Kashmir's Ordeal - Chapter Six

Lal Khan looks at the division of Kashmir as a result of the partition of the subcontinent. The resources of Kashmir have been ruthlessly exploited for the benefit of India and Pakistan. Kashmir has long been in the throes of turmoil, instability, and deprivation, and the people of Kashmir have long looked for a solution to the situation, and an end to the misery and oppression.

Chapter Six - Agony of Azad Kashmir

Devastated by these freedoms,

Were you,

And so were we,

The redness of the eyes, is telling

Cried; you have,

And weeping we have been!

Ustad Daman 1

The Politics of Deception

When the subcontinent became independent from the British rule on August 14-15, 1947, it was the first time since Yaqub Shah Chak submitted to Akbar in 1589 that the state of Jammu and Kashmir was “independent”. It remained so for seventy-three days. On August 12, in an exchange of telegrams, Hari Singh reached a “stand still” agreement with Pakistan. The objective was to ensure that those services that existed for trade, travel, and communication would carry on in the same way as they had in British India. Pakistan would retain control of the rail and river links used to float timber down the Jhelum River to the plains. India did not, however, sign the stand still agreement. This merely added to the suspicion amongst Pakistani rulers that the Indian government was making its own arrangements for Kashmir's future and did not consider a stand still agreement as part of those plans.

The stand still agreement signed by Hari Singh with Pakistan was really a camouflage to hide the real designs and lull Pakistan and her supporters into a fast sleep of satisfaction.”2

Schofield narrates the situation in the state of Jammu and Kashjmir at the time of partition.

"In the state of Jammu and Kashmir there were staunch Muslim League supporters who believed they would become part of Pakistan at independence and when freedom came at midnight on August 14, they rejoiced. The Pakistani flag was hoisted on most of the post offices until the government of the maharaja ordered that they should be taken down. All pro Pakistani papers were closed.” 3

In the weeks following “independence”, despite the signature of the stand still agreement with Pakistan, political manoeuvres were taking place on all sides.

Both Pakistan and India were actively trying to determine events so that Kashmir would accede to their respective dominions. India retained the upper hand and despite the Maharaja's dislike for Nehru, he communicated more regularly and amicably with the Indian leaders than with those in Pakistan. 4

On September 13, 1947 the Maharaja asked the government of India to loan an Indian army officer to replace Major General Scott as his Commander-in-Chief. Clear steps were being taken to improve communication with India by telegraph, telephone, and roads.

It was widely believed in Pakistan that India was preparing to announce Kashmir's accession to India in the autumn of 1947. The Pakistani rulers were also actively trying to turn the situation to their favour. At the same time, the Kashmiri government criticised them for the armed raids and border blockades. The new Prime Minister of Kashmir, Mehrchand Mahajan, had already requested arms and ammunition from India to deal with the growing unrest in the state.

India and Pakistan continued to court both the old and new rulers of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. These diplomatic initiatives were brought to an immediate halt when news was received that a large number of raiders from the Pushtoonkhawa (N.W.F.P) region of Pakistan had crossed the border and were heading toward Kashmir.

On October 24, 1947, in the midst of the tribal invasion, rebel Kashmiri leaders set up a government in exile. Sardar Ibrahim Khan was installed as president. The Azad Kashmir government described itself as a “war council”, the objectives of which were the liberation of the rest of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and to administer that part of the state already under their control. A cabinet was formed with ministers appointed from Mirpur, Poonch, Kashmir Valley, and Jammu. However, there was no real representative from the Valley.

In an attempt to assert its legality, on 3rd November 1947 the Azad Kashmir government leaders appealed to several heads of state, including Clement Atlee (Britain), Harry Truman (USA), Joseph Stalin (USSR) and Chiang Kai Shek (China) through the secretary general of the United Nations, Trygve Lie to recognize its formation. But the status of Azad Kashmir has never been defined in legal terms. It is neither a sovereign state nor a province of Pakistan. In its resolution of 13th August 1948 UNCIP referred to its territory to be 'administered by the local authorities under surveillance of the commission'. 5

After January 1949, the initial role of the Azad Jammu Kashmir government was to administer the land west of the cease-fire line. As a government in exile, with the seat of power in Muzaffarabad, this land administration soon proved overwhelming.

Initially, Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, as well as Baltistan came under the administration of Azad Kashmir. However, in 1949 Pakistan took direct control over them.

Puppet States

The Pakistani regime calls the area of Kashmir under the control of India, “Indian-held Kashmir”, and the Indian regime calls the part of Kashmir under Pakistan's control, “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”. Both are actually correct. As stated, both parts of Kashmir are in reality satellites of the Indian and the Pakistani bourgeois states. Their capitals might be in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, but it is New Delhi and Islamabad that call the shots. So-called Azad Kashmir has a President and Prime Minister. However, the powers of these two offices are less than those of the Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Islamabad, itself one of the weakest ministries in Pakistan's federal government.

Azad Kashmir, technically a narrow strip of mountainous land covering some 5,134 square miles, is as much a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the Valley, as is the approximately 27,000 square miles of the “Northern Areas”, which include the former Gilgit Agency and Baltistan.

Azad Kashmir enjoys all the trappings of an independent state. It has its own constitution, Prime Minister, President, Legislative Assembly, national flag, judicial system, capital, etc. However in reality, Azad Kashmir is far from autonomous. As far as the state's economy and armed forces are concerned, this is perhaps to be expected. Large-scale migration out of the state has reduced its manpower productive capacity and already low tax income, thereby making it even more financially dependent on Pakistan. In 1989, for example, over 80 per cent of state expenditure on education, agriculture and infrastructure development came from the central government in Pakistan. About half of the money spent in 1989 went to specific projects approved by the Pakistan Ministry of Finance and Development.

Breaches of the state's political autonomy have been more serious. In varying guises, Pakistan's federal government has always played a role in the running of the state, i.e. through the Ministry for Kashmir Affairs created in 1952. At present, Azad Kashmir has a 48-member legislative assembly, of which forty are elected and eight nominated. There is also the State Council, half of whose fourteen members are appointed by the President of Pakistan, himself the Chairman of Council. Azad Kashmir's lack of political autonomy becomes more obvious when one sees how similar the political developments in the state have been to those in the rest of Pakistan. During Ayub Khan's period in office, the new Basic Democracy System was implemented in both Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Similarly, under Zia, martial law regulations were applied equally in the state, albeit under separate presidential ordinances.

Successive Pakistani administrations have sought to ensure the control of Azad Kashmir by manipulating the choice of state government. When Zia seized power in July 1977, Muhammed Ibrahim, leader of the Azad Kashmir Muslim Conference who joined PPP in 1976 and was an ally of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was president of Azad Kashmir. Zia first pressured him into resigning, then held fresh elections in October. But when the election returned Ibrahim to power, Zia dismissed him and appointed Brigadier Muhammed Hayat Khan as President.

In order to maintain Azad Kashmir's (theoretical) autonomy, Pakistan's main right wing parties have refrained from opening branches in Muzzafarabad. Instead, they work through “surrogate” parties, i.e. the All-Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference functions as the Azad Kashmir branch of the official Muslim League. The only exception is the Pakistan People's Party, which has had an official organisation in the state since 1974.

The governments elected in Islamabad have always proved unwilling to tolerate an Azad Kashmir government controlled by opposition parties.

In 1990, following the dismissal of the first Benazir administration, the PPP government in Azad Kashmir led by Raja Mumtaz Rathore came under tremendous pressure from both the new Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA), federal government in Islamabad, and Sardar Qayyum Khan, President of Azad Kashmir, an IDA ally. Eventually, Rathore resigned, and fresh elections were held that brought the Muslim Conference into power. 6

Similarly the right wing parties had their own grievances.

In the July 1996 state elections the positions were reversed: Qayyum Khan accused Bhutto of using federal government powers to ensure the election of PPP candidates. 7

While Islamabad has been careful to preserve Azad Kashmir as a separate political unit, it has had few qualms about integrating the Northern Areas into Pakistan. Administration of the Northern Areas originally fell to Pakistan because in 1947 this was beyond the capability of the newly established Azad Kashmir government. However, Muzaffarabad always believed that the transfer of control to Pakistan was a temporary measure, to be reversed when the Azad Kashmir administration was more firmly established. This reversal has not happened. Instead, Pakistan has pursued a policy of gradual integration. In 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto formally brought the integration of Gilgit and Baltistan under direct federal administration, followed in 1974 by the incorporation of Hunza into the Northern Territories. Bhutto's successor Zia-ul-Haq continued the political integration of the Northern Areas into Pakistan: in 1977 they were included in Martial Law Zone E. In April 1982, three members of the federal Majlis-e-Shura were drawn from the Northern Areas, and in July,

Zia declared that the northern regions of Gilgit, Hunza, and Skardu were 'an integral part of Pakistan'. Hewitt notes that: 'having clarified the separation of the Northern Territories (including Hunza) from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan had gone a long way towards integrating about 25% of the former Dogra Kingdom into (the Islamic) Republic.' 8

Experiencing “Azadi” (Freedom)

When the leader of the Muslim Conference, Ghulam Abbas, was released from jail in Srinagar in March 1948, he too went to Pakistan and became active in the Azad Kashmir government. At first he was appointed to look after the refugees, of whom there were estimated to be 200,000. Some refugees went to the main cities in Pakistan, most remained in border towns of Sialkot, Gujrat, and Gujarnwala. Others trekked back to their homes in Mehndar and Rajwari after the 1949 ceasefire.

For more than three generations, large sections of Kashmiri refugees from Indian controlled Kashmir, and an even larger section of Kashmiris from Azad Kashmir, have been scattered throughout the major cities of Pakistan from Karachi to Quetta and from Rawalpindi to Lahore. Although the government in Pakistan has kept special quotas for the Kashmiris in educational institutions and other governmental departments, the conditions for most of the Kashmiri youth in filthy Pakistani cities are disgusting. They are forced to leave “paradise” because of the extreme hunger, deprivation, and hardships they face in their homeland and are forced into menial jobs in Pakistani cities. They work as dishwashers at kiosks and restaurants, are paid very low wages, and face a biased attitude from Pakistani and other national chauvinists in the areas they work. The hypocritical attitude of the Pakistani regime towards Kashmir is clear from what the Kashmiri workers and youth face day in and day out in Pakistani cities. The treatment meted out invokes a sense of alienation and deprivation. That is one of the main reasons that Kashmiri youth and student organisations are present as much in Pakistani cities as in Kashmir. In most cases, they are more organised and disciplined than their Pakistani counterparts. The state media in Pakistan and the other so-called independent channels owned by the Pakistani bourgeoisie moan and groan at the plight of the “Kashmiri people”. Yet they continue to extract political benefits from their sufferings.

In reality, there is a certain underlying sense of disdain and prejudice against Kashmiris, especially among the petty bourgeoisie and the dominant classes.

To survive, Kashmiri immigrants have to overcome hardships and generalised discrimination. The upper middle class and upper class Kashmiris who joined the ranks of the Pakistani elite in the early days have become part of the ruling strata and have adopted Pakistani chauvinism even more intensely.

In the 1950s, an ordinance called “the rules of business of the Azad Kashmir Government” was passed as basic law. Full executive and legislative powers were vested in the “Supreme Head of State”, which in effect was the Muslim Conference Party. It had the power to appoint the President, members of the Council of Ministers, as well as the Chief Justice and the other judges of the Azad Kashmir High Court. The Supreme Head's absolute authority was, however, checked by the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Pakistan.

Initially, the Muslim Conference was also subordinate to Pakistan's Muslim League. As the only political party in Azad Kashmir, the Muslim Conference, of which Ghulam Abbas remained President, had little or no internal democratic credentials. Relations between Ghulam Abbas and Sardar Ibrahim were strained. As a Jammu Muslim, Abbas did not have a cultural affinity with Ibrahim, a Suddhan from Poonch. Although they attempted to reach a compromise while Ibrahim was the President and Abbas was the Supreme Head of State of the Azad Kashmir government, the territory effectively had two parallel administrations at the same time. A disagreement between Ibrahim and Abbas continued until eventually Ibrahim was dismissed as President in May 1950.

The reaction in Poonch among the Suddhan community was defiant, with the result that in the early 1950s the Azad Kashmir government was not able to function in large areas of Poonch. Most parts of Azad Kashmir were the poorest areas of the former princely state, with the exception of the area around Muzaffarabad and the more fertile area around Mirpur extending north from the Punjab plains. There was also no land reform comparable to the reforms enacted by Sheikh Abdullah in the Valley. The old feudal system had not really been abolished and living conditions were terrible. There was a desperate need for schools, hospitals, doctors, teachers, and nurses. In May 1954, Ibrahim protested against bribery, corruption, and embezzlement, and accused the Minister of Kashmir Affairs in Pakistan of proposing to colonise Azad Kashmir.

Partly because of its truncated nature and its general poverty, Azad Kashmir remained an adjunct to Pakistani politics, at times used as a launching pad for initiatives into the valley, at others, a poor relation. At the same time, Azad Kashmir remained dependent on Pakistan for its economic survival. The masses in Azad Kashmir were as much waiting for the plebiscite as their counterparts in the valley in order to resolve their status, which the Pakistani government was obviously anxious to ensure would go in favour of accession to Pakistan, if and when the plebiscite was held. 9

In April 1958, after four months of freedom, Indian authorities again arrested Sheikh Abdullah for talking about a plebiscite and Kashmir's right of self-determination. There was an angry reaction to the arrest in Pakistani-held Kashmir. Leading Kashmiri activists, Mohammad Saraf, Sardar Quyyum Khan, and Ghulam Abbas decided to launch the Kashmir Liberation Movement (KLM) and crossed the ceasefire line. Their slogan was “Kashmir Chalo (Lets go to Kashmir)!” However, the Pakistani government did not want to provoke India and disturb the mutual understanding they had at that time by supporting the attempts to cross the ceasefire line. Hundreds of activists were arrested in “Azad Kashmir”, including Ghulam Abbas. Mohammad Saraf pointed out the irony of the situation, noting that Abbas, who had championed the cause of the Kashmir's accession to Pakistan, was in a Pakistani jail, while his old colleague Sheikh Abdullah, who had supported Kashmir's accession to India, was being held in detention in India. This was no accident, nor was it a coincidence. It was an inherent characteristic of the states trying to subjugate more areas and peoples.

The Problems of Accession

If the Indian bourgeoisie had aggressive imperialist designs on Kashmir, the Pakistani ruling elite had imperialist ambitions of their own. Despite being weak capitalist states, they had to subjugate not only the working classes of their respective countries but also the oppressed nationalities within their domains. This was a dire need of the crisis-ridden system they were trying to nurture and from which they derived their wealth, luxuries, perks, and power. However, capitalism has proven incapable of developing society as a whole in India and Pakistan. At the same time the financial and technological resources do not exist to eliminate the glaring disparities between different regions, provinces, and nations trapped within their state boundaries. Kashmir is a case in point. Both India and Pakistan were unable to develop the parts of Kashmir they controlled to the extent that the masses in those regions would wilfully and voluntarily want to accede to their respective dominion. Hence the struggle for independence has gained momentum on both sides of the divide as well as amongst those Kashmiris living far beyond the frontiers of Kashmir.

Pakistan's actions in Azad Kashmir have aroused anger within the state. There is resentment at the region's “bogus” independence - a constitutional fiction - and at the interference of the centre in the state's politics. Most of the anger has been aroused by what is effectively the permanent alienation of the Northern Areas from Azad Kashmir.

Muzaffarabad regards these areas, part of the pre-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir, as being an integral part of Azad Kashmir; hence it sees their incorporation into Pakistan as illegal. In 1992, the Muzaffarabad High Court ruled that Gilgit, Skardu and Hunza were integral to Azad Kashmir and that their political rights were inseparable. The ruling 'meant that Pakistani administration of the area was unlawful.' 10

Another great source of anger is the perceived economic exploitation of the region by Pakistan.

The level of expenditure on rural development has… long been a good deal lower in Azad Kashmir than in the rest of Pakistan.11

The only real exception to this was the Mangla dam project. However, far from mollifying Azad Kashmiris, this enraged them even more. While it was their land and villages that disappeared under the water, and their infrastructure particularly roads the benefits of Mangla's power are being enjoyed in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan. Islamabad's failure to repair the damage to infrastructure indeed indicates its apparent lack of concern over the issue.

The army and other state agencies want to control this part of Kashmir with an iron grip behind the façade of democracy. Apart from the traditional Kashmiri leaders, they propped up Islamic fundamentalism not only as an auxiliary force in its conflict with the Indian army, but more importantly as force to crush left-wing forces and groups that refused to toe the official line. They try to buy every emerging leader. The intrusion of capital, mainly from Kashmiri immigrants abroad has not helped either.

Roads, transport, communications, hospitals, schools etc., are in a dismal state. The economy of Azad Kashmir is mainly reliant on foreign remittances, while the local elite derives its riches from the timber mafia and the plunder of the meagre resources granted by the Pakistani state. A significant portion of the economy of Azad, Jammu and Kashmir comes from drug money and the black market. The burden of taxation that the Kashmiri masses have suffered since time immemorial has not lessened, even under “Azadi”. The Pakistani ruling elite has superficial and hypocritical policies for the appeasement of the Kashmiris. Yet their attitude towards them is not much different from the attitude they had towards the Bengalis when West and East Pakistan were one country. The irony is that most Kashmiri leaders have sold out and blindly follow the dictates of Islamabad. The vast majority of Kashmiris, who belong to the oppressed classes, are the ones who suffer.

Most are forced to leave Kashmir by economic compulsions. But when they reach Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and other main cities of Pakistan the fate that awaits them is horrendous. Even the majority of those who make it to the shores of Europe and Britain find life full of hardship. It is another kind of suffering, yet it is the same pain, the same exploitation, and the same class oppression suffered by the deprived classes everywhere. There are tens of thousands of Kashmiris living in Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester, London, and other cities in Britain whose living standards are worse than the upper middle and ruling class Kasmiris living in Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. These stark realities give a different meaning to the freedom and national liberation of the Kasmiris.

The foreign currency remittances of the Azad Kashmiris who settled abroad, mostly in Britain, are very important to Pakistan's economy. But they themselves in view of the fact that very little of this money goes to economic development in Azad Kashmir are questioning what they gain from it.

Azad Kashmiri leaders have been constrained in expressing their anger at Islamabad by the reality of their situation, i.e. their heavy economic and military dependence on Pakistan. However, pragmatism has not always prevailed. On several occasions, Azad Kashmiri politicians have embarrassed Pakistan by trying to cross the Line of Control; the aim being to convey the message that Azad Kashmir is part of the same entity (implying that Azad Kashmir should not be seen as just another part of Pakistan), and to put pressure on Islamabad to take a more vigorous role in the Kashmir insurgency. Other leaders employ these tactics to extract more perks and privileges from the Pakistani state.

Some have gone so far as to issue statements to the effect that their ultimate goal is the re-unification of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, not as part of Pakistan, but as an independent entity. For example, Muhammad Ibrahim in the 1950s formed the Kashmir Liberation Movement, committed to a 'united and independent' Kashmir; Abdur Rehman, who became president of Azad Kashmir in October 1969 made clear in his public statements that Azad Kashmir was committed to independence and friendship with Pakistan without being part of it. 12

Polls in the region suggest that there is support for both options - staying with Pakistan and pro-independence. With respect to the former it should be stressed that a desire to stay within Pakistan by no means implies satisfaction with Pakistan's actions. Even staunch pro-Pakistan Kashmiris voice criticism of these actions and demand greater autonomy. Commenting on the latter, pro-independence Mirpuris, Ballard writes:

They have adopted this position not so much as a result of a clear and positive commitment to the cultural distinctiveness of the Kashmir region as a whole, but rather as a consequence of their strong sense of disillusionment about the way in which Pakistan has treated them. 13

There is a similarity in the way Islamabad and New Delhi have treated their respective Kashmirs ever since the state was split between them. The major difference between the two is that New Delhi has to a large extent formalised integration, while Islamabad has tried to disguise the process with constitutional facades. There is little doubt, however, that were it not held back by its desire to gain control of the Indian-held half of the state, Pakistan would have long ago made Azad Kashmir its fifth province. The second important difference between Pakistani-held Kashmir and Indian-held Kashmir is that the population of the former is not, at least as yet, angry enough to launch a large scale violent insurgency against Islamabad. But it would be a mistake to conclude from their relative docility that they are content with their position in Pakistan, or that they do not entertain hopes of independence. Following the arrest of Azad Kashmir's PPP leader, Mumtaz Rathore in 1991, Benazir Bhutto claimed,

“Pakistan had arrested the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, rigged the state election, and alienated the Kashmiris to such an extent that they want an independent Kashmir.”14

The other side of the story is that, after more than half a century of common existence in one political unit under a single state apparatus, there are several common political, economic, and cultural traits of India and Pakistan that have penetrated the fabric of the Kashmiri societies under their domain. There exists a common currency, commerce, and trade. This is also true for India and Pakistan, where in spite of partition, the art, film, music, and other cultural tendencies of one country have penetrated the other despite the hostilities, blockades, and antagonisms.

If we look at the political history of the last 58 years, we see a dialectical relationship in the political and social changes taking place in India and Pakistan. According to the Marxist theory, the language that dominates relations of commercial exchange will dominate social relations and will become the mode of communication in that society. The same is true in the case of politics. Due to economic and commercial interaction, the mainstream political parties in Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmiris are more or less the same as in the mainlands (Indian and Pakistan). However, as we explained earlier, due to the debilitated nature and character of Indian and Pakistani capitalism, this process is far from complete. It has failed to substantially integrate Kashmir economically, socially, or politically. Hence the dissention and the significant role of nationalist and secessionist parties in Kashmir. The rise of religious parties in Kashmir also stems mainly from the failure of capitalism to separate religion from the state. A certain level of economic and social development is necessary to accomplish these tasks. The rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India is mainly due to the failure of the bourgeoisie to fulfil these basic tasks. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Azad Kashmir is not just because of the political vacuum or the objective situation, but because it has been promoted by the politics of expediency of the Pakistani rulers.

Class politics

The situation is somewhat complicated. The manipulation of religion was carried out to serve the interests of certain sections of the so-called Muslim bourgeoisie. The idea was to gain a separate protective market and state. On the other hand, a religious divide was used to split the movement that could have accomplished the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

Paradoxically the so-called theocratic Pakistan experienced a much more radical revolution in 1968-69 than so-called secular and democratic India has ever witnessed. Hence, the politics of Pakistan and its satellite, Azad Kashmir, are far from what the media and liberal intellectuals try to make us believe.

The rise of the PPP was similar in both Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. It was not only the support for self-determination and the freedom of Kashmir raised by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that gave the PPP a strong base of support in Azad Kashmir. After all, all political parties use this type of rhetoric, time and time again. In fact, this rhetoric has been repeated so many times and for so long that the Kashmiri masses are sick and tired of it.

But the rise of the PPP in Kashmir, as in Pakistan, had its origins in a movement of the masses that seriously challenged the existing system and offered the hope of a socio-economic transformation of society. It was this message of change that gave the PPP a mass base. However, due to various political and organisational problems, not to mention problems of leadership, the PPP, as a force of social change, has for the time being waned.

Pakistan and Azad Kashmir have much in common due the socio-economic interaction between them. The two countries rise and fall together. Again the weakness of Pakistani capitalism breeds nationalism and fuels the dissent and revolt against the politics and the system imposed by Pakistan and its stooges in Kashmir. This is not just true for Kashmir but also explains the exploitation felt amongst the masses of Baluchistan, Sindh, Pushtoonkhawa, and elsewhere in Pakistan.

Another important link that is not generally discussed are the common miseries of the oppressed classes in Kashmir and the rest of Pakistan. The greater integration across borders clarifies and strengthens the bonds of the class. The PPP is a strange phenomenon, which in a way, due to the lack of an alternative, becomes, perhaps even subconsciously, the common platform for these class aspirations. The leaders of the PPP in Kashmir have done the same thing as their colleagues in Pakistan. They entered government and became an appendage of the state. Instead of directing the state, they carried out the dictates of capitalism. In this process their actions were detrimental to the cause and interests of the oppressed, who voted them into power. Eventually the disillusionment and apathy of the masses gave way to the aggression of the exploiters. The resistance against this aggression was betrayed by the policies of class conciliation and the compromises of the leadership. Yet the reality is that the only mass force that can beat the Muslim Conference, the fundamentalists, and the other right-wing forces, particularly on the electoral plane, is the PPP.

The nationalist parties in Azad Jammu and Kashmir have been intellectually, rather than politically, pervasive. In the 1960s and 1970s, they had a relatively larger base, especially amongst the youth and the students. The decline of the nationalists in the recent period is not accidental. In the past they could get some inspiration from the 'nationalist socialists' in the Soviet Union and in Maoist China, i.e. from Stalinism, as they could incorporate this type of “socialism” into their nationalist agenda. On this basis, they could at least offer the slogans of socialist revolution to the youth. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, that all disappeared. Ironically, in the present situation liberal, secular, democratic nationalism is overtly and covertly linked with the policies of US imperialism. This is all the more convenient, because this confines the slogans of the nationalists within the framework of capitalism. This in reality means a “democracy” and “freedom” that above all serves the interests of US imperialism. It is inevitable under capitalism come what may. To confine oneself to the framework of capitalism means to give up revolutionary pretensions and socialist claims. Paradoxically, treading on this path on the one hand exposes the ideological limits of nationalism today, and on the other hand there is the danger of capitulation to the European and American imperialists.

This does not strike a chord with the oppressed youth of Kashmir who have been thrust into misery by ferocious exploitation and subjugation under the rule of capitalism. This is why we see the rise of the Marxist current in the JKNSF, which still has a certain traditional base amongst the Kashmiri youth. It is an expression of their desire for national liberation and the revolutionary overthrow of the fundamental root cause of national oppression and class exploitation under imperialist hegemony.

It explains the connection and gives a clear perspective and strategy for this liberation struggle. We shall discuss the interrelationship between the struggle for national liberation and the class struggle in greater detail in the next chapter, as it is decisive in the quest to find an amicable solution to the Kashmir issue.

Corrupt Power

If the Indian army has the biggest concentration of military forces in Indian-Held Kashmir, then it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Azad Kashmir is a garrison and cantonment for the Pakistan army. There is hardly any aspect of life in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir where there is no interference of the army, whether overt or covert. Ministers and politicians in Azad Kashmir are often seen lining up outside the offices of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Muzaffarabad. For almost three decades the two most important areas of Pakistan's foreign policy, Afghanistan and Kashmir, have been run by the intelligence agencies. The ISI was groomed and built by the CIA during the Cold War. It became a state within a state and has ever since been master of foreign policy, under both civilian and military administrations.

“The army is perceived as the ultimate arbiter of Pakistan's destiny.” 15

This observation sums up the army's influence on Pakistan's policy towards Kashmir.

Kashmir's river links with Pakistan are particularly vital. The waters of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab rivers all originate and flow through the state before reaching Pakistan. The agriculture of Punjab, as well as that of Sindh, is dependent on them. If Jammu and Kashmir were to become Indian territory, Pakistan would face the permanent threat of having its water supply “switched off”, as was pointed out by Pakistan's former Foreign Minister Zafarullah Khan:

“If Kashmir should accede to India, Pakistan might as well, from both the economic and strategic points of view, become a feudatory of India or cease to exist as an independent sovereign state.” 16

For half a century Kashmir has been the focal point of Pakistani state policies. This conflict has not only been the main justification for the spiralling military expenses, but it has also been the saviour of the ideological basis of the Pakistani state. The two-nation theory requires constant rivalry and hatred against the Indian adversary. It is Kashmir that provides the material for this conflict. It is also true that the Indian bourgeoisie, in spite of all its secular rhetoric and hypocritical gestures of democracy, also thrives on this hostility in order to perpetuate its domestic rule. It is not only the ISI trained personnel who dominate the Pakistani diplomatic corps. Its Indian counterpart, The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has its agents posted in crucial diplomatic positions in its foreign missions as well. Kashmir is not just the battleground for the armies of the two adversaries; it is also the hub of their proxy wars and covert operations. However, it is the Kashmiris that suffer the most, as they are either forced to sell-out or be obliterated. Those who double cross their masters face the same fate.

The Heroine Connection

The monetary basis for the financing of these operations, particularly in Afghanistan, was mainly from drug production and smuggling. It is the method the CIA has adopted for every covert operation launched in recent history. This practice, in countries such as South Vietnam and Nicaragua, is well known and does not require greater elaboration.

Even at the present time the US is committing this crime in Afghanistan. Having failed to take control of the rugged country, they returned to the 19th century method of bribing the warlords and buying their loyalties. But after the experience of the last few decades, as an American critic commented, “You can't buy the loyalties of the warlords; you can only rent them.”

If we look at the present situation in Afghanistan, under Taliban 4,163 acres were planted with poppies. Under General John Abizaid 510,766 acres in Afghanistan are being used for poppy cultivation (both figures are from the White House office of National Drug Control Policy). The Taliban produced 40 metric tons of heroine. Under the US control and command Afghanistan produces 5000 metric tons of opium, or the equivalent of 600 metric tons of heroine. In 2001 Afghanistan's entire stock was worth $ 600 million on the streets of Frankfurt and Rotterdam. Last years crop could fetch up wards of $ 50 billion on the same streets (roughly two third of Pakistan's annual GDP).

At the start of the American aggression on Afghanistan General Tommy Franks, General Abiziads predecessor, recruited every Afghani warlord he could rent, bigger ones at up to million dollars a month. The warlords took Tommy's dollars, bought more guns, and increased the size of their control. They took the dollars and fought the Taliban and then went for even more dollars by growing tons of poppies on territory under their control. 17

If the CIA created the drug mafia during their covert operations against the left-wing government in Afghanistan during the 1980s, the ISI is creating the timber mafia for their operations in Kashmir. However, the drug trade has also deeply penetrated present-day Kashmir.

Ecological Disasters

Kashmir is famous for tourism. It is the state's beauty that is the main attraction. The timber mafia has not only scarred this serene beauty, but is also instigating an ecological disaster.

In 1947, cedar, maple, ash, pine, fir, oak, spruce, and walnut trees covered at least 42 per cent of Kashmir. Up in the forests of the high mountains was an undisturbed snow leopard population. In 1947, the majestic hangul, the rare red deer grazed in huge herds. In the midst of all the cedar and pine, were the Himalayan black bear, markhor, striped hyena, lynx, and abix. The woods were full of colourful pheasants, the crimson tragopan, and the koklass pheasant. Above the tree line flew the golden eagle and the bearded vulture. The jungles were alive with the whistles of marmot and the buzz of bees.

The timber mafia has cut the jungles down. Less than 11 per cent of Kashmir remains forested. The snow leopard, having lost its habitat, is now an endangered species. So is the Kashmiri hangul. Migratory birds from Siberia have stopped visiting Kashmir. All of this has taken place even though the Azad Jammu and Kashmir cabinet have issued a complete ban on the cutting of green trees.

Landslides have demolished the new road between Azad Pattan to Rawalakot even before its total completion! Deforestation means many things: wind erosion, dry soil, the erosion of soil, and floods. It also means global warming, changes in vegetation, habitat loss, coastal erosion, tidal flooding, species extinction, changes in the eco-system, etc. Pakistan has the highest number of Mercedes cars per capita in the Hazara district. Incidentally, Hazara is also the heartland of the Timber Mafia.

The picture is not rosy across the Line of Control either. The lust of the politicians knows no bounds - hence the environmental disaster. Dal Lake will die within 80 years. The water of the Dal Lake, which in the past was known for its healing properties, now stinks and the lake is turning into a sewer.

Since 1989 on the Indian side of Kashmir. Hungal sub-species of the red deer have dwindled from about 800 in 1989 to less than 120 now. Thousands of trees were chopped down in the city forest of Srinagar on the orders of Farooq Abdullah to build a Golf Course at a cost of 52 crore (520 million) Indian rupees for him and his coterie to play golf, when the state was in a financial crunch.18

Spawned not just by earthquakes, but more often by heavy moonsoon rains, land slides and highspeed mud flows plague the entire "roof of the world" - the 3000 kilometer arc of the Himalayas, which runs through seven countries from Afghanistan in West to Myanmar in the East. In this once remote region, loss of green cover from commercial logging, local cutting and over grazing has made the land less compact and less able to retain water, which now rushes easily down mountain sides to set off slides that some call "ecological landmines". Greater, irregular water flows as global warming melts Himalayan glaciers, further aggravates the situation. According to official figures 8000,square kilometer of dense forests were lost in 2001-2003, in six already over-exploited regions of Indian Himalayas.

The Huns, the Mongols, the Mughals, the Sikhs, and the Dogras carried out horrific brutalities and lashed the serene land with innocent human blood. But the present day rulers and their stooges are not only carrying out a perpetual massacre of the Kashmiri people, but are also hell-bent on destroying the cherished beauty and blissful environment of this Himalayan state; all in the pursuit of profits and wealth. This is what capitalism is doing to Kashmir. This disaster will continue to ravage Kashmir as long as it remains under the thumb of this heinous system of greed and devastation.

The Ingredients of Revolt

While no gigantic mass movement that encompass the whole state has erupted in the 57-year history of Azad Kashmir, the territory has been in the throes of turmoil, instability, and deprivation. There have been sporadic and militant struggles taking place throughout this period in various areas of AJK. Such are the conditions of Azad Kashmir's infrastructure that the most feasible route between some of the districts of this narrow strip of land is through Pakistan. It is widely believed that the Pakistani state has deliberately maintained this situation. In the 1960s, the then president of Azad Kashmir announced a plan to build a 'Kashmir highway' along the banks of the river Jhelum. This plan is yet to be completed.

As far as the projects regarding social infrastructure are concerned, we witness a similar policy. The Kashmiri students, mainly from middle class backgrounds, were allowed to study at universities in various Pakistani cities. However, no university was built in Azad Kashmir. In the early 1980s, Kashmiri students launched a movement for the building of a Kashmir University. Such was the intensity of this movement that the then president of Azad Kashmir, Brigadier Hayat Khan, and the military dictatorship in Pakistan were forced to accept this demand. However, instead of building a single university, the rulers deceived the Kashmiri youth and set up different departments, faculties and colleges of the University in different towns because they were terrified of what would happen if the students were congregated in one central university campus.

Due to these and other repressive measures, most of the movements against the rulers in Azad Kashmir were localised in different regions. But in most cases the puppet state of Azad Kashmir proved to be incapable of crushing these movements. If we take a closer look at these movements, it is true that they never reached the momentum and intensity of the movement in Indian-held Kashmir. But there are several incidents when these movements erupted and challenged the rulers. However, the Pakistani regimes were no less brutal in crushing these movements than their Indian counterparts.

It cannot be denied that the class content of the war that was fought in 1947-48 is very significant. The ordinary people of Kashmir were fighting against repressive laws, economic destitution, gruesome taxation, and the tyrannical rule of the Dogras. Unfortunately, the movement at the top was dominated by conservative elements. The leadership were actually acting as the allies of the Pakistani rulers. However, their masters did not spare any one of these stooges after they had served their purpose. At one time or another the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs in Pakistan dismissed all of them.

Some of these leaders were even arrested and detained. The mutual trust between the rulers in Pakistan and their Kashmiri stooges was shaky from the very beginning. On January 1, 1948 when the Kashmir issue was taken to the United Nations, two delegations of Kashmiris were also sent to represent their case. One was from the Indian-occupied Kashmir and the other from Pakistani-occupied Kashmir. The delegation from Pakistani controlled Kashmir was lead by Sardar Ibrahim Khan. Such was the lack of trust and confidence of the Pakistan rulers in their representative that they attached a watchdog to him to constantly conceal him from the media and restrict his intermingling with other delegations. Sheikh Abdullah remembers these events,

They (the Pakistanis) were trying to portray Sardar Ibrahim as the real representative of the Kashmiri people against me. Hence they were playing up his name feverishly. But either they had doubt on the capabilities of Sardar Sahib or they did not trust his loyalty. Hence they got the picture of Muhammad Din Taseer (an important bureaucrat of the Pakistani state from a Kashmiri background) printed in the name of Sardar Ibrahim. It was Mr. Taseer who was shown around as Sardar Ibrahim. When Sardar Ibrahim saw all this he returned home the next day in sheer disgust. 19

Because of this crime, Sardar Ibrahim's government was dismissed. There were widespread protests against this act in the whole of Azad Kashmir. A revolt erupted in Rawalakot and Palandri in the Poonch district. A military contingent of 120 personnel lead by Major Usman (who later became a general in the Bangladeshi army) was sent in to crush the revolt and arrest its leaders. However, this regiment itself was besieged by the insurgents near Rawalakot and was forced to lay down its arms. After this humiliating defeat, the Pakistani state put intense pressure on Sardar Ibrahim. Ultimately, he was forced to compromise and signed an accord with the Pakistani army. He disarmed his tribe and under the guidance of Pakistan's then Minister of Kashmir Affairs, Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani, those arms were handed over to the government of Pakistan. Hence, by the end of 1951, this temporary aggravation was resolved.

The conflicts and differences continued to develop under the surface. Sardar Ibrahim continued to protest and continued to demand direct elections for the presidency of “Azad Kashmir”. The government of Pakistan continued to reject these demands. This resulted in the eruption of another armed rebellion in 1955. The Pakistani army went in to crush the rebellion, but this decision was hastily withdrawn out of fear of damage to the reputation and credibility of the Pakistani army in Azad Kashmir. It was decided that the Punjab constabulary would replace the army in doing the dirty work in the regions of Rawalakot and Sindhonti, which were engulfed by the armed revolt. The atrocities committed by the notorious Punjab Police were even confessed by one of the most trusted vassals of the Pakistani establishment, Sardar Abdul Quyyum Khan,

In 1955 when police was brought in from the Punjab what it did here is a black stain on our history… When in 1956 I became the president I got a chance to reduce their grievances. Hence a number of people who were in prison and suffering distress were released…. but those whose homes were burnt out were not compensated. Although to reduce their sorrows in sympathy, I gave them bits of money.20

Surely, Sardar Quyyum could not have mentioned the massive rape and desecration of Kashmiri women during this brutal episode, as it would have deeply stained the image of the Pakistani state in the eyes of the Kashmiri masses. But those who witnessed it compare it to the tyranny inflicted by Indian state forces in the other half of Kashmir.

The sympathetic attitude and the crocodile tears of the Pakistani ruling elite and their stooges is an insult to the integrity and strength of the Kashmiri workers and toilers who live and work in such hardships and hazardous conditions. The youth in Azad Kashmir kept the flame glowing when the fundamentalists, liberals, and other youth and student organisations in Pakistan were sold out to the dictates of commercialisation. When student politics in most parts of Pakistan became a commodity; drugs, crime, lumpenism, vagabondism, and savagery became the hallmark of the politics of educational institutions. If the Kashmiri youth could keep the flag flying throughout such a dark epoch, they will do wonders in the stormy period that is opening up. The revolutionary fervour and audacity that they resiliently maintained will become a beacon of light and hope for the students and youth in Pakistan. The Kashmiri masses to the west of the Line of Control have seen and experienced “Azadi” (freedom), charitably given to them by the Pakistani ruling class. They have had enough of it. This “Azadi” has only brought them deprivation, misery, poverty, and disease. It has forced them to migrate from the beauty of their homeland into the drudgery of far away lands. They have learnt the real meaning of “Azadi”. Without food, shelter, clothing, health services, education, water, electricity, and other basic needs, freedom is a mirage, a utopia, and a deception.

If their brethren across the Line of Control have faced brutality and tyranny, they also have been the victims of repression, intimidation, and atrocities. Migration sooner or later becomes the only choice for survival for the youth of the deprived classes in Azad Kashmir. Yet many have refused to budge. They have shown the determination to face the hardships and vowed to continue the fight. They shall find their own way-out of this misery.

The courage of the movement to face the military might of the Indian bourgeois state across the divide has also given them a new boldness, strength, valour, and vitality. This has been an important factor in the dynamism we witness amongst the youth in Azad Kashmir. The resurgent youth will give a lead to the revolutionary movement of the Kashmiri workers, poor peasants, and the dispossessed masses that will erupt sooner rather than later. They shall rise in unison with their brethren across the Line of Control and give an impetus to the new wave of revolutionary struggle that looms large on the horizon. And beyond the far pavilions.


1. As quoted in Khushwent Singh, Truth, Love and Little Malice - an autobiography p.358

2. Hussain Shaeed Suharwardy, Incredible freedom fight, p. 25

3. Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in the Cross-fire, p. 132

4. Ibid., p. 135

5. Ibid., p. 181

6. Salamat Ali, Remote Control, in Far Eastern Economic Review, 15 August 1997, p. 27

7. Dawn, 2 July 1996

8. As quoted in Iffat Malik, Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International Dispute, p. 219.

9. Schofield, op. cit., p. 183

10. Vernon Hewitt, Reclaiming the Past? The search for political and cultural unity in contemporary Jammu and Kashmir, p. 120

11. Roger Ballard, Kashmir Crisis, view from Mirpur, Economic and Political Weekly, 2-9 March 1991, p.513

12. Hewitt, op.cit., pp. 113-115

13. Ballard, op.cit., p. 513

14. Cited in Hewit, op.cit., p. 119

15. Salamat Ali and James, Democracy on trial: Political uncertainty likely to follow army backed polls, in Far Eastern Economic Review, 4 October 1990, p. 28

16. Micheal Brecher, The Struggle for Kashmir, p. 48

17. Farrukh Saleem, Capital Suggestion, The News, 18 April 2005

18.Asif Hameed, Environment, The News, 12 December 2004

19. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Flames of the Chinar: An Aautobiography, p. 480

20. Sardar Abdul Quyyum Khan, Kashmir's Case, pp. 22-23.

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