EFSAS criticises amendment in AJK Interim Constitution Act

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AMSTERDAM [Netherlands]: The draft of the 14th Amendment Bill to the 1974 Interim Constitution of the Pakistan-occupied and so-called ‘Azad’ (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (J-K), has served as a grim reminder of just how suppressed and occupied ‘Azad’ J-K actually is, says Amsterdam based think-tank European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).

It said, “It is not, however, the proposed 14th Amendment that would be responsible for bringing this situation about. The major credit for that would go to the 1974 Interim Constitution promulgated during the period when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan.”

“This so-called Constitution, among other things, spelt out the contours of the future relationship between the Pakistani State and Pakistan-occupied J-K, and the picture that it presented for the latter was highly unflattering, and it brought to mind images of subjugation and occupation”, it added.

The 14th Amendment Bill brought back into focus the trick played against the residents of Pakistan-occupied J-K, who were made to believe that they were free through use of catchy and emotive terminology in the naming of their region, only to be rudely disappointed by the subservience to Pakistan that was blatantly dictated by the 1974 Interim Constitution.

The European think-tank said, “The 14th amendment simultaneously further detracts from the limited rights and freedoms given to the people of Pakistan-occupied J-K, while strengthening the grip of the Pakistani State over the region even more”.

“This has resulted in a fresh wave of indignation among nationalist leaders of the region, several of whom have in recent days publicly articulated their misgivings and registered their strong protest. It is the iron grip with which the Pakistani military establishment ruthlessly holds the inhabitants of the region, and perhaps also the restrictions in place on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, that have inhibited major protests against the Amendment from breaking out within AJK,” said EFSAS.

In the proposed amendment to Article 4 of the Interim Constitution of 1974, the draft puts a rider to the freedom of association for the people of the region by stressing that such freedom would strictly be, “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty of Pakistan or integrity of Pakistan or AJK and morality or public order.”