On the association of AJK with Pakistan

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 27.07.16

On July 21, the general elections took place for the unicameral assembly of Azad Jammu
and Kashmir (AJK), the part of Kashmir that is with Pakistan. The Pakistan Muslim League
Nawaz (PML-N), which set foot in the AJK recently in 2011, swept the elections by winning
31 out of 41 (29 local plus 12 Pakistan-based Kashmiri migrants) electable seats. Eight will
be nominated or co-opted after the elections to make total 49 seats in the assembly.

Pertaining to the AJK’s association with Pakistan, India gives vent to six major
misunderstandings. First, the AJK is not fully autonomous. This is not the case. The AJK is
fully autonomous under the AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974. On the other hand, India
made it conditional on the Constituent Assembly of Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK) to ratify 1952
Delhi Agreement -- which is considered a follow-up to Article 370, a reflection of the
instrument of accession India claims to have been signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on
October 26, 1947, without taking into consideration the aspirations of the people of Kashmir
-- inserted in the Constitution of India guaranteeing the IHK a special status: to seek
autonomy and self-rule. In this way, India erroneously consider that the ratification of the
Delhi Agreement may substitute for the compulsion of taking into account the wishes of the
people of Kashmir.

Second, the Kashmiris in the AJK are under complete control of Pakistan. This is not the
case. The AJK has its own administrative machinery whereas the Pakistan army is only
deployed along the Line of Control. Any spate of violence in the IHK, where the Indian army
inflicts atrocities on the Kashmiris, brings the Kashmiris in the AJK automatically closer to
Pakistan, as nothing like that happens in the AJK. Moreover, the Kashmiris in the AJK like to
serve in the Pakistan army on all ranks, from soldiers to generals. Fayyaz Ali Abbasi, a
public servant in the AJK civil service says: “We Kashmiris always say that we are better
Pakistanis as we have opted to be with Pakistan, and, hence, we are Pakistanis by choice
and not by default.”

In the recent elections, the army served under the Election Commission of the AJK to
conduct fair and free elections. However, in the IHK, about 700,000 Indian army personnel
is deployed and is in constant physical conflict with local population, especially those in the
Kashmir valley. In the recent protests following the killing of Burhan Wani by the Indian
army, about 45 unarmed stone-pelting Kashmiris have lost their lives, while dozens of
Kashmiris have lost their eyesight to pellets thrown by guns used by Indian forces to quell
the protest. The atrocities are nothing but portentous of the prevailing chasm of mistrust
between Kashmiris in the IHK and India.

Third, the Kashmiris in the AJK lack basic freedom. This is not the case. The recent general
elections in the AJK manifest that the Kashmiris in the AJK are free to vote for the political
party of their choice. In the past, there were popular local political parties such as the
Muslim Conference, but this party has been reduced to size whereas Pakistan-based
national political parties have made their ways into the AJK. During the election campaign,
Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Zardari Bhutto and Imran Khan personally visited the AJK, and held
political rallies to woo voters.

This time the electoral contest was not between local and Pakistan-based political parties
but primarily amongst Pakistan-based political parties to garner more votes in the AJK. The
Kashmiris in the AJK preferred Pakistan-based political parties to their local political parties
to represent them. On the other hand, despite flaunting the slogan of the biggest
democracy of the world and despite holding a few sham elections in the IHK, India has so
far failed to experience such a people-to-people influence in the IHK.

Fourth, politicians in the AJK have to sign an affidavit of allegiance of Kashmir’s accession
to Pakistan. This point is misconstrued to mislead the general public. The AJK Interim
Constitution Act 1974 is a consensus document Sub-section II of Section VII of which says:
“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.” Similarly, the official AJK anthem also reverberates the same idea
of strong association with Pakistan. Hammad Hussain, a public servant hailing from Kashmir
but working in the central civil service of Pakistan says: “Kashmiris have sacrificed and
have been sacrificing for a better Pakistan, be that Mangla Dam or Neelum Jhelum project,
because they predicate their future on the prosperity of Pakistan.” Even during the recent
election campaign, the Pakistan-based political parties contesting elections in AJK blamed
one another for overlooking the welfare of the Kashmiris in the AJK, and for doing not
enough on the issue of Kashmir. Unfortunately, India does not enjoy such bonhomie with
the Kashmiris living in its part of Kashmir.

Fifth, politicians in the AJK have little control over their territory, and they have to spend
their time in Islamabad to get things done. This is not the case. The politicians of the AJK
love to visit Islamabad because of the beauty of Islamabad and the luxury of stay in the
Kashmir House, Islamabad. Further, many have constructed houses in Islamabad. The
inclination of Kashmiri politicians to spend time in Islamabad is an expression of their
longing to stay in Pakistan. Contrarily, in the IHK, India has planted Hindu population in
Jammu to increase the numerical strength of the Hindus.

Sixth, the Kashmiris in the AJK are hopeless of improvement in their lot. This is not the
case. The devastation brought about by the earthquake in 2005 became a pressing cause
of bringing Pakistanis and Kashmiris closer to each other to rehabilitate the AJK, as the AJK
was not considered remote from Pakistan but an extension of Pakistan. Moreover, the
results of the recent elections have shown that the Kashmiris in the AJK have become
fascinated by the Punjab model of development, and wish to have it repeated on their soil.
To the consternation of India, the consequent political relationship is bound to have a
lasting effect on the association of the AJK with Pakistan.

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