Editorial: Shutterdown; Azad Kashmir



Despite our state’s elaborate shows of allegiance to the Kashmir cause, there is a complete black out on Pakistani media as to what has been happening in AJK for the past few days. A complete shutter down is being observed in many districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, in protest against the Pakistani state’s recent attempt of tinkering with the constitutional status of Kashmir.


Much hue and cry was raised from the Pakistani side, and on legitimate grounds, when Kashmir was stripped of its special status guaranteed under article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution. Governmental authorities and national media, on this side of the border, described it as India’s open declaration to proceed with changing the demography of a disputed territory. In a heartbeat, 5th August, the day of the abrogation of said articles, was declared the Black Day in Pakistan, whereby the state rushed to declare its regard for Kashmir’s right to autonomy while denouncing India’s blatant attempt to undermine the disputed status of the region.

Yet, despite these moving performances on national telly, there is a complete black out on Pakistani media as to what has been happening in AJK for the past few days. A complete shutter down is being observed in many districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir as a protest against the Pakistani state’s recent proposal of tinkering with the constitutional status of Kashmir. Treading on its counterpart’s path, the state of Pakistan is all set to introduce the 15th amendment i.e. the 24th attempt to determine the constitutional status of the region in 75 years. The Kashmiris are furious, and rightly so. They have termed the proposal as an unabashed assault, by yet another state, on their fundamental rights and civil liberties, and a vicious attempt to divide the state of Kashmir.

The demonstrations began a few weeks ago in response to heavy power cuts and spike in electricity prices on account of fuel charge adjustments by the federal government. The Awami Action Committee gave the call for protests and soon traffic was disrupted and copies of bills were torn off by the angry demonstrators.

Kashmiris have been subject to 12 to15 hours of power cuts a day while the cost of electricity keeps rising. People of AJK are demanding that the centre keeps their side of the promise made with them under the Mangla Dam Agreement of 1962 which guarantees provision of free electrical supply to the region. Azad Jammu and Kashmir produces over 2000 MegaWatts of electricity a year which is supplied to the rest of Pakistan while the locals are denied their fair share of a meagre 435 MW. 

Protests against the denial of basic civil necessities to the people of AJK have soon escalated into a statewide movement of resistance after the drafts of a proposed 15th amendment and the Tourism Promotion (Amendment) Act came to public notice.

Qamar Zaman Kaira can be seen, in a video doing rounds on social media, laying out the blueprints of this plan which will render AJK a province of Pakistan, with zero autonomy in its own affairs, effectively disposing of its aspirations for independence and sovereignty. The proposal calls for the formation of an overarching Kashmir council ,consisting mainly of ministers from the federal government, while reducing the role of AJK’s government to be largely ceremonial. Political leadership of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, namely the former Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, JKLF, Jamat e Islami, PPP, PMLN and JKAWP, have rejected the proposed amendment and called for state wide protests and strikes. Instead of political engagement with the protestors, the authorities in Islamabad have resorted to persecution and abuse. The president of JKNAP as well as the student leader of JKNSF are under police custody, while political leaders of several parties are subjected to torture and harassment.

Included in this package from the state of Pakistan, is the AJK Tourism Promotion (Amendment) Act 2022 that grants permission to foreign investors to buy land in AJK for business. This act is tantamount to India’s abrogation of article 370. This will strip Kashmir of its special status and the region’s demography would be effectively compromised in the process. Kashmiris are adamant on not letting thier motherland be commercialised.  

Be it Amit Shah from India or Kaira from Pakistan, no one gets the right to dictate the fate of thousands of Kashmiris. Kashmir’s distrust with the state of Pakistan and its incessant attempts to violate its integrity is conspicuous as Muzaffarabad, Poonch, Kotli, Mirpur and other districts and cities, observe comprehensive shutter down demonstrations. Several protestors from Poonch have been arrested and detained in Poonch and Kotli jails. A storm of people has flooded the streets of so-called “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” to let it be known that Pakistan’s role has become redundant in the affairs of their state and that, use of force would no longer be tolerated. AJK is burning with rage but the state of Pakistan and India are busy eating at it while scoring points against each other.

As we discuss the searing conditions unfolding on ground in AJK, it is disheartening to witness the criminal silence of mainstream media and notable journalists.

#AJKrejects15thamendment was trending on twitter a few days ago before it was pushed down by the petty feuds of politicians in Punjab, with top anchorpersons sharing the nitty gritties of these scrumptious squabbles. Historic resistance is taking place in Kashmir and our media is certainly on the wrong side of history.