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At a hurriedly called press conference in Nakyal on May 6 in Pakistani Occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK), Awami Workers Party leader Nissar Shah advocate criticized the local Assistant Commissioner, Omar Farooq, for launching what Shah called a vindictive FIR against Shamsher Ali Sher advocate of Samaj Badlo Tehreeks (Change Society Movement) and a candidate in upcoming general elections.
This is not the first time that social justice activists in PoJK are faced victimization and it will most definitely not be the last. In the past, student activists of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) have faced arrests and torture at the hands of the occupation forces.
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Shamsher Ali Sher hails from a respected family of professionals in Nakyal in Kotli district. He is campaigning for the construction of safety walls at blind corners along the Nakyal-Kotli road which is the main cause for frequent road accidents. On December 31, 2020, a Nakyal bound van carrying a family who was traveling back from Gujranwala in Punjab lost control and fell hundreds of feet down into a ravine instantly killing three women and a man.1
In another accident that took place on April 11, 2021, five members of the same family lost their lives. They were traveling from Nakyal to Kotli city. “These losses of lives could have been averted provided there was a safety wall build at the dangerous parts and blind corners of the Nakyal-Kotli Road”, says Sher. And now he himself fears for his life and rightly so.
In the past, Arif Shahid social activist from PoJK paid with his life for raising a voice against social injustice. He was allegedly killed by an ISI hitman outside his house in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2013. Arif Shahid campaign against the increased bar on political parties to participate in general elections unless they signed a document pledging allegiance to Pakistan.
In 2011, a doctor and a human rights activist from PoJK was gunned down allegedly by the Pakistani secret service the ISI.3 Most recently Afzal Sulehria, a high-profile political and human rights activist and leader of Kashmir National Party, allegedly became yet another victim of the ISI. Sulehria was a towering figure in Muzaffarabad, the capital city of PoJK. He vigorously campaigned against the diversion of Rivers Kishan Ganga (Neelum) and River Jhelum, and in December 2020 had written a letter to the Pakistan army chief demanding all
2. Adams, Brad. “Pakistan: ‘Free Kashmir’ Far From Free”. Human Rights Watch. Archived from the original on 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2012-08-08. Choudhry, Shabbir. “PAKISTAN: Another Azad Kashmiri becomes the victim of ISI butchery”. Asian Human Rights Commission. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-04-14.
Under construction hydropower projects to be brought to an instant halt and deals made between the government of Azad Kashmir and Chinese construction companies be made public. In February 2021, less than two months after he had written to the Army Chief, Sulehria died of a mysterious heart attack. No autopsy was carried out.
It is not uncommon for human rights and political activists such as Shamsher Ali Sher advocate to face persecution after being involved in campaigns that attempt to address issues regarding public interest in PoJK. Those who have raised their voice against the colonial rule of Pakistan, since October 1947, when Pakistan attacked the state of Jammu and Kashmir and forcefully annexed western parts of Jammu province as well as Gilgit Agency, unfortunately, share the same fate.
Human Rights Watch report sums up the ordeal we face in PoJK most convincingly as follows: “the Pakistani government in Islamabad, (read military establishment), the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence services (Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI) control all aspects of political life in Azad Kashmir (PoJK)… Azad Kashmir is a land of strict curbs on political pluralism, freedom of expression, and freedom of association; a muzzled press; banned books; arbitrary arrest and detention and torture at the hands of the Pakistani military and the police. Singled out are Kashmiri nationalists who do not support the idea of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.” (IANS/SP)
‘Forgotten Kashmir’ examines the evolution of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) over the past seven decades. It includes major milestones like the tribal invasion in 1947-48, the Sudhan revolt in the 1950s, the Ayub era, the Simla Agreement, the adoption of the Interim Constitution of 1974, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
It is not simply a historical account but one that analyses the events in PoK against the background of developments in Pakistan’s polity and the situation within the area to better understand Pakistan’s motivations for its policies in the region.
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The book, published by HarperCollins, delves into contentious issues, such as the right of self-determination that is distinct from the concept of plebiscite in Jammu & Kashmir debated in the UN Security Council (UNSC). For a fuller understanding, the issue is examined considering the positions of principal actors, particularly the United Kingdom up to the 1950s, as well as the subsequent evolution of the right of self-determination.
More recently, Chinese presence in the region has grown with the development of the CPEC that runs through the Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan. The book also covers internal developments in that remote area.
The author, Dinkar P. Srivastava, a seasoned diplomat, provides a wealth of information that comes from his involvement in the Kashmir issue at India’s Ministry of External Affairs and discussions at the UN, his stint in Karachi, and as a member of bilateral working groups on counter-terrorism with the US, EU, UK, and Canada.
“Much has been written about Jammu & Kashmir. However, very little is known about the other side of the Line of Control (LoC). The purpose of writing this book is to look at Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in terms of the aspirations of its people and the policies of Pakistan. The yardstick is not the Indian stand, but Pakistan’s international commitments and the context of contemporary Pakistan. For better or worse, the destiny of the people of the territory is tied to the evolution of Pakistan’s polity. If so, the people of PoK deserve to be treated at least on par with the people of Pakistan,” Srivastava says.
“Kashmir is often in the news, though we in India do not often hear about Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. As a result, it could be called ‘forgotten’ – not in the sense of memory but the absence of a specific strategic perspective. This is the gap that Ambassador Srivastava seeks to fill with this crucial book,” said Swati Chopra, Executive Editor, HarperCollins India.
Srivastava joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1978. In 1993-94, as Director (UNP), he was part of successful Indian lobbying efforts against four Pakistani attempts to have resolutions on J&K adopted in the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights. He was involved in the drafting of the National Human Rights Commission statute.
As Joint Secretary (UNP), he participated in Indian lobbying efforts to contain the diplomatic fallout of the Pokhran II nuclear tests and prevent the internationalization of the J&K issue during the 1999 Kargil war. He dealt with Indian candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, UN peacekeeping,+ and the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. He was a member of Indian delegations to the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, and the International Court of Justice in the case of the Aerial Incident of 1999 (Pakistan vs India). From 2011-15, as Indian Ambassador to Iran, he negotiated the MoU for Indian participation in Chabahar port. (IANS)
As tension between India and Pakistan escalates over scrapping of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad has hastily reactivated nearly a dozen terror camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and close to the International Border along Jammu and Kashmir.
During the past week, hectic movement of terrorists has been seen around these camps which were almost shut in the wake of May 2019 deadline set up by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body based in Paris. Top intelligence sources said Indian security forces have been put on high alert as terror camps in Kotli, Rawalkot, Bagh and Muzzafrabad in PoK area, bordering Line of Control (LoC), have been reactivated with the ostensible backing of Pakistan army.
Two days back, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had stated in the joint session of Parliament that Islamabad would not be responsible if Pulwama type (or even bigger) terror attack is executed in India. The all important statement of Imran Khan has virtually granted liberty to terror outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and their handlers in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of Pakistan, to reactivate training camps and launch pads.
Intelligence reports reveal that more than 150 cadres of JeM, LeT and veteran Taliban have reportedly gathered at Fagoosh and Kund camps near Kotli and Shavai Nallah, Abdullah Bin Masud camps in Muzaffarabad area. JeM’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar’s brother Ibrahim Athar was also spotted in the PoK area, intelligence reports said.
Highly placed sources in the security establishment said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who is currently in the Valley, had a high level meeting with senior officials which included Intelligence Bureau Director Arvind Kumar, Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, Dilbagh Singh, and top Army brass. The NSA discussed security strategy and terror threat from across the border in the backdrop of government’s bold decisions taken on Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said security agencies acknowledge the fact that in the cross-border shelling during the past fortnight, a few groups of fidayeen of JeM and LeT reportedly infiltrated into the high reaches of Kashmir. Various strategies have been put into action to neutralise these foreign mercenaries.
Earlier last week, Indian forces foiled major infiltration bid by Pakistan’s Border Action Team (BAT) on forward post along the LoC in the Keran Sector, killing at least five intruders. In a week’s time BAT made four infiltration bids which were successfully foiled by Indian forces.
Apart from the LoC area, terror outfits continue to train cadres inside and outside PoK. In Khyber Pakhtunwa area, veteran Taliban cadres have a strong foothold. Revealing details of terror activity in Mansehra (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), sources said terrorist training camps are located in Jangal Mandi, Shinkiari, Boi, Garhi Habibullah, Oghi, Elaqa-e-Ghair, Attar Shisha, Skardu base camp, Andher Bela and more.
Sources said that several terror camps have been dismantled while in some camps, there is no activity at present. Although under pressure of possible sanctions by FATF, the list of active camps in Pakistan has been reduced significantly, but the fact remains that terror factories still continue to operate on its soil.
Intelligence agencies have handed over a precise list of operational and non-operational terror camps to Indian security forces, sources added. (IANS)
By Ruchika Verma
- PoK or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is a controversial land
- The region is the reason for tension between India and Pakistan
- Pakistan Administered Kashmir is the hub for terrorist activities and is controlled by Pakistan entirely
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or PoK is the land of much controversy. The region which is also known as Azad Kashmir in Pakistan has been a matter of controversy between India and Pakistan since 1947.
United Nations and other international organizations refer to PoK as ‘Pakistan Administered Kashmir.’ This region shares its border with China and Afghanistan and as mentioned above is a very controversial region of crucial importance to both the disputing countries.
Here are few facts about PoK you may not have known before:
- Even before independence, PoK was never ruled by the Britishers directly. It was under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh, who wanted to keep Jammu and Kashmir as an independent state when given the choice to choose between India and Pakistan.
- PoK covers an area of 13,297 square kilometres which is approximate, 5,134 sq. mi. The capital is located at Muzaffarabad.
- ‘Azad Kashmir’ has a population of around 4.6 million people.
- 26th October is celebrated as the Accession Day. On this day, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession to India in the year 1947.
- However, Kashmiri separatists celebrate Accession Day as ‘Black Day.’
- The Pakistan Occupied Kashmir claims to be having its own self-governing legislative assembly, however, it is no hidden fact that it is controlled by Pakistan only behind the scenes.
- In PoK, the President is the head of the state, and the Prime Minister is the chief executive, supported by the Council of Ministers. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir also has its own high court and supreme court.
- PoK is famous for the terrorist activity in its region. Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the biggest terrorist organisations in the world has several camps in the region.
- There is no freedom of expression for media in PoK. All media is controlled by Pakistan, including its only radio channel, Azad Kashmir Radio.
- 85% of the population is engaged in agricultural activities. They cultivate wheat, maize, mushroom, honey, apples, walnuts, etc., which are the main source of income for them.
- Although ‘Azad Kashmir’ is of no economic significance to either Pakistan or India, the region is rather a matter of pride for which both the countries keep on fighting.