Liberation of PoJK

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza
The statement issued by the Indian Army Chief General Mukund Naravane regarding the readiness of the military to begin a territorial liberation campaign to free Pakistani occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) from the barbaric rule of the Pakistani military establishment is an encouraging sign for many in ‘Azad’ Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. After all it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who during his Independence Day address from Lal Qila back in 2016 spoke of the sufferings of the people of Gilgit Baltistan. This was the first time in the history of the country that an Indian prime minister had spoken about the sufferings of the people whom Nehru and successive Indian Governments had abandoned since October 1947.
Territorial liberation of PoJK should be accompanied by declarations regarding infrastructure development. PoJK need airports, hospitals, universities, and above all it needs rails and roads. Along side and first but foremost, steps need to be taken to reassure the brainwashed population of PoJK that they will be given a warm and cheering welcomed back into the folds of their mother country. The intellectual pollution caused by the continuous and perpetual propagation of Jinnah’s two-nation theory based on communal hate and doubt has dented the Dogra pride in the local population. The rationale that nation state is built on sharing of common territory, cultural values, economic interests and language has been substituted with Islamic religious concept of Ummah (Islamic community) based on hating the other and in our case the Hindu. However, despite the narrative based on communal concept of Ummah, the people of former East Pakistan decided to quit the Ummah and fought a ferocious battle against West Pakistan Islamic army’s brutal repression and became Bangladesh.
To liberate an occupied territory in which hate speeches against Indian republic and Hindu Dharma are echoed five times a day through the minarets of thousands of mosques direct military solution for PoJK can be challenging. Hence to confront a false cultural/religious narrative should also become a top priority. PoJK is an occupied Indian territory in which pupils from primary level have been taught an imagined and fabricated history of themselves. Afghan raiders from the north such as Mehmood Shah Ghaznavi and Ahmed Shah Abdali are hailed as liberators and heroes. Similarly, Arab invaders from the south such as Muhammad Bin Qasim are exalted as Islamic holy warriors. Pakistan Studies is a compulsory subject at all levels of academic education in which Jinnah is not depicted as some one who divided, but as the father of a Muslim nation state that would eventually become the launching pad for Ghazwa e Hind (the Battle for India). Moreover, people who were conspired against their own people and were directly responsible for the attack of the sovereign state of Jammu Kashmir on October 1947 are hailed as liberators of J&K from the subjugation of a Hindu Maharaja!
Thanks to social media revolution, the young adult generation of PoJK has now begun to see the light of actuality amid the fog and mist of fabrication and distortion of our history. Anti-Pakistan protests are observed frequently in cities like Mirpur, Muzafarabad and Kotli. On October 22 last year a political alliance of almost 26 parties and individuals called People’s National Alliance or PNA, marched in Muzafarabad demanding self-rule and abolition of the colonial 1974 Act that establishes the authority of Pakistani Prime minister’s over the PoJK legislative assembly. Although it was brutally crushed by local and Punjab police but the movement has not subsided.
Similarly, in Gilgit Baltistan riots against the attempts made by Pakistan to cut food subsidies have witnessed the rise of Awami (people’s) Action Committee, which again is an umbrella organisation incorporating dozens of local political and civil society organisations. Several of their members have been targeted under the Schedule 4 and the Anti Terrorism Act (ATA) and barred from travelling without prior permission from the local authorities or in some cases the local magistrate. Those who confronted the Pakistani military contractors in order to save their natural resources being usurped by the Generals have been charged with false cases and put behind bars. One such prisoner of is Baba Jan from Hunza another is Iftekhar Karbalai. They both were given 70 and 90 years sentence each respectively and have been languishing along with 14 others in Gahkuch jail for more than six years. To announce that all political prisoners will be released within a week of liberation of PoJK would bring hope and trust to a whole community.
The second most important aspect of the expected war of liberation of occupied Indian Territory is development of an infrastructure that has been in shambles for 70 years. Construction of roads and building bridges in PoJK should be Indian government’s first priority. One such road, which should take priority, is the Astore Road that would immediately link Gilgit with Muzafarabad. Currently this road is incommutably. It has been ignored as a strategy to keep the people of Gilgit Baltistan and ‘Azad’ Jammu Kashmir disconnected. Hence, people have to travel to Rawalpindi in Pakistan and then change buses to reach Muzafarabad a journey that could take up to 24 hours. With the repair and construction of Astore Road the travelling time between Gilgit and Muzafarabad will be reduced to less than 6 hours. Once built Astore road will prove both strategically as well as economically a great asset.
There is no commercial airport neither is there any railway in the whole of PoJK. It has been an erstwhile demand of hundreds of thousands of economic migrants from PoJK living in the diaspora in Europe, the Middle East and North America that an airport is built in Mirpur and Muzaffarabad.
There are no hospitals in PoJK other than the Combined Military Hospitals (CMH). These are controlled and run by the military. People have to travel miles on foot before they can reach a road from where they can then transport the sick to CMH in PoJK or a government hospital in Rawalpindi for treatment. Many perish on the way. Basic health centres must be set up immediately after the liberation of PoJK. General hospitals in Bhimber, Kotli, Nikyal, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Bagh and other cities should also be constructed as soon as possible.
Colleges and universities in Pakistani cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi are teeming with students from Gilgit Baltistan and ‘Azad’ Jammu Kashmir. Lack of quality educational institutions in PoJK has been the main reason for academic backwardness in the region. Once liberated, universities colleges and schools must be built and staffed. A medical college as well as an engineering university in Mirpur and Muzafarabad respectively should be a priority.
In conclusion, the people of PoJK must be assured that after liberation and by joining the Indian Union they are going to be economically, socially and politically better off after liberation. Furthermore, they should be made to feel welcome after 70 years of forced separation. For the latter the Indian public could be mobilised into a nation wide ‘Welcome Campaign’ before Indian troops lay their foot on ground. If the war of liberation of occupied Indian Territory of PoJK has to be won then alongside military intervention, a message of love and fraternity must echo in every nook and corner of PoJK and India.
(The writer is a political activist from Mirpur in PoJK living in exile in the UK.)
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