Here's why Pakistan occupied 'Azad' Kashmir is neither free nor democratic

Human rights abuses in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, have been a recurrent issue, ranging from forced disappearances, torture to political repression.

After a huge embarrassment came for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) President Masood Khan, when a journalist in the United Kingdom asked him to remove Azad from his title since there has been no freedom in the PoK. During an interaction with the President, a reporter sad: “It’s my request that you write Southern Kashmir with your name but not Azad because this is an insult to the word. There is no freedom for us. The Act that you have doesn’t give you any powers,” he said.

Following this, a debate has started on whether the Azaad Kashmir is really free or not. With the on going debate over the issue, we tell you as to why Pakistan occupied ‘Azad’ Kashmir is and was neither free nor democratic:

    • India and Pakistan have been warring over the PoK which is called Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. The region has been designated as “Pakistani-controlled Kashmir” (or Pakistan Administered Kashmir) by United Nations and other international organisations.
    • The most interesting aspect of the legal governance of Azad Kashmir is the myth expressed in the epithet “azad” (free), as opposed to the “non-azad” part  administered by India.
    • The constitution of Azad Kashmir gives it a lot of symbolic independence! Notably, it has a prime minister whereas Indian Kashmir only has a chief minister. However, when you’ll read Article 21 of the 1974 Interim Constitution Act passed by the 48-member Azad Jammu and Kashmir unicameral assembly, then you’ll get to that it has been described as Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, hence, it becomes apparent that the AJK PM is as completely subordinated to the PM of Pakistan as the CM of Indian-administered Kashmir is humbled through constitutional amendments.

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  • The council is chaired by the PM of Pakistan, and its secretariat virtually runs Azad Kashmir from Islamabad.
  • Tight controls on freedom of expression have been a hallmark of government policy in Azad Kashmir. It is alleged that Islambad has prevented the creation of independent media in the region through bureaucratic restrictions and coercion.
  • There’s a high court in Azad Kashmir, but an appeal against its decisions lies in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Here’s why it is not democratic:

  • Human rights abuses have been reported numerous times in Azad Kashmir. Also, there have been issues ranging from forced disappearances to political repression, torture and electoral fraud and suppression of freedom of speech.
  • The human rights commission of Pakistan has claimed that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) carries out extensive surveillance operations on the press and pro independence groups. They have also arrested people without any reason. Later, they were tortured in which several people also died.
  • Also, it has been reported that anyone who wants to take part in public life in Azad Kashmir, then he has to sign a pledge of loyalty to Pakistan. If anyone won’t pledge, then the person faces persecution.

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