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Pakistan occupied Kashmir faces existential problems: Study

By SK Kumar | Updated: Jul 06, 2019 19:31 IST

New Delhi [India], July 6 (ANI): Political Parties in the two parts of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) -- Gilgit- Baltistan (GB) and the misnamed "Azad" Kashmir ('AJK') -- are facing the question of their survival for different or similar reasons.
One similar reason is that their dependence on their patrons in Pakistan, which in their view, obviates the need to labour in their constituencies. Also, Pakistan's patronage emboldens them to indulge in corruption without fear. Thus, the people helplessly vote for them without reposing respect and confidence in them.
In GB, there is confusion about how the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will affect its people and what will be the region's constitutional status. In PoK, the Pakistani Army seems to have shifted its patronage from political parties to India-focussed militants. Thus the Muslim Conference and the Pakistan People's Party in PoK have been abandoned. The local people's support for present political parties has waned in both parts of occupied Kashmir.
"Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Politics, Parties and Personalities," produced by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), New Delhi, is perhaps the first thorough work on this subject in India. It has been authored by three scholars of IDSA. They are Surinder Kumar Sharma, Yaqoob ul Hassan and Ashok Behuria, all staunch Pakistan watchers.
The book makes a separate study of political parties, their growth and the challenges facing them, providing a critical analysis of the politics of GB and PoK and acquaint the readers with different personalities playing important role in their regions. There is one common point between the two parts of PoK; they both have two political entities, out of which one supported by Pakistan is called a mainstream political party. They have the wherewithal to fight and win elections. The other political entity is made up of weak nationalist parties who are too poor to fight elections or win them.
The irony is that the former wins the elections without much interest in the problem of their constituencies while the latter cannot fight or win elections despite their knowledge of and their concern for the region. In October 2005, when an earthquake struck PoK and killed thousands of people, its politicians fled to Pakistan only to return when things became normal. They did not feel the need to apologise to their voters for deserting them in the hour of need. Till recent years, GB had no tradition of political activity.
Under Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) a political activity was a crime. In 1974, the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto abolished this law. But it took 20 more years for the people of GB to take part in electoral activities when former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto allowed party-based elections in 1994.
The 1994 reform led to the mushroom growth of Pakistan-based political parties supported by their mother parties in Pakistan. These parties included the Pakistan People's Party(PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Jamaat-i-Islami and branches of all political parties and Islamic groups. In the past 25 years, the PPP and PML-N have alternatively ruled GB whenever their mother parties were in power in Pakistan. This means the elections in GB have never reflected the wishes and aspirations of the local population.
Help from their mother parties or the establishment in Pakistan has made mainstream political parties so callous and shameless that they never felt the need to apologise for well-known cases of corruption even at the time of elections.
Before the July 2016 Assembly elections in PoK, the 'AJK' Election Commission registered 44 political parties. This large number of parties included Pakistani political parties who made a steady incursion into PoK local politics and decimated local traditional parties. These 44 parties did not include nationalist parties who reject the Pakistan-imposed ideology of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.
The most notable among these 44 political parties is the Muslim Conference which was established by Sheikh Abdullah in 1932. In 1939, Sheikh Abdullah secularised it by renaming it the "National Conference."
However, the pro-Pakistan elements split and retained its original name - the Muslim Conference. The Pakistan government rewarded it by making its leader Sardar Ibrahim the first President of Kashmir territory which it occupied after its invasion and named it "Azad" Kashmir. As a protege of Pakistan, this party has ruled PoK with loyalty to Pakistan's objectives in Kashmir but no commitment to the people of PoK. It won or lost elections not because of voters' choice but because of mechanisations in Islamabad.
On August 14, 1973, Z.A. Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan under the just-promulgated 1973 Constitution. His first target seemed he wanted to rid PoK of the Muslim Conference. He was full of clever tricks. He designed the 1974 Constitution (Provisional) cleverly associating PoK President Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan with its preparation, whose party, the Muslim Conference was going to be its victim.
This party got a very big shock to its existence in 1975 when Bhutto organized the first Assembly elections in PoK under the1974 Constitution. Bhutto's PPP, the new entrant in the region, forced the Muslim Conference out of its muscle power. Its foundations were shaken. In 1985, General Zia helped his party to return to power but its inner dissensions, mostly because of fearless corruption, had pushed it down the hill. Sardar Qayyum died (July 11, 2015) and his son Sardar Attique, known for his corruption, took charge of the party and took it to its logical end in 2016 when it got only 3 seats and all its heavyweight members were defeated.
When the PPP ruled Pakistan, the AJKPPP swept the June 2011 elections in PoK, bundling out the Muslim Conference. In 2013, the Muslim League came to power in Pakistan. The next elections took place in 2016 when Nawaz Muslim League consigned the Muslim Conference and the AJKPPP to three seats each.
The weak Muslim Conference is so badly riven with intrigues and rivalries that its revival seems near impossible. The revival of AJKPPP also seems difficult because its mother party in Pakistan has been confined to Sind and some pockets in Punjab.
The condition of political parties is no better in GB either because here also a political party comes to power if its mother party is in power in Pakistan. Thus, when the PPP is ruling Pakistan, the PPPGB won the elections.
The PML-GB and other Pakistan-based parties have tried to keep themselves alive by ferociously campaigning for making GB the fifth province of Pakistan. The Supreme Court in its verdict in January this year said that this cannot be done without holding a UN plebiscite. Thus the undeclared status of GB is a challenge for CPEC.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author) (ANI)