- Posted July 30, 2014 by
Human Rights & Democracy in Pak-Occupied Kashmir - The Mystery Unraveled
David Ward, representing Bradford East, had applied to the Backbench Business Committee, for a debate on the political and humanitarian situation in the region. The motion stated “That this house believes that the ongoing Kashmir dispute is a threat to regional and global peace; further that the dispute is causing insecurity, instability and human rights violations; and further that the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination,” the news outlet reported on Sunday, July 27.
I wonder why Kashmir of all places caught the imagination of the honourable member’s notice at this point in time. Since he intends to discuss this issue in the British Parliament one hopes that he will also analyze and bring to the notice of the British people the adverse effects of the Pakistan sponsored events such as Parliament attack, 26 /11 and Kargil have had on the people of India.
Kashmir consists of the Indian administered Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK). Till 1947, POK consisting of the present Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltisatn (GB) was governed by the AJK administration. With ulterior motives, Pakistan separated the AJK and GB through the ‘Karachi Agreement’ signed on April 28, 1949. This agreement was signed between the President of AJK, a minister without portfolio from Pakistan and a representative from the Muslim Conference but without any representative from AJK or GB. The status of this region was thus decided by Pakistan without even a semblance of the voice of the people concerned being heard. Now Pakistan wants a plebiscite in Kashmir to ascertain the will of the people!
The Northern Areas (now called GB) was governed under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) which also applied to tribal areas of Pakistan. Under the FCR this area has been under a virtual Martial Law, with the rights of the people suppressed and their needs neglected. Under the archaic FCR, every resident of the area had to report to the local police station once a month and all movements from one village to another had to be reported to the police station. The people have no representation in either House of Parliament nor do they have a right of access to the higher courts of Pakistan.
Even after the split, GB did not find mention in the constitution of Pakistan. The people of the area did not enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights that the people in the rest of Pakistan did. They were ruled directly by a joint secretary in the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA) Affairs (now Ministry of KashmirAffairs and Gilgit Baltistan). In March 1993, on being petitioned about the status of the Northern Areas, the AJK High Court in its verdict took serious note of the unrepresentative and arbitrary administrative system and denial of fundamental rights in the ‘Northern Areas’ (GB). It directed the AJK government to immediately assume charge of the region and asked the government of Pakistan to assist the AJK government in this task. The Pakistan government appealed against this judgment in the Supreme Court, which in its verdict on 14 September 1994, stated that: “the Northern Areas are part of Jammu & Kashmir state but are not part of “Azad Kashmir” as defined in the “Azad Kashmir” Interim Constitution Act, 1974”.
In yet another case, on 28 May 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Pakistan Government to guarantee ‘fundamental rights’ to the people of GB within a period of six months.
Having failed to respect the six month time stipulation laid down by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1999 for the grant of fundamental rights to the people of GB in 1999, the Pakistan Government woke up in 2009 to announce the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009. It provides for a local administration headed by a ‘Chief Minister’, to be elected by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) consisting of 33 members. The council of ministers will consist of six ministers and two advisors. An ad – hoc ordnance and an order for the future governance of an area not part of Pakistan!!
What is the status of political rights granted to the people of GB by Pakistan today? The Chief Minister or the Legislative Assembly has no meaningful authority. Despite an elected Legislative Assembly, the Governor, an appointee of the Pakistan Government and the GB Council with the Prime Minister of Pakistan as its Chairman and members appointed by Pakistan Government wields all power.
As for AJK the fact that from July 2011 to the end of 2013 the AJK Legislative Assembly met only for 46 days out of 890 days speaks volumes for the powers that it wields as well as the seriousness which the people of AJK attach to this institution.
It may be appropriate for us take a look at the Pakistan Supreme Court’s judgment and Pakistan’s record of granting fundamental rights to the people of Kashmir presently under its control besides the state of human rights violations in Pakistan before taking a view or commenting on the human rights of the people of J & K under Indian rule.
The part of J & K under Indian rule on the other hand has the status of a State of the Union of India like any other state in India and its people have their elected Legislative Council, council of ministers and are duly represented in the Indian Parliament. They people of J & K have been granted a special status under Article 370 of the Constitution. The differences of approach between India and Pakistan in relation to the areas of Kashmir under their respective control are open for the entire world to see.
In yet another case, in March 2010, the authority of the Pakistan Supreme Court to the appointment of AJK Chief Justice was challenged. A bench comprising chief justice of AJK Supreme Court, Riaz Akhtar Chaudhry passed an order which stated: “The Supreme Court of Pakistan has no jurisdiction to entertain any petition regarding appointment of judges of superior courts of AJK. Such kind of petition does not come within the jurisdiction and sphere of Supreme Court of Pakistan”. The order further stated that: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has no authority to extend its jurisdiction to the area of Azad Jammu and Kashmir because the territories of Pakistan have been defined in Article 1 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan cannot go beyond the territories defined in Article 1 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The juridical position reflects the geographical limits of Pakistan.
The question is where is the dispute? In accordance with ‘Mountbatten Plan’ the very basis of India Pakistan partition, an Instrument of accession was signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir acceding to India. The Mountbatten Plan advised the Princely states to join either India or Pakistan. There was no third choice. The ‘Plan’ did not envisage accession to either country on the basis of religion, geographical proximity or through a plebiscite. The formation of widely separated East and West Pakistan is the case in point. The ‘Plan’ was the basis of the merger of all the 565 Princely states which joined either India or Pakistan at the time of partition. By questioning the accession of Kashmir to India, are we not querying the very basis of accession of the 565 Princely States to either country? Why plebiscite now in this particular case?
Has Pakistan displayed any loyalty for the sanctity of the territory belonging to the people of Kashmir? The ‘State Subject Rule’ in force in J & K, which restricts outsiders from settling down permanently, was abolished in GB in late 70s, opening the floodgates for outsiders of convenience to settle down in the area. Incidentally, this rule is still operative in the Indian administered part of Kashmir. Shakshgam Valley (Approximately 5180 sq kms), a part of J & K was gifted to China in 1963. The western press is replete with suggestions that GB has been leased to China by Pakistan for 50 years. An area of 42685 sq kms of J & K territory is under Chinese occupation. Access to GB has been restricted to the outside world. While Pakistan managed to keep the region out of sight of the world, China has been given free access to GB and they have undertaken a large number of infrastructure projects in GB including the construction of the Western Highway (3105 km). China has constructed a ‘Housing Colony’ and a Cemetery in the area.
How has Pakistan treated the people of GB? The 1988 Ramzan riots were engineered by the then Brigadier Musharraf, by unleashing the tribal Pakhtun militia from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) belonging to a particular sect to kill innocent civilians, destroy houses and other assets in GB. The 2000 – 04 riots resulting in loss of life were a result of the introduction of a program of study in the Text Books meant to influence the innocent children to particular sect’s teachings. Disembarking pilgrims from a particular sect returning from Iran and shooting them down in cold blood on the Karakoram Highway at Kohistan and Chilas in February-April 2012, is nothing but ethnic cleansing. The stories are endless. In none of these violence related incidents India was involved unlike what is happening in Indian administered Kashmir now. The question is was Pakistan envisioned as a homeland for Muslims or a country meant to accommodate a particular sect of Islam? Is this what we call human rights?
Despite GB being the major portion of POK, Pakistan has kept GB politically deprived and constitutionally abandoned. Pakistan’s invective against Indian rule in Kashmir is nothing but hypocrisy to hide its own misrule in PoK. The acts of violence and law and order situation in the valley in Kashmir Valley are the result of infiltration from across the border besides funding and arming of the Pakistan motivated militant groups. How else could the Indian Army recover over 80,000 AK 47 rifles and tons of explosives besides other war like material from the Valley?
As for human rights violations, the use of helicopter gunships, aircrafts and drones in the Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA), a part of Pakistan and its treatment of the Internally displaced Persons (IDP) numbering over 8,00,000 refugees from these region may provide some sense of Pakistan’s respect for human rights. This abysmal violation of human rights is a matter of grave concern which will affect peace in the region besides security with Afghanistan, India and Iran at its door steps.
The million dollar question is why has the discourse on J & K, be it at the international platforms or amongst the Human Rights agencies always centered on the part of Kashmir administered by India and not the rest of POK? It is time this mindset changes.