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Poor Prime Minister Of Azad Kashmir

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

24 May, 2010

Raja Frooq Haider is a Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, or ‘Pakistani Occupied Kashmir’. This is the post which all members of the Azad Kashmir Assembly and other politicians wish to occupy. But not every one is ‘lucky’ or ‘suitable’ for this post. Before a politician becomes a candidate for the Assembly in this territory declared as Azad, meaning independent, he has to declare he will be loyal to Pakistan.

The powers that be ensure that most ‘suitable’ candidate wins his/her seat. When these ‘suitable’ people become members of the Assembly, out of them the one which is more ‘capable’ of protecting interests of Pakistan is selected as the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir.

Ability, integrity, or experience in politics is not important, as he is generally there as a show piece in the shop of ‘democracy’ because all major decisions are mad by Islamabad or four Pakistanis appointed by them to run this territory. These Pakistani are known as ‘lent officers’ and hold powerful positions of IG Police, Chief Secretary, Finance Secretary and Accountant General.

In case of the other important post – President, he could be anyone, even a serving Pakistani army officer, as was the case with the former Presidents - Major General Anwar Khan or Brigadier Ayat Khan. Both of these men were serving army officers when it was decided by the Pakistani authorities to retire them and ‘reward’ them with the highest post in their colony- Azad Kashmir.

The rule that the retired army officer cannot hold a public office for two years after his retirement was waved by Pakistan, after all, it was their army man who was to hold the highest post in Azad Kashmir; and to make way for the army men laws could be changed, twisted or broken because they are the masters of this region – Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

The Assembly of Azad Kashmir is ‘so good’ that without a question all the ‘honourable’ members of the Assembly signed on the dotted line and accepted the decision of Islamabad; and both army men ruled this territory in their own style and retired from the post honourably. Who says Azad Kashmir is not azad?

Subservient attitude of the Assembly could be understood from the following example. The Act 74 or Interim Constitution was prepared by Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, Minister of Law of Pakistan; and Azad Kashmir Assembly passed that within 45 minutes without questioning anything or changing a comma or a full stop.

Since the last general elections Raja Frooq Haider is the third Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir; and until some weeks ago his future was uncertain; and there was talk of the fourth Prime Minister during the life of the present Parliament. Tremendous pressure was applied on him to resign, but he refused to budge and decided to fight his corner. There was also talk of government of Pakistan using Article 56 of the Act 74, which was prepared by Pakistani government to keep Azad Kashmir under their thumb.

Last time Pakistan used this self assigned power was in 1990 against Mumtaz Rathore who was elected Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir; but was soon out of favour with the Army General known as GCO Murree and Minister of Kashmir Affairs. He was arrested and brought to Pakistan by one police inspector of Pakistan.

But time has changed and government of Pakistan was reluctant to use this power. Despite all the pressure Raja Farooq Haider stood his ground and weathered the storm by agreeing to a compromise over issue of judiciary. But despite this climb down, the powerful people in Islamabad have not totally forgiven him.

A famous Pakistani journalist Rauf Kalasra in his article published in Daily Jang on 16 May 2010 explained how Azad Kashmiri Prime Minister was deliberately humiliated. He notes with sorrow that (translation from Urdu):

‘In a meeting chaired by the Pakistani Prime Minister held in Islamabad to find a solution to judicial crises in Azad Kashmir, Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir was made to sit on the last chair in the row. Raja Farooq Haider has clean record and has no corruption charges of any kind; but Manzoor Wattoo, Minister of Kashmir Affairs was seated next to the Prime Minister of Pakistan with full honour, yet there are many corruption charges against him. Above all this man has made life very difficult for the Kashmiri leader.’

Rauf Kalasra further said:

‘He met Raja Farooq Haider when he was only a member of the Assembly, and found him honest and brave man. He thought if this man became Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir one day, he would not dance on the tune played by Section Officers of Ministry of Kashmir Affairs’.

According to Rauf Kalasra, ‘Farooq Haider loved Pakistan, but he also loved Kashmir. He loved Kashmiri identity, its culture and history; and wanted to preserve it’. He thought, ‘Ministry of Kashmir Affairs ruled Azad Kashmir from Islamabad just like the British ruled India. Farooq Haider’, he thought, ‘would not take dictation from Section Officers of Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and would go to any lengths to defend rights of Kashmiris.

Rauf Kalasra said, ‘Prime Minister of Pakistan wants more powers for himself in Pakistan, but he is not prepared to give more and legitimate powers to Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir. Azad Kashmir Chief Secretary Khalid Sultan and IG Police were removed (by Pakistan). Yousaf Gilani Sahib has appointed his friend and business partner Dr Tariq Khokhar from Multan as IG Police in Azad Kashmir and did not even consult the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, because to him advice of Minister of Kashmir Affairs was more important. He (Gilani) has appointed his own administration in Multan, but is not prepared to let the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir have administration of his choice’.

Rauf Kalasra has explained how Pakistan rulers treat Azad Kashmir and elected Prime Minister of the area. The above transfers were not made to promote good governance, but to control and make the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir helpless and impotent. Raja Farooq Haider was ‘lucky’ at least he was allowed to take the last seat in the row that he could also be present when decision is taken on judicial crises of Azad Kashmir. In the past other Prime Ministers were not given this honour – they were told point blank to follow the orders.

Raja Farooq Haider has appeared on national TV channels of Pakistan to defend interests of Azad Kashmir. He might not be very articulate or eloquent in his presentation, but he was sincere and courageous. He was the first Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir to demand that the Azad Kashmiri people should be allowed to use water of Mangla Dam, which was built and upraised by uprooting lakhs of Kashmiri people twice.

While presenting his case and defending interests of Azad Kahsmiri people, he ensured that he did not upset powerful people in Pakistan, therefore, after every few minutes he had to assure the anchor man and his viewers that he was still loyal to Pakistan.

On 4 May 2010 in a TV programme called ‘Point Blank’ he perhaps thought he had crossed the red line, and soon his tone changed and he said to the Pakistani anchor man: ‘I am more loyal to Pakistan than you are. I am more Pakistani than you are. You are a Pakistani by default, but I am a Pakistani by conviction.’ He said that even though he knew that the constitution of Pakistan did not regard him as a Pakistani.

He also had courage to demand changes to the Act 74. No Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir had done this. Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, while promoting rights and interests of people of Azad Kashmir has to ensure that he does not annoy powerful people in Pakistan, as all Ministers and Assembly Members wait for his down fall that one of them can become Prime Minister. Those who fail to become Prime Minister at least become rich because of the horse trading which ensues as a result of sacking of the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir.

I hope Raja Farooq Haider will stand firm and assert his position. Interest of people of Azad Kashmir must be his priority. Azad Kashmir produces far more electricity than we need, and yet we face long hours of load shedding. There are many other serious problems which people of Azad Kashmir face; and it is his prime responsibility to protect their interests.

Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com

To view other articles see my blog: www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com