There is an old saying from the Deep South, that ‘he who shouts the loudest, has the most to hide’. It couldn’t be more apt at this time. The Pakistani Prime Minister and his many men, are all over the media in Washington, in a media blitz that is commendable for its energy and twisting of the truth.
Along with this, a large clutch of other Pakistanis have been brought in to do the rounds on the Hill, and speak emotionally at sundry think-tanks, that claim to shape ‘world opinion’. Among sundry minor officials and analysts, was none other than the ‘Prime Minister’ of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, Raja Farooq Haider, brought to Washington to plead emotionally about his ‘Kashmir brethren’. He presented such a staggering list of human rights violations — allegedly committed by the Indian forces — that one wonders how our soldiers have the time to fight anyone at all.
‘Azad’ Kashmir: Thirteenth Amendment & ‘Interim’ Constitution
But here’s the irony. It was no less a person than Farooq Haider who put a cat among the pigeons, when he introduced a far-reaching legislation in June 2018 in the local Legislative Assembly, called the ‘Thirteenth Amendment’ to the Interim Constitution 1974. It’s called an ‘Interim’ Constitution, since Pakistan wants to underline that this is only a stop gap measure till the ‘Kashmir issue’ is solved.
The truth is that this ‘Interim’ Constitution has undergone several amendments, with each one increasing the power of Islamabad’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. The basic structure of the ‘Azad’ Kashmir government consists of two bodies – one, the Legislative Assembly, and the other, the Council headed by no less a person than the prime minister. This Council is made up of five others nominated by him from among his own ministers, three ex-officio members including the President and Prime Minister of ‘Azad’ Kashmir ( also appointed after clearance by Islamabad) and the Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs. There are only three local members who are from the legislative assembly.
Added to this travesty of a government is that nearly everything of consequence or inconsequence – from newspapers to the appointment of judges – the Election Commissioner and the Auditor General – falls under the Council’s remit, as does anything to do with the plentiful hydroelectric power that the area is blessed with.
The Legislative Assembly has the power to levy taxes, and run day-to-day affairs. Even here, the tax authorities are appointed from among Pakistan’s Federal Bureau of Revenue. In sum, the Assembly has probably marginally more power than a DC’s office in India.
How ‘Interim’ Constitution of ‘Azad’ Kashmir Became a ‘Permanent’ One
On 2 June 2018, the Thirteenth Amendment was introduced in the House by the enterprising Prime Minister Haider, and passed within record time. It’s quite an amazing document. First, it removes the word ‘interim’ from the title, making the Constitution a permanent document. It went on to move some 52 subjects from the Council to the Assembly, including all of the appointments to the higher posts. For the first time, the fundamental rights that are part of the Pakistani constitutions, were also brought in.
In effect, the Assembly virtually booted out the Council and its Emperor. Everyone celebrated, and fulsome and fully-deserved praise was heaped on the Prime Minister of ‘Azad’ Kashmir. He had done what his predecessors had tried to do since 1977. What he perhaps also did was to effectively ‘end’ the Kashmir dispute festering since 1947.
Degree Of Attention Paid To A ‘Serious Issue’ By Pakistan
An actually independent ‘Azad’ Kashmir meant that all UN resolutions went out of the window, and with it, the might of the Pakistani state.
The degree of attention that Islamabad pays to this area was apparent in the fact that it was not until September that the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs blew a blood vessel. The Secretary hurried to the Prime Minister, who then took ‘serious note’ of the issue and created an eight-member committee under the Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem, the Attorney General, and a clutch of bureaucrats from various ministries. A report was to be prepared in 30 days. Nothing more has been heard of this.
How Pakistan Put India in the Dock
As of now, the ‘Azad’ Kashmir website continues to show the new Constitution, but the Islamabad-based Secretariat for the area, shows the earlier one as intact. Rules of Business for the area also remains as before. But the Council is probably no more. It appears that the whole powers of this body has been transferred directly to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. If that is true, then it’s a change of status that is far more drastic than anything that has been done in Srinagar and Jammu, at any time in the last 70 years.
The extent of the hypocrisy that marks Pakistani rage in public is unequalled. It is true that diplomacy requires a country to lie like a trooper with a straight face in the service of one’s government.
Islamabad’s capability in this direction is accompanied by a complete black out of any news on ‘Azad’ Kashmir or Gilgit Baltistan, even while successfully focusing attention on the Indian side of Kashmir.
That is altogether an admirable strategy that has put India in the dock, even while Pakistan plays constitutional ducks and drakes with areas under its control. Delhi can hardly complain. A certain imperial disdain has characterised its own policy on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Time to wake up and smell the coffee.
(Dr Tara Kartha was Director, National Security Council Secretariat. She is now a Distinguished Fellow at IPCS. She tweets at @kartha_tara. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
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