In restless Kashmir, desire for independence grows
Even among Pakistani Kashmiris, who share a religion with Islamabad, the desire for independence is growing because of discontent with the economy, difficulty of movement, and identification with Indian Kashmiris.
Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Kashmir
While a group of Indian lawmakers arrived in Indian Kashmir on Monday hoping to resolve a crisis there that has seen more than 100 civilians killed in the past three months, a surprising number of Kashmiris in Pakistani Kashmir say they want to see independence from both countries.Skip to next paragraph
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In dozens of interviews with the Monitor, residents of Muzaffarabad expressed frustration at the level of power exerted by Islamabad and their economic situation, as well as a desire to form a state with Indian Kashmir, independent of both Pakistan and India.
Because of Pakistani Kashmir’s overwhelming Muslim majority, it has long been assumed that its population is content with rule from Islamabad. But that’s changing, says Mosharraf Zaidi, a newpaper columnist with The News, an English-language daily. “The natural inclination now is toward an autonomous Kashmir, as a response to the failed political process between India and Pakistan,” he says.
Many cite the failure of India and Pakistan to overcome their differences, and the resulting instability in Kashmir, as their reason for wanting independence.
Indeed, according to a recent poll conducted by London’s influential Chatham House think tank, some 44 percent of Pakistani Kashmiris in Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK) wish to see full independence. The vast majority of others want to see some type of independence, either more powers within their state or combined with India-controlled Kashmir.
AJK is the southern part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It fell under Pakistani control after the first Kashmir war broke out between India and Pakistan in 1947, shortly after both countries gained independence from Britain. It is bordered to the east by the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and to the north by Gilgit-Baltistan, an area which was until last year known as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) and is also controlled by Pakistan but claimed by India.
The Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir are divided by a cease-fire line from the 1947 conflict. The Line of Control has since become a de facto border.