Historically and legally, the so-called Azad Jammu & Kashmir (PoK) is a coherent part of Jammu & Kashmir that has been integrated with the Indian Union through the instrument of accession at the time of partition executed by the then Monarch of the said princely state. Both the parts, AJK and Jammu and Kashmir, are geographical, historical, and cultural organs of one another. Their separation due to Pakistan’s political aggression is history’s tragedy.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which has been Pakistan’s illegal occupation since 1948, is the territory constitutionally autonomous with its parliamentary framework. But the fact is altogether unlike. The constitutional framework and the reality on the ground are utterly clashing. AJK’s Prime Minister, the topmost executive of the parliament, is not as powerful as the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Council, the supreme executive and legislative body of the government of AJK. AJK’s Prime Minister and its elected councils are never above the pen’s stroke of the PM of Pakistan. AJK’s autonomous constitutional framework is a mirage whose falsehood is the oppression inflicted upon the people of unfortunate land. Their example is of people free to move into a particular room of their own house but can’t open the windows and its doors at their own will. Neither can they renovate its walls or the ceilings on their own. Can any sensible person dare to say the people of AJK are Azad(Free)? And, are they? No, not! Their example is of the oppressed people who are forced into the confines of an alienated and suffocating room where they share their pains but can’t communicate them to the seemingly aloof world around them because their journalism and the media are under the severe surveillance of Pakistan’s army and ISI. It is how the people of AJK enjoy enchained and suffocated “constitutional freedom”( Aaeeni Azadi)!
The economic freedom of AJK’s people is a tragic tale. The land is rich in natural resources, but Pakistan’s (a state controlled by the army) despotic attitude and tyrannous makeup impede the exploration and development of these resources that could bring prosperity to the people perceiving that the economic development of the territory will result in people’s educational and political growth in general and that could be precarious. People, in general, are disappointingly lagging in college, university and vocational education, so they are compelled to earn through labouring for some feudal families in Muzzafer Abad, Mir Pur, Rawalpindi etc. The land is a landscape with natural beauty at par with Jammu and Kashmir as its geographical component is pitiably poor in the tourism sector because of unexisting infrastructure for tourism. Leaving AJK’s tourism potential unexplored and undeveloped is Pakistan’s double-edged plot aiming not to allow people to grow economically and not to expose the chained land to outsiders. People of the rich land are schemingly kept socioeconomically backwards because their backwardness suits most of the exploitative designs of Pakistan.
European Parliament report exposes Pakistan’s exploitative character towards AJK. In the report’s submission-14, the report says:
“Regrets, however, that Pakistan has constantly failed to fulfil its obligation to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures in AJK; notes, in particular, the continuing absence of Kashmiri representations in the Pakistan National Assembly, the fact that AJK is governed through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad, that Pakistan officials dominate the Kashmir Council and that the Chief Secretary, the Inspector General of Police, the Accountant General and the Finance Secretary are all from Pakistan; is concerned that the Gilgit-Baltistan region enjoys no form of democratic representation whatsoever”.
“ Deeply regrets that the lack of a sufficient political will to address basic needs provision, political participation and the rule of law in AJK has left women there in a desperate situation”.
In between the lines of the report’s motions mentioned hereinbefore, it is easily palpable that Pakistan exploits AJK in all respects. The report explicitly exposes that Pakistan does not support AJK in maintaining the rule of law. The dictate of law is, however, unlikely in Pakistan because it has never been a country following the rule of law since its creation.
In a case study made by Hina Altaf of AJK, she highlighted the miserable economic conditions of her land. She says, “ The region confronts constraints in utilising its hydropower capacity, which can influence economic activity and revenue production possibilities. With its attractive landscape, historical sites and cultural legacy, AJK has tremendous tourism potential. However, due to ‘limited’ infrastructure, lack of promotion and marketing activities, and security concerns, the region faces obstacles in fully realising this potential”.
While saying limited infrastructure, lack of promotion and marketing activities etc, Ms Hina Altaf is just wailing about her Azad Land’s Azadi, which is worse than Ghulaami!