Have lived in this region un-interrupted since April 2005 and undertaken - on my own initiative - a step by step (top>down followed by bottom>up) logical approach to conflict resolution whilst analysing the needs and aspirations of the people living in this marginal territory, referred to as Azad Jammu & Kashmir (one part of seven disparate territories formerly known as the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir). This followed a life mostly lived in the U.K. where I had worked as a journalist since late 2001. Experience covered Newspaper/Radio/Web, including stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.
1) Daily (Diary) Blog at ajkpublicagency.org
This was (re)initiated on January the 16th. An urge to define Riyasati (State) Agency has been high on my mind’s agenda for the past couple of years. This 8 years and 10 month old journey has by-passed mazes at every juncture to define a path for creating a genuinely indigenous process for resolving our lingering ‘National Question’. Put simply, it began with the concept of forum > Institution > Agency. Subscribe to my daily diary to unravel this pain-staking process @ ajkpublicagency.org
2) Self-Determination Public Fund - AJK
Although over 130 citizens have contributed to the concept of ‘Freedom and Responsibility’, the pace is too slow to conduct the initiatives titled as ‘current activity’ and ‘proposed public initiatives’ in the on-going document. The idea is to gradually employ one citizen outside each Post Office throughout AJK at a starting salary of 300 PK Rupees per day (During Post Office opening hours between 9am to 4pm, 6 days a week excluding Sunday) beginning from Khuiratta Post Office on Saturday morning, the 8th of February. This will be a monthly addition to the annual funding structure and will entail the payment of a mere 10 to a maximum of 50 PK Rupees per citizen per month. The legal basis for this activity and all other activities conducted by Kashmir – One Secretariat can be referenced from Article 21 of the UN Charter. As for the Institution’s constitutional structure, it endeavours to conform to the impending genuine constitution of the State and essentially operates as an interim framework which inherently intends to support all public efforts to evolve the very State’s own constitution. Links: ajkpublicagency.org and www.kashmirone.blogspot.com
3) Operation Clean-up
This is a public effort to cleanse the environment of Tehsil Khuiratta from litter, garbage and other dirt (dust) etc. beginning from the Town Area or Bazaar of Khuiratta itself. Consultation with various citizens has been ongoing for the past few months and this initiative aims to be as transparent, consultative and inclusive a process of ‘governance’ as never witnessed before in AJK. It entails the payment of 10 PK Rupees per business per day and will include a daily record of output achieved. It has been understood that the inhumane governing system prevailing in AJK puts a heavy toll on the mental capacity of citizens to envisage change and thus - with cleanliness constituting half of faith - this activity could prove to be the catalyst we’ll all been waiting for. Link: ajkpublicagency.org
This is being conducted on the basis of an ownership-building measure by civil society, hence independent of the CBM structure initiated by India and Pakistan in January 2004. Experience of Chakothi and Tithrinote in particular and the Indo-Pak peace process in general, has delivered ample evidence that confidence-building between the two countries is conditioned on being mutually beneficial at the expense of Kashmiri aspirations and needs. Dividends achieved so far – though not insignificant – are bereft of Kashmiri ownership. This route would hopefully provide a model reference for incrementally opening other routes (throughout the divided territory) in due course. Efforts in this regard have been on-going for over two years and have included discussions with the two countries manning the LOC. Link: kotlirajouri.blogspot.com
5) 'Matters of the State' - a live net video and recorded audio broadcast
In the absence of effective electronic media in AJK, a need has been felt to develop a centralised and consistent media forum to connect and highlight matters of public interest in AJK, relay them to a domestic as well as global audience and use that as a tool to make public institutions accountable to the public. Noticing the lack of connectivity of our largest diaspora in the UK with matters in AJK, an effort is also being made to link this programme with local radio stations in Birmingham, Bradford and Luton. Links available via ajkpublicagency.org at Bambuser and Ipadio
6) National Survey
A 10 question (random) survey of AJK's population covering our unresolved 'national question' and matters of 'good governance'. The aim is to generate as genuine and as representative a sample as possible by conducting one-to-one interviews with 10,000 people; giving proportionate weight for each sub-division, district, profession and tribe (including the diaspora). We aim to complete this survey this year during a walk through every tehsil (sub-division) of AJK. The Document entitled 'NATIONAL SURVEY ON A CITIZENSHIP WALK ALONG THE LOC' is available at the following link: www.kashmirone.blogspot.com
7) SMS Democracy
Regularly assessing and presenting public opinion via SMS on issues of 'national' concern and posting questions and answers (anonymously to protect the public's identity and to elicit as genuine a response as possible). Link: maloomaat.blogspot.com
Regular update of media content (audio, photo, text and video) generated in AJK (includes content generated in Pakistan and Indian controlled Kashmir) and all accessible from my blog: ajkpublicagency.org
9) Diplomatic/Academic/Media/Security Exchange
Engaging with various local, regional and global institutions covering the above ‘disciplines’ and exchanging notes on current affairs, particularly in the context of Kashmir’s lingering ‘National Question’. Discussions also include possible association or joint efforts on addressing matters of ‘good governance’ given the aforementioned context.
1) Freedom of Information Act
Lobbying for transparency, accountability and meritocracy necessitates a legal tool to empower civil society activists and all other concerned citizens to bring public finances, institutions and individuals clearly into the public domain. This needs to be implemented by the current Legislative Assembly.
2) Consensus building for the formation of a Constituent Assembly in AJK (and GB)
Having failed to transition from an autocracy (pre 1947) to a genuine democracy post 1947 (via a consultative public process), a cloud of ambiguity and stale ad-hoc-ism surrounds the current governing structure in AJK. A former Chief Justice has kindly offered to give lectures on the topic at the Bar Associations, Press Clubs and University Campuses of Mirpur, Kotli, Rawalakot and Muzaffarabad.
3) Holding a global forum at the PC Hotel in Muzaffarabad
The idea is to create the necessary civil space to discuss and resolve our outstanding 'National Question' by inviting local as well as international stakeholders to our territory and aiming to initiate a form of 'open diplomacy', rather than relying on others (with compulsions of conflict) to resolve our future. The intention is to invite the political section of 5 or 6 countries (most of whom have been engaged in discussion within one's time here) including political figures/activists from GB, Ladakh, the Valley and Jammu as well as writers/activists from our neighbouring countries and further afield. An invitation would also be extended to academic experts who've done work on Kashmir as well as personalities of AJK who live in the diaspora.
End of public document 2014.....
Upon arrival in 2005, I used whatever I could of personal resources and when they were exhausted by 2008, I relied totally on my family to support me to 2010, since when a combination of public support (financial and in kind), regular support from my family and limited teaching, editing, writing, translating and consulting assignments have indisputably helped in creating Jammu & Kashmir's first genuine public agency > institution > forum, arguably since the beginning of mass-organised public formation of 'assertion of rights by subjects as aspiring citizens', during the autocratic Dogra regime’s rule in 1931.
Like others I do not fascinate with the word ‘I’. However, in the context of the citizen’s (former subjects or their descendents) of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK will be used here-on) struggle for basic rights (achieved in some shape or form by arguably most inhabitants of the world), I firstly acknowledge and salute the contributions of all those citizens and subjects before me of their sacrifices in life, wealth and honour. Without their reference, what I’m working on would not have been a rational exercise.
As for mainstreaming the word ‘agency’ into public thinking, whereby ‘public’ linguistically refers to, “of, relating to, or concerning the people as a whole”, agency acts as a publicly funded delivery mechanism which avoids interference from external sources and holds public interest supreme at the cost of personal benefit. Its use is all the more important considering how external agencies have consistently denied the supremacy of public interest in AJK, exhausting all political avenues for delivery.
I agree with various other ‘public interest practitioners’ across the globe that ‘awareness builds through action. Not the other way around’. Rarely does the average citizen wake up in the morning planning to contribute to public interest, thus I have adopted direct interaction techniques with the public to successfully receive over 500,000 (units of Pakistani rupees) in public donations since 2010 - from around 2,000 citizens of AJK (at home and abroad) - all logged and available for public scrutiny. Whilst achievements, activities and recognition (public, diplomatic and academic) have been listed in previous annual public documents, the increasing intensity of my engagement with the public makes me feel increasingly accountable and ever more conscious of my need to develop an indigenous public process through which our common struggle for basic rights can come to fruition. Some citizens have made the very valid point about expansion of public interest activity through other citizen members and it must be re-iterated that I have tried various methods to expand from ‘I’ to ‘we’ with mixed success, as commitment to public interest for local citizens has its own challenges. Nevertheless, efforts to realise this necessary condition continues through the current concept of identifying 32 public agents throughout AJK, each representing one tehsil (sub-division). See sub-heading 3) below:
A 10 question (random) survey of AJK's population covering our unresolved 'national question' and matters of 'good governance', begun in the summer of 2011. The aim is to generate as genuine and as representative a sample as possible of public opinion in AJK by conducting one-to-one interviews with 10,000 people; giving proportionate weight by population for each of the 32 sub-divisions, whilst also aiming to cover each and every profession and tribe (including the diaspora). This exercise is scheduled for completion by June this year. This will be followed by a summary report with stats available in both English and Urdu by July.
This began in 2007 when I was closely following the relationship between India and Pakistan. It immensely helped in providing an alternative medium of expression and I was able to log my 2007 bicycle ride from Torkham (Afghanistan’s border) along the GT Road to Wagha (India’s border), as well as my bicycle ride from Sehnsa to Muzaffarabad in 2009. Subsequently, though I‘ve strained to log every day’s activity on this blog, the abysmally receding access to the internet in AJK since early 2013 has hampered me. Nevertheless, whatever is noteworthy of my experience in public interaction everyday will eventually be accessible for the public through this medium: @ ajkpublicagency.org
While getting to learn much about the behaviour, opinion and history of each region through the national survey (1 above); I was astounded as to the level of co-operation, hospitality and usually very frank opinion on the state of public affairs in AJK. However, amongst the very few reservations on the utility of trying to create a representative sample of public opinion in AJK was the assertion that the 'West' (sometimes also generalised as the 'International Community') know only too well as to the opinion of the public of Kashmir. While this may be true of the ‘West’, they also know that the public of Kashmir have not conclusively laid out an implementable road-map for acquiring their aspired goal of determining their future, which some may choose to describe as independence in short. In other words, they've never taken the initiative to conduct an exercise of self-determination, they've only sought it (mainly verbally without clear reference to public opinion or organised, representative character) and even that with mixed or convoluted aspirations.
An indigenously created political process in AJK - if implemented - could not only settle the above impasse (according to various foreign analysts the issue of Kashmir is not progressing towards a settlement). Indeed, one seasoned British journalist with good working knowledge of the region, exclaimed that he had no idea as to how a solution of Kashmir could be arrived at, in a write-up after a visit to Srinagar last year. An indigenous political process created without external influence with the agreement of the public could also settle the constitutional ambiguity of AJK and perhaps even act as a model political process for the other disparate regions of the State; namely Gilgit Baltistan, Jammu, Ladakh and the Valley of Kashmir (the heart of the dispute between India and Pakistan, the heartbeat of the Dogra constructed erstwhile J & K state and the generic name/idea/concept behind a civilisation possibly older than 7,000 years). Areas under Chinese control would foresee-ably necessitate an alternative mechanism of conflict resolution.
In summary, the essence of this proposal is linking public activity with public interest monitored and financed by the public. Our problem needs to be solved by us through developing a consensual framework that can be presented to the International Community. My role, I have come to envisage, is to help prepare our citizens for this task. Consultation with the public on this ‘process’ is ongoing and will be publicly discussed throughout the 32 sub-divisions of AJK in August/September, once 32 public agents representing each respective sub-division emerge. Please follow my blog @ sahaafi.net to meaningfully participate in this unfolding process.
1st stage: 1771 (Administrative villages or mozaat)
- In terms of party affiliation or interest beyond those of a citizen of AJK desiring the State of AJK to be in control of its public affairs.
- Beyond or except being a recipient of subsistence rent or performing necessary duty as part of family network.
- To not be operating as an agent of any sovereign nation-state or similar entity beyond the borders figured at 84,471 sq. miles.
The idea behind this format is to request those financially able stakeholders (citizens) to play a 'relatively' equal part in taking responsibility for our present predicament and a brighter future, whilst minimising the possibility of me succumbing to personal interest.
End of public document 2015.....