Not too long ago, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan will allow Kashmiris to decide between choosing to join Pakistan or remaining independent even after they vote in favour of Pakistan in a future plebiscite. This comment by the Pakistani PM evoked a great sense of disbelief among the Pakistani media and its establishment alike, causing for the eruption of national fury and leaving the populace virtually astonished, to the extent that the Foreign Office had to come clear in a haste and state that “there’s no change in Pakistan principled position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute that remains anchored in the relevant UNSC resolutions”. Let us try to examine as to why this ostensibly innocuous statement led to so much hue and cry in Pakistan
Seemingly, the relationship between Pakistan and POJK is based on the carrot and stick approach, where the former has always had the paraphernalia to regulate the latter. Even the very formation of the so called ‘Azad Government’ is cavernously fraught with deep suspicions. Akbar Khan in his book “Raiders in Kashmir” states that “Ultimately, I wrote out a plan under the title of Armed Revolt inside Kashmir…” Akbar Khan is the same person who under the pseudonym Gen Tariq had led the tribals into the state. As noted by Sardar Ibrahim, this led to the formation of the parallel Government of 24th October, 1947 with its capital at Pallandari. This indicates that a direct tactical support was provided to these ‘Azad forces’ by Pakistan under the garb of Poonch uprising. Surprisingly, neither the UN nor the Pakistani Government recognised this ‘Azad Government’, which was heavily lamented by Muslim Conference leaders of POJK.
Pakistan was also not very keen to undertake plebiscite as it initially had said, and she largely used this narrative as a smokescreen to deepen its influence in the occupied territory. The very first instance of this can be seen when Mountbatten visited Lahore along with Ismay on November 1, 1947. Ismay noted that When Mountbatten suggested impartial plebiscite, he (Jinnah) spurned the proposal, arguing that “it was redundant and undesirable to have a plebiscite when it was quite clear that states should go according to their majority population…”. It’s uncanny but largely true that Pakistan while maintaining the charade of plebiscite was drawing in her horns to retain what it had acquired illegally. It’s no secret that UNSC Resolution 47 had accepted the complete sovereignty of India over the occupied territory as well as the present UT of Jammu & Kashmir. BL Sharma has also quoted a speech of the Colombian member of the UN Commission in his book in which he says that “…the commission accepted the sovereignty of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a fact… secondly, the commission never recognised the legality of the presence of Pakistani troops in Kashmir…”. This exposes the Pakistan duplicity as it tried to change the status quo of the occupied territory of PoJK -separating the Northern Areas from PoJK and subsuming it within the Pakistani jurisdiction under the Ministry of Kashmir and Northern Affairs, via Karachi Agreement of 1949 whereas the UNCIP had given clear injunctions to both the Governments that asked for a chequered approach on the road to the final solution, with the end being the plebiscite.
That’s why the commission’s terms asked for the complete demilitarisation of the Pakistani occupied territory. Jinnah, however was not oblivious of the possibility that, owing to the havoc wrought by the tribesmen, Pakistan might lose a plebiscite. Therefore, Pakistan owing to its fake narrative of ‘Azad Forces’ and ‘Local authorities, took the citizens of POJK for a ride and continued with its dilly-dallying approach only to find trouble in its own backyard later in the form of Sudhan revolt, after Sardar Ibrahim Khan was unceremoniously dismissed from his position. Justice Saraf notes that “..by the beginning of 1951, there was practically no Government in large areas of Poonch, particularly in the tehsils of Pallandari and Rawalkot”. This created a catch 22 situation for Pakistan. For one, it was facing trouble in the region which it was controlling as a leverage chip for the plebiscite. For another, Pakistan was shooting from the hip and was trying to suppress the local revolt by using an enviable force. This can be seen in the memorandum that MC members submitted to Pakistan constituent Assembly in 1955. It says that “For the last few years, the people of Azad Kashmir in general and Poonch in particular, have been subjected to great torture….”
Notwithstanding its commitments to the people of PoJK, Pakistan liberalised the state subject rules for the occupied territory and the leeway thence granted made it more facile for the Pakistani nationals to get the state subject of PoJK. Apart from this, Pakistan, notwithstanding Article 257(when the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State) has clearly enunciated that the accession to Pakistan is an accomplished principle, indicating that Pakistan continues to maintain a fiction of an awaited ‘plebiscite’ in the occupied territory. The constitution of 1974 debars any individual from taking part in the electoral process if he/she subscribes to any ideology other than accession with Pakistan. This was the reason that JKLF candidates weren’t allowed to contest elections from POJK while their cadre fomented trouble in Jammu and Kashmir under the patronage of Pakistani state.
The Pakistani conundrum is also visible in the first schedule- which deals with the oaths of different constitutional functionaries, of POJK’s Constitution, wherein every member has to swear “That I will remain loyal to the country and the cause of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan”. This shows that Pakistan has already closed the window for any other option and is plainly deceiving the globe vis-a-vis its commitments to UN resolutions.
The 13th amendment to the POJK Constitution 1974 has further eroded any semblance of democracy if it ever existed. This amendment to the POJK Constitution has curtailed the freedom and the fundamental rights of the citizens. For instance, the scope for derogation from fundamental rights to allow for preventive detention has been increased; now under Article 4.7.(1), freedom of association has been curtailed by “reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir”, which was absent in the 1974 constitution.
Researchers have shown that how Pakistan has always continued to exert its relentless interference in the affairs of the Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and save for the military rule there has never been any Government in the occupied territory belonging to the different party that is ruling in Islamabad.
Therefore, I can say that the statement that Imran Khan made by going beyond the red lines drawn by the ISI rubric has ruffled many feathers in the Pakistani state, inasmuch as it clearly overbears the ‘constitutional setup’, which presents the discourse led by Pakistan as tedious, littered as it is with bombast, pomposity and narrowmindedness.Imran Khan has failed to understand that despite Pakistan’s clamour about providing the Kashmiris with a ‘right of self-determination’, she has, to the contrary, doubled down on its efforts to enforce stricter rules and regulations on the occupied territory and except some procedural concessions, has just usurped the entire landmass, in total violations of the UNSC resolutions. Not surprisingly this trend has been reinforced after an increased Chinese presence and the declaration of CPEC from this disputed region. So, the hullabaloo over the Imran’s statement was but the regurgitation of the establishment based in Rawalpindi which has just thrown the UN resolutions into the thin air.