There are indications that in the wake of his failure to bring home from Agra a joint declaration or statement which could have been projected as a success for his Kashmir strategy, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's self-reinstated Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), self-styled Chief Executive, and self-promoted President, has decided to further step up the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir.
After a series of consultations with the National Security Council (NSC), some of his Corps Commanders and his kitchen Cabinet, Gen. Musharraf has reportedly decided to send Major Gen Mohammad Anwar Khan to Muzaffarabad to be "elected" on August 1 as the so-called President of the POK on the ticket of the Muslim Conference allied to the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Nawaz Sharif (now living in exile in Saudi Arabia).
Under strong pressure from the Army, the Muslim Conference has reportedly agreed to nominate him for the post of the so-called President instead of Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan. The electoral college for the post of the so-called President comprises the POK Assembly (48 members), the POK Council (6 members) and the Federal Minister in charge of the POK Council, Sardar Sarfaraz Khan, a retired Army officer
Major Gen Mohammad Anwar Khan belongs to the powerful Sudhan tribe and is a resident of Tain village in district Poonch, which is also the home village of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) Legislative Assembly Speaker Sardar Siab Khalid. .
Maj.Gen.Mohammad Anwar Khan, who is reportedly related to Lt.Gen.Mohammed Aziz, former Deputy Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Chief of the General Staff and now a Corps Commander in Lahore, is presently the Vice Chief of the General Staff, in the GHQ under Lt.Gen.Mohammad Yousef Khan.
Maj.Gen.Mohammad Anwar Khan had earlier served in the ISI under Lt.Gen.Aziz, who is also a Sudhan from POK, in the division responsible for training, arming and guiding the Army of Islam consisting of the Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Al Badr. This Army of Islam has since been joined by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) of Maulana Masood Azhar.
Under the so-called Interim Constitution of POK, no public servant can contest any elected post within two years of his quitting public service. To enable Maj.Gen.Anwar Khan to contest the election, the POK Government promulgated an ordinance on July 28 removing this provision. It is expected that Maj.Gen.Anwar Khan would take premature retirement from the Army on July 29 or 30 and file his nomination.
Under a similar provision in the Pakistani Constitution, no public servant can hold the office of the President of Pakistan until at least two years have lapsed after his quitting public service. Despite this provision, Musharraf promoted himself as the President on June 20 while continuing as the COAS.
The elections to the POK Assembly were held on July 5. The nomination papers of 40 candidates of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) were rejected by the Army-appointed electoral officer on the ground that they had refused to sign an affidavit that they stood for Jammu & Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.
In a letter sent to the President, the Chief Executive, the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and the heads of all important political parties of Pakistan, as well as to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Election Commissioner and the heads of all political parties of POK, Amanullah Khan, Chairman of the JKLF, said that this provision in the nomination form was tantamount to keeping 40 pro-independence candidates from contesting these elections and depriving hundreds of thousands of their supporters of their right to vote for the candidates of their choice which was a gross violation of their basic human and democratic rights.
The Muslim Conference (MC) swept the polls winning 30 seats and defeating the hitherto ruling People's Party of Mrs.Benazir Bhutto, which could win only 17 seats. The Jammu Kashmir Muslim League, which supports the Muslim Conference, won the remaining seat.
After the elections, it was widely expected that either Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan or his son Sardar Attique Khan would be elected by the MC for the post of the so-called Prime Minister. But on July 20, three days after the return of Musharraf from Agra and after his meeting with his kitchen Cabinet, Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz and the General Officer Commanding Murree, Maj-Gen Shahid Aziz, who is also in charge of POK affairs, visited Muzaffarabad and told Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sardar Abdul Qayyum that Musharraf had decided that Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan, who was the Prime Minister of POK from 1985 to 1990 and its President from 1991 to 1996, should be "elected" as the Prime Minister.
Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan was accordingly "elected" as the Prime Minister by the Assembly and sworn in on July 25. After taking over as the Prime Minister, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan had announced that he would nominate Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan to the post of President. But on July 26, Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz and Major.Gen Shahid Aziz reportedly informed Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan and Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan that Musharraf had decided that Maj.Gen.Mohammad Anwar Khan should prematurely retire from the Army and be "elected" as the President with the backing of the MC. The ordinance was thereafter issued on July 28.
It is reported that these decisions were taken by Musharraf on the advice of Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, who is regarded as the clandestine Chief of Staff of the Army of Islam, in order to step up the proxy war in J & K to force India to accept the Pakistani stand on J & K as projected by Musharraf at Agra. The appointment of Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan as the Prime Minister is due to the fact that the proxy war in J & K had started in 1989 when he was the Prime Minister and that he had helped the ISI in setting up the so-called Kashmir Liberation Cell, consisting largely of retired ISI officers, to supervise the conduct of the proxy war. Musharraf was also reportedly unhappy with Qayyum Khan for his statements of last year welcoming India's initiative for a ceasefire in J & K.
Musharraf is believed to be planning to revive the Liberation Cell, which was
abolished during the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister, and
persuade the component units of the Army of Islam, whose headquarters and
training camps are presently located in Pakistani Punjab, to shift them to POK
so that Maj.Gen.Anwar Khan, as the "elected" President of POK, could
orchestrate them against the Indian Security Forces under the over-all guidance
of Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz based in Lahore.
Sixty-nine-year old Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan is the sixth Prime Minister of POK since the late Z.A.Bhutto introduced a façade of multi-party parliamentary democracy there in 1975. The POK Interim Constitution Act of 1974,under which this was introduced, however, limits the right to freedom of association in the state when it says in Article 4(7)(2): "No person or party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State's accession to Pakistan".
Prospective candidates for elections to the Assembly have to sign an affidavit declaring that they support the accession of J & K to Pakistan. According to the Amnesty International, people who do not subscribe to the accession to Pakistan have also lost their jobs and have been denied access to educational institutions.
Writing in the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a well-known daily of Zurich, Switzerland (May 28,1998), its Editor, Andreas Ruesch, who had visited the POK, said: "It is not surprising that the rump state of Azad Kashmir is kept on an extremely short leash. Though Pakistan has never annexed it in order not to violate UN resolutions, it treats the area as one of its own provinces. Azad Kashmir has its own parliament, prime minister and president, but their authority is very limited. Foreign policy is forged in Islamabad, Pakistani troops guard the frontline, and the economically weak region lives on financial injections from the "motherland." As one local journalist points out, whoever is at the helm in Islamabad has enough ways of manipulating the situation to help their own party people to win elections in Azad Kashmir. The degree of the region's dependence on Pakistan is also illustrated by its 1974 interim constitution, which forbids political activity that does not accord with the doctrine of Kashmir as part of Pakistan - including Kashmiri independence movements. Anyone wishing to run for a parliamentary seat in Muzaffarabad must sign a loyalty declaration to that effect.
"It is difficult to judge how strong the supporters of the "third option" are in Azad Kashmir. On the streets of Muzaffarabad, no one seems willing to declare himself an advocate of independence. But how much is conviction, and how much the result of intimidation from higher up? A former Kashmiri partisan fighter, who was full of praise for Islamabad's policies when in the company of Pakistani acquaintances, shows a very different face when we are in private, accusing the Pakistani regime of exploiting the Kashmir conflict for its own ends. He is thoroughly convinced, however, that were he to speak openly about his dream of an independent Kashmir, he would quickly find himself in trouble with the authorities."
In an article in the "Dawn" of Karachi (October 2,2000), Mrs.Asma Jahangir, the well-known human rights activist of Pakistan, who was recently criticised by Musharraf for her alleged anti-Pakistan statements while he was negotiating with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr.A.B.Vajpayee, in Agra, wrote:"A leader, who claims he has little control over militants in his country and "spiritually" supports the strategy of "jihad", is not likely to be taken seriously, especially as he does not officially head the "jihadis", who are central to the tensions between the two countries - India and Pakistan. A government which has banned political activities and refuses to hold general elections in its own country can hardly be expected to champion the cause of human rights of the people of Kashmir. To give weight to his concerns regarding the situation of human rights in Kashmir, the Chief Executive would be best advised to improve the record of human rights domestically too."
She added: "Elections are regularly rigged in Azad Kashmir and the people denied basic rights. All this is glossed over in the name of security. Solving the Kashmir problem is not easy. It is complex and best left to political leaders. No interim government, without a public mandate, can hope to do much about it. It may well complicate matters. The only route to solving the Kashmir issue is through a series of negotiations - but they cannot start until violence decreases in Kashmir. The recent cease-fire was a positive development but short-lived. Whether it is a sustainable cease-fire or a series of talks, they can only be negotiated by a civilian elected government."
(The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.