MIRPUR (AJK)

Hundreds of signatories of an e-petition asked the governments of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to amend AJK Constitution commonly known as Act 1974.

The move seeks empowerment of AJK Legislative Assembly by drastically reducing Kashmir Council’s administrative and financial authority to ensure democratic and transparent governance, it was declared.

Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms Executive Director Arshad Mehmud said in an informal chat that over 970 people have signed the e-petition within two weeks. The signatories including leading Kashmiri politicians, writers, journalists, academics, businessmen and students living in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan, Europe, United States and even in Australia. Prominent among the signatories include PML-N AJK  President and leader of opposition in AJK legislative assembly and former prime minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan, Deputy Opposition leader in AJK LA and ex minister Ch Tariq Farooq, AJK Minister Ch Latif Akber and Ms Farzana Yaqoob.

The following persons are also included in the signatories: PML N leader Iftikhar Gilani, writers Rauf Klasara, Mushtaq Minhas, Saqhir Qamar, Altaf Hamid Rao, Raja Muzaffar, Jammat-e-Islami AJK leader Noorul Bari, Fida Hussain Kayani, Zulfiqar Abbasi, Azeem Mushtaq, Shaukat Majeed Mallick, Akram Sohail, Javeed Ayoub and Shaukat Qadir. The CPDR aims to have over 10,000 signatures within next three months to put pressure on the government, Arshad said.

“We, the undersigned, call upon the respective governments of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) to take immediate steps to devolve and transfer the executive, legislative and financial powers of the Azad Jammu & Kashmir Council to AJ&K Legislative Assembly and the government of AJ&K to establish its character as a responsive, representative, accountable and participatory democracy,” the e-petition says.

“The Council enjoys unfettered jurisdiction and executive power over 52 subjects consequently hampering and impeding the elected government’s ability in decision making in key areas such as economic development, revenue generation, tourism, finance, public policy and socio-political development, hydropower generation, telecommunication etc. which runs contrary to the spirit and ideals of democratic norms & governance,” he said.

He added “In recent years, a new impetus for the reappraisal of the relationship has emerged on the basis of constitutional amendments in Pakistan, which have ensured provincial autonomy, empowered people and resulted in more inclusive governance. Under the18th amendment, proprietorship of natural resources like oil & gas mineral & water resources has been delegated to the provinces, which has a significant impact on the socio economic development and prosperity of the provinces. Specifically, the structural flaws of governance and imbalance of power is profound as a result of which the minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan affairs runs the entire show and all major policy decisions are routed through the Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Secretariat in Islamabad. This lopsided relationship has resulted in unaccountable and nondemocratic mechanisms since the prime minister who is chairman of the Council is not bound to follow the advice of the elected AJ&K government.“

He said “It is the Prime Minister’s Secretariat which exercises control over AJ&K’s administration, including its economic affairs. At the same time, it appoints all the judges of the AJ&K High Court and Supreme Court, and the Chief Election Commissioner.  AJ&K has no representation in key federal decision-making forums such as the National Finance Commission and the Indus River System Authority. AJ&K has no alternative but to comply with the decisions taken outside, dictating the citizens of AJK.”

The AJ&K government constituted an intra-parliamentary committee in 2012 to suggest necessary amendments to the Interim Constitution Act 1974, he said. However, he added, the report of the committee is yet to be made public, leaving the issue unattended which has hampered the efforts for an efficient and participatory democracy in AJ&K.