J&K politics dominated by Sunnis of Kashmir have been completely insensitive to the pains and aspirations of Shias of the state. It is ironic that whenever there is talk of people to people contact, there is not even a faint mention about the desirability of connect between people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kargil region. It appears that there is tacit gifting of Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan, the same Pakistan which till 2005 designated the region as ‘Northern Areas’ and directly ruled it from Islamabad till 2009, as if it was an area without soul ‘for the military and by the military.’
J&K politics dominated by Sunnis of Kashmir have been completely insensitive to the pains and aspirations of Shias of the state.
This lack of sensibility to Gilgit-Baltistan seems to extend to the Indian establishment as well. Kargil conflict was perhaps the result of acceptance that nothing could be done to salvage the region from Pakistan. They thought it was fait accompli. This attitude or approach impaired our defence preparedness and Musharraf took advantage of it.
There are several reports to suggest that there is a concerted attempt by the Pakistani establishment to reduce the Shias to minority in Gilgit-Baltistan. Sunnis, as incentives have been given lucrative jobs to settle in the region. The Northern Light Infantry is being increasingly being manned by non-locals. The International Crisis Group report says: “Since 2001, Shia resentment over inclusion of Sunni religious rituals and perceived anti-Shia basis in text books in public school has resulted in school boycotts and occasional clashes and curfews”.
Pakistan’s treachery in not claiming the bodies of the soldiers of Northern Light Infantry, just because they were Shias belonging to the Gilgit-Baltistan region, did not stir the conscience of pro-Pak elements in the Kashmir Valley.
…there is absolutely no affinity, linguistic or cultural, between the people of Kashmir Valley and the PoK.
Kashmiris have no linkages with PoK(less Gilgit-Baltistan)
The map indicates the area of what remains part of the PoK in Pakistan which it refers to as Azad or Independent. When RazaMumtaz Hussain Rathore dared to take up issues concerning Gilgit-Baltistan, his PPP government was ousted by Nawaz Sharif in 1991. Then Islamabad blatantly rigged the elections later that year. Sacking of governments in PoK is notoriously usual feature. Between 1953 and 1962, three governments were sacked. In 1964, the first President of Azad Kashmir was sacked because he wanted a separate Indus Water deal with mainland Pakistan. In 1974, ZA Bhutto sacked the Qyaoom government and in 1977, Zia dissolved legislative assembly and established military rule. Even now the main center of power is not the Azad Kashmir government, but the Kashmir Council in Islamabad. Where is the ‘Azadi’ then, in PoK or the Kashmir Valley? The pro-Pak Kashmiris need to answer.
This tail to Gilgit-Baltistan is 400 km long and 16-32 km in width. The ten districts of PoK i.e.Bhimber, Mirpur, Kotli, Sudhonti, Poonch, Bagh, Muzzafarabad, and Neelam have negligible Kashmiri population. While the South PoK has distinct Punjab influence North PoK has half-a-dozen different languages, i.e. Pahari, Mirpuri, Gojri, Hindko, Punjabi andPashto.
The biggest lie that has been peddled by the pro-Pak Kashmiris in India is about their affinity with the people in the PoK. It is reiterated that there is absolutely no affinity, linguistic or cultural, between the people of Kashmir Valley and the PoK. The affinity is actually shared by the Gujjar and Pahari Muslims, who reside in the upper reaches of J&K along the border and the LoC. It is these people, who have been most affected by the Indo-Pak hostilities and division of J&K. While the Kashmiris of the Valley have been most vocal about cross-border linkages, they have minimally used the bus service between Srinagar – Muzaffarabad and Poonch (India) – Rawalkote. It is the Gujjars and the Paharis, who have been enthusiastically availing the facilities. Therefore, there is a formidable physical, social, cultural and linguistic wall between the Kashmiris and the PoK. It may also be mentioned that as per the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, Gujjars constitute 20 percent population of J&K. Since 2002, Gujjars and Bakarwals have been demanding a separate state, Gujristan. As per one estimate, the Gujjars influence 20 of 87 assembly constituencies.
Hafiz Saeed has played havoc by introducing jihadism in the region. The PoK is a major training ground for LeT cadres, who also use it as a base for terrorist operations against India.
A large number of people of PoK extraction have been forced to migrate to Britain because of poor economic prospects. This includes a large number of Mirpuris, who had displaced after the construction of the Mangla dam in the 60s. Over 280 villages and the towns of Mirpur and Dadyal were submerged and over 110,000 people were displaced. As per an estimate, nearly 8,00,000 Mirpuris, constitute 70 percent of British-Pakistani community. There is no such parallel in the J&K.
Islamabad has sought to change the demography of PoK by settling nearly 30,000 Afghan families. This is a clear pattern obtaining in Pakistan to settle Pashtuns to dilute ethnicity of Karachi, Quetta and now the PoK as a neutralizing feature against insurgency and separatist movements by the majority community. The presence of the Afghans poses the danger of inroads by Taliban. Compare this with the stance of pro-Pak Kashmiris in India, who consider few acres land allotted to Amarnath Shrine Board as colonization by their mother country.
Hafiz Saeed has played havoc by introducing jihadism in the region. The PoK is a major training ground for LeT cadres, who also use it as a base for terrorist operations against India. When the Pakistan military was found wanting in the relief operations in wake of massive earthquake in 2005 in which nearly 1,00,000 people lost their lives and three million people were rendered homeless, Hafiz Saeed and his organization JuD came to the fore and is considered to have made substantial difference. Later, however he extracted the price by turning the area into a jihadi laboratory.
The J&K problem between India and Pakistan is basically a Kashmiri Sunni narrative, which is scripted by a small segment of pro-Pak elements inhabiting a portion of less than 10 percent of the entire region.
The Islamic militancy agenda has weighed heavily on Islamabad while deciding on the type of dispensation in Azad Kashmir. Benazir Bhutto assumed power after demise of Zia in 1988. SardarQyaoom who ruled PoK for decades as President and PM warned about her ascension: ‘’to undo Islamic ideology and weaken Pak Army’’. Speculation was rife that she would sack the Qyaoom government in PoK. Curiously it was the pro-Pak leaders in Kashmir who prevented it. They met President Leghari during his visit to India and pleaded with him to ensure that Qyaoom continued in office as he critical to the survivability of the militant-network assiduously created over the years. The Qyaoom government completed its tenure till 1990. This explains the compulsions behind Pak dignitaries from foreign and security apparatus insisting on meeting the Hurriyat leaders visiting India. A lot of issues regarding militancy in are coordinated during these meetings.
Just as the Muftis and Abdullahas in the Kashmir Valley, the political landscape of PoK has been dominated by political empires setup by Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and Mohammad Abdul Qyaoom Khan. But these PoK political families have assured that the interests of Pakistan reign supreme. They are not hostile to their own military. But the pro-Pak elements in Valley treat the Indian military as enemy even as it protects them from Pakistan and China in most trying conditions.
The J&K problem between India and Pakistan is basically a Kashmiri Sunni narrative, which is scripted by a small segment of pro-Pak elements inhabiting a portion of less than 10 percent of the entire region. It is a narrative that finds affinity with Pakistan just on the basis of Kashmiri variety of Sunni Islam. These Kashmiris have ensured that all other competing narratives and dissonant voices are crushed. It is for this reason that half a million Kashmiri Hindus were hounded out of the Valley in 1991. It is for this reason that till today more than 54,000 families, victims of partition and the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 have not been compensated, neither rehabilitated nor given the rights as in other parts of the country. These one and half million people are perceived as a threat by the Kashmiri leaders and the separatists.
The solution to the problem does not lie with Musharraf’s plan or Ambassador Lamba’s plan. The solution lies in calling the ‘bluff’ of handful pro-Pak Sunni Kashmiris in the Valley. The rest can be sorted out with Pakistan easily.