Plight of Kashmiri Refugees

  1. (An excerpt from article “PaK: Ethnicity, Democracy and Islam” taken from book titled “Of Occupation and Resistance, Writings from Kashmir”)
  2.  By Mazhar Iqbal
  3. In PaK, the migrants from Indian parts of the state live in camps. Since Pakistan has never recognised Indian control over any part of Kashmir, these refugees coming from the Indian side are classified as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This contradictory approach has increased the problems of those who are already in a pathetic situation. Not being considered refugees creates hurdles in their rehabilitation and resettlement, and the United Nations bodies who look after international refugees have not been approached to take care of these migrants.
  4. IDPs from elsewhere in Pakistan can be settled in any part of PaK. Those from Swat and other frontier regions of Pakistan, as also refugees from Afghanistan, have been accommodated not only in Muzaffarabad but also in other districts. They are allowed to work. But Kashmiri refugee families have been compelled to live only in camps in and around Muzaffarabad, and they are not officially allowed to live elsewhere in Pakistan. Afghan refugees in Pakistan have been taken under the umbrella of international refugee monitoring agencies, thus guaranteeing their basic human rights. However, no international protection has been provided to those who have migrated from the Indian side.
  5. A beleaguered democratic process, complex ethnic composition, and Islamic faith are three distinct but closely woven threads of the socio-political fabric of PaK. Pakistan controls this region through a policy of favouritism, division, mistrust and confusion. The theory of accession to Pakistan is the mother of all loyalties. Those who adhere to this theory are granted prominence, acceptance and reward; those who differ are considered potentially dangerous and ultimately dealt with using an iron hand. The outer world sees a democratic set-up with administrative and civil powers, independent judiciary, and a vibrant civil society. But for the people living in PaK it is just a totalitarian democracy.