The Kashmir they call ‘AZAAD’

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Exploring the complex and controversial concept of ‘Azaad’ in relation to POK’s Independence..

By Kamran Ashraf Bhat

Ali Amin Gandapur, a former federal minister and leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek Insaf (PTI) party, was arrested at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Dera Ismail Khan District Court on 6 of April 2023. This happened after he surrendered to the police in connection with various charges, including terrorism. After his arrest, former Prime Minister Tanveer İlyas Khan of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (Azaad Kashmir) expressed support for Gandapur, calling his detention “regrettable and illegal”.

Gandapur’s arrest is believed to be part of a broader message sent by Pakistan’s military establishment, led by the Intelligence. Imran Khan, have previously clashed with the military establishment, which holds considerable power in the country. Gandapur’s association with Imran Khan’s personal private security put him in the sights of the army, and his arrest is said to have been foreseen.

According to a video which was published by ARY News, a lawyer for Pakistani leader Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Gandapur claims that the District Police (DPO) has been ordered to arrest Gandapur ‘at any cost’ even though he has no case. The DPO was said to be ready to face the contempt charge until the judge informed him that Gandapur had been released on bail, the Gandapur’s legal aide said.

The criticism of Gandapur’s arrest from former Prime Minister Tanveer Ilyas Khan was inconsistent with the headquarters of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), and he was subsequently stripped by the Supreme Court of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK). He was disqualified from the right to hold public office for two years for the use of offensive language on high-level justice.

Khan is a member of Imran Khan’s PTI and the first PoK “Prime Minister” to be disqualified for contempt. Confusion about which party is the ruling party and which is the opposition has increased since Choudhary Anwarul Haq was elected as the new Prime Minister of PoK with support from members of PML (Nawaz), PPP, and several PTI members of the assembly. Former prime minister Raja Farooq Haider, who was reported by local news media to have predicted that a new prime minister would come from the opposition, said Major General Faisal Naseer, head of the ISI’s internal wing responsible for managing political parties, used members of the opposition to elect a new prime minister. Naseer was also accused by former Prime Minister Imran Khan of plotting to assassinate him and was often referred to as “Dirty Harry”.
Pakistani-controlled Kashmir (AJK) region is a political pawn in the hands of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) and the Pakistani military. Since the illegal annexation of the area in 1947, the Pakistani government has controlled the area through a puppet government, with limited powers and necessary approval for major decisions from Islamabad. The ISI maintains a strong presence within the POK (AJK), with a network of spies and informants to monitor political and propaganda activities.

The Pakistani military also has a large presence, with troops deployed to maintain law and order as well as a business empire in the region. The ISI and the Pakistani military are working together to maintain control of the region, with the puppet government acting as a front while real power rests with the ISI, the military, and any deviation from their line is severely suppressed.

For more than seventy years, the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (AJK) have suffered a life of oppression under Pakistani military control. The region lacks basic infrastructure and the economy is in serious trouble. Despite this, the Pakistani government has done little to improve the situation, preferring instead to focus on maintaining its grip on the region.

The Pakistani military and the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) have full control over the POK puppet government, resulting in serious human rights violations. Elections are being manipulated, member of assembly are blackmailed with private audio videos so as to established their favorable regime, resulting in the people in the area live under constant surveillance and threats, and their basic human rights are violated.

Meanwhile, Pakistan must address widespread human rights abuses in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (POK), where the ISI is believed to be responsible for restricting residents’ freedoms and denying them civil liberties. The atmosphere of fear in POK has made people afraid to voice their opinions or participate in peaceful protests, prompting the international community to demand justice for the people of the region.

The ISI is also accused of suppressing dissent through the use of torture and extrajudicial execution, as well as setting up secret detention centers where individuals are subjected to brutal methods of interrogation. The press is also suppressed, with journalists covering human rights abuses or critical of the government threatened or attacked, while media outlets are shut down and journalists accused of sedition.
The forced disappearances of individuals suspected of being part of human rights groups or expressing their dissent are perhaps the most blatant human rights violations in the POK. ISI has been accused of kidnapping people and detaining them for long periods, many of whom are never seen or heard from again. These actions have created a climate of fear and intimidation in the region, limited civil liberties, and prevented a free and democratic society. It is important for the international community to pay attention to these violations and hold the Pakistani government accountable for its actions, to ensure that POK people can live in a society where basic rights Theirs is respected and protected.

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Disclaimer: The Kashmir they call ‘AZAAD’ - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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