The anti-Shia incidents of 1988-93 led to two developments. A number of new political groups of the Shias came into being, despite the ban on political activities. They started demanding that the NA should be converted into a separate province to be called the Karakoram Province with an elected Legislative Assembly and the same status as the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). This demand was strongly opposed by the political parties of the POK, a predominantly Sunni area, and by the Sunni political groups of the NA, which demanded that the NA should be merged with the POK.
The Friday Times of October 15-21,1992, quoted Muhammad Yahya Shah, the Chief Convenor of the Hunza-Nager Movement, one of these new Shia organisations, as saying as follows:
"We were ruled by the whites during the British days, but we are now being ruled by the browns from the plains... The rapid settling-in of mostly Punjabis and Pakhtoons from outside, particularly the trading classes, has created a sense of acute insecurity among the local Shias and resulted in antagonistic perceptions between the locals and outsiders.... The genie is out of the bottle. Political reform has been abandoned in favour of extremism, which the Government is abetting in order to prolong its unconstitutional militarisation. The economic and environmental plundering continues unabated. During Qasim Shah's tenure as Minister of NA, the forests were denuded rapidly. In the 1988 conflict, 400000 acres of jungle were depleted and the wood smuggled out. Marco Polo sheep, an endangered species, was hunted in the hundreds by the previous Corps Commander, Lt.Gen.Ali Akbar, who used helicopter gunships for his sport."
The same issue of the Friday Times quoted Muzzafar Ali, another Shia leader and General Secretary of the NA Bar Association, as saying:
"The Government is instigating violence to suppress our genuine demands. In Pakistan, three Supreme Court Judges have to confirm a Sessions Judge's verdict. Here things happen in total negation of legal procedures as enshrined in the Constitution. A single senior judge from down-country confirms a verdict functioning as an autonomous Judicial Commissioner. He is at times even junior to the local Sessions Judge. The State-subject rules remained enforced in Indian Kashmir after 1947, while we blundered by getting integrated, without adequate guarantees, into Pakistan for the sake of Muslim brotherhood. We have ended up without a Constitution, representation, even without civil or judicial rights as are available to our Pakistani brothers."
Opposing the demand of the Shias for a separate Karakoram Province, a group of Sunni leaders of the POK filed a petition before the POK High Court on October 16,1990, demanding that the NA, being Kashmiri territory, should be merged with the POK. Delivering the judgement on March 8, 1993, Justice Abdul Majeed Mallick, Chief Justice of the POK High Court, ruled as follows:
- "The NA are and have been part of the State of J&K as it existed before and on August 15,1947."
- " The NA are part of Azad J&K and are to be construed and acknowledged as such."
- "The detachment of the NA from the rest of Azad J&K is tantamount to a violation of the Resolutions of the Security Council of March 30, 1951, and January 24,1957."
- "The State-subjects residing in the NA have been deprived of the benefits of fundamental rights enshrined in the Interim Constitution during the past without lawful authority. These rights are admissible and exercisable by them."
Refusing to accept the judgement, the Government of Pakistan said in a statement issued on March 11, 1993:
"The Azad J&K Government has no jurisdiction over the NA, which are under the administrative control of Pakistan and historically had been administered by the Central Government. There is no question of passing on the administrative jurisdiction of the NA to the AJK Government."
To be continued
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.