Azad Kashmir experience – Pakistan Observer

THE public protests in Azad Kashmir have sparked a new sense of awareness. People have begun to say that this is the right way to protest and demands can be met in this manner. When the public is organized, conscious and fully aware of national and international dynamics, what could be better? In a country like Pakistan, the need for these qualities is even greater than in any other country. Wherever fate allowed opportunists, they twisted the fabric of constitution and law to their advantage, or the aristocracy seized control of resources without any contribution to national income. The need to address poverty and ensure equitable distribution is felt here just as much as anywhere else by every ordinary citizen of Pakistan. An ordinary citizen, due to the helplessness of poverty, is forced to secure their share, as they have no other choice, unlike those who can force the powerful classes to take part so they can also realize what the common people of this country endure.

After the experience of Azad Kashmir, one can say that people have been shown a path. Social media is a suitable means to understand the mindset of ordinary people and some specific classes. This platform often brings forth interesting results. An intellectual from Karachi has posed a question to the city’s residents, asking when their conscience will stir. You buy electricity at Rs.45 or more per unit, while the people of Azad Kashmir buy it at Rs. 3, Rs. 5 or Rs. 10. The same issue applies to the prices of flour. You buy flour at Rs. 140 per kilogram, while the people of Kashmir buy it at Rs. 45 per kilogram. The intellectual has raised valid questions to the people of Karachi, but there are two other aspects that he hasn’t considered.

At this level of knowledge, it would be fair to question whether by stating the rates of electricity and flour, he attempted to awaken the conscience of Karachiites, are those rates not applicable in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Sargodha and Faisalabad? If those rates are applicable there, why did he only mention Karachi? If respect wasn’t a concern, I would definitely ask whether he is contributing to ethnic, linguistic and regional biases by doing this. The other aspect of this issue is the special status of Azad Kashmir. For me, it’s not easy to accept that someone at this level of knowledge is unaware that Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan joined Pakistan under a treaty, under which the government of Pakistan agreed to provide subsidized wheat to these regions. India also made a similar treaty with occupied Kashmir’s people. When plans were made to generate electricity on the rivers of Azad Kashmir, the government of Pakistan made a deal with the people there to provide electricity at subsidized rates. The recent protests in Azad Kashmir were in this context. If someone wants to achieve the same rates through protests without considering this context, it could lead to instability rather than achieving any positive objective.

The leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, has congratulated the people of Azad Kashmir on running a successful movement and has announced that they intend to start a movement to solve legitimate public issues. They have demanded solutions to issues like wheat procurement and expressed a desire for reduction in electricity and flour prices. Can such a movement be successful? It’s not possible because the issue in Azad Kashmir was different. While mentioning the imbalance in tax collection, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman said that the salary class has paid Rs. 300 billion in taxes while large landowners have only contributed Rs. 4 billion. This is injustice. Hafiz Sahib’s observation is correct. Whether it’s Jamaat-e-Islami or any other party, the need of the hour is for all patriotic forces to unite for national issue resolution and stop scoring political because unity is the key to solving problems. If any other party besides the government succeeds in putting pressure, will they be able to run the government? Not likely. Therefore, Pakistan urgently needs to address issues and reduce the problems of the people so that they can lead a peaceful life. The government also has the responsibility to involve all national parties in this process. This effort can lay the foundation for a Grand National consensus.

When there is national consensus in Pakistan at this time, it will not only be good for the government but also for the country and the nation. The political parties in Pakistan should become part of this consensus to address the issues of the people; their future lies in these parties. In contrast, the parties that promote instability will soon be forgotten by the people. Therefore, it is the best time for the government to reach out to political parties. It is also the responsibility of political parties because people elect them for this purpose. The way to solve Pakistan’s current crisis is this, and the people will also give importance to the politicians and political parties who fulfil their responsibilities. History is telling us that whoever heeded the call of time, their future became bright and those who ignored that voice and continued to work for their own interests, time forgot them.

—The writer is contributing columnist.


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