Part 1: Historical background
Beginning of cold war, formation of the United Nations, decolonization on a mammoth scale and escalation in national liberation movements across the globe were some of the major achievements of post-World War II. Our political world entered into a new phase of history in the mid-1940s after the upheavals of Hiroshima and Naga Saki. Process of decolonization in Indian sub-continent was also a reverberation of the revulsions and rumbles of WWII. There was no single process of decolonization. In some parts of the world, it was serene, and methodical. In many others, independence was achieved only after a long-drawn-out uprising because of the competitive political ideologies of Socialism and Capitalism. Both Soviet Union and United States headed their respective camps and our political world got divided on ideological eminences. A wave of national liberation movements across the continents toppled and dethroned the colonialism. Many of the newly independent countries assimilated stable governments almost immediately; others were ruled by authoritarians or military juntas for decades, or suffered long civil wars. Some European governments welcomed a new relationship with their former colonies; others disputed decolonization regimentally. The process of decolonization coincided with the new Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, and with the early development of the new United Nations. Decolonization was often affected by superpower antagonism, and had a certain sway on the progress of that rivalry. It also ominously changed the configuration of international relations.
This trailblazing wave also impacted the political movement of people in Jammu Kashmir, who were struggling against monarchy and conquest for their political rights. Pundit Premnath Bazaz a reputed political intellectual and historian of Jammu Kashmir quotes that the idea of “Azad Kashmir” was first launched in Kisaan Mazdoor Conference held in 1946. . The slogan of Azad Kashmir was raised, for the first time, in the plenary session of the Party gathering of the Kashmir Kisaan Mazdoor Conference which was held in Kaba Marg, a village in the Anant Nag district on 12th May, 1946. As a matter of fact, one of the several gates admitting visitors to spacious venue of the session was named as the Azad Kashmir Gate. Bazaz’s conception of Azad Kashmir was based upon the freedom of working class of Jammu Kashmir through democratic socialism. Later on his book “Azad Kashmir, A Democratic Socialist Conception” was published in 1950. The origin of Azad Kashmir was indisputably quite different, based on the high principles of humanism, pluralism and democratic socialism. Meanwhile, Muslim Conference adopted the Azad Kashmir Resolution on 26 July 1946 calling for the end of autocratic rule in the region. The resolution also claimed for Kashmiris the right to elect their own constituent assembly.
Similarly on the other hand Sheikh Abdullah was frantic to enable landless farmers and do away with the Feudal Landlord System in the State of Jammu Kashmir while struggling politically under the banner of National Conference. Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference advocated socialism and all-encompassing democracy in order to improve the living standards of the people who were the victims of oppression by Tyrannical Dogra Rule and also the Feudal Landlords (the pillars of Dogra Rule). In the 5th annual session of National Conference held at Pather Masjid in September, 1944, Sheikh Abdullah as the President of National Conference, adopted a Socialistic Politico-economic document known as Naya Kashmir (New Kashmir). Naya Kashmir document was authored by a known socialist intellectual B.P.L. Bedi with the assistance of many well-known leftist intellectuals of the time. The Naya Kashmir document offered a complete economic program and high ideas of restructuring in every domain with a clear statutory structure and national economic plan. The document of Naya Kashmir was comprised of two main parts (1) Constitutional structure which laid down details of fundamental rights of citizens, freedom of speech, press, freedom of worship and equality of rights irrespective of religion, color, caste or sex in all sphere of life. It also guaranteed right to work, right to education and equal opportunity to all. It also proposed a democratic government with an independent judicial system (2) A National Economic Plan, which promised elimination of landlordism, assignment of land to the tillers, right to work with salaries and freedom from debts.
Kashmir’s history is full of successive subjugation, plunders by foreign warmongers, ghoulish events and dismal misery. Due to mesmerizing landscape of the beautiful country, International movements of working class and national liberation, suppression by the Dogra regime, economic exploitation of poor masses by the Sahukars (Money lenders) and other state appointed private enterprises, Kashmiri people’s patriotism in 1940s had many aspects: love for the natural beauty of the land, admiration for its secular traditions and spiritual legacy, and primarily, the conviction in the freedom of the working classes to be achieved through people’s struggle without prejudice to race, faith, color or ethnicity.This was all happening before the materialization of “Plan of division of sub-continent”. It was because Kashmiris living under the autocratic Dogra regime wanted to get the real freedom from autocracy and set up a democratic pluralistic political system. In this regard all the segments of society were involved and the momentum was definitely tied with the global political waves of national liberation, equality and social justice. The political demand of “Azad Kashmir” in 1946 came amid the circumstances because the state of Jammu Kashmir was under exploitation, sometimes brutally, for natural and labor resources, and people were even ill-treated for the sake of the mighty powers of the ruler’s family.
The idea of creation of Azad (Free) Kashmir, by Kisaan Mazdoor Conference, Pundit Premnath Bazaz. Resolution of Azad Kashmir adopted by Muslim Conference on 26th July 1946 and Naya Kashmir manifesto by National Conferences was like a chain reaction of the state victimized people of Jammu Kashmir amid growing political awareness worldwide. As the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union came to dominate U.S. foreign policy concerns in the late 1940s and 1950s, the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations nurtured gradually alarmed to backing the national liberation movements. Both Soviet Union and United States supported their allies in the national liberation struggle to enhance their practical appearance in the competition. Events such as the Indonesian struggle for independence from the Netherlands (1945–50), the Vietnamese war against France (1945–54), and the nationalist and blatant socialist seizures of Egypt (1952) and Iran (1951) served to underpin such fears, even if new governments did not directly link themselves to the Soviet Union. Thus, the United States used aid packages, technical assistance and sometimes even armed involvement to boost newly independent nations in the Third World to adopt governments that affiliated with the West. The Soviet Union positioned similar maneuvers in an exertion to encourage new nations to join the communist bloc, and endeavored to persuade newly decolonized countries that communism was an inherently non-imperialist economic and political philosophy. During World War II Japan, itself a substantial imperial power, horde the European powers out of Asia. After the Japanese defeat and consequent surrender in 1945, local nationalist movements in the former Asian colonies canvassed for independence rather than a return to European colonial rule.
The political struggle of Kashmiri people against autocratic rule was no different than the global movements across the continents for national liberation and social justice. Therefore, the concept of “Azad Kashmir” was launched by the prominent intellectuals and political leaders. If we examine the contents of Naya Kashmir by National Conference, Azad Kashmir by Kisaan Mazdoor Conference and by Premnath Bazaz, later on the resolution of Muslim Conference adopting the idea of Azad Kashmir in July 1946, the combination of all these historical events portrays a real secular and democratic picture with progressive ideology for freedom prior to the division of sub-continent. And it had to do nothing with the so called two nations theory, rather it had its political roots in the global revolutionary movements and secular pluralistic traditions of Kashmiri people.
Part 2: Tragedy of post-47 Azad Kashmir
It was perhaps irony of the fate or trivial opportunistic approach that indigenous secular, political, democratic and progressive movement for “Azad Kashmir” became a victim of communal division of sub-continent in 1947. The communally charged momentum of sub-continent also influenced the resistance movement in Jammu Kashmir. There is no doubt that the resistance movement in Jammu Kashmir since the third decade of 20th century was entirely indigenous, democratic and progressive. But the events in 1947 led it to become communalized and the newly created Pakistan on the immediate neighborhood violated the standstill agreement by sending the tribal fighters and army to wage a holy war against the non-Muslim ruler of Jammu Kashmir. Hari Singh requested help from India and as a consequence he was offered to sign the instrument of accession with India. Thus after the series of events the idea of Azad Kashmir got painted with the communal flavors and colors. Brutal victimization of Non-Muslim state subjects by the invaders and vice versa, U-turn of Muslim Conference from the demand of constituent assembly and subsequent occupation of the entire Jammu Kashmir State by Pakistan and India altered the corridor of the Kashmiri’s struggle for “Azad Kashmir”. On 4th October 1947 an attempt was made to preserve the very same idea but on 24th of October 1947 the newly painted picture of Azad Kashmir was imposed at Muzaffarabad.
It is a well-known fact that society cannot exist without social management as the method and rule of coexistence of human beings. From the other hand, a territory cannot be managed without a government system, which is based on the administrative, representative and sub-ordinate and represented relationship between the legal entity that governs and those who are governed. Authority and coercive control are typically exercised by governments. Governments are organizations of individuals who are legally empowered to make binding decisions on behalf of a particular community. But this was not the case with the Azad Kashmir government imposed by Pakistan with the help of local collaborators. How has Pakistan occupied or administered the part of Jammu Kashmir State with the deceiving nomenclature of Azad Kashmir, which it describes as Free Kashmir just to disillusion the masses? The first felony of Azad Kashmir government was to hand over 28000 square miles area to Pakistan in 1949 through so called Karachi agreement thus limiting the area to roughly 4000 square miles. Joint Secretary from Pakistan was installed immediately soon after the inauguration of Azad Kashmir government to safeguard the interests of Pakistan.
During the period only K.H. Khurshid as the President of Azad Kashmir endeavored to re-enforce the idea of Azad Kashmir launched by Kisaan Mazdoor Conference, Pundit Premnath Bazaz and others and he became the victim of conspiracies both by the duo of Islamabad and Muzaffarabad. Rest of the presidents till 1970 even did not bother to demand for the constitutional rights and the territory was managed by the unwritten code of conducts. It was only in 1970 that the territory was given some form of constitution which was amended in 1974. The 1974 Interim Act is not a constitution at all rather a document of slavery where the authority rests with Islamabad. The remaining control and drive policy was handed over to Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Kashmir Council headed by Chief Executive of Pakistan. The Constitution verbally promised autonomy with a stipulation that “a person will be disqualified for propagating any opinion or action in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan”. In practice, this proviso has meant that real control in Azad Kashmir is exercised by the government of Pakistan. Even the oath of the Azad Kashmir’s President reads: “As President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, I will be loyal to the country and the cause of accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan” In the oath it is not mentioned that President or Prime Minister will remain loyal to their own territory or people.
The written code of conduct of 1974 replaced joint secretary with chief secretary and inducted a uniformed Inspector general of police (IGP) from Pakistan for policing the goods, services and business interests along with extra duties of protecting the local pro-Pakistan politicians. Although Pakistan prima facie, supports Kashmiri’s right to self-determination and the implementation of UN Resolutions on Kashmir, yet in practice on one hand, it continues to remain a breach of the UN provisos and on the other has introduced statutory limitations, under sections 4(7)(2), 19(2), 31(3) and 56 of the Constitution Act 1974 of Azad Kashmir.
Under Section 4(7)(2)- “ No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan”. The political activists who challenge and denounce this Constitutional handcuff attract the adverse attention of the authorities and in many cases face persecution. After the 1974 Act Azad Kashmir has practically become a business place for the politicians who instead of heading the political parties have transformed them into family owned business entities, where along with few other business associates, they are making maximum profit by selling the utopian slogans of liberating the Indian Occupied Kashmir. These politicians cum business managers are working in close liaison and entire notation of Ministry of Kashmir affairs and Kashmir Council where profit is shared at the cost of poor masses. They spend most of the time in Kashmir House Islamabad because they have to do nothing with every day suffering of the masses in Azad Kashmir. During the last 70 years the political world has witnessed what used to be the blocs were characterized by divergent tendencies and were influenced by opposing forces, which can be traced into the past and remain part of the tumultuous present of the post-cold war world. Empires formed and collapsed, ideologies were embraced, imposed, and rejected, boundaries shifted and identities redefined, solidarities broke and new commitments were made, policies were implemented and challenged together with the governments that put them into practice. Our political world is entering into newer phases of science and technology, but the story of Azad Kashmir government portrays a frightening picture.
The situation in Azad Kashmir today is that people do not have proper roads for transportation, industries for jobs, educational institutions for higher studies, clean drinking water, health services, common established and joint market for economic and business activities, cultural museums, not a single air-port and simply forget about electricity. The lofty repeated slogans of 70 years could not empower Azad Kashmir independent enough to claim its right over only 350 megawatts of electricity, while it is producing more than 1500 megawatts. Then how political wisdom can perceive and predict any futuristic magic from these political merchants at Muzaffarabad to lay some new foundations for the empowerment of people of Azad Jammu Kashmir? Due to the misconduct and criminal attitude of Muzaffarabad and Islamabad towards poor masses of Azad Jammu and Kashmir as for now about 1.5 million inhabitants of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have migrated to middle east, Europe, America, Canada, Asia and Pacific regions. The plight of Kashmiri migrants in Middle Eastern countries is even more awful as compared to others. Pahari, Kashmiri, Hindko and Gojri were once widely spoken languages of the region and there is even not a single course being taught in these local languages. During this cunningly crafted mechanism a new class of neo-capitalists has emerged in Azad Kashmir by exploiting the natural resources, multiplying their wealth in the guise of fake developmental projects, shamelessly introducing the culture of financial corruption and bribery, severely violating the principles of merit and all other notorious means of wrongdoings. This new class of merchants is promoted as the political cum business heirs to further exploit the poor masses of Azad Kashmir. Incompetent ruling elite instead of practicing norms and principles of political theories banks on tribal identifications and further dividing the poor masses into tribal and regional identities because they are too naïve to compete politically. All the talented, educated and skilled youth has been forced to migrate from the territory for better future because when one of the chief justice of Azad Kashmir Supreme Court has to knock the door of Pakistan Supreme Court for justice, then it is obvious what ordinary folks can do in that territory.
Leaders of Kisaan Mazdoor Conference, Premnath Bazaz, BPL Bedi and all others who founded the idea of Azad Kashmir all have passed away but their souls must be crying at the question as “What has been done to their idea of Azad Kashmir” because the tiny strip of present day Azad Kashmir could be anything but Azad (free).
(Nayyar N Khan is a US based political analyst and human rights activist of Kashmiri origin. His area of concentration is International Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at email@example.com)