OPINION | Pakistan is No ‘Saviour’ of Kashmir, PoJK; its Campaign Against 370 Move Only Made its True Intentions Public
Pakistan campaign against the Article 370 move have also failed to muster international support against the Indian government’s decision.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in New York. (PTI)
Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) has risen in revolt against the Pakistani establishment. The month of September has witnessed mass rallies and scores of spontaneous public meetings in which, for the first time, Pakistan has been called an aggressor and withdrawal of Pakistan military forces from the occupied land has been demanded.
In the wake of the abrogation, by presidential decree, of Articles 370 and 35-A from the constitution of India, a new arrangement has been launched between the people of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh and the Republic of India. This act of will — promised in the BJP’s election manifesto — has brought the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into the Indian territorial union. On the other hand, it has removed previously-guaranteed autonomy and land and demographic protection from the northern states.
A curfew was imposed on the troubled vale of Kashmir, leading to protests from Bangalore to Delhi. However, such sporadic protests soon melted away. The government of Pakistan, on the other hand, continues its campaign against the move but appears to have failed to muster international support against the Indian government’s decision.
This, perhaps, has made the people of PoJK finally realise that for 72 years they have been fooled, (as with the rest of the people of Pakistan) their resources plundered, their civil rights revoked though Act 1974 in PoJK and Schedule Four in Gilgit-Baltistan and their state subject rule status abrogated in Gilgit-Baltistan since 1956.
Pakistan conducted its plunder in PoJK just as it did in the rest of the region (Balochistan is one example), while pretending to be the ‘saviour’ and solicitor of the people of Valley. The so-called freedom movement, which mostly took place in the imagination of the military establishment, took a turn for the worse during the 1990s when the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) offered its services to the Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) and became a carrier of terrorists returning from the so-called Afghan Jihad. Since then, the people of Kashmir have been the main victims of systemic terrorism and violence from both Pakistani-sponsored militias and the Indian state.
Despite its attempts over the past 30 years, Pakistan has failed to defame India. On the contrary, it earned itself the title of ‘safe haven for terrorists’. Osama Bin Laden was captured and shot just a few hundred yards from the Military Training Academy in Abbottabad.
But my concern deals with two aspects of the Indian Government’s decision. Firstly, this decision has legally transformed people living in PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan into Indian citizens. And secondly, according to this logic, it follows that PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan are now Indian sovereign territories occupied by Pakistan.
On October 22, 1947, the Pakistani Army, along with the tribal militias from the far NorthWestern part of Pakistan, launched a surprise attack from five entry points on the sovereign state of Jammu and Kashmir and Aqsa Chin ruled by Maharaja Harri Singh. The Pakistan Army was just miles away from capturing Srinagar when the maharaja signed the instrument of accession with the Indian republic, which allowed Indian forces to come to his rescue and push the enemy back.
The UN Security Council issued a ceasefire order, after which it asked Pakistan to withdraw all its forces from the occupied territory. Because Pakistan failed to do this, India was allowed to keep a sizeable force to protect the state from any further adventure that Pakistan might attempt.
Then on April 28, 1949 Pakistan signed an agreement with amenable leaders of PoJK and separated Gilgit-Baltistan from PoJK. Pakistan abolished the state subject rule and imposed a direct rule. In order to bring the people of Gilgit and Baltistan under de jure control, the Pakistani establishment changed the name of the region and called it the Northern Areas.
In 1964, thousands of people of PoJK were displaced from Mirpur in order to build a dam on Mangla. Pakistan promised to give them free electricity for the sacrifice. However, this never happened and PoJK pays more per unit consumed than the citizens of Pakistan. A timber mafia run and controlled by the Pakistan Army has been involved in felling large numbers of trees and selling the wood in Pakistan. Hence, in many large houses or bungalows, the owners proudly pronounce that the doors are made of wood from Kashmir.
Pakistan can hardly claim that it has been the protector of the people of Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan. One could argue that for the first time since 1947, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have joined a market that is 1.35 billion-people strong. It also is the first time in the history of J&K when all obstacles in the way of Indian investment have been removed. People who have missed out on so much development in infrastructure and industry can now, with the help of the Indian big bourgeoisie, begin their journey to catch up with the rest of the Union. This, of course, depends entirely on whether the oligarchic neoliberal capitalists and their representative, the Government of India, sees this as a unique opportunity for mass enterprise or simply another vehicle to rip-off and possibly even ethnically ‘cleanse’, ordinary people. Everything cannot be up for grabs.
The recent spate of resistance against Pakistani occupation in so-called ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir is testimony to the resentment that has been brewing for decades. However, there is a problem. The majority of newly-formed JK People’s National Alliance (PNA) and the regrouping of the JKLF in Pakistani-occupied (Po) JK lack vision to transform the mass revolt into a people’s uprising against Pakistani occupation. This is evident in their mistaken strategy and tactics during the protests as they fail to provide a plausible direction that could lead to the establishment of a revolutionary interim government in the Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir.
The JKLF and the PNA are mobilising the masses to march towards the Line of Control, which, since the abrogation of 370, has become the ceasefire line. This is an adventurist grandstanding. After decades of political opportunism, the leadership of PoJK finds itself in a dilemma. What to do with the masses in revolt? Hence, the lofty rhetoric against India and the crossing of the Line of Control – it is merely a face saver. Also, by issuing a call for removal of the puppet government, they will expose themselves to the wrath of the Pakistani military.
On the other hand, news of truckloads of Pathans arriving in Muzaffarabad on a daily basis, from the same region which assisted the Pakistan Army on October 22, 1947, has caused a lot of anxiety among the PoJK civil society. There are two reasons for this influx. Firstly, it is to facilitate any future crossing of the Line of Control (LoC) and the infiltration of terrorists into the J&K union territory. Secondly, it is to have thugs easily available so they can be used against a popular uprising in PoJK which would be a threat to the government in Muzaffarabad. It is civil war in form but counter-revolution in content. This needs to be stopped.
The political hegemony of the Pakistani two-nation theory should be challenged in every public meeting which takes place in the Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Will the people of Gilgit-Baltistan join the people of PoJK in their revolt? It is most unlikely since their ties have been severed for too long and they feel betrayed by the people of PoJK whom they blame for selling them out for having more privileges in form of a Legislative Assembly and a government set-up
There is a lot in common between the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh. One vision of the future suggests that perhaps the people of occupied Gilgit Baltistan should be discussing their future in the Indian union territory and join Ladakh.
If this vision continues, and both the PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan join J&K and Ladakh, the dream of reunification of the broken state of Jammu and Kashmir could be realised. With free movement of people and capital, so the theory runs, these unfortunate people can enter a new era of prosperity and freedom. Those who assert this are urging the people of PoJK to march, not towards the LoC but towards Muzaffarabad to demand the abrogation of Act 74 and the withdrawal of the Pakistan military. They assert that in the process, the puppet government there would be removed and an interim revolutionary government installed, which would enter into negotiations with the Indian government. In Gilgit-Baltistan, they argue, a political revolutionary movement now must be initiated through which people should abandon their ties with Pakistan and demand reunification with Ladakh.
That might seem like a dream too far. Quite apart from the likelihood that Pakistan would crush such a movement at birth, one must question whether India, even under its current government, would wish to countenance a possible nuclear confrontation with its archenemy.
The fact is, time is running out for everyone. Yet the current situation of flux offers perhaps a once-in -lifetime opportunity to create definitive movement on this most intransigent of issues, frankly a curse that has blighted the peoples of both India and Pakistan for far too long. Only a just and definitive solution of the Kashmir issue will finally end the long, dark shadow of British imperialism. The priority must be the peace and prosperity for the people of the beautiful ‘Roof of the World’. The alternative is that the roof falls in and devastates both houses.
(The author is Foreign Secretary of National Equality Party JKGBL. He currently lives in the UK.)
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