Silence on Azad Jammu & Kashmir in the Pakistani mainstream, other than the juicy breaking news, is a tacit acceptance of the marginalization of this area
Arundhati Roy has been exposing the brutalities of the Indian State in the ‘occupied’ Jammu and Kashmir. She has questioned the presence of over half a million Indian troops and the naked violations of human rights there. Roy’s the lone domestic voice that has earned the ire of the patriots and nation-state parrots. In Pakistan, we face a dilemma whereby commenting on the status and predicament of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) remains a forbidden territory. Any discussion on AJK has to locate itself within the narrow confines of the Partition mess. This is why a zone with ambiguous citizenship continues to exist next to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The current government has accorded a quasi-provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan but the state of AJK like its other strategic sibling, the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) is quite low on the national agenda. Indeed, the national security doctrines inform such discussions and leave little option for introspection, let alone deliberating policy shifts. Ostensibly an autonomous state government exists in AJK with institutions of governance but their remit and outreach are limited. If anything, Islamabad is the real capital. Ironically, both the Indian and Pakistani states despite their rhetoric and habitual one-upmanship display the worst characteristics of their original cast – the colonial apparatus that constructed fragile and unsatisfactory notions of citizenship.There is a Constitution, Parliament, an AJK Supreme Court and a High Court. However, the Ministry of Kashmir affairs calls the shots. Pakistan has diverted substantial funds for the development of the area but rampant corruption, a requirement to nurture a pliant political class, is the hallmark of governance. AJK’s Chief Secretary is posted from Islamabad and while he heads the local administration, his reporting authority sits in Islamabad. In fact, even a slight deviation from the central diktat, as the recent case of AJK Chief Secretary’s transfer demonstrates, the top-job can only be retained if Islamabad is happy with the incumbent. Continue reading