Prof. Suresh Chander
The Azad Kashmir was not spontaneously formed as a protest reaction but was a well thought out strategy of certain forces in Pakistan. Their hand was clearly visible later in 1965 infiltrations and insurgency of 1989 as well.
These forces remain in continuum. The state of Pakistan works in tandem with them and uses these forces at an appropriate time. These forces, in the meantime, keep the pot boiling.
The first announcement of Azad Kashmir Government was made on 4 October and its reconstitution on 24 October. Ibrahim Khan was announced as the Prime Minister in the 4 October Government and President on 24 October 1947.
However, the idea of Azad Kashmir was first floated by Prem Nath Bazaz led ‘Mazdoor Kissan Conference’ (MKC) on 12 May 1946 at Anantnag. Later ‘Azad Kashmir Resolution’ was approved by Muslim Conference in its Srinagar meeting on 26 July 1946.
Indian Muslim League was closely guiding Muslim Conference through leaders like Sir Zafurllah Khan.
The National Conference defined Kashmir as “the cradle of the Kashmiri nation [characterised by] homogeneity of its language, culture and tradition and its common history of suffering…” in the memorandum presented to the British Cabinet Mission in 1946.*
The popular politics of Kashmir and Kashmiri identity that was evolving to become inclusive of the entire state was fractured and started to be reduced back to the Valley.
Leadership of Muslim Conference from Jammu saw no role for itself in politics of the state in alliance with the National Conference.
It was in this background that Ibrahim Khan left the State on the 22 August along with Raja Abdul Hamid Khan for Pakistan after consultations with senior MC leaders and some prominent Pakistanis staying in Gulmarg. They included Chaudhri Hameedullah Khan, Sardar Agha Shaukat Ali, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, B.A. Hashmi and Major Allah Dad Khan, later a Commissioner in Pakistan.
Once in Pakistan Ibrahim Khan made several failed attempts to meet Quaid-e-Azam. A disappointed Ibrahim Khan while walking through Anarkali bumped into Mian Iftikhar Ud Din who arranged his meeting with Col. Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army, Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Khan of Mamdot, and Khan Abdul Qaiyum Khan in Murree, the lead actors in the tribal invasion of 22 October 1947.
On 12th September, a crucial meeting took place at the Governor House with Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan Prime Minister in the chair. It was attended by Mr. Ghulam Muhammad, then Finance Minister, Mian Iftikharud-Din, Mr. M.Z. Kiani, Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, Nawab of Mamdot, Ch. Mohammad Ali, Mr. Khurshid Anwar and Col. Akbar Khan. Muhammad Ishaque Qureshi (acting G. Secretary of MC) and Hameedullah Khan (acting President of MC) were brought from Kashmir by two Pakistani intelligence officers for the meeting. In that meeting Ch. Hameedullah was told to inform Ch. Ghulam Abbas Khan (President of MC) of the invasion plan. A Committee comprising Ghulam Abbas, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Bashir-ud-Din and Mahmud Ahmad with Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din as Chairman to draft a “Declaration of Freedom” . Mr. Kiani’s three-tier plan was: (1) preparation of armed bands in Poonch who were to advance to Srinagar; (2) a network of an underground movement in the Valley to rise in revolt at an appropriate hour; and (3) Blocking of Kathua-Jammu road to prevent any help from reaching the State from India .
At Kiani’s suggestion Khawaja Abdur Rahim ICS. was posted as Rawalpindi Commissioner in order to have a dependable officer. Col. Akbar was not as yet directly involved and the entire operation was entrusted to Kiani. Khurshid Anwar was to organise underground movement in the Kohala-Muzaffarabad sector.
At this time the induction of the tribesmen was not part of the plan submitted at the meeting.
It was decided at a later meeting to permit personnel of the Pakistan army recruited from Poonch to secure leave and join the war of liberation.
It was decided at a meeting, at the end of September 1947, that the tribal invasion shall coincide with an internal uprising.
On 2nd October, a meeting resolved to set up a provisional government but the question as to who would Head ran into trouble.
One Mr. Qadri, a young man of about 22 years, was ready to accept the nomination. The meeting seemed to agree to his appointment. He was ruled out being a political nonentity.
Ibrahim Khan was awakened on the 23rd October almost at the dead of night by Khawaja Abdur Rahim, Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, and Nasim Shah Nawaz, then married to General Akbar Khan who told him that it had become necessary to announce the formation of a reconstituted Government with him as President. This was narrated by Ibrahim Khan to Saraf. (Saraf, Y. (1979), ‘Kashmir Fights for Freedom’, Ferozsons Lahore.)
All this points to a hidden hand – was deep state already in control?
1947 Tribal Invasion
Muslims in the western districts revolted against the state in June.There were reports of a leaked Pakistani plan for raising a tribal column of 20,000 fighters to attack and annex Kashmir.
In a BBC interview one Qureshi recalls the evening of 21 October, when he and his friends saw trucks carrying Pathans drive down the Batrasi hills into Garhi Habibullah.
“They came in the early morning. There were hundreds of them. They carried axes and swords. Some had muskets, others just sticks. The Maharaja’s guards at the barrier had vanished.
“The bulk of the Frontier tribesmen – Wazir, Mahsud, Turi, Afridi, Mohmand, the Malakand Yousafzai – went via Lohar Gali route in lorries and trucks.”
Around 2,000 tribesmen stormed Muzaffarabad. “They shot everyone who couldn’t recite the Kalima. Many non-Muslim women were enslaved, while many others jumped in the river to escape capture.
The streets were littered with signs of mayhem – broken buildings, broken shop furniture, the ashes of burnt goods and dead bodies, including those of tribal fighters, state soldiers and local men and women. There were also bodies floating in the river.
Muslim women would sometimes offer us food but the Pathans were reluctant to accept, thinking it may be poisoned.”
Story of Hussain Gul
He recalls their retreat due to advancing Indian forces. “They brought back war booty; gold and some women,” he said.
Tribals also returned. “Some had brought cattle, some horses. Most of them had brought arms, and many brought women. One Afridi tribesmen walked back with two women in tow. They wept incessantly and just wouldn’t stop. A local feudal lord took pity on them and forced the Afridi man to release them.”
1965 Infiltration – Story of Mohammad Younus Butt
In1964 preparations for the second “tribal invasion” of Kashmir came, this time with local Kashmiris instead of tribal Pathans. Pakistan’s military has never officially confirmed to have commissioned such a force.
“The policemen went from village to village recruiting Kashmiri youth. People would fall in line, and the chief police officer would walk down the queue, sizing up each individual. He would touch those he chose on the shoulder and ask them to step into a separate line.”
The chief policeman patted Mr Butt on the shoulder.
He and his fellow recruits spent three months training in Muzaffarabad’s Nisar Camp. Most of them then infiltrated into Indian Kashmir, but some who could read and write were kept behind for clerical work at supply depots.
“I was posted at a camp in Athmuqam where I kept records of equipment and supplies. I was there until our forces were defeated in Kashmir, and India attacked Pakistan (on 6 September 1965).”
After the two countries signed a peace agreement in January 1966, the force was disbanded.
But more conflict was to come, with the 1989 insurgency in Srinagar. Fresh hordes of private militiamen started to descend on Neelum Valley. This time the proxies were Islamic militants, organized by the Pakistani military to infiltrate Indian Kashmir.
The Indians, having occupied the valley’s high ground in 1965, had the settlements in their rifle sights. As the conflict intensified, so did retaliatory fire from the Indians.
“I can’t recall a worse time for Athmuqam. Everything that was built in 20 years was turned to rubble in 15 years of hostilities,” says Butt in a BBC interview..
The hospital was destroyed, and so were schools and colleges. Farming activity became impossible. Nearly all the population moved to safer areas, such as Muzaffarabad, or to gullies higher up which were not exposed to direct fire.
“Athmuqam was a lonely place then. We would eat and sleep in bunkers. No children went to schools in those years. A whole generation missed out on education.”
“Over the last 14 years, since the 2003 ceasefire, much of the infrastructure has been rebuilt. But peace is brittle”, bemoans Butt.
The Pakistani deep state has never remained passive, it is like a seasoned hunter patiently awaiting to strike at an appropriate time. It is bound to strike again but when and where is the question.
(The author is former Head of Computer Engineering Department in G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology)
Prof. Suresh Chander