Azad Jammu and Kashmir is 5,134 square miles (13,297 square kilometers) in area. The total population was 2,973,000 according to the population census of 1998, and was estimated to be 3,271,000 in 2002, of whom 87.5 percent live in rural areas and 12.5 percent are urban. The population density is 246 persons per square kilometer. The literacy rate was reported as 55 percent in the 1998 census and was estimated to be 60 percent in 2002, which is higher than in Pakistan.2 The territory also enjoys a very high primary school enrollment rate for both boys and girls, at over 90 percent.3
Azad Kashmir is divided into Muzaffarabad and Mirpur divisions, which are further subdivided into eight administrative districts: Muzaffarabad division comprises Muzaffarabad, Neelum, Bagh, Poonch, and Sudhnutti districts; Mirpur division comprises Mirpur, Kotli, and Bhimber districts. Muzaffarabad city is the territorys capital.
The people of Azad Kashmir are almost entirely Muslim. However, Islam or its sects are not the principal arbiters of identity in Azad Kashmir. The people of Azad Kashmir comprise not only diverse tribal clans (biradari) but are culturally and linguistically markedly different from the Kashmiris of the central valley of Jammu and Kashmir state in India. Cultural practice in Azad Kashmir has more in common with the Punjab than with the Kashmir valley.
The territory is far from ethnically homogenous. The biradari is the overriding determinant of identity and power relationships within the Azad Kashmiri socio-political landscape. While the Gujjars, numbering close to eight hundred thousand, are possibly the largest such group, historically the two most influential biradaris have been the Sudhans from the southeast (concentrated in Bagh district and Rawalakot subdivision of Poonch district) and the Rajputs who are spread out across the territory. Sudhans and Rajputs number, respectively, a little over and a little under half a million. Almost all of Azad Kashmirs politicians and leaders come from one of these two groups.4
Azad Kashmir is also home to approximately three hundred thousand Mirpuri Jats hailing from the southern part of the territory. Though the Mirpuris are the closest geographical and cultural relatives of the Potohari Punjabis, in recent decades they have chosen to define themselves increasingly as Kashmiris. Mirpuris have migrated to the United Kingdom (U.K.) in large numbers and constitute the overwhelming Kashmiri presence in that country.
The Mirpuri Jats have gained in influence in Azad Kashmir in recent decades largely through the clout that major remittances from Britain have bought them. Mirpuri economic clout has paid political dividends, helping propel barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry to power as the first Mirpuri leader of Azad Kashmir in 1996. Kashmir expert Alexander Evans writes:
Formally, Azad Kashmir has a parliamentary form of government. The president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is the constitutional head of the state, while the prime minister, supported by a council of ministers, is the chief executive. Azad Kashmir has its own Supreme Court, High Court, and Legislative Assembly comprising forty-nine members, of whom forty-one are directly elected and eight are indirectly electedthe latter comprise a member each from the technocrats, scholars, and overseas Kashmiris, and five women.6 Under the current constitutional dispensation, twelve of the forty-eight seats in the Legislative Assembly are reserved for Kashmiri refugees from Indian Jammu and Kashmir settled across Pakistan. Azad Kashmir also has a multi-tiered system of local governance.7
Azad Kashmir maintains a dual judicial system. Judicial officers in districts, high courts and the Supreme Court include Islamic judges dispensing Sharia law. These judges (who do not require a law degree) deal with criminal cases involving Sharia law. Other criminal cases and civil cases are dealt with by regular judges and magistrates.
All key administrative offices are manned by Pakistani officials. These include the office of the chief secretary (the principal bureaucrat), the inspector-general of police, the accountant-general and the finance secretary. (Pakistani political control in Azad Kashmir is discussed in detail in Chapter III, below.)
The Pakistan-India dispute over Kashmir
In 1947, the British decolonization plan for India required the partition of the subcontinent into two successor states, India and Pakistan. However, the partition plan was applicable only to the eleven provinces of British Indiaareas directly under British sovereignty as of June 3, 1947. In addition, the Indian subcontinent comprised some 562 princely states of varying size that enjoyed defense agreements with the paramount power and remained under the nominal control of their hereditary rulers.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir was an example of the latter. The territory comprising it had been sold by the East India Company to Maharaja Gulab Singh for a sum of 7,500,000 rupees in 1846 in an agreement titled The Treaty of Amritsar. Between 1846 and 1947 Kashmir remained under the direct though nominal control of Gulab Singh and his successors as their hereditary possession.
As British withdrawal from India became imminent, the princely states were given the choice to either resume their independent status or join Muslim-majority Pakistan or Hindu-majority India. Most of the decisions by the ruling princes were made based on geography or religious majority. However, Kashmir was a problem because it was a Muslim-majority state ruled by a Hindu prince. The British left it for future negotiations when the Maharaja of Kashmir failed to decide whether to accede to either India or Pakistan.8
The conflict in Kashmir has its origins in the states accession to India in 1947.
Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir, signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan but took no decision on the states accession. A month after the end of British rule on the subcontinent, Kashmir was invaded by Kashmiri Sudhan tribesmen encouraged by Pakistan.9 Unable to defend his state, the Maharaja of Kashmir sought Indias assistance, and on October 26, 1947, signed an Instrument of Accession,10 paving the way for Indian soldiers to come to his assistance.11 The first war between India and Pakistan had begun.
In January 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India, requested that the U.N. play a role in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.12 The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution on August 13, 1948, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities by India and Pakistan as well as a truce agreement so that both Indian and Pakistani forces could withdraw from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It also recognized the right of the Kashmiri people to determine the future status of Kashmir.
After a ceasefire was called, a third of the Kashmiri state remained under Pakistani control.13 The rest became Indias Jammu and Kashmir state.14 Kashmir was divided by a Line of Control. The contour of this line changed slightly after later wars, but has remained more or less the de facto border between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.
Through mutual agreement India and Pakistan successfully lobbied for an amendment to the 1948 U.N. resolution, and the U.N. passed another resolution on January 5, 1949, in which the Kashmiri people were only given the right to accede either to India or Pakistan; there was no mention of their having a right to become an independent nation.
In January 1949, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) was deployed to supervise the ceasefire between India and Pakistan.15 UNMOGIPs functions were to investigate complaints of ceasefire violations and submit finding to each party and to the U.N. secretary-general.16 Under the terms of the ceasefire, it was decided that both armies would withdraw and a plebiscite would be held in Kashmir to give Kashmiris the right to self-determination.17
The primary argument for the continuing debate over the ownership of Kashmir is that India did not hold the promised plebiscite. In fact, neither side has adhered to the U.N. resolution of August 13, 1948:18 while India chose not to hold the plebiscite, Pakistan also failed to withdraw its troops from Kashmir as was required under the resolution.19 Instead, India cites the 1952 elected Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, which voted in favor of confirming accession to India.20 New Delhi also says that since Kashmiris have voted in successive national elections in India, there is no need for a plebiscite. The 1948-49 U.N. resolutions can no longer be applied, according to India, because of changes in the original territory, with some parts having been handed over to China by Pakistan and demographic changes having been effected in Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas.21
Indias argument for the legitimacy of its claim to all of Kashmir, including the portion administered by Pakistan, is based on the Instrument of Accession. Similar instruments determined the distribution of all princely states in the 1947 partition; questioning the accession of Kashmir would (the argument goes) imply unraveling the constitutional and legal basis for the creation of India and Pakistan.22
Pakistan, however, has always questioned the legality of Kashmirs accession and said that India had agreed to the U.N. resolutions calling for self-determination after the Instrument of Accession had been signed. India also overruled the same exercise of powers by the Muslim ruler of the Hindu-majority state of Hyderabadthe largest and richest of the princely statesarguing that the peoples right of self-determination was paramount when the Nizam of Hyderabad sought to declare independence for his state. Hyderabad was forced into the Indian Union through police action in 1948.23 Similarly, the Muslim rulers of the Hindu-majority states of Junagadh and Manavadar signed instruments of accession to Pakistan but were overruled by the Indian government, which seized the states on grounds of geographical contiguity and religious majority.24
Pakistan asserts that India cannot argue self-determination and the will of the majority in other instances and ride roughshod over the same principle in Kashmir. Hence, in contrast to India, which considers the part of Kashmir under its control to be part of the Indian Union, Pakistan does not exercise formal sovereignty over the portion of Kashmir it controls. Rather, the territory is theoretically self-governed through its own interim constitution pending a plebiscite to determine the status of the historical state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Above all, both Islamabad and New Delhi see Kashmir as legitimizing the competing political frameworks that led to the partition of India. Islamabad believes that Muslim-majority Kashmir will choose to be part of Pakistan and it will justify, once again, the ideological basis for the 1947 partition that was predicated on the assumption that Muslims and Hindus were separate nations.25 India, for that same reason, is unwilling to let go of Kashmir: a Muslim majority state is proof that India is secular.
Since the British left the subcontinent almost sixty years ago, India and Pakistan have fought two wars specifically over Kashmir, in 1947-48 and in 1965.26 In 1971, a third war between the two countries led to the secession of East Pakistan, which became independent as Bangladesh. That truncation of Pakistan further exacerbated the distrust between the two countries and drives Islamabads policy on Kashmir.27 Since India had helped in dividing Pakistan, it became a priority for Islamabad to ensure unity through an anti-Indian Islamic ideology.28
The situation in Azad Kashmir transformed rapidly as the situation in Jammu and Kashmir state worsened and a stream of refugees began to cross into the territory from 1989 onwards. The government of Pakistan and the Azad Kashmir authorities welcomed these refugees at the time with some fanfare; for Pakistan, the propaganda value of hosting the refugees was immense. For one, their arrival underlined the seriousness of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir state and thereby bolstered Pakistans stance that Indian control over Kashmir was not only illegitimate under international law but also despised by those living under it. Certainly, many of those who crossed over were fleeing persecution. Others were Kashmiri nationalists who had taken up arms against the Indian state.
The militants who crossed over to Azad Kashmir in the 1989-91 period were strikingly different from those who have spearheaded the insurgency against the Indian state from the mid 1990s onwards. The 1989-91 militants were overwhelmingly Kashmiris from the central valley, many from Srinagar. Even if they joined Islamist organizations such as Hizbul-Mujahedin, they remained essentially secular nationalists seeking the independence of Kashmir. Kashmiri-speaking, they were also culturally and linguistically distinct from the peoples of Azad Kashmir. Most had little or no idea of what Azad Kashmir was beyond a vague awareness that it was Azad (free) under Pakistani control and would be the logical base to take on the Indian state. They viewed Pakistan, which was eager to offer support, much more favorably than India. Thus, in the early years of the Kashmiri rebellion against Indian control, the indigenous Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) remained the engine of the Kashmiri nationalist movement and in control of it.
The situation had transformed dramatically by 1994 when the ISI organized thirteen groups operating in Kashmir into the Muttahida [United] Jihad Council. Apart from the Hizbul-Mujahedin the other members included the Harkat-ul-Ansar, Jamiat-ul-Mujahedin and Al-Jihad. By early 1999, there were only four or five member groups of the United Jihad Council that were considered effective, including the LT, Hizbul-Mujahedin, Al Badr and Harkat-ul-Mujahedin.
As the ISI-backed militant groups gained strength and dominance, Kashmiri nationalist militants left the JKLF-led nationalist movement or were sidelined and eventually began to be persecuted by the authorities and their proxies. Hanif Haidry, a native of Srinagar, told Human Rights Watch,
Thorough the 1990s, Azad Kashmir was increasingly dotted with militant camps operating under the supervision of the Pakistani army. Only when Pakistan began supporting the U.S.-led global war on terror in 2001 did the United Jihad Council cease to operate publicly. Several groups have simply changed their names and operate independently or through clandestine underground networks.30 And there are many reports indicating that the Pakistani intelligence apparatus retains direct association with operations by these groups.
Though militant camps in Azad Kashmir proper have become non-operational in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 and the consequent peace process with India, militant infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir state was ongoing through the October 8, 2005 earthquake (though markedly reduced), and continues at the reduced rate to date. Immediately prior to the earthquake and in the months following it, Human Rights Watch was repeatedly told by independent analysts, members of militant groups, and Pakistan-backed Azad Kashmir politicians and members of the Pakistani military speaking off-the-record, that infiltration is not only ongoing but its cessation is non-negotiable in the absence of a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute. (Most of these commentators are not willing to be named for fear of reprisal from the ISI.)
A Muzaffarabad journalist, who only agreed to speak to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity and on the bank of the Neelum river that runs through Muzaffarabad to ensure he was not overheard, explained his views on the general situation in Azad Kashmir:
Pakistani military installations have often been placed in close proximity to highly populated civilian areas, ostensibly because of a lack of space. However, many Kashmiris told Human Rights Watch that the Pakistani military used the bases to keep a close watch on the population to ensure political compliance and control. Instead of helping to protect the population, the military uses its close proximity to the civilian population to commit abuses. Given this context, the total collapse of Azad Kashmirs governmental structures in the aftermath of the October 8 earthquake came as no surprise. Akbar Zaidi, a noted Pakistani academic, explained this collapse:
Similarly, it was no accident that militant groups were the first on the scene dispensing relief goods and aid in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Nor was it a sign of any great organizational prowess. As the Pakistani military prioritized the rescue of its own personnel, it apparently sought the assistance of its closest allies in Azad Kashmir, the militant groups. Jan McGirk, Southeast Asia correspondent for the U.K. daily newspaper The Independent, reported on the inadequate military response and the public reaction to it:
These groups had suffered the loss of infrastructure and personnel themselves in the earthquake, as McGirk noted:
The militant groups won much appreciation for their rescue and relief efforts in the second week of October 2005.35 This public relations coup could not have been possible without logistical support from sections of Pakistans intelligence apparatus. For example, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the renamed welfare wing of the LT, was in possession of and distributing weatherized tents within two days of the earthquake. The only source of weatherized tents in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake was the Pakistani army.
The post-earthquake role of militant organizations underlines the continuity of the military-militant relationship in Azad Kashmir. Pakistans two-track policy on the militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir stateassurances of roll-back for international consumption but only a scale-down and lower visibility in the theatre of operationsappears to be continuing. The Pakistani military apparently saw the earthquake as an opportunity to craft a new image for the militant groups rather than as an opportunity to disband them.
A continuing source of political tension between Kashmiris and Pakistan is over the Mangla Dam project, which affects the waters of the Jhelum and Poonch rivers before they flow into Punjab in Pakistan. Particularly affected is the relatively well-off Mirpuri community in Azad Kashmir (see above), which has increasingly felt a sense of discrimination and economic exploitation by Pakistan because of the project. In a 1991 article, Roger Ballard of the U.K.s Manchester University explained why:
The debate around the Mangla Dam, though beyond the scope of this report, is notable because of the central role it has played in shaping the Mirpuri disconnect from Pakistan. Pakistan argues that the construction of the Mangla Dam is a consequence of the 1961 Indus Basin treaty between India and Pakistan with the World Bank acting as guarantor. The Azad Kashmiris, particularly the Mirpuris, argue that water is a Kashmiri natural resource commandeered by the Pakistani state to the disadvantage of Kashmiris. This is a key issue fueling calls for Kashmiri independence. The acrimony over the dam continues in Mirpur as the dam is currently being raised.
Chaudhry Arif, the convener of the Mangla Dam Action Committee, a protest group formed to demand better compensation for those affected by the Mangla Dam, told Human Rights Watch,
2 Official website of the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Facts and Figures section, [online] http://www.ajk.gov.pk/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2256&Itemid=47 (retrieved August 30, 2006).
3 The website of the Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, provides primary school enrollment figures for Azad Kashmir at http://www.moe.gov.pk/enrollment.htm (retrieved August 30, 2006).
4 There is a sound historical reason for the Sudhans sharing in the political dominance of Azad Kashmir: the first attempt to wrest control of Kashmir from the Maharaja in 1947-48 and bring the state into Pakistan was Sudhan-inspired and led. The slogan Kashmir banega Pakistan (Kashmir shall become Pakistan) was first and foremost then a Sudhan statement of intent, co-opted by the Pakistani state.
5 Alexander Evans, Kashmir: A tale of Two Valleys, Asian Affairs, vol. XXXVI, no. I, March 2005.
6 Official website of the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, List of Members Legislative Assembly2006 section, [online] http://www.ajk.gov.pk/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2618&Itemid=142 (retrieved August 30, 2006).
7 There are 202 Union Councils, ten Town Committees, fifty Markaz Councils, two Municipal Corporations, eleven Municipal Committees, nineteen sub-divisions, and 1,646 villages.
8 M.J. Akbar, Kashmir: Behind the Vale (New Delhi: Roli Books, 2003), pp. 94-102.
9 Calling for immediate assistance, Maharaja Hari Singh in a letter to Lord Mountbatten of October 26, 1947, said that a grave emergency had arisen because the Pakistan Government had permitted steady and increasing strangulation of supplies like food, salt and petrol and allowed desperadoes with modern weapons to infiltrate into Kashmir.
10 Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir State, [online] http://mha.nic.in/accdoc.htm (retrieved July 21, 2005).
11 The Maharaja, however, insisted on a special deal under which Kashmir would have its own constitution. Under the Instrument of Accession, Kashmir retained a measure of autonomy, and clause 7 stated that Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me [the Maharaja] in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India.
12 Text of Indias complaint to the Security Council, January 1, 1948, [online] http://www.jammu-kashmir.com/documents/jkindiacomplaintun.html (retrieved July 21, 2005).
13 In 1963, Pakistan handed over around 5,000 square kilometers in the Shaksgam Valley to China. Although the transfer was subject to a settlement on the Kashmir issue between the two claimants, China has already built a military highway on this territory and is unlikely to vacate it. The website of the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir notes that the area of Azad Kashmir is 13,297 square kilometers. See http://www.ajk.gov.pk/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=34&id=184&Itemid=144 (retrieved September 13, 2006).
14 Jammu and Kashmir state (which includes the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, Hindu-majority Jammu, and Buddhist-majority Ladakh) is 101,387 square kilometers. See http://countrystudies.us/india/123.htm (retrieved July 21, 2005).
15 United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, [online] http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unmogip/index.html (retrieved June 1, 2004).
17 The U.N. resolutions said that a plebiscite would be held so that Kashmiris could choose to accede to either India or Pakistan. Many Kashmiris advocate a third option: they want the right of self-determination to not just be confined to joining India or Pakistan, but to include becoming an independent state.
18 The text of the U.N. Resolution of August 13, 1948, and Indias position on it, are available at http://www/jammu-kashmir.com/documents/jkunresolution.html (retrieved July 21, 2005).
19 Sumit Ganguly, ed., The Kashmir Question: Retrospect and Prospect (London: Frank Cass & Co, 2003), pp. 2-3.
21 Embassy of India, Washington D.C., A Comprehensive Note on Jammu & Kashmir, [online] http://www.indianembassy.org/policy/Kashmir/Kashmir_MEA/UN.html (retrieved July 20, 2005).
22 J.N. Dixit, Anatomy of a Flawed Inheritance: Indo-Pak relations 1970-1994, (Delhi: Konarak Publishers, 1995), p. 200.
23 The Muslim Nizam refused to accede to the Indian Union, although it entirely surrounded his territory, demanding the right as ruler of 18 million (overwhelmingly Hindu) subjects to rule a separate state. The resulting standoff ended with the states occupation by Indian troops between September 13 and 17, 1948, and its incorporation as a state of India the next year.
24 The Nawab of Junagadh (a Muslim) decided that Junagadh should accede to Pakistan, which was just across the Arabian Sea. The unsettled conditions in Junagadh had led to a cessation of all trade with India. The Nawab was forced to flee to Karachi with his family and established a provisional government. A plebiscite was held on February 20, 1948, in which the electorate voted overwhelmingly to join the Indian Union. India then assumed formal control over the entire state of Junagadh. A liberation army (azad fauj) of twenty thousand men with armored cars and modern weapons entered Junagadh and the state was secured. The Government of Pakistan protested, saying that since the state had acceded to Pakistan on September 5, 1947, Indias takeover was illegal.
25 Apart from religion, Pakistani scholars also explain that Kashmir is vital to the countrys economy because it is the source of most rivers flowing into Pakistan. Among the various disputes related to Kashmir between India and Pakistan is the construction of dams in Jammu and Kashmir state, which will allow India control over Pakistans irrigation and water sourcessee this chapter, section The Politics of Water, below.
26 India-Pakistan Wars, entry in The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2001-2005 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), [online] http://www.bartleby.com/65/in/India-Pak.htm (retrieved July 21, 2005).
27 Not only did Pakistan end up losing half of its territory, but its military was also routed, leaving some 90,000 prisoners of war.
28 Hussan Haqqani, Pakistans Endgame in Kashmir, in Ganguly, ed., The Kashmir Question, pp. 43-45.
29 Human Rights Watch interview with Hanif Haidry, Muzaffarabad, August 3, 2005.
30 Jihad Recruitment is on the Rise, The Friday Times (Lahore), July 29, 2003, [online] http://www.pakistan-facts.com/article.php?story=20030729154610902 (retrieved May 31, 2004).
31 Human Rights Watch interview with local journalist, Muzaffarabad, August 1, 2005.
32 S. Akbar Zaidi, Emergency Relief in a Military State, D+C (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany), December 2005, [online] http://www.inwent.org/E+Z/content/archive-eng/12-2005/debate_art3.html (retrieved August 24, 2006).
33 Jan McGirk, Kashmir: The Politics of an Earthquake, opendemocracy.net, October 19, 2005, [online] http://www.opendemocracy.net/debates/article.jsp?id=2&debateId=43&articleId=2941 (retrieved August 24, 2006).
36 Roger Ballard, The Kashmir Crisis: A view from Mirpur, Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), 1991, pp. 513 517.
37 Human Rights Watch interview with Chaudhry Arif, Mirpur, August 3, 2005.