Understanding J&K Dispute: Government of Pakistan and People of AJK and Norther Areas
The intra-national dimension of the J&K dispute also involves strained relations between the inhabitants of the Pakistan administered regions of J&K and the Federal Government of Pakistan. The 1949 ceasefire line resulted in the division of J&K with Pakistan gaining control over some portion of the disputed territory. Pakistan administered region of J&K was subsequently divided in 1970 into two administrative zones: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Federally Administered Northern Regions. AJK is constitutionally not a part of Pakistan and is governed by an elected President, Prime Minister and Legislature. Northern Areas are under the direct control of Islamabad and is ruled through a Northern Area Council headed by Pakistan’s Minister for Kashmir Affairs. Though Pakistan claims to be supporting the cause of self-determination in India administered regions of J&K, the degree of autonomy and kind of democratic freedoms granted to the populations of AJK and Northern Areas are highly controversial and have caused widespread unrest in the region.
The de facto administration of AJK is convened through the AJK Council comprising of 11 members; six from the AJK region and five representing the Government of Pakistan. The Council’s Chief Executive is the President of Pakistan. As for the Northern Areas the local administration is in the hands of an official appointed by Islamabad and the Northern Areas Council meets only when the federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs convenes its sessions. The administrative control of Pakistan over the AJK and Northern Areas is absolute and popular representation is limited. Part 2 of Section 7 of AJK Constitution holds that “No person or political party in AJK shall be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan.” Simply stated, the right to question AJK’s relationship with Pakistan is constitutionally denied. The executive functionaries and members of legislature in AJK have to take an oath that they would “remain loyal to the country (Pakistan) and the cause of accession of the state of J&K to Pakistan.” Thus subversion of any dissent is the political duty of the AJK elected representatives. All legislative business in AJK requires prior approval from Islamabad.
Pakistan based JKLF leader Amanullah Khan refers to the AKJ constitution as a ‘rubber stamp document’ that had been presented as fait accompli to the people of the region by the government of Pakistan. Under Section 56 of the Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act (which was drafted by the Federal Ministries of Law and Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad), the Pakistani government can dismiss any elected government in Azad Kashmir irrespective of the support it may enjoy in the AJK Legislative Assembly.
The situation in the Northern Areas is even more dismal given the fact that the region is neither recognized as a province of Pakistan nor a part of AJK. The people of Northern Areas do not have any justifiable fundamental rights since they are technically not citizens of Pakistan. The Frontier Crime Regulations is in force in the region under which every resident of the region has to report regularly to local intelligence personnel. Until 1994 the region had no elected assembly or even municipal bodies. In October 1994 first elections to the Northern Areas Executive Council were held and the Council continues to remain an advisory. In 1999 the Pakistan’s Supreme Court in a landmark ruling directed the Pakistani government to extend basic rights to the people of Northern Areas within six months and treat them as Pakistani citizens. The judgment has not been implemented and in the 2001 elections across the country, the residents of Northern Areas were not granted voting rights. K2, the only weekly published in the Northern Areas, carries a message on its mast-head which succinctly summarizes the emotional state of the people in the Northern Areas; it reads ‘Sarzamin –Be – Ain Ki Awaz’ implying the voice of the constitution-less.
Despite official suppression, political demands for freedom and representation are voiced across the Northern regions. Balawaristan National Front, under the Chairmanship of Abdul Hamid Khan has been protesting against the illegal Pakistani occupation of the Northern region while the Yasin Malik faction of the JKLF demands that the Northern areas, along with rest of J&K, be given the right of self-determination. �
Pakistan continues to adopt a policy of suppressing political dissent and ruling through federal directives in AJK and Northern Areas. Sardar Mohammad Sagheer Khan, Secretary General of the JKLF (Amanullah Khan Group) was arrested on flimsy grounds and detained before the 2001 elections. Sixty candidates from JKLF and APNA were barred from contesting the 2006 elections as they had refused to accept the region’s accession to Pakistan. According to Amir Humza, a leader from Gilgit, “It is a fact that people of this region (Northern Areas) are facing more human rights violations and whenever the official media talks of repression in Indian Kashmir, people with strong hearts laugh at this hypocritical attitude and people with weak hearts cry.”�
Cordial relations between India and Pakistan are meaningless for the people of AJK and Northern Areas; their more immediate concerns relate to securing basic civil and political rights from the government of Pakistan.
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