By Amjad Ayub Mirza
Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK), Tanveer Ilyas, has called an all party conference in Muzaffarabad on August 7, in an attempt to prepare the PoJK public opinion in favour of the proposed 15th constitutional amendment.
I am truly indebted to Kashmiri scholar Shabbir Chaudhary for providing me with vital documents so that I could be able to write this article.
The protests against the proposed 15th constitutional amendment, cancellation of taxes on fuel charges, load shedding and restoration of subsidies were initiated by the Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party (JKNAP) and its student wing called Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (JKNSF) and were limited to the Poonch district in PoJK.
However, today the protests have engulfed the whole of the occupied state. Several general strikes have taken place in the four districts of Poonch division resulting in the arrests of hundreds of political and human rights activists all over PoJK.
The social and political unrest is so intense that Qamar Zaman Qahira, the Kashmir Affairs advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister had to physically come to Muzaffarabad to address a press conference and try to pacify an agitated population.
According to details revealed in the proposed draft of the 15th amendment, the terms 'State' will be replaced with 'Azad Jammu Kashmir' and the mention of United Nations is going to be replaced with the words 'subject to recognition' from the so-called 1974 interim constitution of PoJK.
All financial powers will be transferred from the government of PoJK to Pakistan thus practically degrading PoJK to the level of a provincial entity.
Kashmir Council will be revived which will include six members from the PoJK legislative assembly and seven from Pakistan. It will include the Prime Minister, Defense and Foreign ministers of Pakistan and, will be headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The Chief Justice, High and Supreme Court judges as well as the Chief Election Commissioner of PoJK will be directly appointed by Pakistan's Prime Minister and appointments made by the PM would not be allowed to be challenged in the courts.
The Kashmir Council will have the powers to collect taxes and present its own budget. Property worth Rs 80 billion in Pakistan which belongs to PoJK will be brought under the Kashmir Property Council and PoJK will have no powers over its sale or to preserve it.
The PoJK legislative assembly seats will be increased to 56 to include two new members from Laddakh. Under Article 2 of the draft of the proposed amendment the status of the legislative assembly shall be defined as 'joint sitting' government which will include Pakistani Prime Minister and members of the Kashmir Council. Therefore, in future the current Legislative Assembly will not be free in electing the PoJK president.
According to article 19/B, twenty-two powers that are currently executed by the PoJK government will transferred to the Kashmir Council which will have a majority of seven members from Pakistan over six members elected form the PoJK's proposed 'joint sitting' government.
In short, the current status of PoJK will be demoted to that of a province of Pakistan and the role of the so-called 'Joint sitting' government will that of a mere tax collector for the treasury of Pakistan and act as a law enforcement agency.
The ongoing political movement in PoJK is of vital importance. It is not only a manifestation of the resilience of the four million Indian citizens living under the occupation of Pakistan but also a demonstration of the will of the people to fight back.
My people are being tortured in the most brutal medieval fashion. Abid, a young activist, was arrested and his body was cut with a shaving blade and then ground chilies were rubbed into his wounds.
Similarly, another young man, by the name of Asif, was beaten and his legs were whipped with a stick in such a vicious manner that his skin peeled off from several places on his calf and thighs.
Leaders of JKNAP and JKNSF, Liaquat Hayat and Samad Shakeel, along with many others have been imprisoned. Yet the end of political upheaval is nowhere in sight. In the coming days and weeks violent unrest cannot be ruled out.
Today, the people of PoJK, who according to the instrument of accession signed on October 26, 1947, truly are Indian citizens and fighting the final battle to save the Indian territory which in its true sense is faced with an existential crisis.
(Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK)