within a shared ethnic space and the ‘labels’ they use to express that vis-a-vis “others”; we’re not necessarily speaking of nationality laws or political norms. Similarly, you can be born into your ‘ethnicity’, you can be assimilated into another people’s ethnicity, you can lose it (i.e., hide it, be ashamed of it, deny it) or reject it.

These two dynamics, the one ‘legal’ (political-cum-territorial) and the other ‘ethno-national’ produce different sets of priorities, and if you’re unfamiliar with the background you’d be left with the wrong impression when you encounter individuals saying that they’re one or the other, or both or neither.

How people ‘identify‘ with something – a ‘cause‘, ‘group‘, ‘place‘, ‘territory‘ or ‘nation‘, and we can even mix these identities up, does not mean that the identification in question is unambiguous and beyond scrutiny. Put simply, when you speak of your identity, you are saying, you identify with something – the net-result of the identification in question is anything but straightforward even though you think your version of your identity is cut and dry.

Still confused?

Think of this scenario; a Palestinian born in the territories of Israel to parents who were living in this ‘part of the world‘ when Israel came into existence. Let’s call this person Zainab. Zainab has ‘Israeli’ citizenship which shouldn’t be confused with the concept of nationality, the two overlap but are not the same thing. She also has an Israeli passport, NOTE; passports are not proof of bonafide citizenship, they exist for the purpose of travel, they are thus primarily travel documents. She speaks fluent Hebrew having progressed through the State’s educational system through Hebrew-medium education. She even has Israeli friends of Jewish descent, and for all intents and purposes her appearance and behaviour, hobbies and interests, can’t be separated from other Israelis. From a cultural perspective, she does everything her Jewish Israeli peers do, and we would not be wrong to say that she actually shares an ‘ethnicity’ with her Israeli peers, Jewish or otherwise. Cultural anthropologists and sociologists would say she is thoroughly assimilated in the State’s ‘national’ culture – the culture of the Israeli mainstream.

But there’s one snag, she is a person of conscience.

Moreover, Zainab is prepared to speak her mind, and she is not scared to do so. Lot’s of people sadly are scared to speak out against injustice – this is the story of our modern world.

Zainab rejects her Israeli citizenship on the basis that it is imposed, unjust and unfair. She believes that she is a ‘Palestinian’ and her homeland has been occupied by Israel. She vocally and critically self-affirms as a Palestinian. When the opportunity avails itself, she uses her Israeli passport to travel to the United Nations in America to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As a fluent Hebrew speaker Zainab speaks little to no Arabic given the circumstances of her upbringing, everyone around her speaks Hebrew. And so she gives her speech in fluent Hebrew condemning the occupation of her people.

Thinking of Zainab as an Israeli or Palestinian is no longer straight forward. She has agency and she uses her agency to further the cause of a ‘two-state solution’, an independent and sovereign Palestine free from Israeli occupation, sea and land blockades, border checkpoints, barricades, and most importantly to her, to protest ‘the public ritual of her people’s humiliation daily’. She is simultaneously celebrated and demonised by her peers, and it’s no longer necessarily straight forward to put her in an identity ‘box’. She may even have Jewish supporters from Israel who are themselves persons of conscience whilst having detractors from her ‘people’s’ population – Palestinians – because she doesn’t fit the stereotype of what a real Palestinian should be.

So, you should understand that ‘identities’ have never been straightforward. They are fluid, complex and contested. They work for some people, but they don’t work for others. Identity labels mean different things to different people. Some individuals celebrate their identities because of ‘herd-mentality’ whilst others think about their identities through their own independent streak. They are not afraid to upset, offend or confront the herd.

Identities have never been ‘fixed’; they change because people have the agency to change them.

This has been happening throughout the ages. It happens everywhere, and not just in our part of the world.

You’ll even hear people challenging the right of others to use labels that they think they own ‘exclusively’, and yet you’ve probably never thought twice about the group ‘label’ you use. You shouldn’t get distracted by the individual claims either, but rather turn your attention to the underlying priorities, and ask yourself, why would anyone care that another person is identifying with a group ‘label’ used by so many people that it is impossible for all of them to know what the others are thinking?

The obvious question here is if someone does not know everyone in his group, who gave him the right to be the group’s spokesperson? Worse, what right does he have to tell others of the imposters amongst them? This is one of more curious aspects of nation-state identities, that the vast majority of people who feel strongly about their country’s identity will never ever meet. Imagine, you probably don’t know more than a 150 people from your country, and yet you feel so connected to them that you’re prepared to fight for your people, your nation, your country! There is an element of manipulation here that many of us are unfamiliar with; we often get manipulated to think that our national identity is somehow conterminous with us as individuals collectively.

If you’re smart, you’d have realised that the situation is a lot more complex than the simple ownership of ‘labels, and there’s a lot more going on than just competition over ‘identity labels’. Identities are not mere abstractions in our head either, the sort of fuzzy emotions that keep us warm during a cold night as we sit in front of a warm fire. Identities have material consequences that are not necessarily fair or benign. They have ‘special interest groups’ who claim to speak for the ‘nation’ when in fact they are only concerned about the priorities of their group and special interests. But, this can also lead to a reaction. From the midst of the dispossessed can come a people who challenge their forced identification with something they’re opposed to – the ‘status quo’. In most instances, the status quo helps prop up privileged groups; it is a means of self-perpetuating an imbalance in society whilst protecting the vital interests of a tiny group.

Challenging the status quo can oftentimes prove perilous, but for some people, even if they were to lose everything, get locked up in some dingy prison, they believe strongly that an ‘identity’ has been imposed upon them; they are really speaking about unfair material circumstances, inequality and discrimination. The imposed identity in this respect becomes a symbol of something rotten. Think of an African-‘American’ living in ‘Jim Crow’ America being told he must fight for his country in Vietnam, because this is how patriots of America should behave. And he retorts that he would first have to be treated like an ‘equal’ for him to be willing to give up his life for his fellow Americans!

These are people of conscience.

Sadly they are fast dwindling as they are being replaced by people with material aspirations, who think it’s fashionable to be associated with the sacrifices of people challenging inequality, poverty and injustice.

Pakistan & ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir

So what of ‘Pakistanis’ from ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir and their diaspora of 1 million people in the UK? By framing the question in this way I am speaking specifically of ethnic Paharis from the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. I am speaking about a particular people who have been shrouded in mystery and confusion, and almost always are presented through the lens of outsiders.

Let’s clear this up.

You’ll discover when most people discuss these issues with you, or even argue with you, they won’t even know what definitions they’re using and what definitions you’re using.

We need to be clear with our own definitions.

When I use the term ‘Pahari’, I’m speaking about an ethnic people who come from the western Himalaya. Lots of unrelated communities can be described as ‘Paharis’ – Pahari simply means from the mountains – and the Himalayan Mountain system spreads over 1500 miles right across the north of the subcontinent separating the Indian Planes from the Tibetan Plateau. Paharis live in the various valleys sandwiched within this mountain system and use all manner of identity labels to describe themselves, whilst generally accepting loosely that they’re also ‘Paharis’.

Within this context and in its primary nuance, this descriptive label is intended to be ‘non-ethnic’.

The ‘Paharis’ I’m speaking of come from a region split between India and Pakistan with ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir being sandwiched between the two and so when you try to locate it on a modern map, the area transcends geo-admininistrative and territorial borders. Some of the connected areas fall in the Hazara Hills, in what Pakistan Officialdom calls the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa. In the olden days, the colonial Brits used to call this region the ‘North West Frontier Province’ precisely because it was home to ethnically-diverse communities. For a time, it was also merged with the expanding British Indian Province of Punjab.

Other Pahari areas, much more expansive fall within the Pothohar Uplands (‘patwar’), again configured as the ‘hilly region north of the Panjab Plains’, and which falls within the Pakistan Province of Punjab. The Panjab region, as a Mughal metaphor for a particular region interspersed with rivers, is frequently confused with later territorial developments of people posturing through a Panjabi ethno-linguistic identity; and so the British Punjab Province is presented as the ethnic homeland of all Panjabis, erroneously I add. The modern capital of Pakistan, Islamabad is smack bang in the middle of this area although the recent Urdu-speakers are not part of the area’s indigenous cultural-sphere. They have come here from other places and they’re quite keen to point out that they are not ‘Patwaris’ which is quite insightful of how ‘Patwaris’ are perceived by Urdu speakers. You also have ‘non-native’ speakers of Urdu from the area and these people are increasingly shying away from speaking the language of their ethnic forbears and ancestors. And yet it is these same people who insist that Patwaris are Panjabis, even as they shy away from a Patwari identity on account of speaking Urdu, even as they live in the Patwar. The irony of conflating language with geography, and thus ethnicity, seems to be lost on them.

I will talk about these attitudes in different posts.

And finally, we have the area from which the majority of British-Paharis originate in the divided State of Jammu & Kashmir, controlled and administered by three countries, China, India and Pakistan. The people that are currently separated between the Indian-Pakistani LOC (‘Line of Control’) and that’s the de facto border between India and Pakistan come from this area. And so whenever you hear international commentators and observers speak about the ‘Kashmiris’ divided between India and Pakistan, they’re talking about ‘Paharis’ from this cultural sphere.

For this particular community, and from the priorities of our experiences, I am using the ‘Pahari’ label ethno-linguistically. This means that ‘Paharis’ for the purposes of this discussion are an ethnic group in Jammu & Kashmir State as they belong to a wider cultural-sphere that transcends the borders of the State.

The peoples of this vast area are diverse and the Paharis for their part have their own cultural-sphere. They may use different labels to identify their regional stake in the wider cultural space, but we are speaking about the same people, language and culture. So you might come across the terms, ‘Hindkowan’, ‘Hazarawal’, ‘Patwari’, ‘Chachi’, ‘Pothohari’, ‘Pahari’ and the recent ‘Mirpuri’ ‘ascription’ which – as far as I can gather – dates to the early years of migration to the UK. You may also have come across the term ‘Dogra’, a term used for neighbouring people with whom Paharis share a lot of commonalities but also differences. But we shouldn’t confuse cultural-spheres with ethnic groups however similar. The Dogra-cultural-sphere is different to the Pahari-cultural-sphere in the same way the Kashmiri-cultural-sphere is different to the Panjabi-cultural-sphere or the Sindhi-cultural-sphere. Whatever the commonalities, we are still speaking of different ethnic groups; for instance, Dogras have their own cultural memories and folk taxonomies.

Over time, because of how the Pahari-cultural-sphere was administered, governed and mapped, its people started to imagine themselves through the ‘new’ labels. This wasn’t a conscious move on their part like how some people consciously adopt Urdu or change their caste-titles and family surnames and begin to imagine new backgrounds. It happened because their cultural areas were lumped into new geo-administrative entities, what we would otherwise think of as ‘Districts’, ‘Provinces’ or ‘sub-Provinces’. The colonial administrators for their part ‘fixed’ the ethnic categories of the people living in these areas on the basis of how they mapped the region geo-administratively. In a sense by fixing the identities according to their own schema, they inadvertently constructed new identities.

Before the ‘British’ came, the situation was a lot more fluid and people didn’t care for such labels. They just never thought of themselves in this way.

Many ‘Patwaris’ imagine themselves to be ‘Panjabis’ because their area categorised by the British as the ‘Rawalpindi Division’ was added to the Punjab Province. There’s a much older legacy here that predates the British by centuries, and although these areas were part of the older ‘Lahore Subah’ – the Mughal Province of Lahore – the people here were not considered ethnic ‘Panjabis’ in the way we imagine a ‘Panjabi identity’ today which meant something completely different back then. The emergence of the ‘Panjab’ Province as something separate to a Panjabi people or language have all occurred at different moments in history. A lot of Patwaris today, not all, think that they have more ‘ethnic’ commonalities with people from Lahore or Amritsar than people from the Hazara Hills or the Pahari areas of Jammu & Kashmir.

There are others, especially in Britain, who feel profound ties with their ethnic kin from Mirpur; this is an intimate bond that connects the two communities through language and culture. It’s an historical bond as the people now straddling the A’JK-Pak border have traditionally married into shared clan networks. This has not stopped ‘Patwaris’ in Britain from shying away from the erroneous ‘Mirpuri’ connection and you will frequently hear Patwaris speaking ill of “Mirpuris” and their “backward culture” not realising that they are speaking ill of themselves. Quite a few have adopted Urdu and so in their minds they are no longer Patwaris.

This would hold true for the Hazarawal, many of whom speak ‘Hindko’, a mutually-intelligible dialect with Patwari and the Pahari of ‘Muzaffarabad’. Patwari, Pahari, Hindko, there are many other labels, are imprecise “labels” for different dialects of a shared language, borne of shared heritage and culture. Some Hindkowan think they have more commonalities with the ethnic ‘Pashtun’ speakers of their Province, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (recently ascribed an ethnic ascription) than the ‘Panjabi’ Patwaris of the Punjab Province. Again, some of these claims, not all, are based on the idea of distant ancestry to tribes hailing from Afghanistan. A lot of these protagonists are unfamiliar with Afghanistan’s actual history, a land mass that has straddled two distinct Civilisations, namely that of Persia and India. In fact the area around Kabul has always been connected with ‘India’s’ history whatever the demographic changes of recent centuries. The ancient tribes that lived in this part of the world were connected to the tribes that lived in what is today ‘modern-day Pakistan’ centuries before the arrival of Pastun-speakers or Persian-speaking Turkic tribes, Uzbeks and others.

There is a reason why many Afghanis watch Bollywood Movies and Pakistanis and Indians eat Peshaawari Naan. The fact that modern DNA studies show that the Pashtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan are closely related to “Jat” groupings, and other populations in Pakistan and North India shouldn’t be lost on any of us.

It is modern projections that skew this history because of illusory priorities of denying an identity that does not seem ‘fashionable’ any more. The emergence of social climbers in Pakistan’s urban centres and their frequent recourse to Muslim ‘Ashraaf’ (noble and ‘foreign’) backgrounds has not helped either, not least because they are exaggerating the importance of certain projected identities usually through the agency of those self-affirming through those identities. The Pathan identity is a good example as it is erroneously used as a substitute for the ‘Afghan’ identity, the two may overlap but they are essentially separate identities. When one looks at the Ashraaf identities, the vast majority of the noble families associated with the old ruling ‘Nawaab’ courts were not ‘Pathans’ despite having come from the direction of Afghanistan. Most of these groups were of turkic origin and spoke Persian in their courts.

The actual importance of the Ashraaf groups was restricted to Muslim-controlled areas of the subcontinent in mostly urban heartlands as opposed to rural ones. In areas where ‘Rajputs’ and other high-caste ‘indigenous’ groups dominated, Hindu, or as high-caste Indian converts to Islam, the ‘Ashraf’ identities were less prominent and less-prestigious. This was the case with a number of non-Muslim controlled Princely States not least the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir. These rulers of Jat or Rajput backgrounds did not feel inferior to their Muslim-Ashraaf counterparts, even as they were included in the Ashraaf sub-groupings as “nobles”. We must never conflate the backgrounds of an elite, who were nobles on account of actually belonging to an elite class of “Zamindar” (landed) backgrounds, with those who posture through such identities centuries later. The labels may be the same, but the socioeconomic realities could scarcely have been similar.

The Hazara Hills, formerly the Sarhad Province, for its part was configured in the same way the Mughal Rulers configured the Lahore Province, and the other ethnically-diverse Provinces. Historically, no illusions were ever made that the Hazarawal were somehow different from the people of Kashmir and Lahore Provinces but similar to the people of ‘Kabul Subah’. In fact historically, the Swat Valley and the Peshawar Basin, and even areas more westwards as far as the Kabul River were historically part of the Pahari-cultural-sphere. By this I mean to say that this area was home to a particular culture that has become dislocated from its actual birth place in areas more westwards of its present location. As ‘new’ people move into areas, and older people move out, the situation on the ground changes; think of Native American lands, South America or Australia. These changes for the ‘Hindkowan’ of Swat and Peshawar started around the turn of the 16th century, prior to which there were no Pashtun-speakers in the area. The 16th century memoirs of Babur (d.1530), the founder of the Mughal Dynasty in India is quite revealing of the communities he encountered on entering his version of ‘India’. Over the past centuries, the original inhabitants moved eastwards and coalesced into the people of the wider cultural-sphere as vanquished tribes from the Plains of India were gradually moving into the hills; there still remained an affluent community of Hindko speakers in the urban heartland of Peshawar as recent as the 1980s. But with the Afghan-Russian war this changed markedly as the Hindkowan, for the most part, packed up their belongings and left.

In earlier centuries, colonial archaeologists pointed out that much of the areas Buddhist stupas, monasteries and promenades were deliberately destroyed by fanatical elements within the newly-arrived Pashtun-speaking community. In recent living memory, this fate was also reserved for the 4th century sandstone carvings of Bamiyan, Afghanistan – a UNESCO world heritage site. The Taliban destroyed the Buddha carvings using dynamite on the grounds that they were ‘pagan’.

‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir; its Ethnic Population

I left the Paharis of Jammu & Kashmir last, and it is this group I’m concerned with in this post.

The Paharis of Jammu & Kashmir lived in the south westerly regions of the State. Of the State’s three Provinces, ‘Jammu’, ‘Kashmir’ and the ‘Frontier Province’ or ‘Ladakh’, Paharis were scattered across Jammu and Kashmir Provinces in 4 districts – Mirpur, Poonch, Muzaffarabad and Riaisi. Of the latter District, I’m really speaking about the area around Rajouri but Paharis extended eastwards as far as the River Chenab. Like their ethnic kin in the Hazara Hills or the Pothohar Uplands, some of their number, a tiny minority of activists I emphasise, have been keen to foster illusory relations with the peoples of the State, namely the Muslim ‘Kashmiris’ of the Vale than look inwards at their own people. They think that because they’re ‘Kashmiris’ by virtue of belonging to a designated ‘territory’ called Kashmir internationally their identity is somehow tied with the territory called Jammu & Kashmir, (Kashmir/Kashmiris is the territorial shorthand for this State/Peoples) and so some of them, a small minority unrepresentative of the much larger majority have joined the pro-independence struggle of their Valley Kashmiri brethren. The activists among this group are very keen to point out that the ‘Kashmiri’ identity is a state-identity (territorial) and not necessarily an ethnic or linguistic one.

In Britain, most ‘Pakistanis’ come from the old Jammu & Kashmir State. Internationally, and according to the governments of India and Pakistan, and every commentator out there, these individuals would be classified as originating from the disputed region of “Kashmir”. They are therefore “Kashmiris” per the logic of this discourse, and are not imposters to the corresponding “Kashmiri” identity, as some ignorant people are keen to preach on social media, and on numerous Wikipedia pages.

There is a complex history here that eludes such protagonists.

Before the creation of the State in 1846, its diverse areas were configured differently, some areas had been part of the Mughal Province of Lahore whilst the majority were part of the Kashmir Province, that had been split off from the Kabul Province to become a Province in its own right. This history predates the history of Jammu & Kashmir by many hundreds of years. You will hear people making absurd comments about the ‘ethnic’ origin of the peoples who have lived in the Kashmir State Region for centuries, on the basis of not understanding this history. They think because they’ve looked at some historical maps on Wikipedia of all places, they can somehow determine (and like the British colonial cartographers who were a lot more accomplished) ‘fix’ the ethnic categories of the people that lived in essentially ‘non-ethnic’ designated areas. The obsession of identifying or connecting areas with ethnic labels is an entirely recent phenomenon borne of political grievances; those counteracting such claims resort to their own ‘ethnic’ arguments.

Some of the remarks you’ll confront about the ‘real identity of ‘Azad’ Kashmiris’ in particular, mindful of these arguments, are just absurd, and I’m being polite.

In fact, to call a spade a spade, they are breathtakingly unoriginal!

The intentions are clear though.

It’s about denying the self-affirming ‘Kashmiris‘ of ‘Azad’ Kashmir – with whom I disagree on political grounds; I agree with their sentiments of fighting for justice in AJK for the peoples of the wider Jammu & Kashmir State; (others at the Portmir Foundation have different positions, even as we are all united as ethnic Paharis and above all democrats), a future separate from Pakistan on the basis that they’re not really ‘Kashmiris’ but ‘Panjabis’. The individuals who make these claims are unfamiliar with the historical demography of the ‘Vale of Kashmir’, many hundreds of years in the making, today an ‘ethnic’ Kashmiri space on paper. Kashmir had always been ethnically diverse; it doesn’t simply belong to ethnic Kashmiris because they have all elected to take ownership of the word Kashmir ethnically-speaking. Paharis had been living in the Vale for centuries, well before administrative maps were created and ethnic identities were ascribed officially. Even today, there are hundreds of thousands of Paharis living in the Vale, side by side, with their ethnic Kashmiri brethren, as both communities are not perturbed by the propaganda, ironically outside the borders of the State, that wants to separate them into ethnic enclaves. Some of them want independence. Others are happy to remain with India. Others still want to join Pakistan. They are all acutely aware that the Kashmir Conflict continues to go unresolved, day by day, to the disadvantage of the natives of this State. The only people that lose out on the current status quo are the natives of the Jammu & Kashmir State as they are split between an artificial border. They would remark, who are these outsiders, on social media, Wikipedia, and other places lecturing people about the precise ethnic backgrounds of the people living in this divided but militarised space?

If that wasn’t bad, the protagonists don’t know that of the various tribal principalities that made up the four ‘Pahari’ districts of Jammu & Kashmir, many of their sum-parts, not all, were formally part of the Mughal’s ‘Kashmir Province’, even as they are now part of Jammu, and were never part of the Mughal’s ‘Lahore Province’! And so the self-affirming pro-independence Kashmiris from our region who happen to come from these areas, are not wrong in saying that their regions were historically part of ‘Kashmir’. This is a position that is at stark odds with pro-independence actors from Gilgit Baltistan who generally do not self-affirm with the Kashmiri label.

The inference is clear, unlike many areas in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan had never been part of Kashmir Subah historically.

But labels are always going to be loaded and ambiguous because of the priorities behind them.

It was the ‘Persian-speaking‘ ‘Mughals‘ of ‘Turkic‘ background who may or may not not have descended from Ghenghis Khan, to give you an idea of how complex backgrounds can be, who first coined the Persian phrase ‘Panj-ab’ to denote a place of ‘five rivers’. Previous rulers, many of whom were indigenous to the region had always considered the ‘Panj-ab’ area to have comprised of seven rivers (‘Sapta Sindhu’).

There’s a wider point here though; for the Mughals who coined the geographical term ‘Panjab’ from which was derived, centuries later, an ethnolinguistic ‘Panjabi’ identity, the areas that overwhelmingly make up most of ‘Azad’ Kashmir today had never formed part of the Lahore Province, including many areas of Mirpur District in the north east. The Principalities of Khari Khariyali and Bhimbar for instance were known at the time as Chibhan on account of being ruled by the Chibh tribe. The Mughals for their part, called this area Jhibhal and merged some parts with their Kashmir Province – these and other hill principalities, including Kotli, Rajouri and other areas have always had a shared history with the Vale of Kashmir dating much further back than the creation of Kashmir State. This history predates the emergence of the Mughals by centuries. Crucially, these areas had never been part of the Lahore Province.

It was only later the Lahore Province took on the nuance of being the Panjab Province. But even under the control of rulers like the Sikhs, the hill principalities north of the Plains, what the British called the ‘Panjab Alpine’ or ‘Hill States’, were similarly never considered part of the Panjab. The ruler of the Sikh Confederacy, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, did not consider the Pothohar Uplands as being part of the Panjab which in his mind denoted the flat and fertile Plains around Lahore, and not the foothills of the great Himalaya to the North. It was British cartographers who expanded the idea of the Panjab to cover vast regions that had little or nothing in common with a cultural centre of gravity located in the old city of Lahore.

It was our colonial rulers who started the practise of ‘fixing’ the identities in question.

But, in any case, no one from our hilly-mountainous area has ever ascribed an ethnic Panjabi identity. The closest we’ve ever got to a ‘Panjabi’ identity is the idea that our dialects are dialects of ‘Panjabi’ because of the connection with ‘Patwari’ (not to be conflated with Majhi Panjabi) and even this is hotly contested, and owes its origin to the representation of ‘outsiders’. Even in the Pothohar Uplands, there are individuals who go out of their way to point out that Patwari is not Panjabi! Speaking a purportedly shared language doesn’t necessarily imbue you with a shared ethnic identity; you can speak to any number of people across the world to come to this determination. The Panjabi identity has been projected on our people through commonalities that exist eastwards in the Pothohar Uplands. If you’re not from the region, and you do not have a sense of this history, but rely on voices that are easily accessible given the nature of existing power-dynamics, you will come away with a skewed understanding of what is actually happening in the region.

British-Mirpuris from Azad Jammu & Kashmir

In the UK, the overwhelming majority of ‘Mirpuris’ come from Mirpur Division, another geo-administrative area that gets confused with the smaller town of Mirpur. The original settlement of Mirpur was moved downstream to its new location on the plains of Mirpur because of the upheavals caused by the Mangla Dam. Lots of the ‘Mirpuris’ upstream get confused with the Mirpuris of the Kharri Plains who had been coalescing with rural ‘Panjabis’ moving from the direction of the Panjab Plains in search of work and ‘free accommodation’! Yup, Mirpuris are the butt of Pakistani jokes because they build mansions and then offer them up for free! This ‘humour’ is not lost on any of us.

Huge mansions litter the countryside around the new City of Mirpur with no infrastructure in sight; the ‘Pakistani’ authorities have failed to invest in roads, services and industries despite ‘Azad’ Kashmir contributing massively to Pakistan’s economy and energy needs.

Most ‘Mirpuris’ come from the higher hills to the north, and in the minds of our forbears, before they came to the UK, never once thought of themselves as ‘Mirpuris’. For them “real” Mirpuris lived in the old town of Mirpur. Even these Mirpuris would refer to the peoples further north in the hills as Pahari people – mountain people. But this is how ‘identity’ labels emerge, people identify you on the basis of where they ‘think’ you come from, and then the label just sticks.

So just think about this for one moment, as it will help you understand why I’m saying labels can mean different things to different people, and why we should look to the actual priorities behind the labels.

When you hear individuals say that they’re ‘Kashmiris’ – and you know them to be from your community – they’re simply saying that their grandparents come from the ‘territory’ sloppily known as ‘Kashmir’. They’re not saying that they’re ‘Kashmiris’ in any ethnic or tribal sense of the term, as most of them couldn’t care one iota about the ‘Kashmir’ of the ‘Vale’. It doesn’t tickle their fancy in the way some writers project this identity on them, and imagine it having spent most of their time researching the Kashmir Conflict from the perspective of Valley Kashmiris. The insights of these writers and journalists have been heavily influenced by subtle prejudice through the agency of Valley actors who maintain that the Kashmiri identity is the most ‘prestigious’ identity within the State. The importance they accord the Vale of Kashmir demonstrates this and the literature they produce bears this out.

Non-ethnic Kashmiris from purported caste-Kashmiri backgrounds living outside Pakistan-admininstered-Kashmir are similarly influenced by these attitudes; many are also unaware of their actual backgrounds. Worse still, they do not understand that the ‘Azad’ Kashmiris posturing through a Kashmiri-State identity are not making associations with caste-Kashmiris as they get absolutely nothing from saying that they are caste-‘Kashmiris’. The caste-Kashmiris of the area belonged to ‘non-landed’ occupational groups with stigmatised trades or professions as weavers, tailors, barbers etc. The system of ‘Bridarism’ is still a problem in the region but this aspect of social identities is never explored in the many works on the Kashmir Conflict. Also many caste-Kashmiris are unaware that a lot of the Kashmiri communities that left Kashmir all those hundreds of years ago, were actually from the western Himalayas in general, and not necessarily from the Vale of Kashmir in particular. The irony is lost on them as they are alienated from this past, and perhaps that more distant ‘Pahari’ heritage.

So that’s the backdrop to the Question.

So why does this matter in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, the diaspora and how is it connected with the title of this post?

Well because, when our grandparents came to the UK from ‘Azad Kashmir, they would say that they were Pakistanis and they never thought anything of it. And then, their peers from the Pothohar uplands would remind them that they weren’t really from ‘Pakistan’, but ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir. This was the first cleavage within our supposed ‘BME’ community which spread like wild-fire amongst other mainland Pakistanis, and it’s now an established trope.

And then pro-independence Kashmiris from the same region, the activists I mentioned earlier, entered the fray, telling them, “nope you’re not Pakistanis, you guys are all Kashmiris – Pakistan is oppressing you in the same way India is oppressing your ‘real countrymen’ in Indian-administered-Kashmir.” Most of our elders didn’t fall for it, they knew who they were and what they weren’t, and in their minds, the ‘Kashmiris’ they came across were ‘menials’ (‘Kammis’; landless occupational groups).

I can’t emphasise this sad reality more.

Most of the caste-Kashmiris in the region belonged to stigmatised caste-backgrounds, and this became a problem in how ‘Kashmiris’ were imagined not least when some of their number sought leadership roles in the pro-independence movements in ‘A’JK post partition. Many pro-independence actors, howsoever they ascribed as ‘caste-Kashmiris’, were considered ‘Kasvis’ (tailors), and this militated against them receiving support from the landed and more dominant clans.

‘Bridari’ politics has always been a cancer in this part of the world, as it has been in many regions of Pakistan, and if you don’t belong to the dominant groups, you have no chance of gaining grass-roots support. Bridarism has stifled political activism in our region, and the talent pool is restricted to groups that produce their own sinecures. Pakistan’s political culture with established families monopolising the top jobs is a good point in question. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of British-Paharis are now opposed to the caste-system because of its illusory claims.

But as time went on, and life became harder in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir, despite many ‘Azad’ Kashmiris returning to their valley communities flush with cash they began to realise that they were being exploited. Everything was expensive. They had to pay bribes. Nothing could get done without the middle-men, and they were always from the direction of Pakistan. It seemed to them that they were the only ‘villagers‘ Pakistani officials wanted to bribe as soon as they landed at ‘Islamabad’ airport. Powerful people with connections don’t get bribed. It’s usually gullible folk who think anyone dressed in official-looking attire is somehow important enough to demand a bribe; don’t pay, they can’t do anything. You’ll be inconvenienced but that’ll be the end of it. If you pay bribes, you’re part of the problem, so don’t kid yourself by blaming others especially when you want to get ahead of the queue by dropping a British fiver in the pocket of an Airport employee!

If you want to root out corruption, you make a stand in your community first. Don’t overload your suitcase with knick-knacks and goodies for your extended relatives in ‘Pakistan’  and then get upset when some corrupt officer demands a bribe so you don’t have to pay for the excess luggage. Because of your actions, everyone else who does abide by the rules is subject to the same demand for bribes.

Let’s all lead by example.

The journey back to their villages was peppered all the way with rogue policemen demanding bribes, and guess what, these guys were from Pakistan too. Why so many people from our region buy cars with Islamabad number-plates should make sense to you now. Others are outraged that nothing has been done to challenge the status quo, and this feeds into how people view ‘Pakistan’ and imagine her ‘corrupt’ ‘peoples’.

This is a skewed way at looking at mainland Pakistanis.

The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are victims themselves of a hegemony that doesn’t accord them any real opportunities or, even, dignity. The Pakistanis in the diaspora know hardly anything about the dispossession of ordinary Pakistanis who accept their fate as a fact of life. They can’t pull themselves up from their boot-straps because they don’t have any shoes. Life is hard, and they don’t have the luxury of complaining, they just get on with it. Our British-Pakistanis and their American, or Canadian cousins are more predisposed to flag-waving and feeling fuzzy on Pakistan independence day!

And so the idea of an independent Kashmir became alluring for the ‘Azad’ Kashmiris particularly those from Mirpur. Why this happened, is not at all surprising. The majority of the oversees Pakistanis in Britain since the early 1950s came from District Mirpur. As they were frequently coming into contact with Pakistan Officialdom, travelling in and out of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, they bore the brunt of Pakistan’s culture of corruption. In their minds, every corrupt official posted in ‘A’JK, or in the vicinity of ‘A’JK was a Pakistani or a local agent of the Pakistan establishment in its various guises. If only ‘Azad’ Kashmir could be free of these parasites, they prayed!

It was a bit like a ‘Kashmir’ free from its Hindu Dogra Patrons, “if only we had Muslims like us ruling us, things would be better and easier“. Decades earlier, “ilhaq-e-Pakistan” was the battle cry for the armed rebells of Mirpur and Poonch on the eve of partition. These veterans of World War II were shouting from the top of their throats “accession to Pakistan!” In their minds because Pakistan was a homeland for India’s Muslims, they too would have a stake in the new political order.

Well, clearly things didn’t get better for the people of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, even if the pro-Pakistani ‘leadership’ was handsomely rewarded for its loyalty to Pakistan as their members now had the wherewithal to move into Islamabad!

Ordinary Azad Kashmiris discovered overnight that Pakistan’s new elite was as despotic and corrupt as the Dogra rulers, and the new local puppets were as keen as ever to do their bidding! And yet, ordinary Pakistanis in mainland Pakistan weren’t exactly having a blast either. The elite in Pakistan have been exploiting Pakistanis with equal devotion, so we shouldn’t get caught-up in thinking about these problems as ‘us’ against ‘them’. If you speak to Bangladeshis today, they would concede the point that the current incumbents in Bangladesh’s corridors of power are no less corrupt than the West-Pakistani leadership that exploited East-Pakistan all those years ago.

None of this mattered though. Some of our more vocal ‘Kashmiris’ started to imagine themselves as Kashmiris, using this identity because of its political value. Others went further and started to make outlandish overtures to a people who didn’t deserve their camaraderie. They would recycle slogans without ever probing the veracity behind the political claims. They would retort, “No, we’re not Pakistanis! Kashmir’s history is 5000 years old, and we want to learn about our history, the history of Maharajah Ghulab Singh!” They became the butt of jokes for all the wrong reasons. Their poorer ‘equals’ from the Kashmir Vale, and remember what I said about stigmatised backgrounds creating new beginnings, received a lot of affection from our ‘nuevo‘ (new) Kashmiris. That’s how western writers described them somewhat insultingly I add if you’ve had the unnerving experience of reading their accounts courtesy of narratives with an inbuilt bias towards the ‘Vale’.

The Kashmiris, for their part, thought that they were somehow more ‘superior’, ‘educated’, ‘refined’, the real ‘Kashmiris of the true ‘Kashmir”! Apparently, the idyllic Valley has produced amazing people from the moment God created it exclusively for the ‘Saraswati’ ‘Brahmans’ ironically from the direction of the Indian Planes. We know the con of such claims and why so many Hindu Pandits, a tiny minority of supposedly ‘original‘ Kashmiris make such claims to maintain their stake in the conflict. Apparently, it was their direct ancestor who fought the demons and reclaimed Kashmir from a vast lake. History is replete with such narratives, and we know how illusory identities are constructed. This is akin to saying that Palestine belongs to the Jews because God gave it to them, it says so in the Bible!

Who cares if the Jews saying this for political reasons are all a bunch of atheists, right?

But, this didn’t matter to the unfortunate people under the yoke of ‘foreign’ tyrants because ‘Kashmir’ was being fought over; its ‘amazingly beautiful and temperate people’ split between ‘artificial’ borders had to have their honour restored.

Kashmir is India’s integral piece!

Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein!

Lest any of us forget how the divided State’s native residents had been treated by their respective foreign rulers as we look to the annals of history that describe in detail this subjugation and humiliation.

The leaders of India and Pakistan couldn’t care one bit about the ordinary ‘Kashmiris’. The colonial Brits, Sikhs, Afghans, and Mughals with whom Kashmir first enters the Indian imagination for its scenic beauty minus its ‘undeserving people’ have all treated the Valley Kashmiris with contempt. That’s the history bit many Kashmiris become amnesic about as some of them think that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, because someone, somewhere, in the recent past blurted out this anecdote now recorded for posterity! Some of them say this whilst also claiming to be Brahmans, perhaps, those Brahmans are all the descendants of Y Chromosomal Aaron – look up this concept if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

History is a murky business and even stranger things have been said!

DNA on the other hand, is an altogether different proposition.

Race Myths, Politics and DNA Studies

Recent DNA studies on both Muslim and Hindu Valley Kashmiris have shown large admixtures with Ancestral South Indians. They also share the same DNA as neighbouring populations, in varying degrees though, subject to the caste-backgrounds they belong to – the higher the caste-background, the less the ASI admixture, the lower the caste-background, the more ASI admixture. Many of the landed-groups who belong to the higher caste-backgrounds, whether in ‘Azad’ Jammu Kashmir, Panjab or North India seem to have the same, if not more levels of Ancestral North Indian admixtures, connecting them with Central and West Asian populations even as they are connected with ASI admixtures. The shared ancestors to these populations lived thousands of years ago in the past, and so it becomes meaningless to assert these prehistoric connections over and above our modern day connections. Point being, we are literally all related, literally everyone one of us from the subcontinent is related, more closely related than we think.

Why so many people are keen to claim these “roots” is on account of anxieties, of not wanting to celebrate their own heritage that’s on their doorstep. They are a serious hindrance to the awakening of people who want to be true to the actual discoverable past of their forebears. I’m sure you’ve come across people like this who claim to descend from Alexander’s Greek army, or the 12 tribes of Israel, out of a desire to be connected with the very “Europeans” who taught them this ‘race science’ even as their descendants, decades later, conclusively discredited such ideas. Ironically, the Moses depicted in the Old Testament would have looked more like an African, and his tribes would have looked more African than European. In fact, the further back we go into our past, the closer we all come to looking like our African ancestors, as they left East Africa to populate the rest of the world. These facts are beyond the imagination of people who are incapable of realising how backwards they sound when they posture through their illusory racial identities.

The first modern Britons, who lived about 10,000 years ago, had “dark to black” skin, a groundbreaking DNA analysis of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton has revealed. See Guardian article; First modern Britons had ‘dark to black’ skin, Cheddar Man DNA analysis reveals

Every group in the subcontinent that has denied its subcontinent origin, but has had its DNA tested, has had their anecdotes flatly rejected by modern science. Studies have been carried out on numerous groups posturing through such illusory identities, and it transpires they are more closely related to their neighbouring populations, geographically speaking, than peoples thousands of miles away, or celebrated ‘rulers’ in ancient history.

This holds even more true for ethnic Valley Kashmiris who historically comprised mostly of occupational, non-landed, caste backgrounds, despite ahistorical narratives that now render the Valley of Kashmir the sacred homeland of ‘priests’. These debunked ideas expose what’s really going on – the ‘primordial’ Kashmiris were forcibly converted to Islam by ‘foreigners’, but a tiny minority remained true to its Hindu “Brahman” heritage – the original Kashmiri Pandits that Hindu India needs to save. The idea is, however, false. It’s chief aim is propaganda for the purposes of a tiny minority of 2/400.000 displaced people claiming a much larger stake in a territory of 17 million people, where they’ve always been a minority. Their advocates are now recycling every possible origin myth going, however outlandish, however absurd, to stay relevant to the Conflict.

We are all distantly related, those of us from the subcontinent at least, to not get caught-up in such illusory identities. It is usually people with outlandish ideas about the past who obsessively parrot 19th century race science to make connections with people they admire. If you don’t believe me, do a google search on the “real Kashmiris” to learn about these anxieties and the racial claims they make to understand the identity of these protagonists. Then google the pictures of the people throwing stones at Indian paramilitary forces, or watch YouTube videos of the Kashmiri Pandits delivering speeches about their ethnic homeland, to see the huge disconnect with how the protagonists propagate this racial identity, and its actual reality. You’ll also notice a number of caste-Kashmiris from Pakistan involved in these discussions, which is quite revealing of different sets of anxieties.

Kashmiris can be forgiven. By no means are they alone. Many Pashtuns claim to belong to the lost tribe of Israel and simultaneously Alexander’s ‘Greek’ army. What about all the caste-groups from Syria and Arabia in our midst now!? You’ve no doubt come across these people making absurd racial claims, their words are very revealing of deep-seated anxieties about the things they actually value.

Everyone of these groups that has had its dna tested, the results periodically published in academic papers, has had its claims flatly rejected including those of the ‘Kalash’ (a population bottleneck). I mention the Kalash in particular given European fascinations with this particular ‘people’ in the Hindu Kush mountains (exceedingly blue-eyed and blond-haired). This was a particular fascination not extended to our modern-day Valley Kashmiris who seem to revel in their ‘Dardic’ connections unaware of how ludicrous they sound when they actively try to distance themselves from their ‘subcontinent’ roots.

In our modern times, ‘Kashmir’ – and by this I mean the State – is significant for all the wrong reasons. The region’s strategic location, water and timber resources, and the showcasing of Indian/Pakistani chest-beating has been enough to get people talking about the oppressed ‘Kashmiris’.

The actual outcome is less satisfying for the diverse ‘peoples‘ living within the borders of the State.

But, for the self-affirming Kashmiris from ‘Azad’ Kashmir, now increasingly imagined as the ‘Mirpuris’ courtesy of disinformation, deliberate or otherwise, well, they’ve been positively excluded from this fraternal affection not withstanding their increased prosperity which may account for some of the gripes.

So that’s the subtext behind the use of the label ‘Kashmiri’ by people from our region.

We shouldn’t exaggerate the influence or numbers of those self-affirming as pro-independence Kashmiris though. They are a small minority of activists from a much larger mass of indifferent people. They organise events and move in their own closeted circles – which lacks adherents from British-born “Kashmiris”. They’re very suspicious of ‘Indian’ and ‘Pakistani’ agents that are lurking everywhere apparently, and they get exploited by people who have their own agendas, even from within their own circles. They are sincere and committed to their cause, and should be commended for their efforts despite such bad odds. Sadly their cause is critically flawed. It offers the people of AJK and its 1 million strong British diaspora nothing by way of empowerment, or political redress in ‘A’JK!

But, the political sensibilities of the activists are being increasingly shared by lots of young British-Paharis who don’t like how their community is being ‘represented’ by fellow British-Pakistanis, as they start to explore issues of identity and ask questions about Pakistan’s history.

Most of them just don’t get the whole ‘we’re Kashmiris by the way‘; an identity that seems to be significant for commentators writing about the Kashmir conflict unaware of how ‘landless Kashmiris’ were treated in the region historically. The vast majority of ‘Azad’ Kashmiris including Mirpuris in the UK self-affirm as Pakistanis and not Kashmiris’; their own piece of ‘Kashmir’ (i.e., Jammu & Kashmir) is geography and nothing more.

Like I said, you’ll hear Pakistanis in Britain saying contradictorily that ‘Mirpuris’ in particular, and by this they imagine the entire people of ‘Azad‘ Kashmir, are not really Pakistanis but Kashmiris – yes, we’re the fortunate ‘ones’ that Pakistan’s army liberated from Indian barbarity.

It’s just not true.

Mirpuris and Poonchies – all those military guys that fought in World War II – liberated themselves and handed over their areas to Pakistan. A lot of people from ‘Azad’ Kashmir, today, regret this ‘mistake’ because in their minds the ‘Pakistan’ Jinnah had promised everyone, turned out to be a ‘fraud’. But, to be fair to Mr Jinnah the avowed secularist, he was scatting of the Muslim ‘elite’ who he accused of corruption. I wonder what he would think if he came back to life and returned to Pakistan today? He would probably die a double-death!

To reiterate…

You’ll read online comments supposedly from ethnic ‘Kashmiris’ saying that ‘Azad’ Kashmiris are really ‘Panjabis’, a position they also hold for ‘caste-Kashmiris’ in Pakistan who don’t seem to understand that when the Kashmir Conflict is mentioned and its people are ‘imagined’ they are positively excluded. However offensive some of the comments, you need to be careful not to apportion blame to the actual Valley Muslim Kashmiris fighting for independence. They are quite keen to point out it is not members of their community producing this content and they are quite suspicious of the ‘agents’ pretending to be from the Valley as they posture through such claims. It is usually online trolls, possibly paid or otherwise, who make these comments to further a narrative that is becoming increasingly popular in mainstream India, that ‘Kashmir’ belongs to Kashmiri (Hindu) Pandits and not the forcibly converted Muslims of the Valley, and all the other “imposters” in the State.

So we don’t forget, these are not historical or ethnic arguments, they are political claims that can be demolished very easily because they are not true. Hindu Pandit organisations have been inflating their community’s importance to ‘Kashmir’, and their websites can be accessed where all manner of bogus racial claims are being made, ‘political claims’ that would be positively embarrassing for people familiar with colonial race-theories conclusively debunked in the 1940s by American biologists.

So let’s return to the original proposition and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes.

Let us think for ourselves mindful of the facts however it offends people’s sensibilities of how we ought to think.

Are we ‘Pakistanis’ or ‘Kashmiris?

To restate, I’m speaking about Paharis from Mirpur Division, Poonch and Muzaffarabad, what Pakistan calls ‘‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir’, what the international community calls, ‘Pakistan-administered-Kashmir‘, and what India calls ‘Pakistani-occupied-Kashmir‘.

I quote here selected passages from a forthcoming publication to be published by the Portmir Foundation entitled “Musings from the diaspora, the Mirpuri Conundrum“. Whatever the title of the book, the author is speaking about ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir and not just Mirpur. As his intended audience is in the UK, he is speaking of their particular experiences. His insights are nonetheless valid for the purposes of this discussion.

The first bit – are we BONAFIDE Pakistanis?

“Mainland Pakistanis as separate from ‘Azad’ Kashmiris”

By the term, ‘mainland Pakistanis’, I am strictly referring to Pakistanis from areas that constitutionally make up the territory of Pakistan. I am not speaking of nationality laws as they apply to the citizens of Pakistan but rather speaking of a defined area that is internationally recognised as the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’. Collectively, the four Provinces of Pakistan, its Tribal Areas and Federal Capital, have a defined relationship with the Federal Government of Pakistan.

‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir and the Northern Areas are two separate political and geographical entities that once formed part of Kashmir State but had never formed part of the landmass directly partitioned by the British to form our modern-day territories of Pakistan and, more latterly, Bangladesh.

‘Azad’ Kashmir and the Northern Areas are as a matter of ‘fact’ disputed internationally. In other words, both areas are in a sense acknowledged to be physically occupied by Pakistan’s military with or without the consent of the locals, and contrary to the legal norms that created the decolonised nation-states of British India. It was an Act of the British Parliament, the Indian Independence Act, 1947, that not only gave independence to its colony but which crucially created Pakistan. We are operating within the framework of a political-cum-legal process. Here lies the subtle distinction between peoples i.e., subjects and citizens, and lands, i.e., territories and political systems. The legal processes that created Pakistan also necessarily laid down the legal frameworks by which its people were to be categorised and governed, explicitly, implicitly, or excluded from the reach of the State’s executive branch through military ordinances. The two oftentimes overlap and complement one another and laypersons can be forgiven for thinking they are one and the same thing.

They are not.

It is to this backdrop we look when appraising the status of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir and the Northern Areas. The first point to note, is that they are not part of Pakistan, de jure (‘by right‘) but de facto (‘denoting something as a ‘fact’ as opposed to it accruing on account of a ‘right’’) i.e., as a consequence of military force and not out of any legal entitlement that is internationally recognised.

The second point to note is the relationship of the peoples of the two territorial entities with the actual institutions and branches of the Pakistani ‘State’. The obvious question that arises from this political arrangement is intuitive; are the peoples of these two regions Pakistanis?

Yes and no and in very circumspect degrees.

The answer is anything but simple for a host of factors that muddy a straightforward equation that connects a designated ‘nation’ with a designated ‘territory’, and even this is to look at the issue purely from an outsider’s perspective dispassionately.

Trying to speak objectively about political and territorial realities can be undermined by a people’s own sense of national belonging and/or aspirations; the emotional investiture can be all encompassing. However, emotions and well-intentioned ignorance are not counterweights to ‘facts’. Technically, the most we can say about the ‘hereditaryresidents of ‘Azad’ Kashmir and the Northern Areas, to use the proper legal terms, is that they are the state-subjects of their respective territories; their relationship with the state agencies and laws of Pakistan are mediated through their primary status as being the ‘nationals’ of either ‘Azad’ Kashmir or the Northern Areas. They can avail themselves of a kind of Pakistani citizenship that would allow, for instance, the acquisition of Pakistani passports all the while denuded of substantial ‘rights’ ordinarily attainable by mainland Pakistanis.

(If you’re ‘poor’ and ‘dispossessed’ in mainland Pakistan, you’re no better off than wealthy ‘Azad’ Kashmiris lacking political connections, so we shouldn’t get caught-up in ‘us and them’ type narratives – I’ve added that, AH)

In older forms of Pakistani passports issued to the ‘nationals’ of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, it clearly stated that the bearers of the passports are the citizens of the former Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir. And so it is merely a consequence of their secondary status as Pakistani citizens on account of their primary status as state-subjects of a region occupied by Pakistan that there is a huge imbalance between what rights the people demand and what rights they actually get from Pakistan’s ruling establishment, civilian or military.

For reasons cited above, most observers use the terms Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir or Pakistan-administered-Kashmir to highlight the separate nature of the two territories and respective peoples from Pakistan. Both terms can be emotive depending on how you define Pakistan’s control over its ‘Kashmir’ holdings. India prefers the term, Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir; the international community seeking to be a honest broker between India and Pakistan prefers the term, Pakistan-administered-Kashmir; whilst Pakistan prefers the term ‘Azad’ (free/independent) State of Jammu and Kashmir’. By this logic, domestically acknowledged by Pakistan’s highest court and international legal and political bodies to which Pakistan is a voluntary member, Pakistan does not have an automatic claim or right to either of the two territories.

Because of this legal quandary, Pakistan-administered-Kashmir is subjected to laws and, worse, ‘military’ regulations that are discriminatory in nature and which have created a popular backlash in both ‘Azad’ Kashmir and the Northern Areas.

As a direct consequence, the educated and politically astute inhabitants ‘feel’ little more than third-class citizens in their own homeland. For the purpose of my analysis, this has serious implications for how ‘mainland Pakistanis’ diminish the justifiable grievances of our ‘state-subjects’, labelling them ‘cantankerous’ and ‘ungrateful’ not least because of a state-enforced narrative that renders Pakistan the saviour of ‘Hindustan’s’ Muslims. Whenever I use the term ‘mainland Pakistanis’, I am therefore not speaking of Mirpuris or British-Mirpuris or the various regional communities of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir.

“Pakistan’s pseudo-‘Pakistanis’; The ‘Azad‘ anomaly

It is on account of this internationally-acknowledged reality I had in mind when I stated most British-Paharis from Mirpur are just ignorant of ‘A’JK’s status as a territory of Pakistan that isn’t really part of Pakistan.

Let us briefly appraise this fact with the founding documents of either ‘state’.

Part 1, article 1, (2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan reads,

The territories of Pakistan shall comprise –

(a) the Provinces of  Balochistan, the  Khyber Pakthunkhwa, the Punjab and Sindh;

(b) the Islamabad Capital Territory, hereinafter referred to as the Federal Capital;

(c) Federally Administered Tribal Areas; and

(d) such States and territories as are or may be included in Pakistan, whether by accession or otherwise.

Part 12, Article 257 reads,

When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.

The next article, Article 258 reads,

Subject to the constitution, until Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament]) by law otherwise provides, the President may, by Order, make provision for peace and good government of any part of Pakistan not forming part of a Province.

Aside from failing to mention ‘Azad’ Kashmir by name in part 1, article 1, Pakistan’s constitution clearly stipulates the internationally-recognised fact that ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir is not part of Pakistan de jure but de facto. In other words, because Pakistan physically occupies the territory, it is part of Pakistan, but not because it has any legal right to the territory.

This is a position that Pakistan is very proud of as it accuses India of forcibly annexing its part of Kashmir without consulting its ‘occupied’ people; it is through the consent of the people that Pakistan will have a rightful, note, ‘de jure’ claim to ‘Kashmir’ eventually. Pakistan’s official position on Azad Jammu & Kashmir is therefore in principle democratically salient – “the people of the territory must decide their territory’s exact status through a fair and free plebiscite.”

What could be more democratic?

This sentiment has been echoed in numerous official statements from the highest echelons of Pakistan’s power structure, from the earliest days, when the country came into existence up until today. In 1947 Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1846 CE – 1948 CE), the founder of Pakistan stated,

“That after the lapse of paramountcy the Indian States would be constitutionally and legally sovereign states and free to adopt for themselves any course they wished. It is open to States to join Hindustan Constituent Assembly or Pakistan Constituent Assembly or to decide to remain independent.”

Kashmir State was not part of British India that formally comprised of Provinces (or Presidencies as they were known earlier). At the time of independence, there were 17 Provinces. Kashmir State was not a Province. It was a Princely State independent of British India but still subject to British Paramountcy; the colonial Brits were still in charge. There were approximately 562, 565 or 584 Princely States, depending on which figures you rely on. The partition of India and the commission responsible for partitioning it into the Dominion of Pakistan and the Dominion of India had no authority to partition the Princely States in accordance with their respective populations.

When the British vacated ‘India’, it was the responsibility of the Princely States, and by this I mean their rulers, to either accede to India or Pakistan. The overwhelming majority did just that pocketing generous pensions from the successor ‘State’ only to have them withdrawn some decades later. There were, however, a few that wanted to remain independent, a position that was not countenanced by the British Indian government, who wanted the majority Muslim areas to become part of Pakistan whilst the rest were encouraged to accede to India.

Jinnah, unlike his Indian rivals, was prepared to publicly support a Princely State’s ambition to remain independent, but what this meant practically is an altogether different proposition. However we look at this claim, the sentiment should nonetheless resonate with my readers – Kashmir State is not an integral part of Pakistan, a position routinely countenanced by Pakistan’s politicians in their private dealings with the UN and the international community whatever their populist rhetoric that “Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein”.

Consider the following official statement from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adorning the country’s official website, 2005 – 2009,

“Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir is based on the UN Security Council Resolutions, which provide that the final disposition of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people. Pakistan is committed to this position until the three parties to the dispute, Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu and Kashmir arrive at some mutually acceptable final settlement.

In 2006, a similar statement was made by a foreign office spokesperson,

“Pakistan’s legal position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute is based on the UN resolutions. Kashmir is a disputed territory. According to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, Pakistan and India are parties to this dispute and Kashmiris have to essentially decide their future. It is about the aspirations of Kashmiri people. Pakistan does not claim Kashmir as its integral part. Kashmir is disputed. We however hope that when Kashmiris are able to exercise their right to make a choice, they would opt for Pakistan. The president did not talk about giving up Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. Azad Kashmir has its separate identity with its own President and Prime Minister. It is not a province of Pakistan. If it were so, there would have been a Governor and Chief Minister instead of President and Prime Minister.”

These sentiments are even written into the constitution of ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir, technically an Act of the Pakistan Parliament, otherwise known as the ‘AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974’. Anyone with the most basic familiarity with constitutional matters will instinctively know the difference between a ‘Constitution’ and an Act of Parliament or ‘a written law passed by a legislative body’.

Constitutions are fundamental documents over and above any ‘Act’ of a ‘Parliament’ or law-making body. Ordinarily they are the product of constituent assemblies, which in the arena of functioning (liberal) democracies are made up of the representatives of the people to be governed under the constitution.

A constitution thus defines authoritatively the working relationship between the various organs of a State; it enumerates fundamental principles or established precedents ‘according to which a state is acknowledged to be governed’. The constitution, if it germinates within a liberal tradition, will also guarantee a place for the ordinary person on the street (who may have no one to protect his/her interests) in a society ruled by elites through something akin to a ‘Bill of Rights’.

A ‘Bill of Rights’ is a formal declaration of the legal and civil rights of the citizens of a State’. In other words, States exist for the welfare of their citizens and not the other way round; constitutions entrench that principle, so no one, no matter how powerful or rich, can fundamentally alter that priority.

And so a ‘statute’ in the strictest sense of the term is thus on a much lower scale, it is the product of a legislative body that itself owes its existence to the auspices of the ‘Constitution’ – the product of a constituent assembly – the manifest expression of the people’s ‘will’. And so the constitution of ‘Azad’ Kashmir is not the product of its ‘liberated’ people, as Pakistan would want the international community to believe, but an Act of its own Parliament tipping the balance in favour of its own institutions, civil actors and bureaucrats.

In any case, what does the interim constitution of Azad Jammu & Kashmir State say about its own territorial status?

Its preamble reads,

WHEREAS the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined in accordance with the freely expressed will of the people of the State through the democratic method of free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as envisaged in the UNCIP Resolutions adopted from time to time;

AND WHEREAS a part of the territories of the State of Jammu and Kashmir already liberated by the people are known for the time being as Azad Jammu and Kashmir;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to provide for the better Government and administration of Azad Jammu and Kashmir until such time as the status of Jammu and Kashmir is determined as aforesaid and for that purpose to repeal and re-enact the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government Act, 1970, with certain modifications;

On reading these clauses, and the previous articles of the Pakistan constitution, one cannot be in any doubt we are dealing with a ‘territorial polity’ separate from Pakistan but yet controlled by Pakistan, to the point where the ‘sovereign residents’ – hereditary state subjects – are not Pakistanis in any meaningful sense of the term and yet Pakistan’s writ runs absolutely supreme.

In fact, part 8, article 258 of Pakistan’s constitution implicitly stipulates autocratic rule for ‘A’JK; “Subject to the constitution,… the President may, by Order, make provision for peace and good government of any part of Pakistan not forming part of a Province.” There is no allowance here for the people’s wishes or objections, nothing by way of democratic uprising or sentiment would alter this priority if they disagreed with the ‘Orders’.

It is here we should understand the point of citing the aforementioned passages. The unfortunate status of ‘A’JK as a separate polity from Pakistan all the while controlled by Pakistan opens the door for massive economic and political exploitation which makes a sham of ‘A’JK’s supposedly autonomous credentials.

‘A’JK is treated differently because it isn’t a ‘Province of Pakistan’ and so the necessary arrangements aren’t in place between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Independent government (‘Azad Hukumat’) of the ‘Liberated State’ (‘Azad Riyasat’) of Jammu & Kashmir. In common parlance, those of us with some insight, would refer to such an arrangement, albeit politely, as being in ‘limbo’. Many other words can be used to describe this situation – ‘shafted’ comes to my mind. The ‘A’JK polity is not worthy of the title ‘free’! It is exactly what the international community perceives it as, a client-state of Pakistan lacking democratic teeth.

And yet no one from the polity can practically challenge Pakistan or take it to task for the imbalanced relationship between the two unequal entities; no matter how loyal one feels to Pakistan or whether one demands independence, both ‘attitudes’ will be considered outside the pale.

Section 7, under the clause ‘Freedom of Association’, AJK Interim Constitution Act, 1974, article 1 stipulates,

1) “Subject to this Act, every State Subject shall have the right to form association or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of morality or public order”.

Now, what exactly are those reasonable restrictions imposed by law and in the interest of morality or public order? The following clause stipulates,

2) “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.”

Ah, so it’s immoral, as far as the architects of these laws are concerned, for the supposedly sovereign people of ‘A’JK to have a separate future from that of Pakistan, if they so choose?

And to remind us again, what exactly is a ‘State Subject’? The following definition is given in the same ‘Interim Act’,

“State Subject’ means a person for the time being residing in Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Pakistan who is a State Subject, as defined in the late Government of the State of Jammu and Kashmir Notification No I-L/84,dated the20th April,1927 as amended from time to time.”

And to put this concept into its proper context, let us remind ourselves once more what exactly is ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’? The Interim Act stipulates,

“‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’ means the territories of the State of Jammu and Kashmir which have been liberated by the people of that State and are for the time being under the administration of Government and such other territories as may hereafter come under its administration.”

These clauses, read in conjunction with other clauses, whether in Pakistan’s constitution or in the Interim Act that is being passed as the ‘A’JK constitution expose the farce of ‘A’JK’s autonomous democratic credentials. What kind of ‘liberation’ is this that asserts the moral high-ground in giving a ‘people’ the right to decide their own future, publically and with fan-fare, audaciously hardcoding such enlightened principles into its own constitutional framework, and yet, all the while, making it practically impossible for the same people to actually experience it?

The term ‘activities prejudicial to Pakistan’ in clause 2 of the AJK interim Act can be interpreted in such a way to safeguard the imbalanced status quo, even to the detriment of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, and yet the offending clause finds expression in the constitution of a polity supposedly separate from Pakistan. So what about all that talk about giving the people the right to determine their own future; free and fair votes for all? Of course, it’s a farce. Everyone seems to know it’s a farce, except for that latent mass that likes to wave Pakistani flags in British cities much to the annoyance of ‘Azad’ Kashmiris aware of their people’s plight.

And so when anyone from the State speaks up against the injustices prevailing in the State as a direct result of its maladministration by Pakistan, they are condemned as being disloyal to Pakistan, arrested and prosecuted. Those fortunate to have been employed by the polity and working in the interest of their own people are summarily sacked.

Clause 9 of the ‘A’JK Interim Act, ironically under the heading ‘Freedom of Speech’ stipulates,

“Every State subject shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the security of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, friendly relations with Pakistan, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of Court, defamation or incitement to an offence.”

In fact, no one can even stand for elections, mobilise one’s people against ‘injustice’, ‘economic exploitation’ or ‘political corruption’ should such a candidature be deemed prejudicial to Pakistan, or at the cost of ‘friendly relations‘ with Pakistan. And for good measure, all elected parliamentarians of the ‘A’JK Assembly must swear an oath of allegiance to Pakistan, the very cost of the polity’s ‘liberation’.

For instance, the oath for the President of the ‘A’JK assembly reads,

“I [name] do solemnly swear that I am a Muslim and believe in the Unity and oneness of Almighty Allah, His angels, the Books of Allah, the Holy Quran being the last of them, his prophets, the absolute finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the day of Judgment , and all the requirements and teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah; That I will remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan; That I will perform my functions as Prime Minister honestly and faithfully; and That I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any official secret which may come to my knowledge as Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir; So Help me Allah.”

Aside from disenfranchising the non-Muslims of the State (apparently there aren’t any, everyone of us is ‘Muslim’), it is therefore an openly acknowledged fact by constitutional experts, jurists, political scientists, human rights experts, academics, charity workers that the democracy on show in ‘A’JK is a sham where low-level officers from the Pakistan mainland have more executive powers than the elected representatives of the ‘A’JK Parliament. Why would disinterested and dispassionate outsiders make such claims if they weren’t true especially when they have nothing to gain from rudely waking up British-Paharis whilst smashing Pakistani sensibilities?

Okay, the second bit, are we bonafide Kashmiris?

The Scenarios; Competing ‘State Identities’ & Ethnic Ambiguities

In the absence of a genuine Pakistani state or nation-state identity what are we? It is at this point that we enter the quagmire of the Kashmiri identity dialectic which in the UK some pro-independence actors from our region have been pushing as the ‘Kashmiri National Identity Campaign’. These individuals are extremely sincere and hardworking. They are generous with their time and money, and committed wholeheartedly to any kind of enfranchisement for ‘our’ people who live in a part of ‘Kashmir’ (technically ‘Jammu’) that no one really cares about.

They are not, however, imaginative or creative, and neither are they very probing when it comes to deconstructing the conflict and understanding ‘our’ stake in it. The mainstay of their followers is just ‘tribal’ whilst many in their ranks are incapable of mobilising their own peers and circles.

They tell us, “Pakistan hates us and exploits us because we’re ‘Kashmiris’”. When they use the term ‘Kashmir’ they use it as the basis of an illusory national space comprised of all the territories of the undivided State pre-partition. In other words, Pakistan is a nation state and Kashmir is also an occupied nation state in the loosest political sense of the term. They are not using the term in any cultural, linguistic or ethnic sense but in a way that is diametrically-opposed to the imposition of the Pakistani label.

Are we ‘Kashmiris’ by virtue of occupying a national space called ‘Kashmir’? Well, the simple and honest answer is we’re not. The most we can say is that our parents and grand-parents were hereditary state-subjects of Jammu & Kashmir presently administered by India, Pakistan and China.

In terms of China, the least problematic of the three countries where state subjects are concerned, its stake in the territorial dispute between India and Pakistan is uninhabited. Thus China does not have to contend with unruly ‘state-subjects’ or independence movements. Its concerns are limited to manning its borders for geostrategic reasons and diplomatic wrangling with India minus any border skirmishes.

It is thus more predisposed to Pakistan and maintaining the current stalemate which otherwise would call into question its claims to ‘Jammu & Kashmir’ territories. The more this conflict goes unresolved the better for China. And so China’s ‘love’ for Pakistan (usually in the form of financial and technological aid and diplomatic support in the UN Security Council) and Pakistan’s reciprocating ‘love’ for China (usually in the form of accepting such lovely gestures) is not based on any fatal attraction but on geo-political priorities that help sustain the status quo to each other’s advantage.

There are implications here that I will be shortly discussing in chapter 7; suffice to say here, the ‘state subject’ concept is outdated and borne of a colonial age that is being stretched to somehow give us a ‘national identity’. In its political-cum-legal context, where the term properly belongs and not in the discourses of ethno-identity-politics, it deals with subordinated classes of ‘persons’ and ‘things’ in a hierarchy imposed by a colonial power. In other words, not only are the colony’s ‘permanent residents’ state-subjects but also its cows and produce and bicycles; you should get the point.

Understandably, those who framed the parameters of this legal-cum-juridical system engineered a status qua that helped perpetuate their rule. They would be surprised to learn that the term is being used as the basis of an illusory national identity by the multitude of tribal communities ‘whose lands’ they had originally colonised especially in the absence of a shared sense of belonging.

The ‘State’s “Subjects”’; Servitude and illusory “Kashmiri” Nationality

To briefly illustrate this point for those who might require clarification in weaning themselves off its colonial residues, the term ‘subject’ had a ‘legal’ meaning not just for hereditary ‘state subjects’ of Jammu & Kashmir, i.e., a demarcated territory of the British Crown, but for ‘subjects’ of British India, another demarcated territory.

In legal discourse, ‘territories’ encompass ‘jurisdictions’ and jurisdictions by necessity have a ‘sovereign’ power and those subjected to it are known as ‘subjects’. In the world of colonial politics, sovereigns were without exception ‘Monarchs’ and usually male.

To be a ‘subject’ in either of the two jurisdictions mentioned above meant you were ‘subjected’ to power-dynamics not of your choosing. In the British Indian Empire, the ‘paramountcy’ of British India superseded that of the Princely States; ‘Imperial’ Britain was the senior partner, the Princely-States were ‘client’ states.

We are therefore speaking of a legal relationship between two unequal entities with far reaching consequences. The Oxford English dictionary entry for the verb ‘subject’ is quite helpful here; it reads,

“bring (a person or country) under one’s control or jurisdiction typically by using force”

The status of a subject was usually conferred through birth or descent by mere logic of falling within the jurisdiction’s territorial boundaries; the choice of assuming such a status is thus out of your hands. Individuals lacking this territorial status were categorised as ‘aliens’.

Where we parse the concept according to its historical context and usages, we are strictly speaking of legal duties in the sense of an allegiance that is owed to the ‘Sovereign’ who would reciprocate with a set of responsibilities owed to his subjects. These responsibilities were seldom discharged as absolute rights but nonetheless involved maintaining the semblance of security, upholding justice, offering jobs, providing education etc., etc.

If one looks at the ‘hereditary state-subject’ pronouncement of Kashmir State’s 1927 ordinance, one can clearly see these considerations at work. The background to the ordinance is also insightful as is the role played by the Hindu Pandit community of the Valley to address their own loss of state-sanctioned privilege (in competition with ‘subjects’ of British India for state-patronised jobs in Kashmir State), but sadly this theme is outside the scope of the present discussion.

Suffice to say albeit briefly, the state subject rule was formally enacted to appease Hindu Pandits of the Valley in the face of threats to their jobs from subjects of British India, namely Urdu-speaking ‘Bengalis’, ‘Beharis’ and ‘Panjabis’. The slogan that consecrated the occasion ran, “Kashmir for the Kashmiris” which literally meant ‘government jobs for the Hindu Pandits’ because, in their minds, they were the rightful beneficiaries (‘state subjects’) of such legal entitlements.

In practical terms, this meant safeguarding the privileges of a very small minority of Hindu Pandits who were conversant in Urdu, the official language of statecraft. For historical reasons, the official language of the Princely State was Persian and educated Hindu Pandits were traditionally conversant in it. When the ‘Darbar’ (‘Royal Court’) decided to switch to Urdu in 1889, the Hindu Pandits were instantly disenfranchised as the State’s patrons could now rely on a steady stream of loyal Dogras and Hindu Panjabis from ‘India’. The Pandits were thus forced to learn Urdu, which they did to guarantee themselves ongoing access to state patronage. They demanded this privilege by way of a ‘right’ owed to them as hereditary state subjects of Kashmir, thus the slogan, “Kashmir for the Kashmiris”.

In maintaining this position, they weren’t advocating an inclusive-message of brotherly fraternity and universal rights with Muslims, whether from the Vale or outside.

To the advantage of the Hindu Pandits, everyone else was practically excluded from the enjoyment of this supposed right given the absence of state-run schools in predominately Muslim areas. These state of affairs were the product of deliberate policies that sought to patronise certain groups aligned with the Darbar. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, including those in the Valley of Kashmir were illiterate. Hindu Pandits immeasurably benefited, from what appeared to many, to be a ‘Hindu’ status quo although they were distrusted by the Dogra Rajput patrons of the State. The Dogras for their part sought to curtail the influence of the Hindu Pandits by encouraging members of their own ethnic group to take up such jobs even if it meant recruiting them from outside the State. Ethnic Dogras were not only located in the State of Jammu & Kashmir and neither were Hindu Pandits exclusively located in the Valley of Kashmir, which should help highlight how such identities are construed through times of social and political contestation.

Understandably, subjects of the Princely States were not subjects of British India because they were ‘subjected’ to a different jurisdiction, namely that of a different ‘Sovereign’. On account of being born outside the direct jurisdiction of the British Crown, these persons did not owe duties to the Crown and neither were they entitled to reciprocating rights within the State. So what of the responsibilities owed by the ‘Sovereign’ of a Princely State to his ‘subjects’ when they were outside his jurisdiction, not forgetting that his power ordinarily wouldn’t extend beyond his borders?

In these circumstances such persons were legally categorised as ‘British Protected Persons’. It was part of the arrangement between the Princely States and the British Indian Empire, that the latter as the dominant power in the subcontinent would be responsible for the external or foreign affairs of the former, its defence and communication. Because of this arrangement state subjects travelling outside their Princely States (for example in French, Dutch or American colonies) were nonetheless afforded formal ‘protection’ by way of the British Crown. This same protection was afforded to the Indian Princes as well who were also categorised as ‘British Protected Persons”. In this more restricted sense, the Princes and their subjects were subjects of the British Empire.

Whether some states were larger than others and had more control over their internal affairs (and thus semblance of greater ‘sovereignty’), is neither here or there for the basic claim that they were essentially high-level ‘clients’. The real masters were those who devised the ‘rules’ and then subjected everyone else to their jurisdiction.

This is the basic gist of the hereditary ‘state-subject’ category as it historically applied to Kashmir State, the other 564 or so Princely States and British India. Whatever its peculiar specificities given how the idea developed and was consecrated in Kashmir State through the agency of a powerful but privileged minority, the underlying priority remains the same when applied to disparate colonial territories. Fundamentally, the concept has nothing to do with our modern sense of nationality when applied to a nation state in the crucial sense of belonging to a nation and enjoying a reciprocating sense of ‘nationhood’ symbolically with all the attendant legal and political benefits that come by way of the category.

In the years and decades that accompanied the demise of the British Empire, nationality laws moved in the direction of a new legal category, namely that of the ‘citizen’.

In its original usage, the new term distinguished between residents of the British Isles and those of the former colonies who were still categorised as ‘British Subjects’. The rationale behind the new category was to control immigration to Britain from the former colonies who on account of their status as ‘subjects’ of the Crown were legally entitled to come to the mother country without any visas, procure employment and settle in Britain.

As time progressed and the legal discourse evolved, our modern concept of citizenship was born. We no longer speak of ourselves as ‘subjects’ despite the term’s legacy in legal discourse but rather as citizens, with rights and liberties that are protected by the courts and not merely handed down to us via an unaccountable Monarch or an unimpeachable Ruler.

If we understand the concept correctly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to then learn that ‘subjects’ of British India didn’t self-affirm as ‘Britons’ or contemporaneously as ‘Britishers’ willingly or otherwise. It would have been a rather curious self-ascription for those demanding independence from Britain, shouting from the tops of their throats that they demand independence because they are the legitimate ‘subjects’ of the British Crown’! It would have been even more curious had these pro-independence ‘subjects’ argued through some warped dialectic that their status as ‘Crown-subjects’ automatically made them inherently British especially as they sought to eviscerate British rule.

This is akin to arguing that the state subjects of Jammu & Kashmir State are all ‘Kashmiris’ because the British lumped them all together into a ‘territory’ which British officials lazily and incorrectly called ‘Kashmir’. How can anyone publically affirm an innate sense of belonging to a fabricated territory on the basis of a legal-cum-colonial category that sought to maintain power-dynamics to his disadvantage? If this is not an absurd position then we must find a new definition for the word absurdity.

Moreover, many writers have observed that ethnic Kashmiris from the Valley poke fun at non-ethnic Kashmiri ‘state subjects‘ pretending to be Kashmiris. It may be the case that this representation is being influenced by Hindu-Pandit activists trying to disconnect Muslims of the Valley from the wider Muslim population of the State. However, we look at this dynamic, the Kashmir label is territorial shorthand for those expressing opposition to Pakistan in solidarity with Muslim Valley Kashmiris fighting against India. Those who would like to reduce the Kashmir Conflict to troubles in the Valley alone are intellectually dishonest of the actual conflict between India and Pakistan. They are also unfamiliar at best or disingenuous at worst with how the world perceives ‘Kashmir’, namely a conflict between India and Pakistan and not merely an ethnic space located in the Vale of Kashmir. But this nonetheless reinforces the claim that the ‘Kashmiri’ label does not work at the grassroots level in ‘A’JK and the Diaspora and we need to find an alternative.

Excerpts from “Musings from the diaspora; The “Mirpuri” Conundrum by Reiss Haidar

See “Whose “Kashmir” is it? Conflict, Territorial Claims and the Abuse of History

So why should we care about how we’re identified?

Put bluntly ‘occupation’ is ‘occupation’ and in the case of the ‘A’JK population now with its large British diaspora, we’ve collectively been duped by the Pakistani establishment into thinking that we’re bonafide Pakistanis. We lack ordinary benefits that come by way of being genuine citizens of a country – so how are we Pakistanis if Pakistan is a political territory from which our regions are excluded?

Just think about this perverse position for one moment.

In ‘Azad’ Kashmir our people do not have the same rights as mainland Pakistanis because Pakistan’s ruling establishment has determined that we’re not really Pakistanis, or at least not yet. Some of our impressionable youngsters may take great delight in cheering on the Pakistani cricket team in Britain, wearing Pakistani cricket t-shirts and shouting Pakistani slogans, but they cannot play for Pakistan nationally or internationally.

How is that, at all, fair or right, or evidence of true fraternity?

Most people of conscience would feel insulted!

Our people in ‘Azad’ Kashmir have little rights.

That is a fact internationally attested. This is not Indian propaganda or ill-feelings against Pakistan.

But there are no legal remedies either.

As far as the law goes, our grandparents and parents are ‘state-subjects‘ of a ‘country’ that only exists on paper.

Whatever the false symbolism of having a constitution, flag and borders, ‘Azad’ Kashmir is a territory that’s being actively exploited by Pakistan. None of our politically ambitious ‘state subjects’ can aspire to become the President or Prime Minister of Pakistan. They cannot vote in Pakistani elections, for they must content themselves with the third-class citizenship of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir, a polity completely controlled by Pakistani officials.

If our people sought a destiny for our own country – because apparently we’re ‘free’ in ‘Azad’ Kashmir – outside the clutches of Pakistan’s military, we would be bribed and bought off. If that didn’t work we would be imprisoned, probably tortured and disappeared. These are the tactics the security services and agencies employ to impede dissent. Ironically, we would be considered enemy agents against the Pakistani State despite successive governments of Pakistan claiming internationally that the peoples of ‘Kashmir State’ have the right to decide their own future.

The international community is not stupid, and have exposed the Pakistani farce on more than one occasion. Everyone around the world that knows a thing or two about ‘Azad’ Kashmir knows it is occupied by Pakistan. It’s just our parents weren’t very educated to understand the pitiable place reserved for them on the fringes of a corrupt political order.

We’ve since moved on from that simplicity.

The only real remedy is to take up arms and fight against the tyrants that have reduced our people to the status of cattle, our forebears did this in 1946 thinking they were liberating themselves from decades of tyranny, the latest incumbents being the Dogra Rajputs of the Jammu Darbar.

But what did they actually achieve?

They simply traded in one group of tyrants for another group of tyrants. Worse still, the new tyrants sought to manipulate them through Islam even as they were irreligious themselves!

The Hindus became the bad guys.

The Muslims became the good guys.

The lie that Pakistan somehow saved ‘Azad’ Kashmiris from the wrath of Hindu India is one of the most abiding frauds that is being perpetrated against our people. And so I ask a much wider question of my readers if indeed they still employ their faculties to think for themselves without the need to be scared, afraid or behave sheepishly with one’s more respectable peers – wrongly deemed I add.

What did any of us from ‘A’zad Jammu Kashmir achieve with Partition?

As the lands of British India were spilt between two artificial territories, no more fairer, than the one freed from the clutches of British Imperialism, how have the lives of ordinary Indians and Pakistanis improved? India seems to be going in one direction and Pakistan seems to be going in another direction. The one is becoming more prosperous as entire populations are uplifted from poverty, is forward-looking, making advances in modern science and technology, sending rockets into space, proud of its heritage and ethnic diversity, celebrating its past, whilst the other seems to be entrenching the social privileges and material interests of a tiny elite unaccountable to the masses.

Is this a flawed contrast?

Is this Indian propaganda?

How does the world perceive Pakistan on account of the elite that runs Pakistan?

Just think about this for one moment mindful of partition and the political claims in support of a Muslim homeland in India.

Wars, separation, inflammatory language of grievances and victimhood, false political ideologies, bring nothing but destruction and the loss of innocent blood. Everyone loses mostly women and children, and from the ashes of destruction, new elites are born having created a space for themselves, their families, children and local agents. These kinds of corrupt Nation States are illusions for everyone except those who directly benefit from them, and I doubt an independent Jammu & Kashmir would be more fairer than India or Pakistan.

If Pakistan implodes, and Azad Kashmir becomes free, and India does not reclaim its territory per the accession of Hari Singh, from the ashes of Pakistan will come a new elite comprised of the dominant tribes in ‘Azad’ Kashmir who like their defeated patrons will employ their own sinecures as they profit from their new positions. In the absence of a widespread culture of civic engagement, democracy, respect for human rights, no one from ‘Azad’ Kashmir will be able to ensure the checks and balances of State Power. This is one of the worst consequences of our dispossession and occupation at the hands of Pakistan. They have dumbed down our people to such an extent that not only are we incapable of replacing them we are incapable of governing ourselves. The political culture of ‘Azad’ Kashmir is therefore no less corrupt than Pakistan’s for the politics of ‘Azad’ Kashmir has been shaped and moulded by the Pakistan establishment.

But, there are other considerations, if understood properly, which would allow us to break free from thinking of our identity as something that must be tied with a corrupt State, or an ambiguous territory, that only benefits an unaccountable elite, especially from the vantage of our lived experiences in Britain.

I say this as someone who lives in the UK who appreciates the freedoms and opportunities availed to me from a mostly benign State whatever Britain’s huge fault-lines and imperial history. My loyalties are with Britain because she does not oppress me whatever the mutterings of her racists.

I ask of my Muslim brethren, how many of them get offended when ‘Islam’ is blamed because of the actions of violent extremists, so why the double standards with the UK? Racists do not define the UK anymore than extremists define Islam or Hindu extremists define India.

And I choose to live in Britain.

I have the right and freedom to leave her shores. Britain does not detain me, or place restrictions on my movement. She has not shackled my tongue, I am free to express my grievances. I am free like a bird, I can leave any time I want.

How many of us from our own ethnic background would exercise this right?

The answer is clear.

And so we must do everything we can to preserve our shared British values because they work and they’re fair and they’ve made us much better people – we have a real stake in this country and we owe it to those traditions to work for the betterment of all Britons.

But, these values do not connect me with my past and the memories of my grandparents.

So what of my ethnic roots?

What of the people who share this ethnicity with me in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, Indian Jammu & Kashmir and Northern Pakistan, in the Pothohar Uplands, in the Hazara Hills, the forgotten Hindko-speakers of Afghanistan?

I can cherish my roots in Britain, but as I return to the homeland of my grandparents to cherish and preserve their heritage, I am morally obliged to speak up against the political and economic exploitation of ‘Azad’ Kashmir. If I was from Rawalpindi or Mansehra, even Islamabad, the federal capital, where many Mirpuris live today as proud Pakistanis but crucially in their own ethnic homeland, I would do the same thing.

I owe it to my people, who ended up on a particular side of a geo-political border, to educate them and raise their spirits, that mass of dispossessed and despondent people that has been left by the wayside by Pakistan Officialdom.

We in the diaspora owe it to the sacrifices of our forbears who came to the UK with a couple of shillings in their pockets to speak on behalf of those who are unable to speak for themselves. And we must do this as part of a global struggle against the abuse of state power. We don’t need an illusory identity to do this, we need humanity and a backbone, even as we oppose inequality in our own communities.

If we in the Diaspora turn away from our own ethnic kin in ‘Azad’ Kashmir, then let not one of us ever fool ourselves about our moral worth. Let us never ever feign compraderie with any other ‘nation’, ‘people’ or ’cause’. If we cannot be brothers and sisters to our own people, which stranger would ever want us as a neighbour?

Celebrating our roots in the UK but preserving them in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir

Our ‘ethnic’ people belong to a cultural-sphere that transcends the creation of Pakistan (1947) and the emergence of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir (1846) by many hundreds of years. And yet as a people we know know very little of this heritage despite being the actual beneficiaries of numerous settler peoples who contributed vastly to the civilisations of the subcontinent, and who in turn where indigenised since Vedic times (1500 BCE – 1100 BCE). The Indo-Aryan Kingdoms known as Gandhara and Kamboja represented in the very geography of our region are intricately interwoven with the cultural tapestry that defines us.

An example in point would be to cite ‘Gandhara’, an ancient civilisation in the North West of the subcontinent that also had its own corresponding polity of the same namesake (1st century BCE – 11th century CE). According to modern DNA studies, the people of Gandhara were closely related to the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation, one of the earliest of all human Civilisations built on the banks of the River Indus, and celebrated all across the World except in the land of its own birth. It was from the region of Gandhara that Buddhism was cultivated historically during the reign of Ashoka, (304 BCE – 232) BCE before its eventual spread into Central Asia and beyond. This particular version of Buddhism was responsible for a huge outpouring of human ingenuity and advanced culture; the Buddhists of our region were egalitarian, open-minded and progressive. Their material culture and prosperity were admired afar.

The great ‘Ashoka’ Raja of the Maurya, for instance, resided in Taxila where he had also assumed the governorship of Gandhara during his father’s reign. The dialects our grandparents spoke have very old roots in this region, and we should never forget that past – as some of us, on account of not knowing our cultural heritage, want us to stop speaking Pahari, and its sister dialects, Patwari, Hindko, etc., because of some self-hatred, never once questioned, never once probed. Whatever we call our language, Pahari, Patwari, Hindko, it is our ethnic language, it is ours on account of our shared heritage. It is an old language from which its shared dialects descend, spoken in a region rich in culture and history.

Urdu is not our ethnic language. As someone who loves languages, Urdu is a a beautiful language that everyone should learn, just as I would encourage my people to learn Arabic, Persian or Turkish; Panjabi, Sindhi, or Pashto, or any language for that matter, but not because we are ashamed of the actual language of our grandparents.

In terms of education, travel and the international order, English is sufficient for us as our native tongue – lest we forget we grew up in England amongst English speakers and this language now reflects our evolving heritage in the UK. English is also part of us in a very profound way, it connects us not just with our future, but it will also connect our children and their descendants with our shared past.

As for our proud Urdu-speaking Pakistani elite whose children study English in English-medium-educated schools in Pakistan and abroad, whilst they demand that everyone else learn ‘Urdu’, poking fun of Pakistan’s native languages, calling the rural poor – Pendus (villagers), I doubt they have any concern for the preservation of ‘Urdu’, and the indigenous cultures of Pakistan.

This is a language that has no ‘prestige’ other than the one accorded to it by Urdu-speakers who speak English at their own dinner tables in Pakistan. What can they offer the Urdu language if in their minds, they feel a strong urge to speak English? English will serve us well, as we also preserve and consolidate the language of our parents and forebears. Our ‘Pahari’ language of the Himalayan mountains has roots in the area we come from, it’s not like Urdu, an equally beautiful and rich language that has come from the Plains of India, but was then cruelly and forcibly imposed on people who were then adjudged ignorant and illiterate because they continued to be themselves. Which indigenous nation of Pakistan benefited from this language policy except the people who were already proficient in it, and then demanded it as the national symbol of a country with many indigenous languages?

It was this same language-policy that destroyed Pakistan in 1971, separating brother from brother, sister from sister, as the rulers of West Pakistan insulted more than 50 percent of their countrymen in East Pakistan. In defiance, the Bengalis fought back and created their own country. To date, the architects of this arrogance have shown no remorse, not even an apology to their former countrymen.

Ironically, our language has a pedigree much older than Urdu. Its predecessor was taught in the subcontinent’s first universities, again located in the region of our ethnic forbears, in Taxila, Pothohar Uplands, and Neelum, ‘Azad’ Kashmir. It was from this frontier region around 1000 CE that the Islam of Central Asia made its real headway into the remainder of the subcontinent, through which the vibrant traditions of Sufism entered and became indigenised. Many of these earliest settlers merged with the extant population and are now represented in the diversity of our people.

Tribes from the direction of Afghanistan that arrived later around 1500 CE and who have over the centuries completely changed the demography of the Peshawar Valley and neighbouring regions of Swat are actually intrusions into this historical cultural-sphere. Radical religious elements within this population have also been responsible for the destruction of numerous cultural artefacts associated with the Gandharan heritage – the Pakistani State has shown no desire to preserve and celebrate this heritage – our heritage. This destruction predates the iconoclasm of the ‘Wahhabi-inspired’ Taliban by centuries. Some from these communities have ironically claimed this heritage for themselves erroneously on internet forums and in their written publications.

Despite this, as the heirs of rich cultural traditions, we think we have no culture of our own. Disparagingly, we are told we are mere extensions of other ‘ethnic’ peoples who go on to claim our ancient and medieval heritage. We must reinitiate ourselves in our own history, develop our own historical narratives and exist as a people in our own right, on our own terms, for the benefit of our own people. In doing so we will discover the huge contributions our forbears made to the civilisations of the Indian subcontinent. We must never forget that history is on our side in the pursuit of such a valuable undertaking, not least because it was our regional forbears who fought Alexander the Great on the plains of Kharri (Southern Mirpur) during his ‘Indian’ campaigns if indeed colonial historians were correct.

These are not outlandish claims. This is the actual history of our region, if we are bothered to learn it.

We don’t need to be from Pakistan or Jammu & Kashmir to know our ‘roots’ from a cultural-sphere that predates both territories by centuries, when we have something so profound in the heritage of our parents and grandparents. We don’t need a nation state to preserve our identity, we just need to be true to the memories of our forebears as we advocate for all those left behind.

And it will be this heritage that will inspire us to advocate on behalf of our people in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir, the Pothohar Plateau, the Hazara Hills, Indian-administered-Kashmir, and dare I say the wider areas as we stay connected with our shared humanity.

“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”

Assata Shakur

Previous articleNation state fictions: Imagining the Past
Next articleThe History of Mirpur as told by Mirpuris and not Wikipedia

Associate Editor and researcher at the Portmir Foundation. Born and raised in England. Parents from Pakistan-administered-Jammu, from Mirpur which is not part of Kashmir Province or the Valley – these are themselves separate places; Mirpur is part of the disputed territory of Jammu & Kashmir “STATE”.

Love literature, poetry, film, art, music, sufism, Islam, travel, free thought, liberalism, and lots of other things. Have a particularly strong desire to learn about Indian history, the place my forbears are from, and I have no qualms identifying with India – partition made us ‘Pakistanis’ – not necessarily those of ‘us’ from ‘Azad’ Kashmir. I think partition was a bad idea, but I’m not averse to Pakistan either. I’m happy to have multiple identities and love the Pakistan of the ordinary person – the real Pakistan of the ordinary man, woman and children.

Okay, 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 us, and you’re from our background, write your own opinion piece and we’ll publish it.


  1. When u go to Pakistan as soon as you get over the pull in dan ghali u know ur in azad Kashmir. So im kashmiri. Yeah I’m a mirpuri too or Pari but we have our own country and it ain’t Pakistan these guys abuse us at the airport and all the way to azad Kashmir.

    • Most of us from mirpur are now born and raised in Britain. More mirpuris in Britain than Pakistan. We should focus on our kids here who r confused about who they r.

    • Most of us if not a lot of you from Azad Kashmir have family in both Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Are you really saying your cousins are the problem in Mirpur or Muzaffarabad? What about all the Azad Kashmiris in Britain, Pakistan, abroad married to people from Pakistan? Do they abuse you too at the Airport? The problem is not Pakistan, an abstract idea, even if you disagree with the ideological fallacy of Pakistan, but the corrupt people who run Pakistan. Pakistanis abuse Pakistanis all day long, Kashmiris are not exceptions. Everyone gets abused in Pakistan.

      • Pakistanis can abuse Pakistanis all they want, Azad Kashmiris are not Pakistani. Being abused by Pakistanis is a perfectly legitimate reason for feeling like you belong somewhere else. Pakistanis should control their “abuse” when it comes to “Kashmiris”, and not dictate and how Kashmiris should react when they are subjected to such abuse.

  2. When you are dealing with identity issues I believe that the most important charachterstics are the immutable ones. Hence ones race is the most important component, followed by his nationality and culture and ideology. Thus I am a Jatt from Mirpur which is a part of the Jammu province of J&K.

    • You are confusing caste, clan or tribal backgrounds with “race”. The peoples of Azad Jammu & Kashmir whether they are jats or rajputs or caste-Kashmiris are all the same people, they share the same DNA more or less because they belong to the same breeding population even if their distant ancestors came from different parts of the world.

  3. There is no such thing as ‘race’. Race is a social construct, it is an idea that has been shown to be flawed. Biological races do not exist as human beings are all part of the same human species. Jats are not a race but an ambiguous caste background that means different things to different people. Also we don’t have a ‘nationality’ in ‘A’JK as our lands are occupied by India and Pakistan, so there is no ‘nation’ we can claim as ours. The peoples of the divided State have different agendas and viewpoints and they do not feel like they belong to one another. The people of “Azad” Jammu & Kashmir are definitely not Pakistanis in any meaningful sense as this post demonstrates but they are not Kashmiris either as the territory in question is contested between all sorts of groups who want to deny the identities of the “other”. It is usually Kashmiri (Hindu) Pandits who make a lot of noise about the real ethnic Kashmiris as they feel more and more isolated, and so they want everyone to focus on the idea of Kashmir as an ethnic identity and not a religious or territorial one. They want the world to know that they are somehow connected to Kashmir by blood and history unlike everyone else which is just propaganda. Kashmirriyat emerges with the anti-Maharaja struggles of Sheikh Abdullah in the 1930s and he was including all the state subjects of the State in that struggle. To the entire world including Indians and Pakistanis “Kashmir” is the divided State between India and Pakistan. People can re-imagine this particular history all they want as many people speak of Kashmirriyat today as the ethnic identity of Valley Kashmiris. My point is we need to really think hard about what is happening to our people in Azad Jammu & Kashmir as everyone wants to tell us what we are and what we’re not, even as we don’t know anything about our cultural identity.

      • I think this post is a good start. We need to have a sense of belonging to our own ethnic community from so called Azad Kashmir even as we point out constantly that its occupied by an outside and foreign power. As in the post, the writers constantly use the form ‘Azad’ to denote that it is not ‘Free’ and so we need to popularise this idea in our everyday speech. This will help challenge the hegemony of the Pakistani-state enforced narrative on so called ‘Azad’ Kashmir. It may seem tedious at first but eventually the symbolism of this act of resistance will resonate with our people in ‘A’JK and abroad.

        When it comes to reimagining so-called ‘A’JK the following ingredients are important and need to be given some perspective;

        1) the partition of Pakistan was a big mistake/blunder on the part of Muhammad Ali Jinnah; see Aysha Jalal’s the Sole Spokesman.

        2) the ideology of Pakistan is a fraud; it made Muslims much weaker in the subcontinent than stronger, it was divisive and benefited an existing hindustani-based urban elite competing with their Hindu counterparts in North India 3) ‘Azad’ Kashmir directly benefits Pakistan. 4) Pakistan does not benefit ‘Azad’ Kashmir 5) Pakistan exploits ‘Azad’ Kashmir as in the elite and their sinecures are parasites on foreign aid and loans intended for the poor 6) by discovering our much wider subcontinent heritage, we can directly expose the lie of the two nation theory which has resulted in ‘Azad’ Kashmir being relegated to the Pakistan’s fringe 7) the existing leadership in ‘A’JK are a massive hindrance to the cause of pro-‘Azad’ Kashmir politics and emancipation 8) pro-independence Kashmiris in ‘A’JK are being manipulated by Pakistan; they have accrued no direct dividends for the people of ‘A’JK to date 9) India does not care for ‘A’JK in the same way Pakistan cares for the Valley except to appease its own Hindu-Nationalists 10) Valley Kashmiris need Pakistan as a bulwark against India thereby weakening the pro-independence Kashmiris from ‘A’JK 11) pro-independence Kashmiris from A’JK in the diaspora have failed miserably to mobilise their own people because they overplayed the victimhood of the Valley Kashmiris to the exclusion of their own people 12) from the ashes of oppressed people can come their liberators, and we need to hit this message home if indeed we believe in our ’cause’ in ‘A’JK. 13) we have to go back to basics and re-learn the conflict outside the existing paradigms as the ensuing narratives are heavily biased in favour of the Valley Kashmiris 14 FINALLY; we should not be apologetic or shy about prioritising our own interests.

        • M Shafifique can’t you adhere to all your points 1 – 14 and still affirm a Pakistani identity?

          Why does it have to be in opposition to Pakistan by being pro-Azaadi AJK, or JK? Why can’t it be complimentary to Pakistan, as part of a wider fight for greater rights for the people of Pakistan, accountability and transparency, which by definition would include Azad Kashmir, and Giglit Baltistan?

          Hear me out. This holds true for Portmir Foundation, or the writers of this post.

          In the post, if the writers are correct, they said that the people of Azad Kashmir started the rebellion against the Dogra Raj, from Mirpur and Poonch, against the rulers of Jammu & Kashmir State. Sneddon said the same thing in his book. The problems of lack of rights for the AJK territory, the imbalance in power between Pakistan and AJK, occurred afterwards, as the Pakistan Establishment was dishonest in its handling of the areas it controlled on behalf of the state subjects of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir. Harris/Haider said categorically, that people of this area wanted to be part of Pakistan, not an independent State controlled, or India. I would concede this point, as everyone who has read anything about the conflict is an agreement that Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir conflict has been terrible. Even Pakistani politicians and generals complain about Pakistan’s role in this conflict.

          So you have the moral high-ground. Your grievances on the ground in AJK are fully justified. Is there any dispute on this?

          But why separate? And have the unnerving task of starting a real campaign of resistance against Pakistan? The old pro-independence actors from AJK have failed miserably, they don’t even have the backing of the Diaspora in the UK which you guys would need to mobilise given the disparity in wealth/power. And from your “about us” page, and “FYI page”, you don’t want to do that. Also you would have to join the Activists in AJK, and from what I have read of your posts here, you belong to a completely different intellectual tradition. You’ll also need the assistance of the Indian State, and I get the impression you don’t want to go there, for whatever reason? You’re against myths of origin and nation state politics. You’re also critical of the “Muslim” leadership in Indian-Held-Kashmir that is silent, for strategic reasons, about your state of limbo in AJLK. You seem to always go out of your way to make a distinction between Pakistan Officialdom and ordinary Pakistanis.

          You seem to have a soft spot for ordinary Pakistanis?

          I concede Pakistan is an ideological project, right or wrong, we are not appraising this fact, after the fact of its creation. It’s happened. Period. Pakistan is much more than Mullahs or corrupt leaders, the Pakistan you love, of ordinary peoples, cultures, languages. It seems you want a functioning democracy in AJK, a space where all people are treated fairly and equally. You want jobs, schools, hospitals, opportunities for your people in AJK. You’re not flag waving nationalists or patriots. You can achieve this by joining real transformative forces for democracy in Pakistan, and you could potentially strengthen Pakistan’s democracy, and you will have the backing of powerful interests in Pakistan who are also unhappy with Pakistan’s direction of travel.

          To; I sent an email to you, but I’ve had no response.


  4. Mr Shafique, you said
    There is no such thing as ‘race’. Race is a social construct, it is an idea that has been shown to be flawed,
    but then we can argue there is no such thing as a nation or a tribe or a religion as they are proven to have flaws. It does not mean that they do not exist and are a reality with a real meaning to virtually all but a minute group of the planet. Playing with semantics and looking for flaws in everything will lead you no where.
    You went on to say that
    Jats are not a race but an ambiguous caste background that means different things to different people.
    Again you are wrong as Jatt has one meaning to everyone but the ignorant. Jatt is a race and is made up of 900 clans. This is the universally accepted view of Jatts by all except those who want to belittle others, and look for flaws where none exist.

  5. “Race, the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences. Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that “races” are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century.”

    Brother Jatt Punyal. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was just trying to educate you and not belittle you, I didn’t say anything disrespectful to you though. My parents are both Jats from the Kalyal and I’m from Mirpur, Jammu as well. I don’t say I’m Jat as that’s not my identity and neither do I say I’m Chaudhry; what have any of us gained from these identities in Azad Kashmir or Britain? My DNA is not different from a Mochi, Musali or Mistry, caste-kashmiri, Raja or Jat or anyone else from our area. We are all the same people, we have the same culture, language and even ancestors if you go back into time. You’re confusing the social stratification of our area with ideas of ‘biological races’.

    You are very wrong in your views though. I don’t know where you are getting your information from, but it’s all wrong. These ideas of yours are very outdated and unscholarly. There is no such thing as a biological race, there is a consensus on this and there has been for more than a century. The only people who disagree with these scientific claims today are “white supremacists” because of their Nordic Aryan race myths. Their ideas are the product of out-dated race science. They are all a bunch of Nazis and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to agree with them.

    So you see if there is no ‘race’, there can be no ‘Jat race’ or any race. Jats are not a homogenous group and there aren’t 900 groups of Jats. Why 900? Why not 20 or 600 or 5000? Who decides which group to add? It was the British colonial ethnologists who first put Jats and Rajputs into different groups and categorised them because of their origin-myths. Before this, these groups had fluid identities. It was British colonialism that gave us these ideas which I think you are heavily influenced by.

    This is a good article. There are lots of books on this as well if you are interested in really understanding this history.

    I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t mean to.

    • The autosomal DNA of the “Kami classes” has a higher a higher ancestral South Indian component (ASI). The lower down the caste order the higher it gets. This is especially true of the hilly regions where social mobility was denied to the landless classes.
      The usual suspects Jat and Rajeh share near equal amounts of ASI which effectively translated means theres a little “Chura” component lurking in all of them. 😀except their paternal haplogroups indicate a West Asian neolitic era origin.
      Overall the maternal haplogroups are more native to India bar few exceptions.
      You will excuse me for using a term deemed derogatory towards a certain class of people but I did it to make a point.
      Another common theme is almost all Jats from Mirpur or its adjoining districts in Punjab who have tested at 23andme FTDNA or are distant cousins amongst themselves and their Rajput neighbours. Some Jat/ Rajeh exhibit very ancient haplogroups from the indus valley civilization. I am of the opinion these Lahnda dialect speaking folks took to routes from the indus valley up north, one up the indus river into Mianwali and beyond and the others via Rajestan and up towards Kangra and more recently into Jammu.(Mougul era)
      Mirpur has a descendant population from both of these migrations.

      BTW this website is a blessing really pleased I found it.

  6. AzaBBBBB Kashmir is a means to an end. The people are sheep and they are treated as if they are sheep. A launching pad to recover the Indian part for Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t care about iNDIAN Kashmir. India doesn’t care about Pakistan Kashmir. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE KASHMIRIS. NO TO INDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO TO PAKISTAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO TO AZAB KASHMIR!!!!!!!!!!

  7. we need to stop saying were Pakistanis and raising Pakistani flags. its contradictory, were raising their flag and they are oppressing us. Pakistanis dont need to kill us or torture us, they just force us into Azad Kashmir and rob us. they tell us India is oppressing us but its Pakistan oppressing us. We have no state, we are in a sleeping state and its time to wake up. would Palestinians fly Israeli flags so why are we flying Pakistanis flags in the UK? They are even erasing our history because they are ashamed of who they are. If we knew our history, we wouldn’t be in this state. Enough is enough.

  8. “I believe that there will be ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin…”
    ― Malcolm X

  9. Non of the obove.
    In the diasporas context majority hail from Jammu therfore are Jammuwals, named after the Jamwal Dogar clan an offshoot of a migration north into the Punjab hills of Sialkot from Rajasthan. Kashmir is along way away over the Pir Panjal mountain range. This distinction does not curry flavor with Mirpurs because they’ve been sold another identity for political reasons by the establishment.
    Those living on the lowlands of plains south west of Mirpur object to the Pahari term for them or the dialect. Elders claimed those in Mirpur were Pahariye, relatives there would say no those in Chakswari were, Chakswariya would say no Kotli lot are and Kotli lot would say naa Yaara Tatta Pani thoo agay nay Pahariye.

    MIRPURS diaspora have historically looked towards Potohar as their kith and kin, it’s culture and linguistics.

    Perhaps some people have an agenda to manufacture an identity alien to the Mirpur diaspora. An already confused and failing diaspora community not living up to its true potential needs less divisive forces in their midst in order to move forward. The return home with riches has become a myth for most migrant communities.

  10. So now we are being led to believe we are Pahari. A deregotary term used used by plains people and our selves to belittle those living by subsistence farming in the hills…

    I can’t remember ever people from Mirpur using this term to describe themselves. Both my paternal and maternal family have origins from this region. One of the authors here is a genetic 4th cousin ☺ if enough Mirpuris test their paternal haplogroups it’s possible to determine using their SNP mutations as to when this migration took place and when separation from their brothers in the plains took place. My guess is 500 or so years ago.

    Genetically Mirpuris, majority at least are not separate from the Jat Raja Gujar Arian Awan from the plains. Historically this region became populated by people from the Punjab who had over the centuries made their way north from the ancestral home land in the South. It’s no small wonder why they cluster genetically closer to Sindhi and Balouch. Every farming family worth its salt has stories of migration from either Sialkot or the Punjab plains. Genetically these are ethnic “Punjabis”.
    The people of Gandhara were Hindko speaking related to the Tajik Gibaris and associated tribes. Mirpuris are not from that stock but a separate people from the Punjab plains. The people in the Neelam valley and Muzarabad are of a similar stock to those in Hazara and further afield West, Mirpuri farmer folks are not.

    Anyways it’s a well written piece really enjoyed reading it.

    • Hi Taj, my fourth-cousin, are you by any chance referring to me? Nice to meet you.

      If you are and I’m mindful of your comments, very grateful for them, I think you’ve missed the point of the various posts.

      We are in fact saying we are from the subcontinent, that we’re not from somewhere else – I personally go out of my way to point this out not least because my family originate from Old Delhi having been ejected from their Rajput ‘Chauhan’ capital if indeed their claims are correct – we all like to re-imagine our history and this also holds true for my forbears, and yes most of us from the Rajput, Jat, Gujjar and other backgrounds are related to the same distant ancestors. The amount of Kalyals, Kanials, Rachyals, Nagyals, Bhattis I’m related to is quite staggering – thanking the commercial DNA companies for that!

      We are indeed from the Plains, but that’s for those of us who wandered up here over the centuries and then coalesced with the locals who aren’t necessarily from the Plains – they too have a heritage and it’s not necessarily connected with the Plains. But this doesn’t make us ethnic ‘Panjabis’; what has ethnicity (culture/language) got to do with distant ancestral backgrounds? Ethnic identities are not the same thing as distant backgrounds, although knowing we have the same roots should stop us from killing each other, and having a modicum of respect for one another – something actively denied to ‘Mirpuris’? Would you disagree with that statement?


      So although all of us have subcontinent roots which connects us all (in the autosomal sense of our dna), (my mtdna haplogroup is actually HV2 by the way), doesn’t detract from Pakistan’s terrible role in ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir especially when you look at A’JK’s history – the people of this region wanted to be part of Pakistan and those from Mirpur and Poonch rebelled against the Dogra forces, my own grandfather fought against the Dogras, but since the founding of ‘Azad’ Jammu & Kashmir, the region is being actively exploited by Pakistan Officialdom, ordinary Pakistanis are absolved of this of course. EVERYONE KNOWS THIS INCLUDING GENUINE AND SINCERE PAKISTANIS WHO ARE CHALLENGING THE ABUSE OF POWER IN PAKISTAN. I’m not a pro-independence ‘Kashmiri’ although many of my friends and associates are going that way, and I don’t see this slowing down.

      The realities in ‘A’JK are now changing as people are really fed up with the power-structure. But this doesn’t make us ‘Panjabis’? It doesn’t even make us Jammuwal? These are loaded terms.

      Who determines this?

      Also the history you’ve espoused is a lot more complicated than some famers moving into the hills, and that Gandhara were Hindko-speakers, how could they be? Hindko like its dialects, Pahari, Patwari, emerged from 1000 CE; Gandhara as a region pre-dates this by centuries. You mean to say Hindko emerged from that older Prakrit? Agreed, but how does that connect them with the Tajik? The people of the Neelum Valley and Hazara are essentially the same people as those living in the western Himalaya, like the Jats, they too have come to this region from somewhere else and have coalesced with the existing population. They are essentially the same people ‘ethnically’ – dna does not determine ethnicity; ethnicity is a completely separate consideration from human ancestry. It seems to me, your conflating the two to make the argument that Mirpuris are Panjabis and not Kashmiris which is really motivated by politics and not ethnology; again this position does not take into consideration what Kashmir was historically – a very diverse place that Hindu-Pandits want to aggregate for themselves by disconnecting the Muslims of Kashmir from the wider state. And they use ethnic arguments for what is essentially a political stance.

      • Yes its me, it would be intersting to use various calculaters to determine your autosomal DNA further. Your paternal haologroup is Jat centric indus valley but your maternal is unique not often found here. I’ve sent you an email.

        Mirpur was an extention of Potohar, it was the British in 1847 who used the river Jhelum as a border when gifting it to the Jamwal Dogars along with the sale of Kashmir. Prior to this various local chieftains had invited many peasants from the barren hills of Karian Pabbi and Chakwal to these green pastures. Punjab is a geographical description not an ethnic abstract identity as such. I used it to show Mirpuris are essentially in letter and spirit from there.
        There are others like you perhaps who came from the East, it’s claimed mine were from Kangra Himachial Pradesh. A place still exists there with the clan villages name.
        Mirpur original population according to local folklore were Jogis and seasonal cattle herders. I don’t think there was a sizable population in Mirpur prior to this migration.
        I dislike politics but I can’t help but see some element of Paki bashing going on. Pakistan has problems huge problems a sycophant crowd of crooks are looking after each other but their victims are ordinary punjabis Sindhis Balouch Pashtun peasants not just AJK residents.

        As far as independence is concerned I’ve no issues with it but I see it near impossible with a sizable pro Hindustan population in Jammu Ladakh resisting it. Perhaps better autonomy for both the valley and AJK is the way to go.

        • I have absolutely no qualms with what you’ve just said, and I believe your points are salient. All that we’re trying to do here is ‘re-imagine’ our stake in ‘A’JK whilst calling out the ‘crooks’ (to use your word) that are actively destroying Pakistan including ‘A’JK. These parasites seem to have no reckoning and they seem to re-emerge even after being ousted albeit temporarily by likeminded parasites, which in my mind proves there is no hope for Pakistan. We did make a point of saying in the post,

          “If you’re ‘poor’ and ‘dispossessed’ in mainland Pakistan, you’re no better off than wealthy ‘Azad’ Kashmiris lacking political connections, so we shouldn’t get caught-up in ‘us and them’ type narratives.”

          and further down…

          “The political culture of ‘Azad’ Kashmir is therefore no less corrupt than Pakistan’s for the politics of ‘Azad’ Kashmir has been shaped and moulded by the Pakistan establishment.”

          But this doesn’t detract from the anti-Mirpuri bashing that goes on in Pakistani circles, and we know who the protagonists are – it may be that some ‘Indian trolls’ are stoking these tensions pretending to be Pakistanis hating on Mirpuris but overall these prejudices exist within the wider British-Pakistani diaspora. Lots of people from ‘our’ community are now talking about all the ‘negative statements’ they’ve heard said or have read about their peers and its soul-destroying. A lot of it is just not true. Just google the word Mirpuri and see for yourself. So although our comments here and our posts may seem ‘Paki bashing’, as regrettable as that is – and I mean that sincerely, it’s difficult extricating yourself from an unjust situation that demands you call people out without inevitably offending some people. I had a young fashioner designer, very talented, tell me some Pakistanis refuse to work with her because she’s ‘Mirpuri’, so these online slurs have a real dark side in the real world.

          But I agree we need to be more tempered in how we express our views not becoming the very thing we oppose.

          I didn’t get your email. Did you send it to

          By the way have you read this paper “Y-STR Haplogroup Diversity in the Jat Population Reveals Several Different Ancient Origins” by David G. Mahal and Ianis G. Matsoukas, (published in frontiers in genetics).

          • “If you’re ‘poor’ and ‘dispossessed’ in mainland Pakistan, you’re no better off than wealthy ‘Azad’ Kashmiris lacking political connections, so we shouldn’t get caught-up in ‘us and them’ type narratives.”

            Jio o Jatta kal kodi nesi pallay Aj tera Sika sareh des wich challay. This is the reality of the wealthy AJK diaspora story
            Entire sectors in Islamabad are owned by Mirpuris. Money talks for those in possession of it regardless of their background.

            I did Google Mirpuri, apart from a Sikh site not much hateful or spiteful material exists or its not in the first few pages of a Google search. I am sure I’ve seen and heard more caste related prejudices within the Mirpur community then any thing else. Jats have been at the receiving end of city dweller jokes and Prejudice’s perhaps being Mirpuri one is seen as Jat.
            If there is its probably a little bit of envy coupled with the failings of those who practice it. Problems do exist in the diaspora community, it does lag behind, it’s social fabric in some northern towns is breaking down. All energies should be directed towards this then looking for the bogey man who won’t work with a Mirpuri. I find that unbelievable. Whoever it was needs a bloody nose.

            I did notice in Birmingham the Chach community has some prejudices against Mirpuris but for them anyone speaking Potohari is uncouth or backward. That has more to do with their Afghan superiority complex then anything else like Pakistaniyat..Perhaps they developed this attitude when both communities worked the brick kilns in Rawalpindi.
            Re the study of haplogroups.
            I’ve read almost everything I can get my hands on including almost the entire collection of gazetteers from the colonial era housed at the India office library, Blackfriars London.
            The Mirpur Jat community belongs to L2 R2 R1a and G2a paternally, maternally haplogroup M seems to dominate followed by U2 and R5. I’ve come across a few Rajputs bemoan the fact that also belong to thesee haplogroups and are from the genetic pool. ☺ Perhaps they thought they were from Mars. Hindu and Sikh Jats seem to have an elevated North East European admixture twice that of PunjabI inluding Mirpur Muslim Jats. Some as high as 20%.
            Currently L2 is found in the Her, Bangial, Kalyal, Janjuas, R1a in the Nagial, Rupiyal, Matiyal, R2 in the Pakreel or Pakwal, G2a in yours truly along with another 3 anonymous dudes all from Mirpur. Btw the Hir, Bhullar and Maan are considered the original Jat tribes from where others sprung. Hir are still found in Dadyal Mirpur. More or less the admixture is very similar and indus valley orientated.

            These are very old haplogroups unless one pays to upgrade to more SNP testing the TMRCA is thousands of years ago. Fortunately prices are falling at full Readers interested could test with or as a foot in the door and if their curiosity gets the better of them that they could dig deep and pay more.

          • Taj I’ve sent you an email.

            As for the google search just type ‘Mirpuris’ in the google search engine; this is what google as returned; I’ve included the first 2 pages below. Read the comments, observations, analysis – of the entries cited, most present Mirpuris in a negative light. But here’s the thing, the insights are prejudicial based on anecdotes and factoids; there is nothing ‘proven’ in the claims, they’re just impressions. These ideas are circulating within non-Mirpuri British-Pakistani circles and are now entering the mainstream.

            British Mirpuris – Wikipedia
            The British Mirpuri community comprises people in the United Kingdom from the Mirpur District in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. While no accurate statistics are available, an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of British Pakistanis in England have origins in the Mirpur District.
            ‎Population · ‎Cultural dislocation · ‎Health and social issues

            What makes Mirpuris have the reputation of being “Bad” – The …
            14 Jan 2014 – 20 posts – ‎11 authors
            It tends to be dimwits who start these types of threads who are unable to fathom that Pakistan is a pretty messed-up place and so if Pakistanis are messed up, little wonder that Mirpuris who originate from a tiny region administered by Pakistan are also messed up!

            I hate being a Pakistani mirpuri girl !!!!!! – Page 3 20 posts 28 Mar 2017
            Mirpuri Society 20 posts 25 Dec 2013
            More results from

            Madeleine Bunting: Mirpur history may explain suicide bombers | UK …
   › World › UK News › 7 July London attacks
            18 Jul 2005 – In the Comment piece below, we said that Mirpuris (people originating from Mirpur in Pakistani Kashmir), formed 70% of the British Muslim population. That is incorrect. We should have said they formed about 70% of the British Pakistani population. We did not intend to suggest that all Barelwi imams had …

            Call them “Mirpuris” please! – Portmir Foundation
   › British-Paharis
            27 Jul 2017 – I can recall quite vividly my first foray into the world of “anti-Mirpuri” dribble- dribble that still goes on in the world of social media. It began like this… People everywhere want to learn something about their past. I did too. I was born in the UK. The first member of my direct family to come here was my maternal …

            Pakistani Punjabis Or Mirpuris? – WHAT’S HAPPENING? – SIKH …
            29 Nov 2014 – 15 posts – ‎7 authors
            I live in an area with a lot of mirpuris, ive lived here for over 15 years met some good and bad types but very rarely ever came across any punjabis who actually speak punjabi. For example we have people here who are from rawalpind or Gujar Khan but they speak potwari not pahari (dont know if theres any …

            Why is there so much hatred for mirpuris here? –
            4 Jul 2006 – Jokes aside (comma and few others 😛 ) Why is there so much hatred here for mirpuris, in the past few days ive seen a number posters making tons of generalizations towards mirpuris. I don’t get it, and mods do not delete this please , i’m really intrigued. Here’s an example of what i mean, if u dont know …

            ‘Don’t call them Pakistanis, call them Mirpuris’ – British newspaper …
            10 Aug 2016 – ENGLAND (Web Desk) – A British-based newspaper has rightly drawn a line between Pakistanis and a group of Pakistanis reportedly involved in sex scandal by calling the latter “Mirpuris”. A large g.

            The city in Pakistan that loves a British hairstyle – BBC News
            29 May 2017 – In the 1960s, thousands of Mirpuris left to work in the factories and mills of cities like Bradford and Birmingham – some estimate that about 70% of all British Pakistanis can trace their origins to the region. Practically every household there has relatives in England, I was told, so when cousins visit from the UK …
            British Pakistanis bring fish and chips to Kashmir’s ‘Beverly Hills ..
            To the mirpuri’s, do you consider yourself Pakistani or Kashmiri …

   › Forum › Misc. › Polling Booth
            9 Jan 2010 – lol, seriously i get where you are coming from.but the only reason mirpuris refer to themselves as kashmiris or azad kashmiris is because we live there. and i know that its probably not part of kashmir but you know! ok, ethnic kashmiris are native to kashmir like native indians in america. they have lived in this …
            Mirpuris –

   › Forum › Family; Lifestyle; Community; Culture › Marriage
            22 Feb 2016 – Why do pakistanis hate them so much? I’m saying this as a non-mirpuri. Like what is the deal? I don’t get it. How would you go about breaking these stereotypes?

            The mosques aren’t working in Bradistan – New Statesman
            20 Aug 2010 – The Mirpuri community particularly emphasises clan loyalty, or biraderi, manifested in marriage to first cousins. Studies suggest that 60 per cent of all Mirpuri marriages are to a first cousin, with a substantial proportion of the remainder being between more distant relatives. While other south Asian …

            Why are pakistani punjabis so racist and liberal? – Discussion on …
   › Sikh
            3 Jun 2012 – 20 posts
            In general, Mirpuris may not be as educated as Punjabis, but a fact is that Mirpuris are so much more pleasant than Punjabis. Punjabis are hated by everyone in Pakistan; Pathans, Baluch, Mohjair, Sindhis. All this hatred is due to the arrogance of Punjabis. I’m more proud to be a Mirpuri than a Punjabi.

            Luton Kotlians and Mirpuris – Home | Facebook
            Six men have been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison following a shooting in Bedford last year described as ‘a scene more reminiscent of Chicago in the 1920s’. Police were initially called to reports of a drive-by shooting in Faraday Square on Friday 8 July 2016, in which a woman was sho…
            British Mirpuris – IPFS

            The British Mirpuri community comprises people in the United Kingdom who originate from the Mirpur District in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. While no accurate statistics are available, an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of British Pakistanis in England have origins in the Mirpur District. The community speaks the Mirpuri/ Pothohari …

            Guest Post – ‘No more silence about Mirpuri paedophilia and rape in …
   › Britain
            13 Jun 2016 – In this article, Ms Hobbs, the author of the novel ‘The Goris Daughter’ (ISBN13 978-1901514124) , speaks of the ongoing problem of sexual abuse in the Pakistani Mirpuri community. This article shows that the predatory sexual behaviour we’ve seen from Pakistanis in the UK is not just being directed at …

            Mirpuri Boyz – YouTube
            Video for MIRPURIS▶ 11:17
            29 Oct 2011 – Uploaded by HX1Productions
            FACEBOOK: Mirpuri Boyz, New Comedy Drama From …
            Mirpuri community in the UK, your views – GupShup Forums
   › Forum › Hangout › GupShup Cafe´
            17 Feb 2010 – 11 posts – ‎8 authors
            In the UK Paki vs US Paki discussion, various refrences were made to the Mirpuri community. For those who are unaware of them, they are ethnic Punjabi.

            Mirpuris | Discuss
   › Pakistan Politics
            Mirpuris bad reputation assertion is based on public perception not on some British gov’t’s statement like the complaints about Mexicans in US. Lot of my friends and cousins raised the same point that Asif bhai has here. People who live in UK especially Zindadil saab can give more comprehensive analysis on this matter.

  11. The question begging to be asked is, do Hindu Pahari folks dominat in Jammu have an identity crisis as faced by some in the diaspora community from AJK?

    Apart from the religious divide I would think ethnically they are closer to us (Mirpuris) then Gandhara or the Hindkowan. Many Jat clans like the Rachyal, Nagyal and Rajputs like Bains, Mangrals etc are from a similar Dangur cattle herding stock.

    Perhaps their self assurance comes from the fact that they were overlords of the those in AJK up till 1947.

  12. It’s already happening and has be3n happening over many years. I think we been slow on uptake to deal with it. A lot of mirpuris if they were aware of the stigma just ignored them as silly online comments from fellow-Pakistanis with issues. I don’t think they realised how divisive such comments were and they have misjudged the impact. Lots of writers writing about our community are influenced by these comments. Are we that naive to think they don’t base their opinions on what they read online or get influenced by Pakistanis dishing the dirt on the “Mirpuris”?

    • dam right brother. kashmir is kashmir, it was kashmir when Pakistanis Indians invaded. in United Nations what were they fighting over when they kept calling this divided land KASHMIR? when they flooded mirpur and kicked the people out, and forced them out, and gave them s**** lands in Pakistan, what they call these people? in Pakistan, they call them Kashmiris? full of s***, lying t** r***. my so-called azad kashmiri brothers dont get upset, this is what they do, they insult you behind ur backs, and then you fly their flags in England? this eid have some shame and fly the AJK flag please. fly the **** flag with pride.
      who these people kidding? they think were stupid or something? as for these Pakistanis who love insulting mirpuris, u know who you are, as if u know more about kashmir than we do – its our homeland, not urs – piz get a reality check, ur nobodies friends, not ours for sure. thank you for the brotherhood but no thank you. no hard feelings ****


      I’ve edited your comments, please can you ensure you don’t use disparaging language to make your points in the future, or demean those who may not necessarily agree with you. I’ve also edited out, what I consider, to be promotion of a political movement contrary to our rules. Thank you.

  13. If I understand correctly, AJKashmiris are not Pakistanis because AJK is not part of Pakistan and it is not independent or autonomous? Pakistan has treated our people terribly.

    AJKashmiri people are not Kashmiris because they are paharis even though paharis and Kashmiris have lived together for centuries. We can say we are Kashmiris because AJK is part of Jammu Kashmir and known simply as Kashmir. Kashmir is territory for us, not ethnic identity but we can celebrate both identities because of our shared history.

    But we have our own ethnic Pahari identity.

    So in the UK we should be identifying as British Paharis? This explains why so many of our people are saying we are Paharis.

    To summarise we are British Paharis from Kashmir.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

13 + six =