Brig Vijay Sagar Dheman
India celebrated third anniversary of abrogation of art 370 in Jammu and Kashmir on 05 August. This unique step introduced by the PM Modi has far reaching consequences for the People of Jammu and Kashmir, which is evident on ground, in terms of investments in State and foreseeable prosperity for the masses. It also has international ramifications which strengthen the case of integrating the state in Union of India and to challenge the mischievous events of handing over of Shakasgam Valley by Pakistan to China. It also creates flutter amongst the promoters of CPEC as it ameliorates the case of illegal projects/construction (CPEC) in Gilgit Baltistan (which is inalienable part of India) and the consequent exploitation of masses, natural resources and environment .
Probably taking a cue from Indian long pending legal and just demand to abrogate Art 370,which was operationalised on 05 August 2019, Pakistan has decided to introduce 15th Amendment which has been resented by the Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party (JKNAP) and its student wing Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) . Though Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK), Tanveer Ilyas has called an all party conference in Muzaffarabad on August 7 to prepare the public in favour of the proposed amendment yet the masses have started protests against this draconian legislation which will wipe out the identity of the locals in PoJK who call themselves the descendants of citizens of Jammu and Kashmir State established by Maharaja Gulab Singh.
The proposed amendment will result in ensuring that the term ‘State’ will be replaced with ‘Azad Jammu Kashmir’. All financial powers will be taken away from the government of PoJK and transferred to Govt of Pakistan thus degrading the status of people of POJK as has been done in Gilgit Baltistan.
Kashmir Council will be reconstituted and will have six members from the PoJK legislative assembly and seven from Pakistan including the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan under the leadership of Pakistan Prime Minister. It will have the powers only to collect taxes. PoJK will have no powers to preserve or sell its property worth Rs 80 billion in Pakistan. Twenty-two financial powers that are currently executed by the PoJK government will be transferred to the Kashmir Council which will have a majority of seven members from Pakistan over six members elected form the PoJK’s proposed ‘joint sitting’ government as per Article 19 B.
The PoJK legislative assembly seats will be increased to 56 to include two new members from Ladakh under Article 2 of the proposed amendment. In future the current Legislative Assembly will not be free in electing the PoJK President. Ultimately, the PoJK will be demoted to that of a province of Pakistan and so-called ‘Joint sitting’ government will be a mere tax collector for the treasury of Pakistan.
The Chief Justice High and Supreme Court judges as well as the Chief Election Commissioner of PoJK will be directly appointed by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and appointments will not be challengeable.
Now what should India do in response?? India should fill 24 vacant seats in J&K Legislative Assembly in the next JK elections. Ten could be live elections with approx 1.7 million so called refugees from PoJK in India. Remaining could be fought by the present population in PoJK in absentia. Two seats including one in absentia for the Parliament of India can be allotted to them. There can be a ministry of PoJK Affairs in State and Union Cabinets headed by an PoJK individual now residing in India. Govt of J&K could appoint district administration i.e DC and allied Staff for all districts in PoJK on our side of LoC. All courts including J&K High Court and Supreme Court of India should be empowered to admit cases by the residents of PoJK.
Besides India should embark on a sustained campaign to proclaim India’s claim across the world. External Affairs Ministry should have regular briefings by our diplomats in all the Indian embassies across the world. The diplomats must exploit all the opportunities at all international fora including all entities of United Nations to put our point of view. These are the only ways to counter Pakistan propaganda. Chinese can only be rattled and we can bring them out of complacency of the their notions of CPEC going ahead with Pakistan support on Indian land of Gilgit Baltistan which is an integral and unalienable part of India.
(The author is an International Affairs Analyst and Defence Expert)
Brig Vijay Sagar Dheman