“They (people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) have not had adequate means of expressing dissatisfaction with the Pakistan government’s regional policies and generally suffer as a result of underdevelopment and disfranchisement.”Excerpt from an Article from “The Print” by a Pakistani Author
“No Govt help for companies in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir ”Seoul , South Korea
“No laboratory in PoK that could do basic blood and urine test.”Nasir Aziz Khan, Political PoK Activist
The above are not mere statements or rampant anecdotes, but blatant quotidian facts, which pertains to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir’s (PoK) ephemeral economic and infrastructural development over the years. The people dwelling in PoK have had tears galore of vexation, post Pakistan finagled it’s way in this region in 1947. In a veritable attempt to juxtapose the comprehensive development, superlatively in terms of infrastructure between the conterminous, “The Own” and “The Other Own” side of Kashmir, it is crystal evident that, while “The Own” side has witnessed omnifarious development projects germane to road infrastructure, irrigation and flood control, power, tourism, sport, health medical education, housing and urban development etc, “The Other Own” side is at the receiving end of Pakistan Government’s mere hyperbole, which hassled to wide scale protests in a pique by the dwellers in PoK region.
Highlighting the Shattering Background of PoK
While we are adequately learned on terror infrastructure in PoK abounds, it is the political, economic and humanitarian situation on the other side of the LoC, which is bleak in the media coverage. The dwellers in PoK are major stakeholders in the broader Kashmir dispute, yet have heretofore lacked a legitimate mouthpiece for voicing their political and socio-economic grievances. Development and political enfranchisement go hand-in-hand in promoting security and stability. It is thus, especially important to highlight the sub-par living conditions in PoK and to gear stakeholders towards taking more concerted action.
The Distressed Past & Present of PoK
The Pakistani Federal Government has historically omitted basic development needs in PoK, which has led to decayed infrastructure and a lack of available resources and technology. PoK is substantially leaning on the federal government with respect to its financial expedients. A meager 25% of the budget allocated to the region is expended towards the development process. It is assessed that, PoK had a 10.3% unemployment rate during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The feeble literacy rates combined together with dearth of available jobs, young Kashmiris in particular, migrate to Pakistan’s large cities in search of low-paying jobs.
Poor governance in PoK has principally surrounded its ambiguous legal status. It lacks representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan, which means political control falls into the hands of federal officials who are clueless of local grievances. Political disenfranchisement, underdevelopment, and a disregard for human rights in PoK, bode poorly for long-term regional stability and security.
Juxtaposing the Economy of Kashmir & PoK
In terms of economic development, Jammu and Kashmir is way ahead of the unfortunate PoK region. The annual budget allocated for Kashmir in J&K is a humongous Rs 1.01 lakh crore (2020-21), while PoK’s budget stands low at Rs 12,100/- crore (2019-20). The development expenditure earmarked for Kashmir is Rs 38,764/- crore, while for PoK, it stoops low at Rs 2456/- crore. The poverty rate in J&K is 10.35%, while poverty in the whole PoK region is around 34%.
To cater for tertiary education, Kashmir region is a proud owner of 35 recognized universities including the World Class Engineering Institute, National Institute of Technology, Srinagar which ranks 67 in Global Ranking. Contrary to that, PoK is home to only 8-10. Infact, as per statistics, J&K expends almost 12% of it’s budget on Education, which is higher than that of entire Pakistan’s education percentage of the budget. Keeping health and medicine in priority, J&K spent more than Rs 3000 crore in 2017-18 on health,whereas for PoK’s healthcare, a minuscule Rs 29 crore out of a Rs 10,000/- crore was allocated in fiscal year 2018-19.
In the infrastructure sector, overall infrastructure budget amounted to Rs 8900 crore in the year 2018-19 for J&K, while, PoK allotted Rs 1028 crore for infrastructure in 2018- 19 which included the communication infrastructure as well. The J&K region constitutes of four Airports including one International Airport at Srinagar, while PoK comprises of only two domestic Airports and none International Airport. In Railways, J&K again stands tall with 28 Railway Stations with 12 in Jammu and 16 in Kashmir, whereas in PoK, there is no functional railway station. Due impetus has been laid on the Road and Highway Infrastructure in J&K region, wherein, in the year 2018-19, from the Prime Minister’s Development Package, an amount of Rs 42,000 crore was reserved for construction of National Highways and tunnels. In J&K, the prestigious 9.2 Km long Chenani-Nashri Tunnel is fully operational. In addition, two Ring Roads projects have been approved for the State at a cost of Rs 4000 crore. More than 400 bridges are under construction across the State. On the other hand, the Pakistan Government has not initiated a single world class project in PoK in the last 70 years.
Disaster Management – The Pride & The Melancholy
If one compares the potentialities of “The Own” and “The Other Own” side of Kashmir, it is prudent to say that,“Own Side” unquestionably has an edge. It is pertinent to note the stark dissimilarities with respect to the proficiency of either side to architecture the counter-catastrophe system, with the latest one being the pandemic COVID-19. The J&K administration has given due diligence to ensure the curb of COVID-19 cases in Kashmir region. The Srinagar district administration has established 3000 bed capacity COVID Wellness Centers at six locations, with an aim to provide best facilities to mild and asymptomatic patients. Medical Equipment and technical logistics have also been placed for use in these facilities as wellness centers. In addition, sampling and testing facilities have been scaled up, with over 3000 samples and 1000 tests on a daily basis. As always and every-time, Indian Army too assured full cooperation to the civil administration in combating the pandemic by setting up two COVID-19 hospitals, one each in Srinagar and Jammu.
Contrary to Own Side, the locals at PoK are undergoing severe hardship at the behest of the pandemic. Be it the supply of food materials, or providing PPE kits to the doctors in PoK, the Pakistan Federal Government is showing no concern, leading the beleaguered people to suffer in silence and eventually wither into oblivion. Poor healthcare facilities in Muzaffarabad (capital of PoK) were recently exposed, when authorities at Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zaid Combined Military Hospital complained of receiving used PPE kits, with some of them stained with Betel Leaf (Paan). As per Nasir Aziz Khan, PoK Political activist, there are no laboratories in PoK that could undertake basic blood and urine tests.
Having compared the indefatigable efforts by the Indian Government in aggrandizing the economic geography in Kashmir and the lack of governance in PoK, potentialities in GDPs of both sides and the dark stark differences in the proficiency of either side to architecture the counter-catastrophe system, it is evident that, while “The Own” side is on a development spree, “The Other Own” side is allegedly being misused by Pakistan to nurture terrorism. However, with whole lot of conviction, it can be said that, with the present government taking tough stand with regards to the amalgamation of PoK in J&K at global forums, the “Other Own” side is soon “Coming Home”.
“Pakistan should know the Strength of a Stone. On “The Other Side”, misguided youth are throwing stones on poor governance, while on “The Own Side”, there are youth, breaking stones to build Kashmir’s future. Come, Join Mainland India!!”