Help Pakistani Kashmiris' 'freedom struggle', India urged

Help Pakistani Kashmiris' 'freedom struggle', India urged

 There is simmering discontent among Pakistani Kashmiris against Islamabad's misrule, activists from the region said Wednesday, urging India to shun its ''defensive'' Kashmir policy.

"Azad Kashmir (as Islamabad terms Pakistan-administered Kashmir) is free, of course. But free for Pakistanis only," Mumtaz Khan, a Canada-based Pakistani Kashmiri activist, said at a seminar here on the status of the area.

Khan, who heads the International Center For Peace and Democracy (ICFPD) a Canada-based NGO, alleged that no politician could talk independently about the Kashmir issue in Pakistan because it is directly under the military's control.
He said the people of the region, including Gilgit-Baltistan, had pinned their hopes on New Delhi but "India has been defensive in its Kashmir policy".

"This has allowed Pakistan to take an aggressive stance," he said, reminding the Indian government of a parliament resolution saying that Pakistan "must vacate the areas of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression".

"India has faulted. You have violated your own constitution that says Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir is a disputed territory. You have to demonstrate something practically," the activist said.

Senger Sering, another activist based in Washington and originally from Gilgit Baltistan, said people from his region wanted an independent republic and "that is why Pakistan is treats us worse than enemies".

"There is institutionalized slavery. Pakistan has been eating out our resources and this slavery has been legalized by an ordinance," Sering said, referring to the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009.

He alleged that "target killings" were rampant in the strategically located region rich with natural resources, particularly with a great potential for hydroelectricity.

The territory, where China has shown keen investment interest and is in fact developing many hydroelectricity projects and roads, is also a gateway to Central Asia.

But the area is ridden by violent incidents that Islamabad blames of sectarian groups, both Shias and Sunnis.

But Sering denied this, saying: "Target killings are done by mercenaries hired by (Pakistani spy agency) ISI."

"They (killers) are coming from outside," he said.He alleged that the area is hugely militarized and the Pakistan Army controls everything.

"We have a bakery, the only bakery in the region. It is named Askari Bakery but is known as Military Bakery because it is run by the army," he said.

Asking India to engage with activists from Pakistani Kashmir, he added that India should allow a symbolic representation for the region in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.

"Let some activists be allowed to represent the region in the Kashmir assembly and legislative council," he said, adding this was possible because constitutionally, they are citizens of India.