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In Pakistan-Held Kashmir demands growing independence



MUZAFFARABAD, Kashmir – In Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the simple fact of the region's name – with azad meaning freely – is a statement that Kashmiris here enjoy a freedom that is denied to their relatives across the border, in Native American of the disputed territory.

But even in Kashmir-owned Kashmir, the message has been clear, residents say: No talk of independence will be allowed.

As an Indian crackdown on the other side of Kashmir has led to massive civil unrest and new calls for a Kashmir free from either India or Pakistan, local activists and officials say a parallel security operation is being deployed in Pakistan.

Pakistan has long been proud to be a champion of Kashmiris, who are mainly Muslim. And the government has punished India for suppressing the calls for freedom in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi.

But New York Times journalists who gained rare access to Azad Jammu and Kashmir in recent days found a tougher Pakistani security response to a growing pro-independence movement here.

Residents say the build-up has its origins in fear that their ability to slowly reunite has slipped away since India increased its control over the divided territory and Pakistan did little to stop it other than to offer negotiations that India refused.

The Pakistani crackdown also has a different direction, locals say: As an uproar over India's move to end Kashmiri autonomy last month, galvanized militants fear Pakistani officials may face international sanctions if they do not pull the weapon [1965900BothsidesoftheborderexpressKashmiri'sfrustrationthatnooneisontheirside

"Both countries have gone to war over Kashmir. But Kashmiris have never had a voice in any of these disputes, "said Abdul Hakeem Kashmiri, a prominent journalist in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani Kashmir capital.

" We love the Pakistani army and the people of Pakistan, but we have our own culture. And people know what the unspoken red line is: independence, "Kashmiri said.

Pro-independent demonstrations that once attracted dozens of protesters are now attracting thousands, say residents. In one case, this month, about 5,000 Kashmiris tried to march to it Indian border in Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, local police say protesters accused by Pakistani security officials while singing: "We want freedom on this side and we want freedom on other side", and "Foreign oppressors, leave us peace. "

Police batons burst into the protesters, halting their progress and leading to mixes that left 18 protesters and seven Pakistani police wounded, officials said. The protests were barely covered in Pakistani media, and cell phones and the internet were interrupted for a while. in the area. A military general dismissed the protesters as "Indian agents."

Despite appeal one from the political leadership in Kashmir who is being held in Pakistan to stop marching to the border area, Kashmiris says they plan to continue. They have demanded massive protests at the border with India on Saturday and early October which are expected to be the biggest demonstrations yet.

"The independence struggle on both sides of the border is suppressed," said Anam Zakaria, author of "Between the Great Gap: A Journey to Pakistan-administered Kashmir." "There is a frustration that they have been at the forefront of the conflict and are peasant in this larger game between India and Pakistan," she said. [19659007] Last month, India stripped its independence from the part of Kashmir it holds and strengthened New Delhi's hold on the territory, detained local politicians and activists and introduced a curfew and communication block that has entered its second month.

The police force used against protesters this month was a" preventive measure, "said Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Masood Khan, saying the police response was held remains compared to that used by Indian forces on the other side of the line, which he sometimes said opened fire on protesters trying to cross the border, resulting in serious injury.

"There is a high degree of tolerance for dissent. There is an overwhelming sense of pro-Pakistani sentiment in Azad Kashmir and in India-occupied Kashmir, ”Khan added.

But Kashmiris nationalists are banned in government. Elected officials such as Mr. Khan must sign a statement before they can run to say that they "believe in Pakistan's ideology" and in Kashmir's final connection to becoming a formal part of the country.

Some here say that Pakistan's response is also rooted in fear that militants like the Pakistani security forces were once mobilized to fight India in Kashmir preparing again when Pakistan faces the threat of international sanctions if it does not fall on terrorist groups.

A former Kashmiri militant said he was angry at what he saw as a hypocritical storehouse of Pakistani officials, who recently closed the border after pushing various militants to cross it in the 1990s.

The military, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals, said Pakistan's military had "contaminated" the Kashmiri cause by using the issue as a gathering council for various terrorist groups in Pakistan to fight India, including Lashkar-e-Taiba , who took part in subsequent attacks against India's parliament in 2001 and Mumbai in 2008.

“We were freedom fighters, made up of the Kashmiri people. But then Pakistan groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba pushed our movement. People began to confuse our fight for freedom with a desire for terrorism, "the former militant said.

But he added that the time was under way for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and that many here did not want to hold back.

"Narendra Modi drives people to jihad, not me," he said, referring to the Prime Minister of India.

Other residents were less retained.

"The only solution is war," said Muhammad Arshad Abbasi, a shopkeeper in Chakothi, one of the last frontier towns before the control line. "It has been 70 years, and what has the talk with India achieved? There is no other way than jihad. "


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