The Indian subcontinent was divided on 14 Aug 1947 based on two nation theory propagated by Pakistan. After this painful division, India moved on the path of development and reconciliation, but unfortunately, Pakistan carried the ideology of the two-nation theory forward. Immediately after gaining its independence, Pakistan planned to attack the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. “On 20 August 1947, a courier arrived carrying the demi-official letter from Gen. Sir Frank Messervy at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. As he was authorized to do so, Maj Kalkat opened the letter. Attached to the letter was an appendix entitled, ‘operation Gulmarg- The Plan for the invasion and Capture of Kashmir’. The date for the operation’s commencement was 20 Oct 1947.”( I C Malhotra and Maroof Raza, Kashmir’s Untold Story Declassified, BLOOMSBURY, 2019).
On 26 Oct 1947, when the enemy knocked at the door, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir signed an Instrument of Accession with India. After signing the document, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, including POJK and Gilgit Baltistan, became an integral part of India. On 27 Oct 1947, Indian Army troops landed at Srinagar airport. Rarely in the history of warfare was any operation launched against the enemy without much preparation. Two significant difficulties were encountered: poor roads and communication and a lack of intelligence of the enemy’s disposition. Many areas of operations were unmapped.
Invaders who invaded Jammu and Kashmir carried the weapons and equipment of the Pakistan Army. These invaders were provided with much-needed logistic support. Broadly there were three categories of these invaders. One, Pathan and Afridi tribespeople. Two, locals of Mirpur and Poonch districts who had deserted the state forces. Three, Pakistan Army’s regulars and veterans.
The Indian Government declared that Maraaja’s act of accession, which Sheikh Abdullah endorsed, should later be confirmed by a plebiscite. But the declaration was conditional before the referendum; the invaders must be pushed out or withdraw voluntarily from Jammu and Kashmir. India, in good faith, referred this matter to UNSC. Pakistan blatantly denied its presence in Jammu and Kashmir at UNO. In July 1948, when the representatives of the UNSC visited, the lies of Pakistan were exposed to the world.
After that, Pakistan, rather than withdrawing its troops from Jammu and Kashmir, inducted its one division to take up the defenses at Mirpur and Domel inside Jammu and Kashmir. Since then, Pakistan has built up more and more. To camouflage its activities, the POJK was declared ‘Azad Kashmir’ by Pakistan.
UNCIP resolution of 13 Aug 1948 demanded that Pakistan withdraw its forces, both regular and irregular tribespeople, from Jammu and Kashmir. The sovereignty of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir would be maintained on the whole territory of J&K. No Azad Kashmir Government would be recognized. But Pakistan is still illegally occupying the POJK, which is 72,935 sq km less 5,180 sq km of Shaksgam Valley leased to China in 1963. China Occupied Kashmir (COK) consists of 37,555 sq km of Aksai Chin plus Shaksgam and territory nibbled over the years, all totaling up to 42,735 sq km.
The misrule of Pakistan in POJK, which included Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, reached a flashpoint when the people wrote to Italian Senator Luigi Compagna in Inside over. (The Print, dated 03 Feb 2023). Latterly, Pakistan’s economic meltdown has badly affected the region. Pakistan is disseminating about failed causes as millions of its people clamber for wheat and foodstuff and face the darkness due to power cuts. In POJK, the public wretchedness is no less than in many parts of Pakistan. Instead, it is more in this region.
The root cause of the problems of POJK lies in the illegal occupation by Pakistan. Therefore, the demand of the people of POJK is elementary and straightforward, i.e. freedom from Pakistan. According to Amjad Ayub Mirza, a Human Rights Activist living in exile in the UK, POJK is subjugated by Pakistan and lacks equality, as reported in Asia News International (ANI) dated 02 Feb 2023.
Several waves of protests and uprisings have surfaced in the past, indicating that Pakistan cannot deliver on the people’s aspirations. People suffer from problems ranging from terrorism to economic crises. The law and order situation is getting worse daily as people face a shortage of foodstuff and a lack of power supply. Increasing population, shrinking of resources, unemployment, poverty, corruption, etc., are pushing crime graphs higher, thus leaving people helpless and uncertain. The worse is that political leadership is living in a fool’s paradise and tackling international relations rather than attending to the needs of the people at home. It is alleged that Pakistan Military leaders, with local politicians and some Chinese businessmen, are grabbing public land and resources in POJK. This is another cause of resentment.
Recently some voices have emerged from the corner and compared the development in J&K by the Indian Government and the pathetic conditions in POJK. J&K is seeing enormous growth after abrogating so-called special status and its transition into a Union Territory. It is making the ordinary people realize that they were misled and misguided by his so-called political leaders. J&K is fast turning into the most preferred tourist destination, which has helped revive the ailing Himalayan region’s economy. The major development projects that connect J&K with the rest of the country have brought it closer to Delhi. The train to Kashmir Valley is not that far away; by 2024, it will also be connected with the rest of the country through a railway network.
Pakistan has treated POJK as a colony with no visible signs of development. Its residents have never been allowed to express their political and socio-economic grievances openly. The Pakistani federal Government has ignored basic requirements and suffers from poor infrastructure and a lack of available resources and technology. Pakistan didn’t encourage development-oriented investment in the region, and the Pakistani military has kept the region’s people underprivileged.
The POJK residents also suffer from poor governance, an absence of political legitimacy, and disenfranchisement. The Federal Government has focused on securing its political hold over the region and neglected actual administration. The local Government in POJK has been granted limited resources and governing authority and lacks representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan. The POJK affairs are not managed by the local officials but by the ones sitting in Islamabad. These officials are unaware of the grievances and problems faced by the people of POJK.
The POJK was turned into lawlessness and a breeding ground of terrorist organizations and their training facilities. When Pakistan launched a proxy war against India in 1989, there were forty-four working terrorist organizations operating from POJK acting against India, and they had about one hundred and five training centers. (Jaghmohan, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, Allied Publishers Delhi, 2017). The important among them were Hizab-ul-Mahahedeen, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the People’s League, etc. Many guides and motivators had also been enlisted and woven into a well-knit terrorist organization, imparting training, facilitating border-crossing and indulging in terror and violent activities.
Conclusion: The time has come for Pakistan to answer the world on the atrocities and subjugation against the people of Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan. The renewed arrangements of roads, rail, and pipelines under China’s One Belt One Road project cover large areas of Gilgit, Baltistan, and POJK, over which Pakistan has no legal rights. Both China and Pakistan are thus planting the seeds of future trouble and would definitely lead to a type of New Great Game in Central Asia and South Asia. The major players would be India, China, Pakistan, Iran and Russia, and things have already started brewing. It is high time for India to shed its ‘historical infirmities’ and stride to lay a sustainable future for the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.