Post Aug 05, 2019 – Pakistan failed Kashmiris miserably

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Muzaffarabad’s response to Covid-19 is too poor

By: Muhammad Mazhar

Raja Farooq Haider, Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has asked Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) to observe August 05 as Black Day –the day in 2019 when BJP-led Indian government scrapped Article 370 of their constitution and revoked the special autonomous status given to the occupied territory. While Haider’s call has been given due coverage in Pakistan media, people of the country, particularly the Kashmiris, whether living in AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and other provinces of Pakistan have, of late started raising questions about Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.

On August 05, 2019, BJP-led government in India moved a bill in its parliament aimed at scrapping Article 370 of Indian Constitution granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state. The bill was passed and thus J&K lost all special provisions including state subject rights and its statehood and thus emerged two Union Territories – Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Kashmiris, residing in AJK and other parts of Pakistan, were shell-shocked. They expected Pakistan government to use all its men and machinery to stand for the rights of the J&K. However, nothing of the sort happened. It is now almost one year and Pakistan miserably failed to come up with any opposition to the Aug 05 move except taking some superficial measures like calling for shutdowns in AJK and some mute protests on the international fora.

Pakistan has been drumming up India’s “illegal occupation of J&K” but has found no support from the international community. Even after August 05, 2019, Pakistan failed to convince UNSC on the Article 370 abrogation issue despite Islamabad’s explicit request. Islamabad’s volte face on taking Article 370 abrogation issue to International Court of Justice also proves that it isn’t on very firm ground on this issue. This is the reality which indicates that whatever claims Pakistan makes about its sympathies towards the people of J&K is just to satiate its domestic audience and nothing beyond that.

Fact of the matter is that Pakistan is on a very weak wicket vis-à-vis Kashmir as the country itself has moved to amend the Constitution of AJK and restrict the rights of Kashmiris to form unions and political parties. Prior permission of Pakistan government is required for any such formation. Instead of Supreme Court of AJK, jurisdiction of Pak Supreme Court has been extended to crucial aspects of AJK governance/administration. In such a scenario, when Pakistan government approaches international fora drumming up the K-issue, no one takes its assertions seriously.

In fact, Pakistan has no moral right to talk about Article 370 or its abrogation. Despite umpteenth suggestions by some reasonable voices within Pakistan and AJK, Pakistan government used its sponsored militants to crush the pro-Article 370 polity in J&K. It sponsored, supported and armed people to fight its own battle in Jammu and Kashmir and dislodge and kill Kashmiri mainstream politicians who would stand for Article 370. Pakistan used its armed and political wings in Kashmir to delegitimize Kashmiri mainstream politicians who used to be strong votaries of Article 370. In this backdrop, when Pakistan government tries to make noise about scrapping of Article 370, it is taken with a pinch of salt.

It is time that our brethren, living on the other side of the divide (India-administered Kashmir) understand that Pakistan’s commitment to resolve Kashmir issue and to stand for Kashmiris has been a complete failure. Even after 73 years Pakistan’s so-called “principled stand on Kashmir”, has brought only death and destruction in Indian side of Kashmir. It has failed to garner any support for its “principled stand” and couldn’t even convince OIC to back it particularly in the aftermath of August 05, 2019.

One would also like to suggest to Pakistan government to look inwards. Instead of drumming up the situation in the Indian side of Kashmir but failing to make any headway, Pakistan government should spare a thought for the welfare of the people who live in parts of Kashmir under its control.

Take, for instance, the Pakistan government’s handling of Covid-19 in its part of Kashmir including in Gilgit-Baltistan. There are massive shortcomings in response to the pandemic. There are no proper isolation and quarantine facilities and only around 700 Covid-19 tests are performed per day. According to 2017 census, population of AJK is 40,45,366 and there are only three testing facilities – Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences, Muzaffarabad; DHQ, Mirpur; CMH, Rawlakot which are equipped with Covid-19 testing facilities.

One would like to suggest to Raja Farooq Haider, Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir that instead of calling for observance of Black Day to register protest against the step taken by Indian government on August 05, 2019, he should take care of his own people. Given the failure of Pakistan government’s attempts to mobilize international opinion against the abrogation of Article 370, Haider should ensure that he, at the moment, does something to save his populace from the pandemic.

(The author hails from Muzaffarabad and is presently based in Karachi)

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