Political activists and experts have condemned the proposed 14th amendment Bill to the 1974 Interim Constitution of so-called Azad Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as it further restricts the freedom of expression and opinion among the people in the occupied territory, while strengthening the grip of the Pakistani state over the region even more.
In a webinar organized by the Jammu Kashmir International People’s Alliance (JKIPA), Junaid Qureshi, the director of European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said that Pakistan has over the years been duplicitously projecting itself as a strong votary of the now near-defunct 1948 UN Resolutions that specified a referendum in the entire erstwhile Princely State of J&K.
“The reality, though, is that the onus of implementing the first stage of the suggested process that would lead up to the holding of such a referendum lay squarely on Pakistan’s shoulders,” Qureshi said.
“Pakistan was asked to first withdraw all its nationals that had entered J&K for the sake of fighting, a step that it has not taken till date. The hypocrisy and the abundant mismatch between Pakistan’s statements invoking the UN Resolutions and its actions on the ground, which clearly point to the absence of any intention of being serious about a referendum, also came through in the draft 14th Amendment Bill,” he added.
The director of EFSAS said that the 1974 Interim Constitution of ‘Azad’ J&K is not the only place where Pakistan’s insecurity over its lack of a legal title over J&K comes through, it is also Article 257 of the Pakistani Constitution.
“Article 257 of the Pakistani Constitution of 1973 quaintly states that, “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State”. By starting Article 257 with the word “When”, as against “If” or something else less affirmative than “When”, the Pakistani Constitution itself has made a total mockery of the principle of a referendum,” he said.
Sajjad Raja, Chairman of National Equality Party JKGBL said, “The people of PoK did not recognize the Act 1974 because it is an indication of our slavery. A freedom-loving person cannot accept any such slavery”.
“Today even the Prime Minister of so-called Azad Kashmir is agitating against the Pakistani bullying for forcing constitutional changes through the 14th amendment in Act 1974 down our throats in the name of Islam and brotherhood,” he added.
Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, the Chairman of United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) said, “Under this Constitution, you have given a right to the govt. of Pakistan on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and lobbying on Kashmir issue. So, these are all colonial laws, which have taken our basic and political rights and freedom of expression and freedom of association. The rights which were given the Assembly in the 13th Amendments have now been taken back in the proposed 14th Amendment of the Interim Constitution Act 1974”.
Nasir Aziz Khan, Spokesperson of United Kashmir People’s National Party (UKPNP) said, “Pakistan is an illegal aggressor which invaded Jammu and Kashmir and forcibly divided the region. The lent officers sitting in PoK act as viceroy. The revenue earned goes straight to the Kashmir Council and some of its share is given to the PoK government”.
Baseer Naveed, a human rights activist based in Hong Kong, said, “In Pakistan occupied Kashmir, the residents have no freedom. They have no right of association, no right of freedom and no right of expression. Everything in PoK is controlled by people sitting in Islamabad. The proposed 14th Amendment in so-called AJK Interim Act 1974 is another act of discrimination against the people of PoK”.
Naela Quadri Baloch, Chairperson of Baloch People’s Congress said, “The Baloch stands together with the people of PoK in opposition against the proposed 14th Amendment in the so-called AJK Interim Act 1974. Pakistan is responsible for spreading terrorism and converting the region into a military zone”.