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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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  AN ITINERANT'S JOURNEY THROUGH PAKISTAN OCCUPIED KASHMIR - Maloy Krishna Dhar  
 

Understanding POK and Northern Areas' problems would require a brief journey through the pages of history between 1935 and 1947. Sheikh Abdullah and Chaudhri Ghulam Abbas of Muslim Conference had spearheaded the movement for greater devolution of power to the subjects through elected representatives. The vortex of One Nation independence movement spearheaded by the Congress and the creation of Pakistan on the basis of presumed Two Nation theory had also affected the leadership of Muslim Conference. Sheikh Abdullah charmed Nehru and Newton's 3rd Law propelled Ghulam Abbas to the lap of Jinnah. These two leaders were willing to arrive at a compromise with Sir Gopalswami Ayeangar, than PM of J&K. The two Kashmiri rivals were united on the issue of opposition to the Maharaja but disunited on most other issues. Their ego bags had no space in a common political geography. In Nehru's perception Sheikh wielded the key to Kashmir problem. Congress did not consider it necessary to tackle the Maharaja soon after 1940, when it was clear that Jinnah would not stop at anything but partition of India. He wanted his roast to be cooked according to his specifications. Pakistan had not left anything to be decided by the departing British power.

Jinnah had in his agenda the idea of merger of Junagarh with Pakistan along with chunks of Gujarat. He and other Muslim League protagonists (Nawab Salimullah of Dhaka was of Kashmiri origin) also pitched in for the Muslim majority State of J&K. The immediate tool was available in Mohammad Ibrahim who resigned from Maharaja’s service and pitched in to represent Pakistan’s interest. He assumed leadership of Muslim Conference and was directed by Pakistan to imitate the Congress leaders of Junagarh and set up Provisional Government at Muzaffarabad after holding meetings with Pakistan Muslim League and military officers in a Rawalpindi hotel on October 3, 1947. Ibrahim was set up as ‘Prime Minister’ with Ghulam Nabi Gilkar as the ‘President.’ From this nucleus Pakistan built upon agitations in Poonch, Mirpur, Kotli and nearby areas and later pushed in the armed tribals and regular army. POK was born in Pakistani mind on Muzaffarabad territory long before Pakistan militarily intervened.

Rest is history.

Since then historical accounts, scholastic dissertations, diplomatic ambivalence and strategic sabre rattling have dominated the public and geopolitical domains in India, Pakistan and the international community on the ‘disputed flashpoint’ of Kashmir. It’s not my intention to throw another pedantic brickbat at the readers. They are already confused and have ceased to think beyond the Vale of Kashmir, fall Chinars, shikara rides and daily body bags. In Indian political mind and in the cranial cavity of several intellectuals and Track II diplomats Indo-Pak dispute is limited to the Vale of Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu and a strip of land described as ‘Azad Kashmir’ and ‘Pak Occupied Kashmir’ (POK).

Indian political class, some specialists and genealogical bureaucrats and major media mughals have also started projecting Kashmir problem pertaining to the areas mentioned above. Indian mind is being prepared to link the Kashmir problem for another partition along the LOC. Muzaffarabad, Kotli and Mirpur are distant dreams.

Pakistan Occupied Kashmir comprises of the Muzaffarabad region, adjacent to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, Manshera and Gujrat etc strategic border areas of Pakistan. By grabbing these areas in 1948 Pakistan acquired a strategic depth against India’s conventional war thrusts. By technically integrating the POK areas with its main territory Pakistan had flagrantly violated the UN resolutions, Tashkent and Simla Agreements. Pundits have elaborated these aspects of Pakistan’s perfidious activities.

Indian mind is not trained to think in terms of understanding that vast areas of the kingdom of Kashmir, besides the Muzaffarabad region described by Pakistan as Azad Kashmir, are under Pakistani and Chinese occupation. These territories of the kingdom of Kashmir, which merged into India, have almost disappeared from Indian memory and are considered as ‘technical cartographic definition.’

My journey is limited to trekking along the occupied territories of Kashmir and remind Indians, through a pedestrian’s approach, the need for renewal of Indian interest in the area, which is vitally important to our future strategic planning.

China had grabbed the Aksai Chin region taking advantage of lack of military planning and preparedness and absence of a deep geostrategic understanding of the Chinese designs. Though shown as a ‘disputed area’ in cartographic terms China has virtually integrated Aksai Chin with Tibet Autonomous Region. China had also cajoled Pakistan to cede 1/3rd of Jammu & Kashmir’s Northern Area in the vital Karakoram pass areas in 1963.

India did very little diplomatically and through friendly world powers and the UN to prevent Pakistan from ceding a territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which had legally merged with India. Validity of the 1963 Sino-Pak accord is questionable under international law as at the time of signing of the accord Pakistan was only having actual control on defence of the area ceded. Text of the Sino-Pak Agreement violates all international norms and resolutions imposed by the UNO on India and Pakistan over the ‘Kashmir dispute.

“The Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Pakistan;

HAVING agreed, with a view to ensuring the prevailing peace and tranquillity on the border, to formally delimit and demarcate the boundary between China’s Sinking and the contiguous areas the defence of which is under the actual control of Pakistan (italics by author), in a spirit of fairness, reasonableness, mutual understanding and mutual accommodation, and on the basis of the ten principles as enunciated in the Bandung conference.

Being convinced that this would not only give full expression to the desire of the people of China and Pakistan for the development of good neighbourly and friendly relations, but also help safeguard Asian and world peace.

Have resolved for this purpose to conclude the present agreement and have appointed as their respective plenipotentiaries the following.

For the Government of the People’s Republic of China; Chen Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For the Government of the Pakistan Zulfikar Bhutto, Minister of External Affairs.
Who, having mutually examined their full powers and found them to be in good and due form have agreed upon following:”

The political class and the governments in India have so far not made average Indians aware of the fact that Pakistan had ceded 1/3rd of J&K to China on the strength of assumed parameter ‘the defence of which (the ceded area) is under the actual control of Pakistan.’ What follows from this assumption? Pakistan reserves the right to cede the Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Northern Areas of J&K to China or America on some other strategic consideration on the same plea of de facto military presence in the area. It’s as bad in international law as is the forcible amalgamation of parts of Gaza strip, Western Bank and Golan Heights by Israel. While Pakistan joins voice with other Arab governments to condemn Israel, it has no explanation to give to the people of J&K and India; the legal inheritor of the territories of the Maharaja of J&K. India has also not kept the item on diplomatic dinner plates in Agra, Delhi and Islamabad.

A detailed reading of the land mass transferred to China in 1963 indicate that Pakistan was preparing the grounds for a decisive round of war against India in 1965 with tacit Chinese help and silent nod from America, which was using Pakistan to build a bridge with China. After the devastating defeat in 1962 a stupefied India could do very little to stop China from grabbing a territory through deceit. Article Two of the treaty delineates the ceded area, which include important Passes like Mintake Daban, Parpik, Yutr Daban, Muztagh, and Karakoram.

The perfidious action was given a legal cover by the insertion of Article 6, which reads as follows:

Article 6. “The two parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the boundary as described in Article. Two of the present agreement, so as to sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the present agreement, provided that in the event of the sovereign authority being Pakistan, the provisions of the present agreement and of the aforesaid protocol shall be maintained in the formal boundary treaty to be signed between the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan.” (This clause practically transfers K2 peak to China).

This means Pakistan ceded certain important passes which were historically considered as strategically important to ensure Indian security and interests in certain areas of China and adjacent USSR (now CAR countries). It also means that India has to reopen negotiation either with China or Pakistan depending on the ‘final settlement of Kashmir dispute.’

Indian people are in the dark about this sordid international transaction between China and Pakistan, done under the very noses of the Cold War Allied Powers and the UN. In 1963, Nehru government was not in any position to adopt a military stand on this vital issue. Its diplomatic efforts were also muted and merely formal. In 2006 India should be in a position to reclaim the entire Kashmir from Pakistan including areas occupied by China in Aksai Chin and Karakoram tracts in Hunza region. This strip of land is geo-strategically very important for India.

The strangest oddity of the situation is that some pro-Pakistani political fronts in Jammu & Kashmir (Indian) vociferously resent any talk of dilution of Article 370 and closer ties with the Union. They remain criminally silent when Pakistan gifts a chunk of Kashmir territory to China.

The story of annexation of the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan (Skardu) is equally indicative of Indian failure to react fast to illegal geographical realignment of the historically sovereign territory of the Maharaja of Kashmir. Some neat tricks, and suspected Pak-British collaboration achieved more than what Pakistan achieved in the war of 1948 and from subsequent political and diplomatic paralysis of the government of India.

The Gilgit and Baltistan tracts of the kingdom of Kashmir are known as Northern Areas. Maharaja of Kashmir occupied the territory in 1842 and the British recognised his sovereignty in 1846. Through a recorded history of turmoil, finally, in 1935 the British Crown assumed firm control of Gilgit Agency through a lease agreement. However, the lease did not terminate sovereignty of the Maharaja. During transfer of power, The British did not consider either India or Pakistan as legal claimants of this territory. Paramountcy was reverted to Srinagar durbar and only the Maharaja had legal rights to transfer that territory either to India or Pakistan.

Pakistan repeated the show it staged by stoking rebellion in Poonch, Mirpur and Kotli. It started negotiating with the figurehead rulers of the area and the Sirdars. Mostly Muslims, the Gilgit Scout was also influenced by Pakistan through local religious leaders, Sirdars and potentates. Like the ‘Provisional Government of POK’ a move was mooted by Shah Rias Khan to set up ‘The Gilgit Republic.’ History bears evidence of Pakistani connectivity of Rias Khan. Delhi or Srinagar could do precious little to intervene decisively as pro-Pakistani British officers controlled military balance.

Lord Mountbatten was in constant touch with London, Nehru and Jinnah on the future of Kashmir. His special concern over Gilgit was brought up in his letter to Listowel, Secretary of State:

“NEW DELHI, 29 April 1947, 11.5 pm Received: 29 April, 11.40 pm…

No. 941-P. Gilgit subdivision is at present administered by H.E. the Crown Representative under 60 years agreement made with Kashmir Government in 1935.

2. Passes to Gilgit are only open during the summer months and Political Department therefore propose that the agreement should be terminated during September 1947 thus enabling the Crown Representative’s establishment which includes two Political officers to be removed before termination of paramountcy and giving Kashmir Government opportunity to make suitable alternative arrangements for administration of the area. (Italics-author)

3. Department of External Affairs and Defence Departments confirm that premature termination of agreement as proposed will not prejudice All India interests in the sphere of foreign relations and defence. But Nehru has suggested that the question of terminating the agreement be reconsidered next Spring (sic) when nature of Kashmir’s relationship to the Union of India will be much clearer. (Nehru had bargained for time-author).

4. I have given this suggestion careful consideration but do not think it can be accepted for the following reasons. Firstly, suggestion directly conflicts with the accepted policy of achieving greatest possible devolution of paramountcy by the end of 1947. Secondly, if decision is deferred till Spring 1948 it will be impossible for practical reasons to give effect to it by June 1948. Thirdly, administratively it will be immensely difficult and complex task to complete final transfer of power throughout India by June 1948 and I cannot think it prudent to complicate the task still further by postponing decisions, which can be made now without prejudice to interests of any party. Fourthly, postponement would be strongly resented by Kashmir and interpreted as breach of faith.

5. Subject to your approval I propose therefore to terminate the agreement not later than October 1st 1947. Very early reply is requested as the Resident Kashmir should be informed of decision by the end of April.

6. This is a case which falls to be dealt with under final sentence of paragraph No. 12 of Prime Minister’s statement of February 20th and I propose merely to inform Nehru personally of decision.”

London was in a hurry to escape from India. Listowel replied by telegram on May 8, 1947: “I agree with the line you take and I approved the proposal contained in your para 5. With reference to your para 6 I understand Nehru has now accepted your decision.”

Indian records are silent on Nehru’s ‘agreement’ to Mounbatten proposal. Did Nehru request for some temporary ‘military buffer’ for the Northern Areas and the whole of Kashmir, taking into consideration Maharaja’s inability to defend his territory? No one has the answer. Military leaders of the day are eloquently silent about this.

After June 3, the Political Department returned the area to the Maharaja and the Gilgit Scouts were also handed over to him. Major William Brown, a soldier of Scottish origin, was in command of the Gilgit Scouts. Brown’s commission was transferred from King George VI to the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. The king was in the process of establishing his authority in the area after abrupt withdrawal by the British. London had not heeded to Indian suggestion to phased withdrawal after the political future of J&K was finally decided.

William Brown in his memoir ‘The Gilgit Rebellion’ mentioned that taking advantage of the withdrawal of the British the Pakistani authorities incited the Muslim tribesmen and arranged their congregation in Gilgit town. They were incited to kill Hindu and Sikh officials and other J&K citizen. Absence of authority, especially inability and helplessness of the circumstances of India allured Pakistan to incite Poonch, Mirpur type rebellion under leaders like Rais Khan.

Major Brown was the only military authority in Gilgit and his colleague Captain Mathieson was in Chilas. Brown put the Crown representative Ghansara Singh and his associates under house arrest on the ruse of protecting them. Major Brown came under severe pressure from his superior Col. Bacon at Peshawar and Col. Iskander Mirza, Defence Secretary of Pakistan to declare merger of Gilgit Agency with Pakistan. On the morning of 4th November, he raised Pakistan flag over his headquarters

Representatives of Pakistan government waited for the rulers at their qillas when the Hunza and Nagar rulers were enjoying Maharaja’s hospitality in Srinagar. Events in Gilgit overtook the Maharaja and the rulers of Hunza and Nagar responded positively to overtures from Pakistan, when thy realised that the Maharaja had no physical means to assert his sovereignty.

After two weeks, the Government of Pakistan sent an administrator to take over civil power in the region, during which Brown effectively exercised it. Questions were asked in London but they were not unhappy with the turn of events. Neither Lord Mountbatten nor Listowel had any answer to these conspiracies hatched between junior British officers and the Pakistani leaders. Nehru had no vision of Kashmir beyond Sheikh Abdullah. His tunnel vision was further opalesced by Mounbatten’s indifferent shrug.

Brown was removed in January 1948 and the command was taken over by Aslam Khan. Major Brown remained on the sidelines of military career. Britain awarded him MBE much later and Pakistan, as a token of gratitude posthumously awarded him Star of Pakistan in August 1993. In fact, Major Brown and Captain Mathieson rendered exemplary services to Pakistan by helping the local rulers and Pakistani forces to take control of the legal sovereign authority vested in the Maharaja of Kashmir.

The details of Pakistan’s deceit and treachery in respect of the territory of J&K may take volumes to recount. Some brief details have been narrated to prepare a canvas for projecting the present state of affairs in Pak Occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas, a tract of land and people who have very little common with Pakistan except that they profess different shades of Islam.

Pakistan has blatantly segregated the Northern Areas from the so-called Azad Kashmir (POK). The later was granted a sham constitution and election process. In all practical purposes, the POK is ruled by Islamabad through certain dummies controlled by the army and the ISI. We will comment on these aspects in later paragraphs.

As we journey through the Northern Areas, we come across a different kaleidoscope. The area is divided into five administrative units: Gilgit, Baltistan, Diamir, Ghizer and Ghanche. A population of nearly 2 million inhabits the 72,495 square kilometer geographical spread. The main ethnic groups are Baltis (Balawaris), Yashkuns, Mughals, Kashmiris, Pathans, Ladakhis, Tajik, Uzbek, Mongol, Turkmen and population of Greek origin. Though Pakistan is trying to impose Urdu in the Northern Areas the main languages spoken are, Balti, Shina, Brushaski, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Tibeti, and Pushto.

Religious sect-wise breakdown of population in the Northern Areas is:
Gilgit – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni (imported from Pakistan); Nagar- 100% Shia, Hunza, Yasin, Punial, Ishkoman, Gupis- 100% Ismaili (Aghakhani), Chilas, Darel, 100% Sunni, Astor- 90% Sunni and 10% Shia and Baltistan- 98% Shia and 2 % Sunni. There are about 10% Nurbakshis in the Northern Areas. The Sunnis are predominantly Hanafi with sprinkles of Maliki and Hanbali sects.

Present political status of the Northern Areas is different from the one granted to POK. The areas defined as POK have been granted the luxury of multi-party democratically elected government with a Governor and Prime Minister, all controlled by Islamabad through the Minister in charge of Kashmir affairs, the military and the Inter Services Intelligence. The Northern Areas have been denied that mockery of democracy. It is administratively not a part of POK. Pakistan Supreme Court has recognised that the area is also not a part of Pakistan. However. Islamabad rules directly under the Frontier Crime Regulation framed by the British. The Minister of State for Kashmir and Northern Areas (KANA) runs the administration with the help of six outsider officers and an elected council, which is manipulated by the army and the ISI. The Minister for KANA exercises all political, economic and administrative powers. Recently the NA Council had passed a resolution to abolish KANA’s control. The members were banned entry to all government offices by the Pakistani Minister.

Having described the instruments used by Pakistan to annex a vast area of J&K, it is necessary to highlight the abuses and injustice heaped on the people of POK and the Northern Areas.

The Northern Areas occupied by Pakistan are seething with discontent. Planned induction of Punjabis, Pathans, and other sub-nationalities to the NA has started altering the population pattern. The Sunni militant tanzeems are being encouraged to set up separate mosques and madrasas. Instances of desecration of places of worship of other sects are not uncommon. The ISI has planted the seeds of sectarian violence in Northern Areas.

Pakistan is notoriously divided on sectarian lines, basically the Sunni and Shia tussles. The Shia and Sunni forces are organised on militant lines. The current violent phase between the Shias and Sunnis is traced to the 1980s when a group of Deobandi militants formed the Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASS), to wage 'war' against the Shia landholders in Jhang, Punjab. The ASS, later re-named as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), was established during the Islamisation campaign of President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, and coincided with the rumblings of Iranian revolution. It has branched off into four smaller groups, the Wahhabi, Salafist, Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadis sects, which encourage religious intolerance.

The Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), led by Allama Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi, is a well-organised Shia outfit with a significant following in Jhang. The TJP has several affiliated organisations, including Sipah-e-Abbas, Sipah-e-Ahl-Bait and youth bodies like the Imamia Students Organisation and the Imamia Organisation, which are reported to play an active role. Since 1994, the Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), a splinter group of the TJP with a significant following in Jhang has emerged as a prominent Shia terrorist outfit involved in anti-SSP campaigns, violence and target killings. The TJP is one of the five outfits that have been banned by President Pervez Musharraf on January 12, 2002.

Religious tussle in Pakistan was also shifted to the Northern Areas. The predominant Shia, Ismaili and Nurbakshi communities in NA have come under planned attacks from the Sunnis. In recent months there have been serious clashes leading to considerable loss of lives and properties.

Quoted by daily Insaf (January 7, 2005) leader of Jamaat Dawa (former Laskar-e-Toiba) Hafiz Saeed claimed that the Northern Areas of Pakistan were being turned apostate (murtad) through the Aga Khan Foundation. He said Pakistan was not Islamic; therefore, each Muslim should enforce Shariat in his house. According to him Hindus, Jews and Christians were active in the garb of NGOs and were being protected by them. Hafiz Saeed is known for strong sectarian views. It is obvious that he was building up the mythical case of an Ismaili conspiracy in the Northern Areas. The word murtad is significant because the punishment for a murtad is death in the eyes of the Islamists. It is clear that some vigilante groups are regularly punishing the Ismailis and Shias. Unfortunately, the military administration has not yet woken up to the emerging fissures in the Northern Areas. They encourage it, because the processes strengthen Pakistan’s presence in the area.

Besides religious strife political tremor is also shaking the POK and the Northern Areas. The people of so-called Azad Kashmir have started resenting and voicing protests against Punjabi domination and recent developments indicate that the people of POK are restless over demands of better political and economic status. They are exasperated with the activities of Islamist jiahdis, most of whom are from Punjab and who carry out ISI designed proxy war inside Indian held Kashmir. Of the approximate total strength of jihadists trained in POK only 5% belong to POK populace.

Administratively AJK is divided into five major units: Muzzaffarabad, Bagh, Rawalkot, Kotli and Mirpur. Though most of the population are Sunnis, the POK people are more organised on lines of biradari, like the Abbasi, Sudhan and Sithan etc. At present Islamabad is placing considerable trust on the Sudhan biradari at the consternation of the Abbasis and Sithans etc. We will briefly comment on this in later paragraphs.

Political rumblings in the POK had not started with the recently held rigged election. Way back in 1990-91, when Pakistan was planning escalated violent proxy-war in Indian J&K the political leaders of POK had started voicing demand for ‘independence’. In 1991 Islamabad dismissed, POK's " Prime Minister", Mumtaz Rathore for insubordination and demanding better rights for the people. He was arrested and flown to a Pakistani prison. In the 1996 elections political leaders supporting ‘independence’ were barred. Parties and candidates, who wished to participate on the platform of independence and refused to sign the declaration calling POK’s accession to Pakistan an article of faith, were denied the right to field candidates. The willing political leaders were forced to sign the declaration calling POK’s accession to Pakistan as an article of faith. The President, PM, Minister, Speaker, MLA or MLC of POK has to take an oath: "that I will remain loyal to the country (Pakistan) and the cause of accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan".

However, such oaths militate against UN resolutions. Pakistan cannot make such demand of the people of POK. The people of POK are given no rights in Pakistan. Neither they can vote in Pakistan's general elections, nor take their grievances to the Pakistani Supreme Court. They cannot hold any public office in Pakistan. Pakistan National Budget makes no provision for the region.

Old horse of POK, "President" Sikander Hayat Khan, was removed through a voice vote in the Assembly in 1996 after he demanded share of Pakistan’s budget, better self-rule provisions and minimization of interference by the army and the ISI. Similarly, Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, chairperson of the United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) based in POK, was arrested by the ISI for voicing dissent. After his release, Shaukat Ali Kashmiri condemned the killing of innocent villagers by the Pakistan-backed terrorists. In fact, he tried to draw attention of the world community to the facts of torture on local men and women (sexual abuse included) by the jihadi tanzeems like the LeT, JeM and HuM. He was later hunted out and is now sheltered in Switzerland. Justice (Retd) Mohd Akram, president of the J&K Human Rights Movement has listed specific human rights violations by Pakistan intelligence agencies and POK police. Akram’s movement in POK has been restricted.

Most opposition political parties have condemned POK elections in July 2006. The elections were held for the 49-seat Assembly. Only 29 constituencies were allotted to the eight Districts of POK, 12 to Jammu and Kashmir ‘refugees' living in various parts of Pakistan mohajir voters). Eight seats were reserved for women and one each for the religious scholars, technocrats and overseas Kashmiris.

A total of 369 candidates from 17 political parties and independents contested the polls. In the results declared on July 13, the ruling AJK Muslim Conference won 20 seats, the PML 4, the PPP 7, Jammu Kashmir Peoples' Party 1, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) 2, and independents 6. Voting for the 12 mohajir seats were held in Pakistan, not in POK areas. The military-ISI establishment manipulates these seats to maintain Islamabad’s stranglehold on Muzaffarabad regime. Various opposition leaders including those of AJK Muslim Conference, People’s Muslim League and All Parties National Alliance have condemned the rigged election.

To top it Islamabad managed to get the resignation of Major Gen Mohammad Anwar Khan, belonging to the powerful Sudhan tribe of Tain village in Poonch and to get elected as the POK President. The AJK Muslim Conference was forced to accept Anwar as the official nominee of the party. Anwar Khan is related to Lt.Gen.Mohammed Aziz, Vice Chief of the General Staff, in the GHQ. He was Deputy Director General of the ISI under Lt.Gen.Aziz. He was responsible for directing and mobilizing the Al Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Al Badr and Jais-e-Mohammad (JeM) cadres. With Gen. Anwar ensconced in Muzaffrabad it is anticipated that the ISI will escalate Pakistani offensive in Indian J&K and inside rest of India.

Before we serve the hot dog of jihadi activities of Pakistan from POK territory we may like to taste the salad of prevailing political discontent in Northern Areas. Shorn of any development activity and devolution of power the people of Northern Areas are sharply reacting to the hegemonist attitude of Islamabad.

Political aspirations arise out of a people’s cultural specialities and legacy of power sharing. The ethnic and cultural specialities of the people of Baltistan and Ladakh was politically organised under the Ladakh Wazarat of J&K. The Wazarat was divided into Leh, Kargil and Skardu sub-divisions. Skardu in Baltistan was the winter capital of the Wazarat while Leh, in Ladakh, was the summer capital. The citizens of Ladakh Wazarat were represented in the Council of Maharaja. The Baltis and Gilgitis have retained their religious, cultural and linguistic specialities. Pakistan has disregarded these ethnic and cultural specialities of the area. The people do not approve of fanatic Islamic tenets spread by the military, imported Sunni Ulamas and imposition of Urdu. They have started resisting Pakistanisation of the Northern Areas. The genuine political, social, religious and cultural demands of the people are being ruthlessly suppressed.

Several Human Rights activists and the protagonists of “Balawaristan National Front”- (Gilgit and Baltistan) have started voicing demands for independence and meaningful integration of their political and economic interests with India. The “Balawari” leaders allege that religious persecution had started from the time of General Zia-ul-Haq, who had diverted some Afghan and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen fighters to the area for training in high altitude warfare and also for ‘purifying’ the Shia, Ismaili and Nurbakshi heretics. Several incidents of sectarian clashes, destruction of places of worship and dishonouring of women were reported.

The Balawaristan National Front (BNF) has remained in the forefront of the demand for self-rule and possibly independence for the POK and Northern Areas. It has emerged as a strong ideological force. The Gilgit Baltistan United Action Forum for Self Rule has voiced demand for the right to self-rule. Another party, the Muttehada Quami Party (MQP) also wants to attain a status comparable to that of “Azad Kashmir.” Political and military rulers in Islamabad are deadly opposed to such demands. They have unleashed a reign of terror in the area. Suppression of religious, linguistic and cultural rights by state sponsored agencies and sects have generated frustration and anger. Some even look towards India for moral and material help.

Pakistan maintains, besides the Northern Light Infantry formations and detachments of Regular Army in the NA, some seasonal tanzeem camps at Marol, Baghicha, Dou, Dhappa, a place in between the basins of Khepchan Brok and Satpura and Skardu areas of Baltistan and Bunji, Damiyor, Gilgit and Hamuchal in Gilgit region. These are supervised by the NLI and ISI. The Inter Services Intelligence has started recruiting jihadis from amongst the Baltis and Gilgitis with a view to broaden their Islamist horizon.

The Balawari protagonists cite several instances of persecution by the KANA authorities. A local Superintendent of Police lost his job because his wife, a member of NA Council criticized Pakistan for her husband’s suspension. Mr. Saif-llr-Rehman member N.A. Council was jailed on treason charges simply because he admonished a Pakistani employee. Later ISI sponsored terrorists killed Rehman when he tried to intervene in a sectarian feud. It is reported that more than 100 political leaders and workers have been charged with sedition and have been severely tortured before dumping in Pakistani jails.

The Balawari votaries have also cited instances of other atrocities. According to Abdul Hamid Khan of “Balawaristan National Front”, On 11th Oct 2005, some Al-Qaida terrorists opened fired on Shia Muslims in Basen, 58 kilometer from Gilgit, and killing two. One injured terroirst was arrested by the local Police. He was forcebly taken away by the Pakistani Rangers. Local people protested against the act of rescue of the Al Qaeda terrorist. To drive in terror the ISI kidnapped a Shia youth and killed him. While his relatives and colleagues protested on October 13, 2005 Pakistani Rangers opened fire and killed seven people including the former chairman of Gilgit Municipal Committee. According to the Pakistani newspaper DAWN, October 15, 2005, the death toll in firing in Gilgit mounted to 12 after six more bodies, including that of a woman, were found in different areas of the city.

According to reports from Gilgit the ISI had kidnapped a Shia teacher, Mr. Bilal Hussain from Jamal Hotel Gilgit City on 10th Sep 2005. He was taken to Islamabad for interrogation. He is now presumed dead. The Balawaris allege that Brigadier Riaz ullah
Khan Chib, ISI in-charge of Joint Intelligence Bureau, which deals with internal
security matters, POK and Gilgit-Baltistan and his station commander (2005) in Gilgit-Baltistan, Colonel Fahim had adopted a planned policy to suppress all Shia, Ismaili and Nurbakshi agitations demanding better political status. To achieve this objective the ISI had inducted Punjabi and Pathan employees to the area. Several killings and kidnappings have been reported betwenn 2003 and 2006 (May). Very many details of atroiccities by the ISI agents, Jihadi tanzeems and Sunni sectarians have been reported. These are not unnown to the world community.

Amir Humza Qureshi, founder of the Gilgit-Baltistan Jamhoori Mahaz, has also highlighted issues pertaining to Human Rights violations and cruelty perpetrated on the NA people. In his opinion, the people of Northern Areas faced more human rights violations than Pakistan published ‘repression’ on ‘Indian Held Kashmir’ people. Besides ignoring Human Rights, Pakistan has suppressed the media ruthlessly. Raja Hussain Khan Maqpoon, editor of K2, published from Gilgit was prosecuted for antinational activities. He was arrested from Rawalpindi on May 17, 1996 and tortured. Intervention by mainstream Pakistani media secured his release. Some mainstream newspapers like Dawn and Daily Times have also voiced concern on suppression of media in the Gilgit-Balti and POK regions. However, the Pakistani Establishment is not moved by bad media exposure. People in the POK and Northern Areas have to remain satisfied with mainland print and electronic media. Downloading of Indian satellite signals has been prohibited, though Indian movie discs and cassettes are smuggled in by enterprising traders. No Indian TV channels are specifically beamed for the Northern Areas, though some efforts have been made to penetrate the POK airs.

A few words must be added about the Northern Light Infantry (NLI). The Gilgit Scouts of British-Maharaja days was purged of the Sikh and Dogra elements and a policy was adopted to recruit from the Gilgitis, Baltis, Brushos, Wakhis, and Khowars. The NLI was created in 1973 after merging the Gilgit Scouts, Northern Scouts and Karakoram Scouts. The NLI played a crucial role during Pakistani aggression in Kargil sector in 1999. Its ranks suffered serious casualties. However, Pakistani media publicised about heroic roles played by the jihadi tanzeems. The people of Gilgit and Baltistan region resented this. To ward off a revolt Pakistan conferred on the NLI a regular regiment status only after Kargil war. There are accusations that the Balawaristani protagonists are trying to subvert the NLI. To prevent such possibilities Islamabad has attached special ISI units under cover of the MI field units to each NLI Company. According to sources inside Balawaristan, movement Pakistan has started gradually inducting Punjabi and Pathan elements in the NLI. However, this is yet to stir up the well-trained and motivated NLI personnel drawn from the Northern Areas.

Indian Public mind is by and large aware of existence of ISI managed Jiahdi training camps in POK. With Major Gen. (Retd) Mohammad Anwar Khan at the helm of affairs in Muzaffarabad POK watchers comment that it has become truly an ISI territory. Pakistan has extensively used the POK territory to house, train and motivate the J&K militant groups like the redundant JKLF. Since 1988-89, coinciding with Pakistan’s Afghan sojourn and tryst with the Sikh terrorists in Punjab, Islamabad branched out to the POK through ISI covert operations to set up camps for the jihadi groups and malcontent elements from Indian Kashmir. Before Brigadier Abdullah (2003-4) the operations were supervised by the Muzaffarabad station chief Col. Shauqat Chima. Camps for the Harkat-ul-Ansar (Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) and other tanzeems were established under cover of regular army camps. Infiltration routes were surveyed and compatible groups were generated in Kashmir valley. The operational thrusts gathered momentum after Benazir Bhutto assumed power.

Initially training camps for Pakistani jihadis and Indian and POK Kashmiri youths were set up at Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Kotli, New Mirpur, Tain, Kahuta (POK), Rawalkot, Rajdhani II camp, Baratla, Bhimbar, Panjgiran, Domal and Khairgam. Later, as the operations escalated more camps were set up and integrated with camps in Punjab and NWFP. Soon after the year end earthquake in 2005 Indian agencies declared that Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Al-Badr and Tehrik-e-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen etc tanzeems lost about 1,5000 jihadis. Claims were also made that camps at Rawalkot, Manshera, Nikial, Kotli, Bagh, Palandri, Dudhnial, Deolian, Kalighati and, of course, Muzaffarabad, were destroyed by the quake. However, the United Jihad Council rebutted this claim.

According to latest reports emanating from Indian agencies the ISI used services of Waziri origin Pakistani diplomats and Waziri Army officers to negotiate with the Waziri Sirdars for getting their respective areas vacated by Al Qaeda. ISI reportedly paid heavily to some of the Sirdars, namely of Dwa Toi, Ali Khel, Zira Khel (South Waziristan) and Mardana, Maduri Bangash, Sangroba (North Waziristan) etc. They have persuaded the Sirdars to allow the Qaeda groups to move out from their respective pockets. These Qaeda fighters are of Waziri, Afghan, Uzbek, Few Arabs and Pakistani (Punjabi) origin.

About 70 Al Qaeda men have been brought by ISI to Baglakot, Naukot (NWFP) camps and Samgam glacier camp, Rajdhani, Rawalkot and Salian camps in PoK. Major Sabur Usman of ISI is reportedly handling the jihadis and Al Qaeda elements. He liases with the Lashkar, Jais and HuM cadres and supervise their training, infiltration and action plan.

The jihadi tanzeems had taken up intensive relief work amongst the quake effected people taking advantage of laxity of the administration and Army’s preoccupation with own losses and jaundiced perception that India might launch pre-emptive attack taking opportunity of the natural disaster. Lashkar-e-Toiba, renamed Jamat-ud-Dawa and other groups worked side by side with the foreign relief agencies. Pakistan’s allowance to the jiahdi tanzeems to work at the grass roots level has strengthened their hold on the populace. In fact, the ISI and the jihadi tanzeems rule the POK territory. The so-called elected government is a window dressing.

In his book ‘Last Colony of the Twenty first Century’ Abdul Hamid Khan of BNF asserted, "Pakistani terrorists, drug and arms smugglers, Taliban and other terrorists are speedily settled in Balawaristan to turn the indigenous people into a minority." According to him the terrorists were also used by the ISI for "hostile activities" against Jammu and Kashmir, Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, Central Asian countries, Russia and the Muslim-dominated Sinkiang province in China. He has alleged that the ISI works in close cooperation with the Jamat-e-Islami to recruit youths for training at terrorist training camps in Gilgit-Baltistan region and Mansehra district, adjacent to Jammu and Kashmir.
Khan asserted that youths from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir are trained at camps run by the ISI in Ghowadi Skardu, Darel, Yashote, Astore and Gilgit. The youths are "instigated against non-Muslims of Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, the US and other countries. Abdul Hamid Khan is an insider. We have no reason to doubt in his assertions

Pakistan has used both POK and the Northern Areas against Indian interests. In fact, Pakistani military build up in the areas have been augmented after 1999 Krgil war. Elaborate roads, airstrips and helipads have been constructed within three kilometres of the LOC. Besides the High Altitude Training Centre near Gilgit Pakistan Army has set up jointly with the SSG a guerrilla commando training centre near Skardu. Existing airfields have been improved to accommodate sophisticated fighter-bombers. Military encirclement of India from these areas has reached a level of sophistication. Pakistan has maintained these areas of Kashmir at minimal cost and has been carrying out a low cost war against India from these bases. Is there anybody in India to consider how could the country respond to military encirclement of India from these areas and how could Pakistan’s cost-ratio be escalated? Is there anybody to listen what the people of POK and Northern Areas have to say about Pakistani occupation?

*****

The author is a former Joint Director of Intelligence Bureau. He is available on maloy_d@hotmail.com.

 


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
     
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