Worsening educational facilities in Pak-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir

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Muzaffarabad salary hike march
Muzaffarabad University March (Photo: News Intervention)

Pakistan leaves no stone unturned to project illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir [IoJK] as a free and prosperous land and has even named this region ‘Azad’ [Free] Kashmir. To keep up pretences and legitimise its illegal occupation, Islamabad also organises ‘all expenses paid’ trips for foreign influencers to IoJK. And while going gaga over when ‘sponsored’ guests parrot the lines fed to them by their hosts, Islamabad chooses to maintain a stoic silence when such guests subsequently reveal the reality.

One such recent guest was US Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who visited IoJK two years ago and repaid Islamabad for the free hospitality provided by making pro Pakistan and anti-Indian remarks. However, just a week ago, Omar upset the applecart by letting the cat out of the bag by admitting that Since my colleagues and I raised our concerns about human rights in Pakistan last November, things have only gotten worse.” 

Though Omar’s statement was made with reference to the recently conducted elections in Pakistan, it nevertheless reveals the abysmal state of affairs in Pakistan, and IoJK is no exception. No wonder Pakistan’s charade of observing Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 every year impresses no one. Au contraire, things couldn’t have been more ironical.

While Pakistan was perfunctorily going through with this sham, IoJK residents were themselves vociferously protesting against lack of basic amenities and rampant ill-treatment by both the government authorities and the Pakistan Army. With people in such large numbers taking to the streets, the yawning gulf between projection and reality in IoJK is apparent. 

So, while Islamabad wants the world to believe that people of IoJK are content and eat cakes, the widespread public protests in IoJK reveals that its people are not even getting sufficient bread. However, non-availability of essential commodities, skyrocketing prices and clampdown on freedom of expression aren’t the only woes of IoJK residents and comparing facilities in J&K and IoJK is a study in contrast.

While IoJK continues to face a step-motherly treatment at the hands of Islamabad and hence languishes due lack of financial assistance, J&K is receiving substantial funds from New Delhi. The very fact that J&K’s 2024-2025 interim budget fund allocation is more than four-and-a- a-half times more than the amount sought by Islamabad from the International Monetary Fund [IMF] for the whole of Pakistan, gives a fair idea of the stark difference between J&K and IoJK!

Besides other privations, lack of educational facilities continues to remain a major area of concern for the people of IOJK as it deprives children of their fundamental right to pursue academics and improve their employment prospects. To make matters worse, due to a steep hike in education and hostel fees students in the Gilgit-Baltistan [GB] area of IoJK have deprived many deserving students from financially weaker sections of society of continuing their education.

A November 2023 ANI report highlights the pathetic condition of educational facilities in GB. It quotes students complaining not only about the lack of basic facilities like class rooms, table and chairs, electricity and drinking water but also paucity of teachers in certain important subjects like physics. They also claim that despite the Higher Education Commission’s policy that permits a maximum annual increase of 10 percent fees, the same has been hiked by a whopping 135 percent within three years!  

However, it’s not only students of IoJK and their parents who are up in arms against government apathy. Lack of a streamlined funding process is forcing teachers and administrative staff employed in educational institutes to intermittently go on strike in demand of their salaries and increments. This is why the issue of poor educational facilities in IoJK is one of the main reasons behind public dissatisfaction.

 The inexplicable lack of concern being displayed by Islamabad towards the education sector in IoJK is so pronounced that there’s a general apprehension amongst the locals that this indifference is intentionally being orchestrated. Islamabad reluctantly recognises dissent in IoJK, but as is its wont, conveniently blames New Delhi for the same, but its claims convinces no one and there’s a good reason for this.

There can be no two views that Islamabad has only its abject apathy to blame for creating a hostile environment in IoJK. Nevertheless, it’s also true there’s an indirect India connection that arises out of the innate human tendency to compare things. Therefore it’s not at all surprising that the burgeoning growth and development of academic infrastructure and educational facilities in J&K has given people of IoJK a deep feeling of discrimination and deprivation amongst them.

If IoJK residents apprehend that educational institutes in this region have been turned into places of persecution by Islamabad as part of a sinister plan to keep them ignorant about their legal rights so that Pakistan’s illegal occupation of IoJK isn’t questioned, then why blame New Delhi?

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