Political theorists have not been able to define the legal and political status of a region illegally occupied by Pakistan and named “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”. Realizing its strategic importance in the context of CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and China’s expansionist designs eastward, Beijing insisted upon Pakistan to define the region’s legal and juridical status.
A large number of people in both parts of occupied J&K (Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir–POK and Gilgit-Baltistan) have instinctively resented Pakistan’s hegemony and many of its decisions that subtly but surely take away the rights of the indigenous people to make them subservient to the diktat of Islamabad rulers.
The recent rejection by the cabinet of PoK of the 14th amendment to the Clause 4 of the PoK Constitution of 1974 has been necessitated by predictable public resentment of arbitrary and undemocratic clauses of the amendment bill than out of any technical or legal exigency.
The roots of the amendment bill tabled by the Islamabad government lie in Amendment 13 to the PoK Constitution. By that amendment Administrative control of PoK Department of Inland Revenue, AG Office and Directorate General of Audit were transferred from the Council to the PoK government. The Council secretariat was left with no source of income, which, according to sources, had greatly upset the beneficiaries of the previous system. Though Pakistan government’s press release in the context of 14th amendment did not specify draft proposals from Islamabad, leading Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that “elements in the federal government were “hell-bent” upon the revival of the Council’s fiscal and administrative powers through the proposed 14th amendment.”
The subtle ways of running the fake state of PoK by proxy will be gauged from the structure and powers conferred by Islamabad regime on the “AJK Council” created under the provisos of the Interim Constitution of 1974 for AJK by Z.A. Bhutto. The usual nomenclature of “Upper House” or “Legislative Council” has been replaced with just “Council” because it is a strange entity, an amalgam of elected, nominated, official, non-official, in-service and off-service people structured in a way that the majority vote (if at all a vote is asked for) and ultimate decision rests with the domain of Islamabad regime.
What is the entity called Council? The Constitution says:
(1) There shall be an Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council consisting of (a) The Prime Minister of Pakistan; (b) The President; (c) Five Members to be nominated by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from time to time from amongst Federal Minister and members of Parliament; (d) The Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir or a person nominated by him; and (e) Six members to be elected by the Assembly from amongst state subjects following the system of proportional representation using the single transferable vote.
(2) The Prime Minister of Pakistan shall be the Chairman of the Council.
(3) The President shall be the vice-Chairman of the Council.
(4) The Federal Minister of State for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Affairs shall be an ex-officio member of the Council.
Commenting on the role of the Council, the Dawn of July 17 wrote, “Headed by the prime minister of the time as chairman, the council was created under AJK’s Interim Constitution Act, 1974 “to serve as a bridge” between the governments in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad. However, it was alleged that this institution had assumed the role of a parallel government for AJK.” In other words, it means the Council did not enjoy the legitimacy of a public sponsored entity and was only a structure superimposed by the Sultans of Islamabad.
Thus by the 13th amendment, the Council had become dysfunctional, and functionaries enjoying pecuniary benefits were “dead set” to revive it. The 14th amendment proposed by Imran Khan government was meant to deal a frontal blow to the political and civil rights of the masses of people in PoJK.
A close look at the Act for the Interim Constitution of 1974 for PoJK reveals some glaring contradictions and blatant historical inaccuracies. For example, in the prologue to the Act it says, “WHEREAS the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be determined by the freely expressed will of the people of the State through the democratic method of free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as envisaged in the UNCIP Resolutions adopted from time to time ….” Now, the maiden stipulation of the UNCIP Resolution of 1948 is that Pakistan withdraws its fighting men and others from Kashmir to let Srinagar function as the legitimate administrative authority and thus pave the way for holding of a fair plebiscite.” When Pakistan has not fulfilled the most essential pre-requisite for creating conducive atmosphere, how can it jump on to plebiscite as the solution of Kashmir dispute?
Secondly, how can Pakistan ask for a plebiscite when it has ceded more than five thousand square kilometres of J&K state (original) to China? Thus the very preamble of the PoJK Constitution is misleading and flawed. Furthermore, defining Azad J&K, the Constitution qualifies it as this, “Azad J&K is the land liberated by the people.” If the land in question was liberated by the people, why was Pakistan Army there and what was it doing? And when a ceasefire was announced at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1948 why did Pakistan Army sign it and not the people (through a representative) who Pakistan says “liberated the land?” Has this ceasefire agreement any validity from what Pakistan terms “liberated by the people?”
“In the proposed amendment to Article 4 of the Interim Constitution of 1974, the draft puts a rider to the freedom of association for the people of the region by stressing that such freedom would strictly be subjected to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan and morality of public order,’’ the sources said.
Even more outrageous is the clause imposed by Pakistan on the right of residents of PoK to form a political party, or even be a member of one. The person desirous of forming a political party in PoK for benefit of people of the region could face restrictions based on some vague perceived threats.
“No person or political party in ‘AJK’ (PoK) will be permitted to propagate against or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of Pakistan Government,” the 14th Amendment stated.
The amendment barred the Legislative Assembly of PoK from deciding upon aspects critical to very territory that it is supposed to represent. The Pakistani State, and more specifically the military establishment, would be the only entity authorized to decide upon these aspects.
There is widespread resentment among the people of PoK against the proposed amendment because they find it a reckless step towards depriving the people of PoK of their rights and liberties. Zulfiqar Ahmed Raja, the chairman of Jammu & Kashmir Peoples National Alliance (JKPNA) put it, “the primary motive of the 14th Amendment was to withdraw the already very limited powers given by Pakistan to the ‘Azad’ J&K government, and to remove the word “State” from the 1974 Interim Constitution.” Is it a prelude to the assimilation of PoK into Pakistan State?
The Cabinet of PoJK has rejected the 14th amendment. Political analysts are keenly watching what turn the situation will take and how long will the government of Raja Farooq Haider Khan survive? The strong reason for Imran Khan government to push the bill is the growing opposition to his army-controlled civilian government for curbing civil and political rights of the people on instructions from the army.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has cautioned Pakistan that the government of India strongly upholds its right to take back the part of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan and China.
These developments should be an eye-opener for the separatists and secessionists of Kashmir Valley. They should make a comparison of the political and administrative structure give to the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution of India. Had they made a fair and disinterred comparison, they would not have committed the blunders they did and, quite naturally, face the consequences. They should understand that in bringing the 14th amendment; Imran Khan closed his eyes to the religious affinity with the people of PoJK (which he trumpets about Kashmir Valley and Indian Muslims) and focused on how to deprive the people of their rights and freedoms only to let the domination of Pakistani rulers perpetuate. This is a moment of deep introspection for the separatist and secessionists of the Kashmir Valley. They have come to the crossroad where they have to decide which way will lead them to prosperity, freedom and dignity.