New Delhi: 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
"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.