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Azad Jammu and Kashmir AJK

AJKThe northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower area of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (4,734 meters).However, Sarwaali Peak (6326 meters) in Neelum Valley is the highest peak in the State. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir's geography, making it one of the most beautiful regions of the Subcontinent. The region receives rainfall in both the winter and the summer. Muzaffarabad and Pattan are among the wettest areas of Pakistan. Throughout most of the region, the average rainfall exceeds 1400 mm, with the highest average rainfall occurring near Muzaffarabad (around 1800 mm). During the summer season, monsoon floods of the rivers Jhelum and Neelum are common due to extreme rains and snow melting.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir, with a predominantly Muslim population but a Hindu leader, shared borders with both India and West Pakistan. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) is that part of the Jammu and Kashmir (India) which was invaded by Pakistan in 1947. The region is referred by the United Nations and other international organizations, as 'Pakistani-controlled Kashmir' (or Pakistan Administered Kashmir) and it was re-named as 'Pakistan occupied Jammu-Kashmir' by the Modi government.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir AJK has its own elected President, Prime Minister, Legislature, High Court, Supreme Court and Official Flag. The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower area of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (4,734 meters).However, Sarwaali Peak (6326 meters) in Neelum Valley is the highest peak in the State. Fertile, green, mountainous valleys are characteristic of Azad Kashmir's geography, making it one of the most beautiful regions of the Subcontinent. The region receives rainfall in both the winter and the summer. Muzaffarabad and Pattan are among the wettest areas of Pakistan. Throughout most of the region, the average rainfall exceeds 1400 mm, with the highest average rainfall occurring near Muzaffarabad (around 1800 mm). During the summer season, monsoon floods of the rivers Jhelum and Neelum are common due to extreme rains and snow melting.

Jammu and Kashmir remained under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh and never directly came under the British rule during their colonisation of the Indian subcontinent. After the partition of Sub-Continent in 1947, the princely States were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan. However, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted Jammu and Kashmir to remain independent. In order to buy some time, he signed a stand-still agreement, which sidestepped the agreement that each princely State would join either India or Pakistan. In view of geographical, religious and historical links, the people of Jammu & Kashmir state demanded freedom. The Muslims of Azad Jammu and Kashmir started a liberation against India in 1947. Pakistan's Pashtoon tribals attacked Jammu and Kashmir. This began the liberation movement of the Muslim population of the State against the Dogra and Indian forces in Kashmir. To tackle this situation, Maharaja Hari Singh sought military help from the then Indian Governor-General Mountbatten, who replied saying, "It is my government's wish that as soon as law and order have been restored in Jammu and Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people."

As a result of this freedom movement, a part of the State was liberated from the Dogra-cum-Indian domination in October 1947, and named Azad State of Jammu & Kashmir. As a result of the war, the Government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir was established on 24th October, 1947, in the liberated area which is about 5,000 square miles out of total area of 84,471 square miles. An area of 28,000 square miles was also liberated by Gilgit Scouts and now it forms Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) which is administered by the Federal Government of Pakistan.

Pakistan occupied Kashmir is divided into two parts:

  1. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in Pakistan is also called Azad Kashmir and is attached to the western part of Indian Kashmir.
  2. Gilgit-Baltistan (referred to as the 'Northern Areas' till August 2009), was the area of west Ladakh province which was occupied by Pakistan in 1947.

In 1960, the Presidential Election System through the votes of basic democrats was introduced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir with another body known as 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir State Council' which was also elected by the basic democrats. The major constitutional changes came in 1970 when the system of adult franchise was adopted and a democratic setup was introduced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir through Azad Jammu and Kashmir Act, 1970. For the first time, the Legislative Assembly as well as President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir were also elected on the basis of adult franchise by the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and the refugees of Jammu and Kashmir settled in Pakistan.

The presidential system of government worked for about 4 years when, in 1974, the parliamentary system was introduced in AJ&K under the AJ&K interim Constitution Act, 1974, which has undergone about 11 amendments so far. Earlier in 1974, the Assembly consisted of 40 members, elected on the basis of adult franchise and two co-opted lady members.

In the military's view, the convergence of the AJK political spectrum with that of Pakistan proper would send a signal to the Indians that Pakistan was ready to absorb AJK on the basis of the status quo and recognize Kashmir's Line of Control as an international boundary. This was not a signal the military was prepared to send. AJK's political spectrum did not mirror the political spectrum in Pakistan proper. AJK's largest political party, the Muslim Conference, exists solely in AJK, as does another key AJK party, the Muslim People's Party. If the PML-N gained a presence in AJK, AJK politics would more closely resemble politics in Pakistan proper. The AJK legislative assembly addresses local economic, infrastructure, and social issues. Decisions on the broader issue of Kashmir's status are formulated by the Islamabad-based Kashmir Council.

Elections in AJK were first held in 1975, after Pakistani PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto established a branch of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) AJK. His intent was to weaken the influence of Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, who Bhutto eventually put under house arrest. With Sardar Qayyum out of the picture, Abdul Hameed Khan was elected as the first PM of AJK in 1975. When General Zia ul-Haq imposed martial law in Pakistan in 1977, the AJK Legislative Assembly was dissolved and General Hayat Khan was appointed as the Chief Executive. Hayat served until elections were held in 1985, when Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan was elected the President and Sardar Sikandar Hayat was chosen as the Prime Minister.

The AJK government provides Pakistan-administered Kashmir a veneer of democracy and governance infrastructure; major decisions are made in Islamabad, including negotiations on Kashmir with India and earthquake reconstruction. Two major political parties, Muslim Conference (MC) and the Pakistan People's Party-AJK (PPP-AJK) have taken turns holding the majority of seats in the legislative assembly as well as the positions of prime minister and president. MC led the government from 1985-90, and the PPP-AJK took over in 1990. MC again took the lead in the 1991 elections and ruled until 1996. PPP-AJK returned to power in 1996 until the MC regained the majority in 2001.

AJK MUSLIM CONFERENCE (MC): Founded in 1932, MC is the oldest political party in AJK. Sardar Abdul Qayyum -- also known as Mujahid-e-Awal "the first holy warrior," as he is believed to have fired the first bullet in the 1947 war of liberation to establish AJK -- headed the party since 1967. Later his son, Sardar Attique Khan, headed the party. In 1998, Qayyum's differences with another powerful leader of MC, Sardar Sikandar Hayat, led to a temporary split in the MC. Before the 2001 elections, both MC leaders merged their factions to counter the PPP-AJK and won the elections. Sikandar was to serve as the PM for two and a half years before being succeeded by Sardar Attique Khan, who was PM for the remaining two and a half years. When his term expired, Sikander refused to step down, putting a strain on party unity. MC's manifesto supports Kashmir's annexation to Pakistan. They support the right to struggle against Indian occupation of Kashmir, though MC has never been associated with any militant group, nor is there evidence that it has offered material support to the militancy. MC supported the peace process with India, urging the Indian government to reduce the number of troops in Indian-administered Kashmir on its side of the LOC.

PAKISTAN PEOPLE'S PARTY AJK (PPP-AJK): Barrister Sultan of the PPP-AJK was elected as PM in 1996. In 2001, he returned to his position of PPP-AJK party president, posturing himself as the leader of the opposition against the MC. Sultan was replaced by Sahibzada Ishaq Zafar in 2004. Tension between Ishaq and Barrister increased during the February 2006 party elections when Barrister did not support the party-nominated candidate. This violation of party policy led to Barrister's expulsion from the party. In April 2006, Barrister founded his own political party: Jammu Kashmir People's Muslim League. PPP-AJK had never supported militant groups in Indian-administered Kashmir, though they support the right of Kashmiris to resist Indian occupation. At the same time, they endorse the peace process with India. After the earthquake, PPP-AJK's poor relief activities were criticized, especially in the districts of Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad.

AJK People's Muslim League (AJK-PML): Opposition leader Barrister Sultan formed this party in April 2006 after his disputes with AJK-PPP leader Sahibzada Ishaq Zafar. His party had a strong presence in the three districts of Mirpur, Bhimber, and Kotli. He also had a following in the adjoining areas of Jhelum, Gujrat, and Sialkot. Many local leaders of MC and AJK-PPP, who were not endorsed by their parties for election joined AJK-PML. AJK-PML does not support militant groups and encourages the ongoing Indo-Pak peace process.

JAMMU KASHMIR PEOPLE'S PARTY (JKPP): Headed by Sardar Khalid Ibrahim Khan, the JKPP came into being as a splinter group of the PPP-AJK in 1990. It enjoyed strong support in the Rawalakot and Kotli districts.

AJK MUTIHIDDA MAJLAS-E-AMAL (MMA): Established as an offshoot of the national MMA party, this political alliance was formed in March 2006. Comprised of six religious and political parties, the MMA was lead by Sardar Ejaz Afzal Khan, who was also President of AJK Jamaat-i-Islami (AJKJI). AJKJI won public support from earthquake victims for their quick and sustained relief efforts. Their relief performance is likely to win them significant political support in the three worst hit districts -- Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Bagh. Despite the good public relations, however, AJKMMA is not going to win the majority of seats. The JI rallies and provides support to the militant cause in Indian-administered Kashmir, and has a cordial relationship with Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), a Kashmiri militant group. Their public support for the Indo-Pak peace process is driven by public pressure, but JI does not hide its stance that militant struggle is the sole solution to push the Indians out of "occupied Kashmir."

JAMMU KASHMIR LIBERATION FRONT (JKLF): Founded by Amanullah Khan in 1977, it was JKLF that started the Kashmiri militancy in 1988. By 2006 the JKLF had three factions, each lead by Yasin Malik, Amanullah Khan, and Farooq Siddiqi. Once a potent political force, JKLF does not play much of an active role in AJK politics today, as its demand for Kashmiri independence clashes with the GOP's preference for eventual Pakistani control over all of Kashmir. JKLF supports the peace process between India and Pakistan, but rejects the idea of accession of Kashmir to either India or Pakistan. JKLF had not participated in legislative assembly elections, as every candidate is required sign an oath endorsing the idea of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.

Since 1975, the Prime Minister has been elected by the members of legislative Assembly. He is the Chief Executive of the State, whereas the President is the constitutional head under the Interim Constitution Act 1974. Besides Executive and the Legislature, we now have an independent Judiciary as well. The Supreme Court, High Court and sub- ordinate courts are present, in addition to many other Courts, established under various laws. The pattern of the State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is almost the same which is prevailing in Pakistan with the exception that in Azad Jammu and Kashmir there exists a Council with Prime Minister of Pakistan as the Chairman, 6 elected members, 3 ex-officio Members including President AJK (Vice- Chairman of the Council), Prime Minister of AJK or his nominee, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs, and 5 Members to be nominated by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from amongst the Federal Ministers and Members of the Parliament. The Council has been assigned a specified field of activities and it has also further assigned some of the functions to the Central Government in Pakistan. Such as, the Defence, Security, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Currency and Coins which are the responsibilities of the Government of Pakistan.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir is a fascinating land of people, languages & culture. The texture of present population is composed of races claiming their descent from Semitic, Mongoloid, Aryans, Persians, and Turks& Arabs. The people of districts Kotli, Mirpur & Bhimber are sturdy, simple, truthful and deeply attached to their land. The culture of this area resembles to that of the adjoining area of Punjab. The people of districts Poonch, Bagh, Haveli & Sudhnoti are adventure loving and there are numerous anecdotes of their matchless valor as well as inspiring sacrifices for freedom. While Muzaffarabad District has its own distinctive culture.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir embodies the poetry of nature, which no human language can interpret in words. Majestic ice capped mountains, verdant woods, lively rivers and placid lakes form the landscape of the state. Its snow-covered peaks, dense forests, winding rivers, turbulent foaming streams, wheat scented valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from arctic to tropical, all join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction. Valleys like Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Sudhan Gali, Mehmood Gali, Devi Gali, Ganga Choti, Rawalakot, Banjonsa,Valley Binah, Khoi Ratta, Tata pani, Samahni, Mangla lake and Baghsar unfold delightful scenic beauty and provide a feast of pleasure to a discerning tourists eyes.

Azad Kashmir is also blessed with a varied mountainous landscape ranging from low hills to high mountains (2000 to 6000 meters) most suitable for soft to medium adventure tourism. The area provides excellent opportunities for rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering, summer camping and hikes. Moreover blessed with large number of rivers and streams, the state offers great potential for white water sports like rafting, canoeing and kayaking.

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Page last modified: 28-08-2020 19:49:21 ZULU