M A I N   N E W S

MLAs need not swear by Pak,
says ‘Azad Kashmir’ PM
A.J. Philip
Tribune News Service

Muzaffarabad, November 26
The Prime Minister of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” Sardar Sikandar Hayat, said the state would do away with the provision of those contesting for the State Assembly having to swear acceptance of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.

Under the “Azad Kashmir Constitution,” all such candidates have to give an affidavit agreeing to the eventual accession of the state to Pakistan.

Addressing a group of Indian journalists visiting the state under the auspices of the South Asian Free Media Association last night, Mr Hayat said a final decision would be taken by his party. On his part, he was optimistic that he would be able to convince the party leaders on this issue.

Mr Hayat said he would allow anybody from the other side of the Line of Control to take part in the elections due shortly provided they were able to manage visa from the Pakistani authorities.

An old-timer in “Azad Kashmir” politics, Mr Hayat who once held the post of President of the state said except for defence, external affairs, communication and currency, the state was autonomous in all respects. It had its own Supreme Court.

He said the state got about Rs 2 billion from the Federal government to meet budgetary deficit. This is given in the form of grants. Efforts were on to bridge the budgetary gap by generating additional resources.

Mr Hayat scoffed at charges that his was a puppet government remotely controlled by the army commander posted at Murree. He said the army advised the government only on defence-related issues.

The Prime Minister said the real power was with the state legislative Assembly which had 48 members. The state also had an Upper House. Except for the skirmishes along the LoC, his state was the most peaceful in the whole of Pakistan.

Asserting that autonomy of the state was never compromised, Mr Hayat said that even when martial law was imposed on Pakistan, “Azad Kashmir” remained free from its trauma.

While hoping that the peace process would succeed, he wanted the involvement of all groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the All Party Hurriyat Conference and the present and former Chief Ministers in the talks on the future of Kashmir. Though he personally favoured Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, it was for the Kashmiri people to decide whether they wanted to remain with India or Pakistan or become an independent nation.

The crescent-shaped state has a population of just 3.4 million. It is 400 km in length with width varying from 15 to 60 km. Gilgit, Skardu and Hunza, which were all part of Kashmir, are now no longer part of “Azad Kashmir”. They are directly administered by Pakistan.

There was great jubilation in the state when the Azad Kashmir High Court ruled that these areas were “integral” to “Azad Kashmir” and that their political rights were inseparable. This meant that the Pakistani administration of the area was unlawful.

The decision was challenged by Pakistan in the Azad Kashmir Supreme Court here which ruled that the Northern Territories were part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed in 1947 and not of “Azad Kashmir”.

The Speaker of the Assembly, Mr Sayyab Khalid, who was present on the occasion told The Tribune that the Prime Minister’s promise could be implemented by passing a Bill for the purpose with simple majority in both Houses of the state Legislature.


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