“People of AJK and Gilgit Biltistan are complaining that under the pretext of development CPEC, an attempt is being made to handover POK and Gilgit Biltistan to China and several time protests took place in POK and Gilgit Biltistan”
As a young Kashmiri living in Srinagar we often were under impression that territory of Jammu and Kashmir which lies with Pakistan are more developed than us but when we elevate the development Pakistan has done in POK is disappointing and worst. Lets find answer as to why POK is so backward. In Pakistan Administered Kashmir important political and administrative powers are entrusted with a non-elected body–the Kashmir Council. It is headed by the prime minister of Pakistan (who is not elected by the people of POK ) as the chairperson, with twelve members, six of whom are picked by the prime minister from the National Assembly of Pakistan (none of them are elected by the people of POK) and the remaining six come from the elected assembly of POK. All the executive powers of the council are vested in the chairperson. Important subjects such as electricity, hydropower generation, tourism, population planning, banking, insurance, trading corporations, telecommunication, planning for economic coordination, highways, minerals, oil and gas, and development of industries, all fall under the dispatch of Kashmir Council. Therefore, the most important political institution is of an ‘extractive’ nature. This system is responsible for the backwardness of POK as people of POK has least say in deciding its policies.
Let’s take the example of high unemployment rate and its linkage with political institutions in POK. The high rate of unemployment is a result of insufficient public and private investments in the productive sectors of the economy. A government would undertake development projects in the public sector only when the right incentives are in place
In other words, when there are ‘inclusive’ political institutions in the country. Because in electoral democracy, the governing party undertakes development projects in the service of their electorate while hoping that they will be re-elected with the support of their electorate. But because the Kashmir Council is neither an elected nor a representative body, therefore there is an obvious incentive problem. The prime minister of Pakistan and members of the National Assembly have their voters in mainland Pakistan and not in POK . Meanwhile the presence of members of so called Azad Kashmir’s legislative assembly in the Kashmir Council is purely a token representation based on patronage and wealth. As a consequence, the state of Azad Kashmir has miserably failed in making public investments in the industrial sector. This is epitomised by the fact that there is only one industrial unit in the public sector in all of POK.
According to the ‘social structure of accumulation’ theory, private investment requires political stability and some level of predictability about the future. The political and constitutional status of POK is ambiguous at best – it is neither a sovereign territory nor a constitutional unit of the federation of Pakistan. It is still considered ‘disputed’ territory. Therefore, private investors are reluctant to invest in AJK due to the uncertainty associated with its geo-political future. Historically, progressives in Pakistan have associated feudalism with underdevelopment in POK. But empirical evidence suggests that the majority in POK participates in independent production (more commonly known as self-employment). According to a 2013 report of the planning and development department of POK, 87 percent of the households own land/farm in AJK; and the average farm size is 5.53 acres. But due to unavailability of institutional credit, small farmers are unable to purchase modern agricultural inputs and technology which are extremely expensive in POK due to high transportation costs. Consequently, small farmers are forced to engage in primordial farming techniques. An obvious downside of this is low agricultural productivity.
Agricultural productivity could have been improved via proactive state intervention in the economy through collectivisation of small farms into medium-size cooperatives and by offering institutional credit to farmers. Similarly, to boost economic activity and employment the state could have facilitated the processes of rural industrialisation through small-scale industries (SSIs). SSIs can be useful in two ways. First, in rural spaces they create more jobs compared to urban industrialisation or rural agriculture. Second, in rural spaces they can create forward and backward linkages with both agriculture and industry. This can potentially lead to higher growth in overall economy. But unfortunately the POK state pays no attention to these economic matters. Because, as mentioned above, the pre-requisite for the state to consider and undertake these initiatives is the following: inclusive political institutions. Therefore, we can positively infer that the current state of underdevelopment in AJK can be best elucidated through its extractive political institutions. They have not had adequate means of expressing dissatisfaction with the Pakistani government’s regional policies, and generally suffer as a result of underdevelopment and disenfranchisement. The Pakistani federal government has historically neglected basic development needs in PK, which suffers from poor infrastructure and a lack of available resources and technology. The Pakistani government has not taken sufficient measures to encourage development-oriented investment in the region, and some activists on-the-ground have even charged the Pakistani military with keeping there region’s people unprivileged.
POK is entirely dependent on the federal government for its financial resources and only about 25 per cent of the budget allocated to the region goes towards initiatives for development. Government estimates suggest that PK had a 10.3 per cent unemployment rate during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The local government and local businesses have largely not taken advantage of natural resources and human capital present in the region. Combined with subpar literacy rates (an official 78 percent literacy rate accounts for individuals with only very basic proficiency) and a dearth of available jobs, young Kashmiris in particular migrate to Pakistan’s large cities in search of low-paying jobs at hotels, restaurants, and clothing stores. Though recent economic activities in PK, particularly billions in Chinese investment, have generated hope that the region’s economic future would improve, the movement towards achieving this has been slow. For instance, the mainstay of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in PK, the Mirpur-Muzzafarabad-Mansehra highway, is still to be constructed despite being proposed in 2016, and the Kohala hydropower project is facing local opposition due to environmental concerns.
Rather people of AJK and Gilgit Biltistan are complaining that under the pretext of development CPEC is an attempt to handover POK and Gilgit Biltistan to China and many time protests took place in POK and Gilgit Biltistan. But Pakistan hardy pay any need towards the voices raised by citizens of these territories. Civilians living in PK also suffer from poor governance, an absence of political legitimacy, and disenfranchisement. Government action in PK has principally surrounded its ambiguous legal status: the federal government has disproportionately focused on securing its political hold over the region, neglecting actual governance in the process. The condition of Roads/Education sector/Health sector and lack of rest other facilities is worst. POK has not been yet connected with Railway and big Civilian Airport is still a dream.