Ambiguous citizenships

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.

The AJK legislative assembly also testifies to the overall governance syndrome. At least, 20 out of its 49 members are indirectly elected (12 members of the assembly are elected throughout Pakistan). The contradictions of the judicial system were also revealed in the recent judges’ crisis where Islamabad’s direct interference was notable.

If it were not for the remittances from the Kashmiris abroad, absolute poverty would have been the fate of AJK. Even the official estimates indicate that an unemployment rate of 35-50% persists in AJK. Lack of opportunities leaves migration towards Pakistan as the rational choice for youth and the skilled workforce. Such was the state of public construction standards that the 2005 earthquake ravaged all the buildings; and tragically the Pakistani state gave little priority to the locals in the immediate aftermath of the quake. There was widespread resentment which was picked up by Pakistani media as well. Due to the media pressure, Pakistani state had to change its course and show more concern for the thousands of Kashmiris who were injured, stranded or stuck due to the calamity.

Even in terms of reconstruction the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) and its AJK counterpart, the State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, have been slow to even achieve modest targets. They have only been able to utilize 20-25% of the funds for development of the affected areas. Once again the much maligned international NGOs, the private sector and the overseas philanthropists have been far more effective. A random visit to Muzaffarabad will confirm this sad reality.

After the 2005 tragedy, there was a unique opportunity to rebuild the state institutions but the limited imagination of Pakistani public sector held its way. Mammoth bureaucracies were created for reconstruction; and a poorly staffed and an under resourced AJK administration was revived with the original red tape. In part, the AJK elites and their patrons in Islamabad did not see an effective and citizen-responsive state as a necessity. It is all too well known that Pakistani national security doctrine defines the manner in which the local state is managed and controlled.

Overtime, an unequal and worrisome relationship has evolved between Pakistan and AJK which has been further exacerbated by controls on political expression and a situation where dissent is not tolerated.

It is a matter of grave concern that external monitors such as the Human Rights Watch and other such groups have to undertake assessments of AJK. Silence on AJK in the Pakistani mainstream, other than the juicy breaking news, is a tacit acceptance of the marginalization of this area.

It is time that we focus on what happens in the midst of our polity rather than churn out propaganda as to how India has destroyed the other side of this territory. Kashmiris are increasingly vocal about their demands for autonomy and some say independence. How long will the two establishments keep them poor, marginalized and objects of manipulation? Only time will tell.

First published in The Friday Times



Filed under Pakistan

15 responses to “Ambiguous citizenships

  1. amjad aslam

    PTH has done a nice job of discussing the religous bigotry & hatred in our society but you ppl haven’t touched the subject of religion suffocating 51% of our population.How religous texts and quotes are used to keep women strictly confined within the 4 walls of their houses,how a woman’s only role in life is as a daughter,wife & mother;the prejudice,ridicule that working mothers have to face;how the husband can have as many affairs as he likes but the wife is not allowed to even look at another man,lest the family’s honour is besmirched.I think it is time PTH started doing articles on the restrictions,unfair rituals and practices imposed on the women in our country in the name of religion.
    P.S. Why aren’t there many female writers at this blog?

  2. Maryanne Khan


    I am a woman and a western feminist with Pakistani nieces whom I am educating, as in paying for their Uni educations. And I respect both the local strictures and the possibilities these girls may avail themselves of. Oh! And the boys too, for they must accept that girls and boys alike form the basis of the family, hence the contract that will form the shape of the future.


  3. PMA

    ‘First’ Kashmir survey produces ‘startling’ results

    Alastair Lawson
    BBC News

    Few Kashmiris are optimistic over the chances for peace

    A survey which a British academic says is the first systematic attempt to establish the opinions of Kashmiris has produced “striking results”.

    Robert Bradnock interviewed more than 3,700 people in Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to assess their views on various issues.

    One of the key questions put to respondents was how they saw the future of the territory.

    Nearly half of those interviewed said they wanted independence.

    Another question asked for their views over the continuing insurgency.

    Dr Bradnock – an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank in London – says that the survey has produced startling conclusions, especially in relation to the future of the territory.

    No ‘simple fixes’

    It revealed that on average 44% of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43% in Indian-administered Kashmir.

    “However while this is the most popular option overall, it fails to carry an overall majority on either side.

    “In fact on the Indian side of the Line of Control [LoC] – which separates the two regions – opinions are heavily polarised,” Dr Bradnock told the BBC.

    The Kashmir insurgency has raged for 20 years

    The survey found that the “overwhelming majority” of people want a solution to the dispute, even though there are no “simple fixes”.

    Dr Bradnock said that in the Kashmir valley – the mainly Muslim area at the centre of the insurgency – support for independence is between 74% and 95%.

    But in the predominantly Hindu Jammu division to the south, support is under 1%.

    Other findings include:

    80% of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC say that the dispute is important to them personally

    Concern over human rights abuses stands at 43% on the Indian side and 19% on the Pakistani side

    Concern over unemployment is strong across the territory – 66% on the Pakistani side and 87% on the Indian side

    Few are optimistic over peace talks – only 27% on the Pakistani side and 57% on the Indian side thought they would succeed.

    Dr Bradnock said that it was “clear” that a plebiscite on the future of Kashmir – along the lines envisaged in UN resolutions of 1948-49 – is “extremely unlikely to offer a solution today”.

    “The results of the polls show that that there is no single proposition for the future of Kashmir which could be put to the population… and get majority support,” he said.

    “The poll offers no simple fixes but offers signposts – through which the political process, engaging India, Pakistan and wider Kashmiri representation – could move it towards resolution.”

  4. PMA

    Maryanne Khan (June 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm):

    I tip my hat to you. I personally know hundreds of Pakistani “westernised” begums who are able to maintain a luxurious lifestyle made possible by the cheap labor of their “servants” but will not lift a finger to help educate poor Pakistani boys and girls. And then there are people like you. Bravo.

  5. Maryanne Khan


    thank you. Education is the key, and if I can do anything to help, I’ll do it. My eldest niece has graduated and works on women’s issues with NGOs. I as proud of her as I am of my own two daughters.

  6. Kashmir is an amazing place.

    Heaven on earth.

    And the wastage ground of India and Pakistan’s resources!

    Keep wasting.

  7. @Indian Pundit

    Your effort being a brilliant example.

  8. shiv

    As an Indian on this board, let me say that Pakistan should forget about an independent Kashmir. I am actually coming on to a Pakistani board and saying this with arrogance and let me state my reasons for doing that.

    India will never ever trust Pakistan to allow Kashmir to remain independent, if a mythical independent Kashmir were ever to come into being.

    But how does that mean that Pakistanis “should forget” about Kashmir? Surely my words are that of a typical bigoted supporter of rapine Indian forces in Kashmir? Doesn’t that mean that well intentioned Pakistanis should redouble their efforts to seek justice for Kashmiris? Anyone who agrees with this statement will only attract derisive laughter intended to insult and hurt Pakistanis who believe that they have been following a “just cause” all these decades.

    It’s actually very simple. There are two ways of developing any underdeveloped country

    1) By infrastructure, education, population control and industrialization
    2) Ignoring all of the above and hoping that Allah looks after that work while the people concentrate on doing what they feel is Allah’s work in protecting and rescuing Muslims all over the world.

    Pakistan has chosen the second option.

    There are further consequences of this:

    In military terms an attacker must have a 2:1 or 3:1 numerical superiority over a defender for the attacker to overwhelm the defender.

    For all Pakistan’s efforts to protect and rescue Muslims – it has built up a huge army, but because of the differences in size and population between India and Pakistan, Pakistan could never ever develop the 2:1 or 3:1 numerical superiority over India to actually gain significant amounts of territory after defeating India. How POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) came into being is another story – but not for now.

    On the other hand, poverty stricken, dung worshipping India did not have to stretch itself very far to make sure that Pakistan could never achieve that 2:1 or 3:1 numerical superiority. Allowing for China, India has maintained at least a 1:1 or better ratio against Pakistan by spending a far lower proportion of its GDP on defence.

    That has allowed India to concentrate just that bit more on development. Unfortunately – a military dominated Pakistan has spent decades going apeshit trying to achieve military parity, swallowing all funds for itself.

    Folks – Indians do not want to occupy Pakistan with its 170 million pious people with little development and educational infrastructure and an obsessively hostile population indoctrinated to hate Hindu India as the enemy. (Has anyone seen the 2009 opinion polls in Pakistan as to who the enemy still is?)

    At some stage, Pakistanis are going to have to open their eyes and say “We have won. India cannot occupy our land. Let us now develop it”

    Get your house sorted out first. Forget Kashmir. Kashmir will stay with India. Sorry if that hurts, but Pakistan has scored very few runs in the first 63 overs and has lost more than half its wickets.

  9. Kaalket

    I disagree with Shiv, He is upto his Indian trickery to confuse Pious people.Pakistan is the symbol of Islam on Indian subcontinent and willing to share this Islamic dream with Muslims Bretherns of Kashmir onlee and not with the Muslims in rest of India. First thing first, unless Kashmir or any Islamic issue in the region is solved to Pakistani military, jihadi,civilian groups satisfaction,all kind of development projects must be on hold unless finnanced by donation, never to be returned loan or simply emergency aid by Kuffar world. India is an enemy, a weak one who fight war by deception and not by the valient way of facing enemy in the battlefield like Pakistani arm forces do. Teaching india lesson must remain top strategic priority.

  10. azhar aslam

    Ten pounds sterling for anyone who can tell me what ‘A J & K’ really stands for ?

    Look at you all talking. Do send me your address for the prize.


  11. Moosa

    “Pakistan is the symbol of Islam on Indian subcontinent and willing to share this Islamic dream with..”

    i think “Islamic dream” should be replaced with “non-Islamic nightmare”…

    There is a famous hadeeth which reminds me of the current state of Pakistan:

    “Allah’s Messenger (saas) said, “In the End Times men will come forth who will fraudulently use religion for worldly ends and wear sheepskins in public to display meekness. Their tongues will be sweeter than sugar, but their hearts will be the hearts of wolves.” [Tirmidhi]

    “There will come a time for my people when there will remain nothing of the Qur’an except its outward form and nothing of Islam except its name and they will call themselves by this name even though they are the people furthest from it.”

    “There will come a time upon the Ummat when people will recite the Qur’an, but it will not go further than their throats, (into their hearts).” [Bukhari]

    “When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour.” [Bukhari]

    “At that time, people will sell their religion for a small amount of worldly goods.” [Ahmad]

    “The Hour (Last Day) will not be established until murder will increase.” [Bukhari]

    “The Hour will come when violence, bloodshed, and anarchy become common.” [Kanzul Ummal]

    Congratulations, Pakistan. You’ve been often mentioned and spoken about by Prophet Muhammad (saw) !!

  12. shiv

    “There will come a time for my people when there will remain nothing of the Qur’an except its outward form and nothing of Islam except its name and they will call themselves by this name even though they are the people furthest from it.”

    “There will come a time upon the Ummat when people will recite the Qur’an, but it will not go further than their throats, (into their hearts).” [Bukhari]

    “When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour.” [Bukhari]

    “At that time, people will sell their religion for a small amount of worldly goods.” [Ahmad]

    “The Hour (Last Day) will not be established until murder will increase.” [Bukhari]

    “The Hour will come when violence, bloodshed, and anarchy become common.” [Kanzul Ummal]

    These are remarkably prescient statements. Without meaning to be insulting or claiming mine is bigger I must point out that similar wisdom exists in many ancient writings that have come down through the ages.

    To me this only indicates that human history has gone through cycles where the same behaviour has appeared again and again making it possible for the wise to point that out.

    Christianity went though a paroxysm of violence and murder in Europe in what is known as the “Thirty Years war” in which I believe about 10% (or was it 20%?) of Europe’s population was wiped out – not by war alone, but by starvation and disease triggered by people fleeing war. That series of wars ended in the “Peace of Westphalia” – which basically ended the rule of the church and laid the foundation for keeping the church out of governance and state affairs. Secular Westphalian democracies arose from this background and these nations ended up ruling the world, trampling and ripping up religion based empires – including the Islamic Caliphate based in Turkey.

    It is ironic that the internecine wars of Islam seem to be reaching a head inside Pakistan. It’s almost as though Pakistanis, in a single insane moment have decided to cast aside all semblance of civilization and go the whole hog towards national suicide, using the hypnotic words “Islam in danger” at every turn to justify anything. In a sense – Pakistan may be the last gasp of religion based empires in a world that is changing. It is barely a century since the Caliphate was dissolved – which is a mere blink in terms of history. But the world is not going to allow religion based empires to survive and dominate.

    The road ahead is not easy.

  13. sonachenab

    @Kartick…. shame on you… with more than 1 billion people …. you consider these as achivements.

  14. @Moosa

    I value your innocence and your faith in other human beings, but all that is fine on the Internet, it could also get you into very bad trouble in real life.

    Please understand – go back and read his earlier posts if you wish – that Kaalket is being hugely funny, by his standards, and has been articulating what he thinks is an extreme Pakistani position in every post. And every time some Pakistani in his innocence responds to such posts either with a naive happiness and launches an eloquent extension of that foolery, or a serious-minded and well-intentioned person like you falls for it equally and greets it with regret and pain, Kaalket gets a laugh. That’s his payoff.

    Shiv has at least the virtue of being cruelly transparent in his views, and leaves you under no delusions. There are others who think that this style of mockery is amusing and funny. No doubt in their upbringing and their psychological development, there have been reasons and motives for this.

  15. Mustafa Shaban

    @Maryanne Khan: Thumbs up to you, as PMA said, there are not many women like you. Well done!