by Farooq Ganderbali
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir residents have little expectation from the new regime in Islamabad as they are aware that for the last seven decades the Punjabi dominated federal government has always exploited their resources. There is still no train connectivity to the POK and no operational airport as those are being occupied by the Pakistani militaries. The POK residents have to move to Islamabad or Rawalpindi by road before they can proceed to other places, including foreign countries.
As the healthcare infrastructure in POK is poor, the affluent families prefer to move out for treatments. Many patients with liver ailments want to go to various hospitals in India, but there are restrictions from the Pakistan government. Islamabad also put prohibitions for Indian tourists to visit POK, which has very little non-Muslim population.
While there is vibrant media in Jammu and Kashmir, nurtured with constitutional safeguards, there are concern over the restricted media freedom in POK. Several small newspapers, who tried to highlight the plight of the POK people, were banned by the Pakistani government. A survey carried by a newspaper found that majority respondents dared to reject Islamabad’s domination over their land. In fact, over 73% respondents opted for freedom from Pakistani occupation.
Around 10,000 survey forms were distributed across POK for many years questioning whether the dwellers want the position of Kashmir in 1948 being restored. Most of the participants made it clear that they are Kashmiris first. Soon after the newspaper published the tedious survey report, the authority got into actions. The irritated Pak government (read Pakistani military) promptly sent a notice to the editor, but when he did not bow down, the local authorities sealed his office on September 12, 2017.
Notably, most of the issues concerning POK residents are not highlighted in the media as their vernacular newspapers remain week and majority of newspapers, circulated in POK, are actually Kashmir editions of various Pakistan based media outlets. As for news channels, which are mostly cable operated, there is almost zero visibility of any India based news channel in POK. So it is understood that only few POK residents might have heard about New Delhi’s strong position as the entire Kashmir inclusive of POK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Aksai Chin is an integral part of India. That is why there is possibility that they are not aware of India’s strong opposition to the USD 50 billion CPEC project involving many parts of Kashmir.
But refreshing news for India would be that aspiring youths of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan now prefer to study in various educational institutions across the country. They even start pursuing reservations in IIMs, IITs, various medical, agriculture, law universities for the students of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Taking the help of social media, those aspiring students recently appealed to New Delhi and Indian populace for not ignoring their future.