POJK people are no longer ready to put up with Pak's delusionary Kashmir policy

Story by  Aasha Khosa | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 19-05-2024
Muzaffarabad, capital of PoJK (X)
Muzaffarabad, capital of PoJK (X)


Aasha Khosa

Na Khuda hi mila, Na visal-e-Sanam; Na Idhar ke rahe, Na udhar ke rahey`` (I didn’t get to meet the God; nor did I meet my beloved; I was left with being neither here nor there). This anonymous and popular Urdu couplet sums up the dilemma of the people of the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). This is not my opinion but what a young, educated, and well-established Muzaffarabad resident told me, not too long ago.

Reporter's Diary

I met him at a conference on the sidelines of an international event in a European City (I am withholding details to protect him) – where the American and Pakistani speakers tried to blame India for the Kashmir situation or whatever they thought of it. He was one of the speakers and narrated the history of POK or “Azad Kashmir” to audiences who had no clue of the intricacies of the issue. 

I noticed that Pakistanis omit two key details about this story: one is that it was the newly formed state of Pakistan that attacked J&K even though its Maharaja had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan as he wanted time to decide on which dominion to join following partition of India. The second is that Pakistan never followed the first pre-condition set by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in its April 21, 1948 ceasefire resolution that asked Pakistan to withdraw all its forces from the occupied area (POJK) to facilitate holding of a Plebiscite in the undivided J&K to ascertain people’s opinion on J&K’s accession.

Protests in Muzaffarabad

He too conveniently skipped both these key facts of history. I rose from the audience and questioned him. He fumbled and tried to reply with irrelevant details; I thought I had made my point.

During our after-the-event interaction, we spoke. He told me that I had made a valid point but I also must look at the entire issue from the perspective of his people – POJK residents.

He said generations in the POJK had been dreaming of Kashmir’s liberation (from India). It never happened but in the meantime, they were never owned by Pakistan and kept in a standby mode. He said his people lived under a constant fear of an imminent invasion by the Indian Army. Life was so unsettling for them.

I told him that back home we don't think that way. Almost trying to reassure him, I said I don't think that the Indian Army was preparing to take over the POK. He moved closer to me and almost whispered into my ears, “Why don’t they come;  kyon nahi aatey?” Before I could look at him with an expression of surprise, he vanished like the gust of the wind. I saw from standing at a distance and flashing a faint smile.

Ahmed Farhad, a poet whose whereabouts are not known

He spoke Pahari, the language of most POJK people. Yes, the POJK people don’t speak Kashmiri’; they speak Pahari–Pothwari, Gojri, Dogri, and some dialects of these languages. During the ongoing crackdown against protesters in POJK, a famous Pothwari poet Ahmed Farhat has been whisked away from his Rawalpindi home to an unknown destination by Pakistan’s ISI.

Much earlier, I had met many POJK activists during my visit to Islamabad-Rawalpindi for a journalistic assignment.  We were a group of Indians from J&K staying in the Kashmir House in Rawalpindi, the old city close to the swanky capital of Pakistan. On knowing that stalwarts like veteran Editor Ved Bhasin and the legendary Left leader Comrade Krishan Dev Sethi were in Rawalpindi, many political activists from Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, etc. came to meet us. Sethi, a star of his time, was from Mirpur (POJK).

Some of them broke down while speaking of the vivisection of their land. They all spoke a dialect of Dogri and not Kashmiri and wished for the reunification of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Being part of Pakistan didn’t make them happier people; they missed their milieu and rued the neglect of their areas with scanty roads, no major developmental projects and people having to leave for the Gulf and the UK for petty jobs.

They told us that people had repaired and built roads in POJK in many places with Gulf money. The overall impression was that Pakistan has kept the area as it was when the tribesmen from Northwest Frontier province ran over it.

There are hardly any Kashmiris living in POJK though some of them live in other cities of Pakistan. A few years ago, Coke Studio Pakistan recorded a famous Kashmiri song of Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor with the folk singer Mohammad Altaf Mir apparently to show off Pakistan’s ‘Kashmir connection.’  It remains a mystery how Ha Gulo.. singer Mir, a Kashmiri, reached POJK.

(A video of the protests posted by Qamar Aziz on X:)

We were invited to dinner by a Kashmiri politician, who hailed from north Kashmir. Being vocal and the only woman journalist, I was advised not to prod him on his past, for he was one of the collaborators of Pakistan at the time attack by the newly formed State on Kashmir in October 1947. The Maharaja asked for Delhi’s help in pushing back invaders and quickly signed the instrument of accession with India. The Indian Army descended into Kashmir and in no time, the first proxy war launched by Pakistan was over.

Many tribesmen were killed and others were left in trucks with looted stuff from the houses of Hindus and Sikhs. Many collaborators like our host also joined them to avoid possible retribution.

In Rawalpindi, he lived in a big old-fashioned house. His Punjabi wife was a perfect hostess who served us great food and spoke animatedly, probably making up for her husband's silence. I found their grandchildren peeping from behind the full-length curtains of their opulent drawing room. They wanted to touch a Hindu sari-clad woman to feel she was real and not the one whom they see on their TV set in the Hindi serials. The children almost treated me as an exotic human being.

To my surprise our host did not speak a word; his silence was evocative and explosive. He often wiped his eyes as seniors in our team put hands on his shoulders to comfort him. When I shook hands with him to say goodbye, I felt his hands were trembling with emotions. He was undergoing an emotional upheaval.

Beside him, the other Kashmiri-speaking people I met in Rawalpindi were Kashmiri separatist leaders and dreaded militants like Asan Dar and Syed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist groups and their subordinates. Militant groups like JKLF, Hizbul Mujahideen, the Muslim Janbaz Force, etc. had their well-guarded offices in Rawalpindi. Their leaders moved around in worn-out Toyotas and Suzuki hatchbacks.

One evening one of them knocked at my door in the Kashmir House and poured his heart out on how ‘Agency’ (common address for ISI in Pakistan) was prodding him to go to Kashmir and launch dramatic attacks on targets. "I cried and told them that I have a severe spine injury, but they don't budge," he said.

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Today when Kashmir is undergoing rapid transformation and thanks to social media, it’s being seen in real-time in the rest of the world, I can imagine what must be going on in the mind of all the POJK people. The Muzaffarabad-based young man, the silent Kashmiri man in Rawalpindi, and the spirited activists who somehow wanted the State to become one again - all must be feeling disillusioned in having to put up with Pakistan where even flour is unaffordable for common people.