Exploitation Of Indian Natural Resources By Pakistan In POK Western territories of Jammu and Kashmir was occupied by Pakistan on October 26, 1947, and the former Gilgit Agency, which used to be a province of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, now known as Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan was also occupied on November 1, 1947.
They are legally Indian territories since on October 26, 1947, the Maharaja of the State of Jammu Kashmir, Hari Singh, signed an instrument of accession with India.
For the past 73 years, the Pakistani military establishment in collaboration with Pakistani top bureaucracy, multinational corporations and now China, and with the cooperation of local facilitators in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoK) and Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan (PoGB) have been plundering the natural resources of Indian territories which till this day remain under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.
A brief survey of the scale of the pillage of the natural resources of PoJK and PoGB by Pakistan would reveal the size and volume of the robbery.
Let us begin by examining the theft of our water resources. Construction on the Upper Jhelum Canal in the state of Jammu and Kashmir began in 1913 and was completed in 1916. Right up to the day that Indian subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, the British were paying the state of Jammu and Kashmir yearly ‘abiyana’ or water revenue.
However, since Pakistan occupied our territory in 1947, not a single paisa has ever been paid to the so-called Azad Kashmir government.
In 1967, Mangla dam was constructed on the river Jhelum. By 1975, it has recovered the cost of the construction of the dam.
According to a Kashmiri research scholar, Dr Shabbir Chaudhary, by 2010 Mangla dam had produced 250 billion units of electricity but not a single paisa in revenue collected by Pakistan has ever been shared with the government of the occupied territory of PoJK.
The dam was built on the most fertile lands of Mirpur district thus depriving us of our breadbasket.
Mangla dam produces around 1400 megawatts of hydropower electricity and at the time of its construction, we were promised 300 megawatts free electricity to meet our needs. However, in reality, we in the PoJK pay more per unit than those in Punjab who consume our electricity generated by our waters.
On top of that, the irony is that we are not allowed to build small dams of our own in order to cater to our power and electricity needs.
Dr Chaudhary informs us that at the time of partition, the total land covered with forests in PoJK was estimated at 1.6 million acres which were 42 per cent of the total landmass.
Today our forests have shrunk to less than 14 per cent. Our prime trees are cut down vigorously by the timber mafia which in actuality is an extended arm of the Pakistani military. It takes almost 100 years for a tree of Diyar (deodar) to grow to a height of 200 feet. Once cut it sells for a whopping Rs 30 to Rs 36 lakhs in Gujranwala and Lahore and then resold at the rate of Rs 3600 to Rs 5000.
According to a conservative estimate, says Dr Chaudhary, 1.8 to 2 million trees are being cut down each year. This is one of the major reasons for the frequent occurrence of landslides and the large number of fatalities during the 2005 earthquake. PoJK is being looted of Rs 51 billion and 84 crore annually due to the steeling of our trees alone.
Each year PoJK produces Rs 3 billion worth of flowers and herbs of medicinal value. There are no records available to show if Pakistan has paid any revenue to the government of the so-called Azad Kashmir what so ever in this regard. Pakistan based corporations are making a profit of one billion rupees each year out of our flowers and herbs alone.
There are vast deposits of major, minor, metallic and non-metallic minerals and precious stone in both the PoJK and PoGB. These include marble, coal, gravel, sand, Bauxite, Ruby, diamond emerald and gold to mention a few. There is 21.5 thousand million ton of coal deposits available in PoJK alone.
Precious stones in Neelum valley are valued at $21.5 billion reveals Dr Chaudhary. USD 40 billion worth of precious stones have been extracted from our occupied territories so far. In the vicinity of the capital of PoJK, Muzaffarabad, there are 1594 million ton of coal and 250 lakh ton of Gypsum reserves. And yet we are forced to live in poverty and under sub-human conditions.
Long hours of load shedding of power and electricity has totally destroyed our small industries. Lack of clean drinking water is a major cause of illnesses like hepatitis and dysentery. Lack of hospitals and universities and mud roads that become unusable during monsoon and wintery snow showers and lack of basic necessities has become a daily norm in our occupied territories.
Majority of our youth are forced to live under duress in the Middle East and Europe just to earn a meagre wage to support their families back home. And on top of this if someone raises a question regarding the brutal plunder of our natural resources they are harassed by the Pakistani secret services and in some cases even murdered extra-judicially.
My people are ridiculed and treated like beggars whereas in reality our lands are rich and our waters are fresh and productive. We are not poor.
(Disclaimer: The writer of this opinion piece is Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, who is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK).