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  5. Zeeshan Abdal Malik: Indian Kashmir versus Pakistan Kashmir — One Kashmir, Two Stories

Zeeshan Abdal Malik: Indian Kashmir versus Pakistan Kashmir — One Kashmir, Two Stories

Kafkassam Editör Kafkassam Editör - - 11 dk okuma süresi
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There is one Kashmir, two stories. In Jammu and Kashmir(Indian Side of Kashmir), people are turning up for the general election in record numbers. In Pakistan Administrated Kashmir (PAK), people are on streets in record numbers against price rise, high taxes, unemployment and other acute economic woes.

PAK (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan) makes for 30% of overall Kashmiri territory and India deems it an occupied land. Pakistan violated terms of Standstill Agreement with then Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, to forcefully annex the whole of state in 1947-48. Indian forces salvaged the state, yet a major portion of it stayed with Pakistan. It gifted 10% of it to China – known as now Aksai Chin – and fraudulently termed its own territory Azad Kashmir.

The ongoing eruption of anger in Pakistan Administrated Kashmir is reminiscent of false promises made by the successive Pakistan government to develop the region and free Jammu and Kashmir by force. A movement in the name of independence of Jammu Kashmir has been kept alive by the Pakistan establishment for a long time. It has yielded nothing but misery for Kashmiris. The protests in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are the icing on the cake of this sardonic saga.

*Ongoing People’s Protest*
Protests in Pakistan Administrated Kashmir were brewing ever since the economic crisis in Pakistan deepened and the youths in the area felt ignored by the federal structure. On May 13, they hit a nadir. Cadres of an organisation called Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) and paramilitary Rangers. The clashes resulted in the death of one police official and three civilians. Close to a hundred people were injured.

The major reason for the May 13 protests was sky-rocketing electricity bills.

As the issue snowballed and shot to international limelight, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif flew down to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and assuaged the local leadership. Sharif assured that charges for electricity would be fixed according to the cost of hydropower generation in AJK, and short, medium and long-term solutions would be formulated for issues raised by the Kashmiri leadership.

It must be noted here that several power generation plants are operative in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but their electricity is supplied to Punjab, the most populous and powerful state of Pakistan.

According to estimates, Pakistan Administrated Kashmir contributes almost 3,500 MW of electricity to Pakistan. Despite supplying a large amount of electricity to Pakistan’s power grid, Pakistan Administrated Kashmir residents are not offered any concession, and instead, are required to pay tariffs as per the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s formula.

Dissent in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has been mounting because of multiple reasons. Economic issues have immolated the masses. Besides inflated electricity bills, people have hit roads protesting high wheat flour prices.

The public outburst of anger in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is actually linked to its political structure. The Pakistani state claims to have provided it complete autonomy which actually is not visible on the ground.

*Azad – Independent?*
Although “azad” means “free,” Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) is under the tight control of Islamabad. Its political structure bears a striking resemblance to the ruling set-up in Islamabad. Not only is it dominated by Pakistani parties but also it is controlled by the Pakistani military-bureaucratic setup. Hence, little autonomy rests with local AJK leaders and elites. This has triggered resentment among the masses in AJK.

The suffering of the people of AJK is particularly severe as economic prospects in the region are bleak. Youth unemployment is very high; the unemployment rate in AJK is double that in Pakistan’s other provinces. People are also taxed heavily there and find it difficult to survive and manage basic needs.

The anti-poor policies of governments at the local and federal levels have caused deep anger among the people against those in power in Muzaffarabad and Islamabad. Many people in AJK view the region’s ruling elites as sell-outs to the highest bidder in Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities failed to contain the protests despite using strong-arm tactics and noticed that there were pro-India undercurrents among the protesters― protesters carried placards saying they would rather be with “Hindustan” (read India) than suffer without autonomy.

*Pakistan Administrated Kashmir versus Indian Jammu Kashmir*
While there are around 15 Million people in Jammu Kashmir, the population of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is meager 5.2 Million as per 2020 count.

A study of governance models of Pakistan Administrated Kashmir and Jammu Kashmir presents sharply contrasting views. Even after revocation of Jammu Kashmir’s special status via nullification of Article 370, India has been spending 16 times more on developing Jammu Kashmir than what the Pakistani establishment invests on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Indian annual budget for Jammu Kashmir is estimated to be Rs 1.01 lakh crore.

According to the Voice of Vienna report, India spends 9 times more on education than Pakistan. During the last 2 years, the focus of the Indian government has been fully on the socio-economic development of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu Kashmir has 35 universities and colleges. The number of such institutions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is only 6.

A large number of infrastructure projects have been fast-tracked to give a solid infrastructural boost to the economy. He also noted that tourism is booming in Jammu Kashmir and last year it hosted the largest number of tourists in the previous two decades, says the Voice of Vienna report.

Besides a controlled finance and economy of Pakistan Administrated Kashmir, the politics of the state is also subjugated. The leaders in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir don’t have any real powers and are fully dependent on Politicians. It is administered as per the whims and fancies of the Punjabi leaders of Pakistan. With Kashmir having rich natural resources, ideally, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir should have been a developed state but that is not the case. This is solely due to the one-sided approach of Pakistan wherein the revenue generated from these natural resources has been used mainly in other provinces of Pakistan.

However, there are also areas where the Indian side has to improve. It is specially regarding addressing the security grievances of Kashmiris. A number of them have suffered at the hands of security forces. Their complaints must be attended to. Pakistan serves as an ideal illustration of a delinquent state which has ignored people it desperately sought to liberate.

The anger of people has to be addressed in a democracy. Only then protests turn into prosperity.

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