Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Urdu: آزاد جموں و کشمیر azaad jammu o- kashmir ; AJK) or Azad Kashmir for short (literally, “Free Kashmir”), is the southernmost political entity within the Pakistani-administered part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It borders the present-day Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the east (separated from it by the Line of Control), the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan to the west, the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) to the north, and the Punjab Province of Pakistan to the south. With its capital at Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir covers an area of 13,297 square kilometres (5,134 sq mi) and has an estimated population of about four million.
map of the entire Kashmir region
After the Partition of India in 1947, the princely states were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan. However, Hari Singh, the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted Jammu and Kashmir to remain independent. In order to buy some time, he signed a stand-still agreement, which sidestepped the agreement that each princely state would join either India or Pakistan. Later there was a revolution by Muslims in the western part of the kingdom and the raiders from North-West Frontier Province and the Tribal Areas feared that Hari Singh might join the Indian Union. In October 1947, supported by the Pakistani Army, they attacked Kashmir and tried to take over control of Kashmir. Initially Hari Singh tried to resist their progress but failed. Hari Singh then requested the Indian Union to help. India responded that it could not help unless Kashmir joined India. So on 26 October 1947, Kashmir accession papers were signed and Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. Fighting ensued between the Indian Army and Pakistani Army, with control stabilizing more or less around what is now the “Line of Control”.
Later, India approached the United Nations to solve the dispute and resolutions were passed to hold a plebiscite with regard to Kashmir’s future. However, this plebiscite has not been held on either side, since the legal requirement for the holding of a plebiscite was the withdrawal of the Indian and Pakistani armies from the parts of Kashmir that were under their respective control—a withdrawal that never did take place. In 1949, a cease-fire line separating the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir was formally put into effect.
Following the 1949 cease-fire agreement, the government of Pakistan divided the northern and western parts of Kashmir which it held into the following two separately-controlled political entities:
- Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) – the narrow southern part, 250 miles (400 km) long, with a width varying from 10 to 40 miles (16 to 64 km).
- Gilgit-Baltistan formerly called Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) – is the much larger area to the north of AJK, 72,496 square kilometres (27,991 sq mi); it was directly administered by Pakistan as a de facto dependent territory, i.e., a non-self-governing territory. However it was officially granted full autonomy on August 29, 2009.
An area of Kashmir that was once under Pakistani control is the Shaksgam tract—a small region along the northeastern border of the Northern Areas that was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to the People’s Republic of China in 1963 and which now forms part of China’s Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang.
In 1972, the then-current border between Pakistani and Indian, which held areas of Kashmir, was designated as the “Line of Control”. The Line of Control has remained unchanged since the 1972 Simla Agreement, which bound the two countries “to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.” Some political experts claim that, in view of that pact, the only solution to the issue is mutual negotiation between the two countries without involving a third party, such as the United Nations.
A devastating earthquake hit Azad Kashmir in 2005.
Districts of Azad Kashmir
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is a self-governing state under Pakistani control but is not constitutionally part of Pakistan. It has its own elected president, prime minister, legislature, high court, and official flag. The government of Pakistan has not yet allowed the state to issue its own postage stamps, however, and Pakistani stamps are used in the state instead.
Azad Kashmir’s financial matters, i.e., budget and tax affairs, are dealt with by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, rather than by Pakistan’s Central Board of Revenue. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council is a supreme body consisting of 11 members, six from the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and five from the government of Pakistan. Its chairman/chief executive is the president of Pakistan. Other members of the council are the president and the prime minister of Azad Kashmir and a few other AJK ministers.
The state is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into eight districts.
|Division||District||Area (km²)||Population (1998)||Headquarters|
|AJK total||10 districts||13,297||2,972,501||Muzaffarabad|
A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that Pakistan-administered Kashmir was ‘not free.
There are roughly 1.5 million refugees from Indian Administered Kashmir in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan.
Geography and climate
The northern part of Azad Jammu and Kashmir encompasses the lower area of the Himalayas, including Jamgarh Peak (15,531 feet [4,734 metres]).
Azad Jammu and Kashmir is predominantly Muslim. The majority of the population is culturally, linguistically, and ethnically related to the people of northern Punjab. The article Ethnic groups of Azad Kashmir gives a breakdown of all the major tribes in the state. The vast majority of the people from Azad Jammu and Kashmir, despite that region being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.
A large majority of Kashmiris have relatives who live in England. Mirpur in particular retains strong links with the UK.
Urdu is the official language of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. However, due to the area’s diverse cultural blend, many languages are spoken by different populations, including Pahari-Potwari, Kashmiri, Gojri, Punjabi and Pashto.
Economy and resources
In the mid-1950s various economic and social development processes were launched in Azad Kashmir. In the 1960s, with the construction of the Mangla Dam in Mirpur District, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government began to receive royalties from the Pakistani government for electricity the dam provided to the nation.During the mid-2000s a multi-billion dollar reconstruction began in the aftermath of the Kashmir Earthquake .
Agriculture is a part of Azad Kashmir’s economy; low-lying areas that have high populations grow crops like barley, millet, corn (maize), and wheat, and also raise cattle. In the more elevated areas that are less populated and are spread out, foresty, corn and livestock are the source of living.
There are some mineral and marble resources in Azad Kashmir close to Mirpur and Muzaffarabad; there are also some graphite deposits at Mohriwali. There are some reservoirs of low-grade coal, chalk, bauxite, and zircon. Local household industries produce carved wooden objects, textiles, and dhurrie carpets. There is also an art and craft industry that produces such cultural goods as: namdas, shawls, pashmina, pherans, papier mache, basketry copper, rugs, wood carving, silk and woolen clothing, patto, carpet, namda gubba and silverware. Agricultural goods produced in the region include: mushrooms, honey, walnuts, apples, cherries, medicinal herbs and plants, resin, deodar, kail, chir, fir, maple and ash timber.
In addition to agriculture, textiles, arts and crafts, remittances have played a major role in the economy of Azad Kashmir. One analyst estimated that the figure for Azad Kashmir was 25.1% in 2001; for household annual income, those people living in higher areas are more dependent on remittance than lower areas.
In the latter part of 2006, billions of dollars for development were mooted by international aid agencies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake-hit zones in Azad Kashmir, though much of that amount was subsequently lost in bureaucratic channels, leading to delay in help reaching the most needy, and hundreds of people continued to live in tents long after the earthquake. A land-use plan for the city of Muzaffarabad was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Remittance by British Pakistanis forms an important part of the Kashmiri economy.
The literacy rate in Azad Kashmir was 62% in 2004, higher than in any other region in Pakistan. However, only 2.2% were graduates, compared to the average of 2.9% for the whole of Pakistan.