By Sikander Hayat
All the pictures are from Azad Kashmir
First let’s talk about the geography & political structure of Azad Kashmir.
The Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir, usually shortened to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) or, simply, Azad Kashmir, is the southernmost political entity of Pakistan.
It covers an area of 13,297 km² (5,134 mi²), with its capital at Muzaffarabad, and has an estimated population of about four million.
The state's financial matters, i.e., budget and tax affairs, are dealt with by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, instead of by Pakistan's Central Board of Revenue. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council is a supreme body consisting of 11 members, six from the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and five from the government of Pakistan. Its chairman/chief executive is the president of Pakistan. Other members of the council are Azad Kashmir's own president and prime minister and a few other AJK ministers. Azad Jammu and Kashmir has its own president, prime minister, legislative assembly, high court, and official flag.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is a self-governing Pakistani state. It has its own elected president, prime minister, legislature, high court, and official flag. The state is divided into two administrative divisions which, in turn, are composed of a total of eight districts.
Like the rest of Pakistan, Azad Kashmir is predominantly Muslim.
President of Azad Kashmir is Raja Zulqarnain Khan and the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir is Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan.
The dominant language of Azad Kashmir is Northern Hindko, which is sometimes incorrectly called Mirpuri. Its linguistic boundaries extend beyond the borders of Azad Kashmir, however, and, therefore, it is inaccurate to call the language Mirpuri. The Hindko dialects spoken in
Azad Kashmir are distantly related to Punjabi but have distinctive features. Pashto is spoken by a sizeable minority of people, due to the large number of migrants from Afghanistan and from the Pashto-speaking areas of Pakistan, who have settled in the Mirpur area.
Azad Kashmir is cold and mountainous in the north, whereas it has a hot and subtropical climate in the southern Mirpur region. It also has some very scenic mountains and river valleys. The region includes a significant part of the Himalayas, but does not include Nanga Parbat, the world's seventh-highest mountain peak, which is located in the Gilgit Baltistan.
Now I shall try to talk a bit about the Chinese role in Azad Kashmir and Indian annoyance at this role. China has invited Mir Vaiz Umar Farooq of Hurriat Conference to visit China. This invitation has been sent through an NGO. Mr Umar Farooq has said that China has a key role in final settlement of Kashmir issue as it holds about 37,250 square kilometres area of Kashmir called Aksai Chin.
India has never accepted Chinese role in the resolution of Kashmir dispute and has even asked China to stop helping Azad Kashmir as two leading Chinese firms would undertake the urban development projects in three cities Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawlakot. The contract was signed by representatives of two Chinese construction companies and ERRA deputy chairman Lt Gen Sajjad Akram.
Khalid Amin writes in Daily times “In order to assist Pakistan to complete the development work in earthquake affected areas, China offered credit worth $300 million whereas Pakistan government contributed additional $53 Million to complete the reconstruction projects, said ERRA deputy chairman in his address to the ceremony.
For Muzaffarabad a fund of $190.62 million was allocated for completion of 90 projects. In Bagh 50 projects with the cost of $123.55 million whereas 30 projects in Rawlakot city with a cost of $38.83 million will be completed in next four and half years.
These projects will provide all modern days facilities including construction of govt buildings, roads, bridges, shopping centers, satellite towns, play grounds, besides education and health facilities. Addressing the ceremony, ambassador of China; Luo Zhaohui said that 2005 earthquake was a great disaster in Pakistan's national history and Chinese government and people were always prepared to cooperate with people of Pakistan to mitigate the sufferings caused due to this great catastrophe.
Federal Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, hailed the ERRA and SERRA role for recovery and reconstruction
efforts after devastating catastrophe. He acknowledged role of China in construction and development of various projects in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.”
Recently Chinese government distributed to the visitors to Tibet handouts in which Indian Kashmir was shown as a separate country and not part of India. Also China has a policy of issuing visa on a separate sheet to the residents of Kashmir rather than on the Indian passports as is the case with other citizens of India.
Moin Ansari writes in Pakistan Daily “In an editorial in People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese government, China said that for the US to get Afghanistan right, it must first stabilise Pakistan and the India-Pakistan relationship.
To safeguard its interests in the fight against terrorism in South Asia, the US must ensure a stable domestic and international environment for Pakistan and ease the tension between Pakistan and India, the daily said.
This made it easy to understand why US President Barack Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan issues, and why India was included in Holbrooke’s first foreign visit, it added. In fact, the “Afghan problem”, the “Pakistani problem” and the “Indian-Pakistani problem” were all related, it went on to say.
China is, in effect, asking for Holbrooke to return to his original mandate of including Kashmir in his South Asia brief. Indian officials considered it a diplomatic victory to have changed the
US brief to keep India and Kashmir out of Holbrooke’s agenda. But realistically, even New Delhi is aware that some months down the line, when the present US policy to stabilise Afghanistan or Pakistan isn’t really working, and Pakistan ups the ante on a deal on Kashmir to keep fighting the Taliban, the US may find itself tempted to pick up the Kashmir part of the brief again.”
1. Azad Kashmir & Gilgit Baltistan - Time For Pakistan To Take Unilateral Action
2. Indian Army Shells Pakistan Army Post In Shakargarh - Connection With Kashmir Elections?
3. The Killing Fields of Kashmir – Indian Brutality Cannot Extinguish The Flame Of Azadi (Freedom)
4. Pakistan & The Provinces – The Question of Provincial Autonomy & Its Impact On Pakistan’s Future Prosperity