How Rawalpindi controls Pakistan-occupied ‘Azad’ Kashmir

Local Kashmiris take out a rally in Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (POJK) demanding freedom from Pakistan. (File Photo: News Intervention)
Local Kashmiris take out a rally in Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (POJK) demanding freedom from Pakistan. (File Photo: News Intervention)

Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Jammu Kashmir (POJK) is at the mercy of Pakistan Army and its puppet regime in Islamabad, who treat POJK as their private property thereby depriving the region of all power and resources. The local Kashmiris across POJK live a life of oppression, humiliation and poverty. And it doesn’t stop here. Not content with loot of POJK resources, the Pakistani regime has forged the system in a way that hurts the self-esteem of local Kashmiris at every step of their lives.

It all starts with the installation of a parasitic government according to a ridiculous interim constitution of the Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir. As per this interim constitution a five member assembly is formed which “selects” a prime minister and a president as per the diktats of Rawalpindi.

Selection of Politicians in POJK

The interim constitution of Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Jammu Kashmir ‘allows’ the “Azad” Jammu Kashmir government to take small decisions under only two articles. The remaining fifty six articles are in the hands of Pakistan. As per this constitution, any political party, individual or group in “Azad” Kashmir can neither participate in elections nor can the political party be registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan if it does not believe in Jammu Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. This is a mandatory condition for it ensures Rawalpindi that only those people remain in the political landscape of Kashmir who overtly support their affiliation with Pakistan. Further, no politician, social worker or a common Kashmiri can ever dare to speak against Pakistan Army, even mild criticism falls under the category of treason.

However, on paper Pakistan creates this sham of installing a President, Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Supreme Court, High Court, and an Assembly for “Azad” Jammu Kashmir (POJK). In reality, however, all these institutions and their heads have no autonomy and rely on GHQ Rawalpindi and Islamabad for every decision.

The process starts by selecting six members from Pakistan under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Pakistan to keep control over POJK. Chief Secretary, Health Secretary, Auditor General and Inspector General of Police in POJK are all appointed on the instructions from Pakistan and they work on direct orders from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Minister of Kashmir Affairs of Pakistan exercises control over everything that’s happening in POJK. And to make further worse for the Kashmiris the Prime Minister of Pakistan works directly under the Chief Secretary of POJK who in turn reports to the Prime Minister Pakistan.

Pakistan Army’s network of check posts in Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir

Pakistan Army has created a network of army cantonments across “Azad” Kashmir (POJK) such that military camps exist at the entrance and exit of every major city. The purpose of this huge network of military cantonments is to monitor each and every movement of the local Kashmiris. For instance, heavily armed Pakistan military guards are present round the clock at the entrance outpost at Amboor in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of POJK. Similar military camps have been set up at several places in Poonch district. Before any Kashmir can enter Bagh they need to pass through the check posts at Chahala, Mang Bajri, Ardee Gahal. Military cantonments also exist amidst heavily populated areas at Qadirabad and Chattar no. 2 (Barhamna) with a brigade headquarter of the Pakistan Army. In this way the entire Poonch and Rawalakot districts are encircled by cantonments, check posts and offices of Pakistan military and the ISI.

News Intervention Special Report on Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir

At Poonch, Chahala, Mang Bajri and Adee Gahal, the cantonments of Pakistan Army is within the populated area. Military hospital MDS is located in the heart of Bagh city and in its close vicinity lies the regional office of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. Despite military hospital in the heart of city it remains out of bounds for POJK Kashmiris.

Kashmiris have to cross a similar Pakistan military camp before entering district Mirpur, and then there’s a check post at Mangla, the city with its famous Mangla Dam that supplies hydroelectricity to a large part of Pakistan while POJK remains in the dark. Likewise, Bhimber district is under strict control of the Pakistan Army due to its proximity to Jammu, with several military camps before and after in Kotli district where the terrorist organisation JKLF continues to run training camps.

Harassment of Kashmiris in Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir

Every Kashmiri is considered suspicious by GHQ Rawalpindi such that each and every POJK Kashmiri needs to register name, address and purpose of visit before they can enter any of the other districts in “Azad” Kashmir (POJK).

The training camps for several other Islamist jihadi groups are also run under the direct supervision of Pakistan Army. And though there are several restrictions on the local Kashmiris to move around in POJK the jihadi terrorists roam around freely, brandishing sophisticated guns.

Leepa and Neelam Valley may geographically be a part of Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir and yet local Kashmiris have to undergo rigorous questioning, which includes humiliating whole body frisking by the Pakistani soldiers searching of clothes and by the Pakistan Army before they can enter these areas.

In Hajira, Dwarandi, Abbaspour and in forward Kahuta areas of Poonch the common Kashmiris face humiliation on a daily basis. The dignity and lives of women are always in danger. Instances of molestation, sexual assault and rapes by Pakistani soldiers on duty at these check posts and military cantonments take place at a regular frequency and yet nobody is ever convicted. Almost every day there are instances when Pakistani soldiers try to molest Kashmiri women at check posts in the garb of physical frisking, and yet all voices of dissent are suppressed.

Pakistan Army rules “Azad” Kashmir with an iron hand and all protests by the Kashmiris is promptly suppressed.

Pakistan Army commanders treat “Azad” Kashmir as their personal fiefdom and dole out business contracts to their people and mint money at the expense of local Kashmiris. Such is their stranglehold over POJK that no work can be done without approval from GHQ Rawalpindi. The generals and their junior officers capture public property in the name of defence establishments and then use them for personal gains. For instance, Tuli Pir, a tourist destination in Bagh was captured by the Pakistan Army. Similarly, the land of health department in the middle of Bagh city was occupied by Pakistan military in broad daylight, a market built over it and has been rented out on a commercial basis. This is how Pakistani regime commits day light robbery of public land in “Azad” Kashmir.  

On the other hand, Kashmiris in POJK need to sign an oath of allegiance to Pakistan before they can get admission in educational institutions or bag some menial government job. Any local Kashmiri who refuses to sign oath of allegiance to Pakistan is denied admission to educational institutions and cannot get into government jobs. 

Even after facing such humiliation the Kashmiris of Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir is expected to never question Rawalpindi or Islamabad. Criticism of Pakistan Army and Pakistani regime in any form is a crime. Every day, treason cases are filed against people, especially progressives, secularists, liberals and nationalists, due to which there is fear all around, and Kashmiris are afraid to talk freely.

Islamist-Jihadi network across Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir

Numerous jihadi groups operate under the supervision of Pakistani military, including Hizbul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jaish-e-Muhammad and several others.

Their job is to preach jihad, distribute Islamist literature, propagandize, as well as attract young people to jihad and sends them to training camps, where the Pakistan Army trains them and sends them to commit terrorist acts. One of the jobs of these jihadis is to intimidate local Kashmiris and take control of their resources.

The civil administration of “Azad” Jammu and Kashmir government cannot talk to these jihadi groups, but a large number of government employees and officials also give them monthly donations, some out of fear and some out of ideological affiliation.

These jihadi camps operate under the direct supervision of Pakistan Army who have offices in Muzaffarabad, while training camps are set up in forests and remote areas throughout “Azad” Kashmir where the common Kashmiri is not allowed to enter. All these jihadi training camps are in Neelam Valley, Lepa Nikail, Hajira apart from Kahuta Kotli and Khoi Ratta. At forward positions of the military bases in Mansera area it is the ​​Pakistan Army that trains these jihadis.

Each of these jihadi group is assigned an area Kashmir. Apart from occupied “Azad” Jammu and Kashmir, the trainees come in from different parts of Pakistan, especially Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan.

One of the biggest jihadi network is of Jamaat-e-Islami that operates on a large scale under the auspices of Pakistan Army. Hundreds of educational institutions are run by Jamaat groups under its NGO Red Foundation which serves as feeder institute for the main jihadi training camps. Thousands of students are brainwashed into Islamist jihadi narrative. Jamaat-e-Islami’s subsidiary Khidmat-e-Islami runs a number of orphanages and other charities, which are not only funded by the government but also sponsored by the local administration and the Pak Army. Through these institutions, jihadi narratives are systematically disseminated. Magazines and books published under their auspices are widely disseminated to all educational institutions, government agencies to tap the young impressionable minds into jihadi narrative.

Local commanders of the Pakistan Army are invited as special guests on the occasion of annual examination results at schools and sometimes military weapons are displayed in the schools and children are made to salute military commanders.

Jihadi rhetoric and Islamist radical ideology is propagated across Pakistan-occupied “Azad” Kashmir in an institutionalised planned manner that affects every Kashmiri in one way or another. On the other hand liberal secular-minded individuals and organizations are banned. Dozens of books and magazines that talk about Kashmir and Kashmiriyat are banned and publishers face fraud cases.

Pakistan’s intelligence agencies play a key role in inciting violence and fabricating cases against rational Kashmiris. They are called ‘agents’, ‘traitors’, ‘enemies of Pakistan’ or ‘enemy of Islam’ and killed with impunity as killers know they have state protection. Kashmir’s nationalist leader Arif Shahid and Dr Ghulam Abbas were eliminated by ISI and so the killers remain free. And there are several other cold blooded murders where they go unnoticed and remain reported.

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