By Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza
January 10, 2023 will be remembered as a solidarity day when the oppressed people of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) staged protests in all three divisional headquarters in support of the on-going social upheaval in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB).
This is an important development. The protests held in Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and Mirpur cities were organised by students and civil society.
None of the so-called nationalist parties such as the JK National Awami Party, United Kashmir People's National Party, JK People's National Party, the National Equality Party JKGBL, the JK liberation Front or those who are collectively referred to as pro-Pakistan parties like JK People's Party, JK Muslim League (N), Jamaat-e-Islami or the ruling party in PoJK the JK Tehreek-e- Insaaf have raised their voice for the people of PoGB.
It is not a coincidence that all of the above mentioned nationalist parties are staying aloof from crucial political developments taking place in PoGB.
Intrinsically, (whether consciously or by default) these parties follow the general line of the Pakistan military establishment when it comes to the so-called Kashmir issue.
Pakistan military establishment promotes the ideology of Jinnah's two-nation theory. Therefore, being a Muslim majority region, Kashmir is considered part and parcel of the false concept that all Muslim majority princely states at the time of partition of India would accede to Pakistan.
The second doctrine that the Pakistan military has been promoting is the idea that somehow the State of Jammu and Kashmir should become an independent state and therefore be ruled by a Muslim majority and thus become a 'natural' ally of Pakistan.
Both of the above mentioned narratives regarding Jammu Kashmir are promoted vigorously through the Pakistan media and ISPR. And have conveniently been adopted by every political party in PoJK.
The pro-Pakistan parties, understandably, tow the line of the Pakistan military establishment by promoting the idea of Jammu Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.
The Nationalist parties, on the other hand, survive and are allowed to campaign since they conveniently propagate the doctrine that since Jammu Kashmir was an independent state at the time of partition hence all parts should be 'liberated' and reconstitute the erstwhile state that was ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, the last king of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The only people in PoJK who are not allowed to establish a political party or a campaign group and work freely are those who call for the reunification of PoJK and PoGB with India. They base their argument on the signing of the instrument of accession between Maharaja Hari Singh and the last governor general of India, Lord Mountbatten.
The nationalist parties raise the slogan of 'Azadi' but it is directed toward Indian Union Territory of Jammu Kashmir and not Pakistan. They have never campaigned for liberation of PoJK from Pakistan and limit their demands to increase in legislative powers and economic issues such as cuts in taxes of fuel, end of load shedding, reinstatement of subsidies etc. Hence, their political struggle is aimed at anti-India rhetoric and/or reformist demands from their occupier.
It is in this backdrop that the protests taken out in all divisional headquarters in PoJK on January 10 become extremely significant. The PoGB solidarity protests were initiated by college students and civil society who has thus far have been relying on Pro-Pakistan or nationalist parties for expressing their political and economic demands, and which has led them nowhere.
All this has now suddenly changed. The refusal of political parties in PoJK to join the rebellious crowds protesting in temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius has been so blatant that the civil society and the youth in PoJK have braved to take independent initiative and come out in droves on to the streets fully charged.
The students all over PoJK are now questioning three things. Firstly, they are questioning the ability of the nationalist parties to be strong enough to force Pakistan to deliver reforms.
Secondly, they are pointing a finger toward Pakistan for their misery and refuse to trust its government and military's political narrative regarding Jammu Kashmir.
And finally, they have begun to look for an alternative to the illegal occupation of Pakistan and are now getting mentally prepare to rejoin Jammu and Kashmir and Laddakh by entering into a voluntary union with the Republic of India.
The instrument of accession signed on October 26, is the only life line thrown at the people of PoJK and PoGB 75 years ago that could guarantee food, shelter and prosperity of approximately 6 million oppressed people of PoJK and PoGB, who in actuality are by default Indian citizens.
The time for pro-Pakistan and so-called Nationalist parties seems to be up. Now is the time for extending and fraternising solidarity among the subjugated people of PoJK and PoGB as well as time for action.
In the coming weeks and months more and more independent and deceptively spontaneous protest should be expected which may enter a stage of combat and with a single stroke of revolutionary upheaval get rid of the Pakistani occupation and bush aside the so-called impotent nationalist parties and groups.
The PoGB solidarity protest held Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot and in Mirpur in PoJK on January 10 are a manifestation of just that.
(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is and author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK.)