Pakistan’s strategy to keep Pak-occupied-Kashmir under its control

Political parties in both the regions of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) consisting of ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)- are struggling for their survival for different or similar reasons.
The entire PoK area occupied by Pakistan in 1947 formed part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Both these regions are under the firmly control of Pakistan.
Local political parties have been progressively overtaken by mainstream political parties in Pakistan, who have set up their local branches and engineered defection from local to strengthen their political hold in these areas.
The problem with the growth of local political parties in PoK is associated with the freedom granted to Pakistan based parties in the establishment.
Over the years, Islamabad has suppressed freedom of opinion in PoK and political parties and groups questioning Pakistan’s control over the terrain have been dealt with force and absolute scorn.
One similar reason is that their dependence on their patrons in Pakistan, which in their view, obviates the need to labour in their constituencies. Also Pakistan’s patronage emboldens them to indulge in corruption without fear.
Thus the people helplessly vote for them without reposing respect and confidence in them. Some of the political parties have not been allowed to participate in the elections while many others have been placed under tight control by the army units operating at the local level.
Political parties pledging their loyalty to Pakistan are allowed to operate. Those advocating autonomy are tolerated, while those demanding independence or genuine autonomy are barred from contesting elections. More often, they are not allowed to engage in any kind of political activism.
Given these limitations, local units of major Pakistan based political parties that promote Pakistan’s objectives on Kashmir (rather than representing the aspirations of the people of the area) have usually fared well in the local elections.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, there is confusion how the China ?Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will affect its people and what will be the region’s constitutionally status.. In ‘AJK’, the Pakistani Army seems to have shifted its patronage from political parties to India-focussed militants.
This is the reason the Muslim Conference and the Pakistan People’s Party in ‘AJK” have been abandoned. The local people’s support for present political parties has waned in both parts of PoK.
“Pakistan occupied Kashmir : Politics, Parties and Personalities”, brought out by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a premier think tank based in the Capital, has gone in detail about political parties, their growth and challenges being faced by them in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Authored by three eminent IDSA scholars-Surinder Kumar Sharma, Yaqoob al Hassan and Ashok Behuria-all keen PoK watchers, the book provides a critical analysis of the Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK and the political situation prevailing there. There is one common point between the two parts of PoK; they both have two political entities, out of which one supported by Pakistan is called a mainstream political party. They have the wherewithal to fight and win elections. The other political entity is made of weak nationalist parties who are too poor to fight elections or win them.
The fact is that neither of the mainstream national parties have cared for local needs and grievances . A clear example of this was when an earthquake struck PoK in October 2005, killing thousands and rendering a large segment of population homeless. But instead of providing help to homeless people, its leaders fled to Pakistan and returned when things limped back to normalcy.
Initially Pakistan supported the Muslim Conference rise to power which was founded by Sheikh Abdullah in 1932 but he secularized it in 1939 by renaming it the “National Conference”. But the Pakistan elements had their way to retain its original name-the Muslim Conference. As a protege of Pakistan, the Muslim Conference has ruled PoK with loyalty to Pakistan’s agenda in Kashmir but no commitment to the people.
Muslim Conference’s monopoly began to crack in 1975 when Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) captured power in the first elections held under the 1974 Interim Constitution. The PPP government was thrown out when General Zia took over in July 1977. Eventually, the Muslim Conference as a proxy of the Muslim League and the PPP became two main political parties which alternately won the elections.
But Muslim Conference has cracked due to inner dissensions, mostly because of fearless corruption and badly riven with intrigues and rivalries that its revival seems impossible. In the July 2016 elections it could win only three of the 41 seats. Its supreme leader Sardar Abdul Qayyum died in July 2015. His son Sardar Attique was involved in massive corruption and malpractices.
The second major party the PoK chapter of the PPP which was in power during the elections was hurt by massive wave of anti incumbency sentiments and was routed in the polls, securing just two seats. The revival of AJKPPP also seems difficult because its mother party became a non entity except in Sind and some pockets of Punjab. To sum up, all the 44 ‘AJK’ based political parties registered with the ‘AJK’ Election Commission have an uncertain future. Besides Muslim Conference and AJKPPP, parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are electoral light weights. Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf could not make its base inspite of joining of heavyweight Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry.
As far future of political parties in Gilgit-Baltistan is concerned, the trend there is not different from ‘AJK’. This is not in the interest of local politics in both the regions of PoK, because it is not the intention of Pakistan establishment to let a viable political party system grow in these two parts of occupied Kashmir, the book reveals.
There is discontent among the masses as no concrete steps have been taken to ensure the people of both the regions of their basic rights. Nationalist parties or groups complain of harassment of their leaders and workers as hundreds of false sedition cases have been slapped by Pakistan security agencies.
Pakistan’s move to grant Gilgit-Baltistan a constitutional status has generated a debate within the region. The nationalist leaders of Gilgit-Baltistan as well as the leaders of ‘AJK’ have condemned Pakistan’s move to fully integrate Gilgit-Baltistan as a province.
Several Kashmiri separatist leaders including Tehriq-i- Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chief Yasin Malik opposed the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan and maintained that such a move will provide a justification to India to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and further consolidate the process of integration of the state into the Indian Union. (UNI)