POK THROWN INTO FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL CRISIS
By Samuel Baid
Occupied Kashmir is in political crisis again. A motion of no-confidence in “Prime Minister” Raja Farooq Haider has been tabled. He had ascended to this post in October last year when then incumbent Sardar Yaqoob Khan, faced with a motion of no-confidence, resigned. Sardar Yaqoob Khan had became the “Prime Minister” in January last year when then Sardar Atiq Ahmed Khan was ousted in a no-confidence motion. Sardar Atiq, a son of former “President/Prime Minister” of PoK Sardar Qayyum Khan, was then made the Chief of the Muslim Conference after its two factions re-united.
PoK, under the “Prime Ministership” of Raja Farooq Haider, has been facing two major crises. One, the Pakistan government has cut aid to it and two, there is intra-judiciary conflict. The position of Mr. Haider has been weakened by Islamabad’s decision to curtail budgetary allocation to PoK. Mr. Haider, who could sense the political implications of this cut, appeared in a revolting mood when he told a public meeting in Poonch that while the Central and Provincial budgets have been increased, our budget has been slashed. Only J&K(“Azad” Jammu and Kashmir)’s budget has been slashed whereas the grants for the (Pakistani) provinces have been raised.”
Mr. Haider had requested for Rs. 14 billion for PoK’s annual development programme, but Pakistan pledged only Rs. 4 billions. He asked for Rs. 27 billion for completing ongoing projects, but Islamabad pledged only Rs. 5 billion.
PoK Kashmiris have often expressed the view that it will be economically and politically independent if Pakistan pays it overdue royalty for Mangla water and power, rent of Kashmiri property in Pakistan and remittances in foreign exchange from its nationals. Finance Minster Raja Nisar Ahmed Khan told the PoK Assembly on June 18 in his budget speech that “if we were given our share in net hydel profit, Federal taxes, Jammu and Kashmir State property and other income resources, we may not be in need of grant-in-aid and our government is sincerely struggling to get these rights”.
PoK’s demand for royalty for the power generated by the Mangla Dam is as old as the Dam itself. The Dam is built in PoK on Jhalum River. Pakistan has no problem in giving royalty to North-West Frontier Province (now Kheber-Pakhtunkhawa) because it is its own province. Pakistan does not take PoK’s demand for royalty seriously because its leaders agitate for it when they are not out or power or when their power is threatened by Islamabad.
An interesting case is that of Muslim Conference then President Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan in 1956. He bitterly opposed the proposal to build the Mangla Dam saying the project would be illegal because PoK was a disputed area. But when the Pakistan government made him the “President” of PoK, he allotted the land for the proposed Dam ignoring the protests of the people of Mirpur. As many of 40,000 families of Mirpuris were uprooted when the construction of the Dam started. Worse still, because General Ayub khan didn’t trust Kashmiris he was not willing to give jobs on the Dam site to uprooted Mirpuris. He did not give even compensation to the uprooted families.
Again when Punjab was facing a terrible water shortage in 2003, Pakistan decided to raise the height of the Mangla Dam. At the people level there were protests. Political parties half-heartedly protested to be in the good books of the masses, but allowed the Pakistan government to raise the Dam’s height. The Pakistan government did not bother about the anger of the people who were made homeless because of this. But there were no protests against the Dam on the ground of the dispute about the legal status of PoK. That was because the Pakistani Army had terrorized those who questioned the legality of Pakistan’s occupation of Kashmir. The Army has made the politicians so spineless that they virtually consider PoK as a province of Pakistan.
The PoK politicians when they are out of power ask Pakistan to pay, besides the royalty for Mangla water and power, rent for all the property Maharaja Hari Singh left in Pakistan. They also want that Pakistan allows PoK to have its own bank so that all the dollars which come from abroad for Kashmiris go straight to PoK bank and not to the Pakistani banks. The Kashmiri feel cheated because the foreign exchange which belongs to PoK instead goes to Pakistan which transfers the money in the shape of Pakistani Rupee.
Kashmiris nationalists of PoK have raised all these issues plus the issue of trade and exploitation of PoK’s natural resources. They complain that whatever little money the PoK people have goes on importing goods from Pakistan because PoK hardly has any industry. One writer says that even the strings for our pajamas have to be imported from Pakistan. He was taunting that PoK did not have a factory for making strings although all Kashmiri man and women wore pajamas.
The PoK Kashmiris also complain that Pakistanis have cut all their beautiful trees for timber. PoK does not produce the variety of fruit that Kashmiris on Indian side does. Nationalist PoK Kashmiris blame Pakistan for destroying their fruit trees. Thus, PoK can not earn by exporting fruit to Pakistan.
In Pakistani shops one hardly sees Kashmiri coats, shawls, carpets or items of Kashmiri handicraft. The shopkeepers proudly show you imported coats but not a Kashmiri coat. Thus, we see economic enslavement of PoK Kashmiris although they are called “Azad” (free).
Politically, “Azad” Kashmiris has never been azad. The present no-confidence motion against Raja Farooq Haider cannot come without a green signal from Islamabad.
Traditionally, the party, which rules in Islamabad, creates conditions that its protégé ascends to power in Muzaffarabad. Currently, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) rules Islamabad while its rival the Muslim Conference rules Muzaffarabad. In June this year, Raja Haider faced a serious judicial crisis. The judicial crisis was very unique. The Chief Justice and the acting Chief Justice both held their separate courts as Chief Justice. Worse, the President and the Prime Minister supported rival Chief Justices.
Many doubting Thomases said this crisis was engineered by Islamabad to ultimately oust Raja Haider from power.