Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, speaking in the Austrian Parliament on 8th November 2022

Exiled chairman of the United Kashmir Peoples' National Party (UKPNP), Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, speaking in the Austrian Parliament on 8th November 2022, delivered the following statement:

"Over the last thirty years, protracted cycles of unrest, terrorism, proxy war and heightened animosity between India and Pakistan, have propelled the decline of sustainable development in the region of South Asia.

The peace in the State of Jammu & Kashmir is highly fragile due to Pakistan's sponsored proxy war and all the disastrous effects of this phenomenon have not only disrupted the social and educational life of the people, as another affected area that these elongated periods of unrest have disturbed down to the spine, is the Economy of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Regular cycles of unrest have hit the economy hard and have made the State’s economic policy fall under the phenomena of the ‘uncertainty effect’.

Jammu and Kashmir is a mountainous area and its net area administered by India is 101,387sq km. To elaborate the effects of unrest, I will share some numbers. These numbers are from Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir as Pakistani authorities are extremely reluctant to share numbers regarding Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir because of the fact that it treats this region as a colony. In addition, the unrest in jammu & Kashmir has mostly taken place in Indian Administered J&K because of terrorism sponsored and exported by Pakistan to this region.

The Census 2011 for Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir reported a population of 12,5 Million. Around 20% of its total geographical area falls under forest cover and its density is 124 people per sq km.

Its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), at constant prices 2011-12, for the year 2015-16 was USD $13,5 Billion, and the per capita income (NSDP 2015-16) was USD $1,100. The composition of GSDP (2015-16) is as under:

  • Primary Sector (Agriculture) - 15.89% of the GSDP
  • Secondary Sector (Industries) - 27.11% of the GSDP
  • Tertiary Sector (Services) - 57 % of the GSDP

Jammu & Kashmir’s weakest contributor is agriculture. More than 60% of employment is based on this Primary Sector. The imbalance shows in the disparity ratio between average incomes of agriculturists and non-agriculturists, which in essence means that 60% people of Jammu & Kashmir is becoming poorer.

The State of Jammu & Kashmir continues to face disruption because of Terrorism, growing radicalization and shutdowns. Cross-border terrorism has been rampant in the Kashmir Valley since 1989, leading to a massive socio-economic downswing. Human resource, which is one of the biggest assets of any society, has also suffered enormously. Terrorism has been the main reason for the displacement of several non-Muslim communities like Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists and other minorities and because of a growing radicalized society, many Kashmiri Muslims have also started migrating for better job prospects and peaceful environment, depriving the State of its valuable human resource.

The violence perpetrated by Terrorist organizations sponsored and trained in and by Pakistan has affected all important sources of livelihood of local populace such as agriculture, horticulture, tourism and handicraft industry, with many traders having to shift their trading centers from Kashmir and others forced to look for alternative sources of income to survive the economic crisis.

Freedom of expression is a basic human right, however freedom of expression does not only entail free speech but also constitutes freedom of choosing and practicing a religion of one’s own choice, exercising one’s free political, economic and educational rights, free access to information and freedom from being subjected to coercion, intimidation, threats and violent reprisals. This partiuclar right has been the most affected in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and in turns has had grave consequences for the economic, social and psychological well-being of the State and its people.

With regard to Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir, despite Pakistan’s de facto treatment of Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir as part of its territory, its legal status is that of a self-governing state that has its own President, Prime Minister and Legislative Assembly. Pakistan’s attitude towards Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir is apparent from the fact that it is the least developed among all the regions under Pakistan’s control.

If Pakistan were genuinely interested in bettering the condition of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, it would draw up agreements with Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir that would ensure that the people of the region received equitable returns for the projects Pakistan is undertaking there for its own benefit. As per official estimates, Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir has the potential to generate 4,635 MW of electricity. Pakistan currently has a deficit of over 5,000 MW. These figures indicate that fair and conscientious handling of the situation by Pakistan could yield almost its entire requirement for electricity from Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir alone, while the royalty received by the latter would enable it to significantly bolster its socio-economic indices and ensure the betterment of its people.

The crude fact of the matter is that the welfare of the people of Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir does not figure at all in Pakistan’s calculations. Any such consideration would actually be antithetical to Pakistan’s exploitative designs. Pakistan has chosen to treat Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir as a modern-day colony, exploiting its resources to the full while simultaneously silencing voices of dissent through violent force.

Reports suggest that Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir already produces an estimated 1,500 MW of electricity through hydropower, almost all of which is transmitted to Pakistan. Several other large hydro-electric projects are additionally being constructed there by Pakistan without even consulting with or obtaining the consent of the people of the region. The Pakistani Government does not pay any royalty for these projects to Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir. And to top it all, the Pakistani Government does not deem it justified or appropriate to at least fulfill Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir’s meagre total requirement of 400 MW of electricity.

The construction by Pakistan of a large number of dams and hydropower projects in Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir is being done without any scientific study on their impact on the fragile ecology of the region or on the environment. Neither does it take into consideration the displacement of the indigenous population as had happened when the Mangla Dam was constructed in the 1960s. Specific to the Neelum-Jhelum power project, the ecological impact is expected to be significant and long-term as the Neelum Valley is home to unique flora and fauna, which experts believe will be severely affected by the project.

Recent protest demonstrations in Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir have not only targeted exploitation of the region’s resources but have also been directed against the atrocities being perpetrated by the Pakistani Army and intelligence agencies on the people of the region. In March this year, massive protests broke out across the region against the brutality of the army and police on local residents.

With regard to Gilgit Baltistan, the legal-constitutional conundrum surrounding Gilgit-Baltistan has decisively shaped its social, economic, and political fabric as its inhabitants have been denied fundamental constitutional rights as well as representative capacities in national political institutions such as the Parliament, the Finance Commission, and the Judicial Council.

Control over the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan is key for the Pakistani government due to the region’s access to natural resources and its strategic location. The flow of the mighty Indus penetrates Gilgit-Baltistan and implies an immense hydroelectric power potential, which, if exploited by the State, could enable Pakistan to address the chronic electricity shortages that shed up to 2.5% of its annual Gross Domestic Product.

Besides its hydroelectric potential, southern Gilgit-Baltistan has also registered high reserves of nickel, cobalt, copper, lead, tin, mica, quartz, zircon, coal and actinolite of extraordinary good quality, and the north and north-eastern region of Gilgit-Baltistan possess high stocks of iron, silver, gold, zinc, marble, granite, sulphur, calcite, fluorite, limestone, arsenic, spinel, garment, epidote, topaz, moon stone, pargasite, tourmaline, aquamarine, pyrite and feldspar. Additionally, Gilgit-Baltistan is located within the Karakoram mountain range, which spans over the borders of China, India and Pakistan, with its most northeastern flank reaching as far as Afghanistan, and control over Gilgit-Baltistan subsequently equals the facilitation of trade and connectivity with these adjacent countries.

Gilgit-Baltistan’s strategic value has been boosted further by the 2014 announcement of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a part of which is constituted by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), routinely called a “game changer” by the Pakistani government and business officials that is going to enhance Pakistan’s access to global economic markets. As CPEC and CPEC-pertaining infrastructure projects are designed to run through Gilgit-Baltistan upon their completion, controlling Gilgit-Baltistan has obtained additional strategic-economic dimensions for Pakistan.

Despite its theoretically advantageous conditions, Gilgit-Baltistan lags behind the rest of Pakistan in terms of economic growth and social development, and the region looks back onto a troubled and often violent history since being administered by Pakistan. In Sunnified Paistan and the radicalized socio-political climate, the situation for the inhabitants in Gilgit-Baltistan is unlikely to be resolved to the satisfaction of locals without the granting of basic human and cultural rights and genuine rather than performative dimensions of political representation. Given the perseverance of the Jammu & Kashmir conflict, the geopolitical dimensions of this conflict and the general development of Pakistan as a political unit, such a development appears unlikely, thus banning Gilgit-Baltistan to a continued existence in submission.

Despite having no legal basis to do so, Pakistan has historically laid claim to the whole of the territory of the erstwhile Princely State of J&K. It has created and sponsored organizations such as the Hurriyat Conference to articulate and further its spurious claim. Since the late 1980s, Pakistan encouraged the youth of Indian-administered J&K to join the various terrorist organizations that Pakistan had set up. The dreams and narratives sold to entice these impressionable young teens were as lofty as they were unrealistic, with the common thread being the rejection of India. Wave after wave of young Kashmiris, in their thousands, died while violently pursuing dreams of the utopia that had been pledged to them by Pakistan.

Today, the realisation that they were only pawns in Pakistan’s game and were fulfilling an agenda that was purely Pakistani is rankling.

Pakistan shall continue to be a hot bed of Islamic militancy as long as the operative terrorist organizations resort to violence in the name of Islam and the public keeps showcasing acceptance to this phenomenon. Even after Pakistan’s post-9/11 partnership with the United States, several Islamist groups continue to enjoy close ties with the State and popularity among certain sections of the public. Deobandi Ulema of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) participates in electoral politics while also describing Jihad as a sacred right and obligation while it keeps encouraging students of madrassas towards militancy. The Afghan Taliban, drawing their ideology from Deobandi groups, held power in Afghanistan before 9/11 and have been a known ally of the Pakistani military and ISI.

The status quo is neither encouraging and nor does Pakistan seem to possess the capacity as well as the will to eradicate terrorism, as it is constrained by the overlapping of various terrorist groups and their memberships which have successfully operated within (and outside Pakistan), that too with the complicity of its Army and ISI; Pakistan cannot tackle the Pakistani Taliban and their sectarian collaborators while it still fosters the Afghan Taliban and other Deobandi groups, such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, that operate in India.

The terrorist groups, which draw inspiration from the religious groups in Pakistan have developed into Frankenstein’s Monsters for both people and the State, coupled with selective approach of security agencies towards counter-terrorism which makes ‘Peace in Pakistan’ or mellowing down of ‘Pakistan sponsored terrorism’ in its neighbourhood a distant dream. The more because according to many in the Pakistan Army and ISI, terrorism still has an external utility in Afghanistan, India and Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir.

There is an urgent need that the people of Pakistan, its politicians and the powerful Army stand on the same side in the fight against terrorism and set clear priorities. The ceaseless undermining of civilian authority by the military and its affiliated intelligence agencies remains a major challenge for the country and prevents any meaningful step towards social reforms in the country and the wider region.

A change in policy and comprehensive consensus on terrorism have become prerequisites for the integrity, future and survival of the country. A diametrical change in approach will prove to be beneficial to the people of Pakistan and the people of South Asia, who are the actual stakeholders in this region."

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