Tag Archives: imrankhushaalraja

What Kashmiris want?

In my new series “Question on Kashmir” I am going to interview political scientists to get an academic view of Kashmir issue. I will also try to explore what possible solutions are there in their view to resolve Kashmir issue. Series will be based on diverse questions varying from Kashmiri Identity to peace in South Asia, from nationalism to Kashmiri Kashmir and from Pakistani Kashmir to Indian Kashmir. Here is my first venture. Other day I interviewed Dr. Muhammad Mujeeb Afzal. He is an assistant Professor at School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. Here is what he said.

Pakistan and India do not know what Kashmiris exactly want says Dr. Muhammad Mujeeb Afzal

Kashmirica: What is the core of Kashmir Issue, why is it important for Pakistan and India?

Mujeeb Afzal: Kashmir is an existential issue for both Pakistan and India. India wants to keep it to justify its showcase secular democracy, and Pakistan wants to get it to prove its two nation theory as well as its apprehensions about the Hindu majority. Neither Pakistan nor India is prepared to give up its stance on Kashmir. India aims at expansion as it sees South Asia from New Delhi and wishes to control it from there like a hegemon; whereas Pakistan feels threatened by India’s desire to keep an unwilling Kashmir under its control and it perceives in its occupation the Indian expansionist design, which looks credible and quite legitimate after the fall of Dhaka and emergence of Bangladesh with the Indian armed assistance. Kashmir’s importance for both Pakistan and India is also strategic in nature. The Indian objective to have an India-controlled South Asia and Pakistani desire to be a meaningful – if not equal to India – partner in the South Asian state system can never be fulfilled without having Kashmir. The Kashmir region is also important in economic terms because of the waters; any state possessing Kashmir as its part would control almost all the water resources of the region. Therefore, Kashmir is vital for cognitive, strategic and economic reasons for both Pakistan and India.

Kashmirica: On what grounds Pakistan and India both claim Kashmir their part?

Mujeeb Afzal: Apparently both Pakistan and India do not know exactly the wishes of the Kashmiri people because they have never counted their opinion in this matter. Neither India has ever asked the Kashmiris whether they wanted to be part of the Indian Union or otherwise nor has Pakistan ever taken their consent. No empirical evidence is available on the options, whether the Kashmiris would like to be part of any of these two states or wish to live as an independent entity. So the whole process is assumptive and both states believe in their assumptions as true but the fear of losing Kashmir in case of any plebiscite on the Indian side, even though it also exists on the Pakistani side as well, because of Muslim majority of the region.

Kashmirica: Is peace in South Asia possible without the solution of Kashmir Issue?

Mujeeb Afzal: No, peace in South Asia is not possible without the solution of the Kashmir Issue because Kashmir is now a reason as well as a symbol of contention: reason in the way that Pakistan insists on redefining the borders in South Asia, and symbol in the sense that it provides the basis for Pakistan-India strategic competition. Kashmir is the center of competition between Pakistan and India.

Kashmirica: What Pakistan and India have gained and lost so far from their contest on Kashmir?

Mujeeb Afzal: Strategic issues are beyond gain and loss; competition is for the sake of competition. Many a time, competition at the strategic level can be endless. I see no solution of this issue in the near future which means there will be more competition between Pakistan and India.

Kashmirica: Incorporating Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan will make Pakistan’s stance of right of self-determination for Kashmiris baseless, what you say?

Mujeeb Afzal: Yes, in a narrow legalistic sense, you can say so but opinions are divided on this issue. Gilgit-Baltistan’s own popular opinion is in favor of incorporation. I think, where you place a region legally is not important; what is important right now, is the provision of basic rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan because as long as there is no permanent solution you have to find a temporary one. Pakistani state has to be innovative to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan as India did in case of Jammu and Kashmir by granting Kashmir special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Pakistan has also developed such a mechanism to administer Azad Kashmir but provision of basic rights to the Kashmiris need to be guaranteed.

Kashmirica: Brad Adams the Asia director at Human Rights Watch has said in 2006 that although ‘azad’ means ‘free,’ the residents of Azad Kashmir are anything but, The Pakistani authorities govern Azad Kashmir with strict controls on basic freedoms, how you see human rights violation in Kashmir and particularly Azad Kashmir?

Mujeeb Afzal: It is virtually Pakistani territory for all practical purposes; therefore, Pakistan treats Azad Kashmir as an allied state. For strategic purposes it is defended, and perhaps only Kashmir is defended. So a strict control is necessary. Besides, Pakistan itself has faced strict control throughout most of its history under the military regimes.

Kashmirica: GB &Jammu has been practically detached from Kashmir, fact or fiction?

Mujeeb Afzal: Intellectual debates on this aspect are there but neither the Pakistani state nor the Indian state has taken any such position. Both the states maintain their original stated positions.

Kashmirica: What possible solution is out there for Kashmir issue?

Mujeeb Afzal: There could be more than one solution of the Kashmir issue but right now there is not a single constituency working for minimizing tensions and normalizing relations between Pakistan and India. Any solution depends on the nature of Pakistan-India relations.

Kashmirica: Dialogue on Kashmir, formal, back channel has been a failure to solve Kashmir issue, yes or no?

Mujeeb Afzal: Yes, officially no dialogue has produced any positive result. Unofficial records and public statements by the participants are available but all the formulas and talks have remained mostly for media consumption. Practically no progress has been observed on this issue so far.

Kashmirica: Independent Kashmir was never on the agenda of Pak-India negotiators, why?

Mujeeb Afzal: I think, ‘independent Kashmir’ is not acceptable to any of the two states, and the reasons are pretty obvious. Firstly if a plebiscite for an ‘independent Kashmir’ materializes, it will set a precedent for the disintegration of these states in future. Secondly independence of Kashmir can provide basis for demands of independence of territories both on the Indian side as well as on the Pakistani side.

Kashmirica: If Kashmir issue remains as it is from past half century how it will affect the socio-political and economic development of south Asia and how it will affect Kashmiri Identity and Kashmiri Diasporas struggle?

Mujeeb Afzal: I see it from a different angle. Structures which were supposed to build from Kashmir’s reference are there, they have been built. Pakistani Kashmir is virtually part of Pakistan. It is highly integrated into Pakistan and this process is going to be more embedded in future. The Kashmiris are perhaps the only community that is deeply integrated into Pakistan. Almost every Kashmiri family from Azad Kashmir has a stake in Pakistan. And you will see, Gilgit-Baltistan will be easily assimilated. The problem is on the Indian side, because Article 370 has partially served its purpose; and now it is being contested within India. I foresee, water shortages, Siachen issue and other smaller issues that are linked with the broader issue of Jammu and Kashmir will affect Pakistan. Pakistan will face concerns on foreign policy level and India at the domestic level. As far as identity is concerned, I see that the whole issue of identity exists on myths, and myths do not evaporate easily. They stay for long, even the contested Identities persist.

Interviewer/Writer is pursuing his Mphil at Iqra University Islamabad, blogs at Kashmirica.org and works with Institute for Social and Economic Justice (ISEJ). He can be reached at


Preparing earthquakes

By: Imran Khushaal Raja 05-June-2015

The world is celebrating Global Environmental Day today on Friday, 5th June, 2015. The day is one of the initiatives of The United Nations Environment Program and calls itself “the biggest day for positive environmental action,” which might be needed now more than ever. UN believes that observing this day is the principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment.

Child holding a plant
Child holding a plant

Secretary-General of UN, Ban Ki-Moon, is of view that, although individual decisions may seem small but can make a tremendous difference, in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose. But in Azad Kashmir government is either unaware or lacking will, power or resources to make an effort to do anything to preserve the environment especially after the deadly earthquake of 2005. Facilitating plunder of natural resources and cutting of forests is all AJK Puppet Government is capable of, doing so is actually preparing the grounds for a second earthquake hit or maybe another kind of natural disaster. No actions yet have taken in this regard so far. Not even a study has been conducted on the damages of 2005 earthquake.

According to Ejaz Ur-Rehman who wrote a leaflet, titled “Environmental Issues and Need of Sustainable Development in the Earthquake Affected Areas, State of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Pakistan”, in 2008, following are the key environmental issues which Azad Kashmir would be facing in future.

  • Habitat loss and degradation.
  • Biodiversity loss and migration of wildlife species.
  • Flash floods and continued landslides/Soil erosion.
  • Pressure on dwindling natural resources.
  • Deforestation for fuel and construction/ Shelter purposes.
  • Health hazard due to poor sanitation and inadequate waste/debris management practices.
  • Increased transportation of construction material.
  • Dumping of debris in dry watercourses and on river/streams sides.
  • Contamination of water.
  • The damages due to heavy silt deposits in the river feeding to the Mangla water reservoir.
  • Psychosocial risk

The government claims that on local level civil society is organized and effective for the protection of forests with the help of Tahaffuz-e-Janglaat Committees comprising of forest department and local communities in each area. But figures indicate that 40 percent reduction occurred in forests after the partition of the subcontinent in this area. Other reports say that the area which was 50 percent covered with forests in 1947, has only remained 7 percent which is not only alarming but poses a serious question on the will and power of Azad Kashmir government to protect its forests.

The writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad, blogs at Kashmirica.org and works with Institute for Social and Economic Justice (ISEJ). He can be reached at


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Mian Muhammad Bakhsh

Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh was a Sufi saint and a Punjabi poet of great repute. He is especially renowned as the writer of a book of poetry called Saiful Malūk. He was born in a village called khanqa peir-E-shah Gazi Khari Sharif, situated near Mirpur District of Azad Jammu & Kashmir).

Shrine of Mian Muhammad Bakash, Kharri Mirpur.
Shrine of Mian Muhammad Bakash, Kharri Mirpur.

He belonged to the Gujjar caste and he was a fourth generation descendant of Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Damriyan Wali Sarkar, who was buried in Khari Sharif. Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī’s khalīfah was Khwājah Dīn Muhammad; and his khalīfah was Mīān Shamsuddīn, who had three sons: Mīān Bahāval Bakhsh, Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh – the subject of this article -, and Mīān ‘Alī Bakhsh. Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh’s ancestors originated in Gujrat, but had later settled in the Mirpur District of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. He was poet of Phari language (widely spoken in different parts of Kashmir.

There is much disagreement about his year of birth. Mahbūb ‘Alī Faqīr Qādirī, in a biography printed as an appendix to the text of Saiful Malūk gives the date as 1246 AH (1826 AD), a date also followed by the Shāhkār Islāmī Encyclopedia; 1830 and 1843 are suggested in other works but are almost cetainly erroneous. Mīān Muhammad Bakhsh himself states in his magnum opus – Saiful Malūk – that he completed the work during the spring in the month of Ramadan, 1279 AH (1863 AD), and that he was then thirty-three years of age- hence he must have been born in 1830.

His Upbringing

He was brought up in a very religious environment, and received his early education at home. He was later sent with his elder brother, Mīān Bahāval, to the nearby village of Samwal Sharīf to study religious sciences, especially the science of Hadith in the madrassah of Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Alī. Hāfiz Muhammad ‘Alī had a brother, Hāfiz Nāsir, who was a majzub, and had renounced worldly matters; this dervish resided at that time in the mosque at Samwal Sharīf. From childhood Mīān Muhammad had exhibited a penchant for poetry, and was especially fond of reading Yūsuf ō Zulaikhā by Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami. During his time at the madrassah, Hāfiz Nāsir would often beg him to sing some lines from Jami’s poetry, and upon hearing it so expertly rendered would invariably fall into a state of spiritual intoxication.

Mīān Muhammad was still only fifteen years old when his father, falling seriously ill, and realizing that he was on his deathbed, called all his students and local notaries to see him. Mīān Shamsuddīn told his visitors that it was his duty to pass on the spiritual lineage that he had received through his family from Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Damriyan Wali Sarkar; he pointed to his own son, Mīān Muhammad, and told those assembled that he could find nobody more suitable than he to whom he might award this privilege. Everybody agreed, the young man’s reputation had already spread far and wide. Mīān Muhammad, however, spoke up and disagreed, saying that he could not bear to stand by and allow his elder brother Bahāvul to be deprived of the honour. The old man was filled with so much love for his son that he stood up and leaving his bed grasped his son by the arms; he led him to one corner and made him face the approximate direction of Baghdad, and then he addressed the founder of their Sufi Order, Shaikh ‘Abdul-Qādir Jīlānī, presenting his son to him as his spiritual successor. Shortly after this incident his father died. Mīān Muhammad continued to reside in his family home for a further four years, then at the age of nineteen he moved into the khānqāh, where he remained for the rest of his life. Both his brothers combined both religion and worldly affairs in their lives, but he was only interested in spirituality, and never married – unlike them.

His Formal Pledge of Allegiance

Despite the fact that he had essentially been made a khalīfah of his father, he realized that he still needed to make a formal pledge of allegiance or bay’ah to a Sufi master. Having completed his formal education he began to travel, seeking out deserted locations where he would busy himself in prayer and spiritual practices, shunning the company of his fellow-men. He took the Sufi pledge of allegiance or bay’ah with Hazrat Ghulām Muhammad, who was the khalīfah of Bābā Badūh Shāh Abdāl, the khalīfah of Hājī Bagāsher (of Darkālī Mamuri Sharīf, near Kallar Syedan District Rawalpindi), the khalīfah again of Pīr-e Shāh Ghāzī Qalandar Dumriyan Wali Sarkar.He is also said to have travelled for a while to Srinagar, where he benefitted greatly from Shaikh Ahmad Valī.

His Poetic Talents and Works

Once he had advanced a little along the Sufi way he became more and more interested in composing poetry, and one of the first things he penned was aqasidah (quatrain) in praise of his spiritual guide. Initially he preferred to writesiharfis and duhras, but then he advanced to composing stories in verse. His poetry is essentially written in the Pothohari dialect of Panjabi, and utilizes a rich vocabulary of Persian and Arabic words.

His works include:

Sohni Meheinval,
Tuhfah-e Miran,
Tuhfah-e- Rasuliyah,
Shireen Farhad,
Mirza Sahiban,
Sakhi Khavass Khan,
Shah Mansur,
Gulzar-e Faqir,
Hidayatul Muslimin,
Panj Ganj,
Masnavi-e Nīrang-e ‘Ishq,
He also wrote a commentary on the Arabic Qasidat-ul-Burda of al-Busiri,
and his most famous work, entitled Safarul ‘Ishq (Journey of Love), but better known as Saiful Maluk.