Umair Pervez Khan
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is bounded on the north by the Republic of China, on the northwest by Afghanistan, on the southwest by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and on the southeast by India. The most beautiful region, also known as Switzerland of Asia, has unfortunately been the victim of slavery, oppression, injustice and exploitation in different periods.
The beginning of Dogra period in 19th century, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, marked increase in the sufferings of the people of the state. It all began by the signing of infamous Treaty of Amritsar which was concluded in 1846 between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the British government, according to which the beautiful region of Kashmir Valley was sold to Gulab Singh for only 7.5 million Nanakshahis. It is worth mentioning here that Poonch territory of the state was not a part of this agreement due to which the Maharaja was forced to occupy Poonch area even though he faced strong resistance from the people of Poonch.
The Treaty of Amritsar was to conclude that the atrocities of Dogra had reached its peak. Life was made impossible for the people of the state, especially the Muslims. Different kinds of taxes were imposed on the common man, some of which were of a strange nature. For example, a tax was levied on the purchase of a horse, which was half the actual purchase price of the horse. Corruption was reaching its limits. All government offices were rife with corruption, but the most ridiculous law was in the Dogra era, under which government officials had the power to force anyone in the state to work for them without any compensation. No rations were provided, and no money was given. This system was called “forced labor”.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hatred against Dogra was growing among the people of the state. In all these circumstances, in the middle of the twentieth century, a young man rose up and started a revolt against Dogra and set out to liberate his nation and state from the clutches of this ruthless ruler. The story of this young man’s struggle is long and determined. It begins in the village of Raant, Hurnamera, a village in Poonch, where a child was born on 15 April, 1915, named as Ibrahim, in the flower-covered valleys of Kashmir.
He visited the school for the first time at the age of 11 and passed the matriculation examination in just six years with honors from State Jubilee High School, Poonch. He passed his intermediate examination from Islamia College, Lahore and B.A from Punjab University, Lahore, in the year 1938. After his graduation, he travelled to UK to pursue a higher degree in law to quench his thirst for education, where in Lincoln lnn, he earned the honor of being the youngest barrister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is important to note that he didn’t had enough money, to go abroad for the higher studies so he applied for the scholarship from the Dogra rule and was awarded the scholarship after his father and his elder brother had to face one-year long hardship to secure mere amount of Rs. 6000 from government treasury. During his stay in London he witnessed second world war and was inspired by the valor of countryside men who fought steadfastly in 2nd world war despite of scarce resources. This experience gave him the courage in later stage of his life to revolt against the oppressive ruler back at home.
After completing his Bar at law and Law degree from prestigious Lincoln’s Inn college London, he came back to his native state at the age of 28, the same young man was appointed to the post of Assistant Advocate General of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but Allah Almighty had some other plan for him. The young man resigned from the post of Advocate general due to discriminatory behavior of the Hindu colleagues and decided to jump into practical politics in 1946. He participated in the general elections for the first time and was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly from the platform of the Muslim Conference. In his first budget speech in the assembly he raised his voice against the violation of the rights of the people of Kashmir. His speech was well received in masses and sparked a hope in Kashmiri nation.
After his heroic entrance in the politics, Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan took over the leadership of the Tehreek-e-Azadi Kashmir, organized a fragmented movement and launched a military struggle against the Maharaja, liberating an area of 32,000 square miles in a very short time. At Pallandri, a revolutionary and insurgent government was formed and at the age of 32 he became the founder of this government and was honored to be its president. History is witness that no senior leader of the Muslim Conference came forward to accept the presidentship of the newly formed revolutionary government due to the fear of death in treason against the tyrannical Maharaja government. It was his extra ordinary valor and courage who later earned him the title of “Ghazi-e-Millat”
His leadership role is acknowledged by international historians as Josef Korbel notes, “This Movement was led by a young Kashmiri, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, who science June had traveled throughout the countrymen. In August he narrowly escaped arrest in Srinager and fled to Pakistan. At Muree he led the foundation for a political movement of liberation, out of which later grew the Azad (Free) Kashmir Government”.
Another historian on Kashmir discussing the Azad Kashmir movement wrote, “The Maharaja had passed an order to massacre the Muslims, A thirty-two-year-old Suddhan, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, collected together the ex-soldiers amongst the Suddhans.” The soldiers were mostly from the district of Poonch (now comprising the areas of Sudhnoti, Bagh and Rawalakot) who liberated the area of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan under his leadership.
Earlier, on July 19, 1947, when even a bird could not fly on the Srinagar without the permission of the Maharaja, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan would pave the way for future generations by passing a resolution on the accession of Pakistan at his house. It was a marvel of his astonishing personality that despite having leaders like Sheikh Abdullah and other conspiratorial elements in the state, he was able to get pass the resolution from the general council of Muslim Conference in favor of Pakistan’s accession. The resolution demanded from the Maharaja that due to geographical proximity, 80% Muslim Population, rivers natural flow towards Pakistan and state’s cultural linkages to Pakistan, it should be acceded to Pakistan. This resolution was later made the basis of the case of Kashmir in the united Nation Security Council on behalf of Pakistan and Kashmiris.
History bears witness to the fact that Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan did not confine his voice of protest to the state but surprised the world by presenting the Kashmir issue with full zest and zeal at the International forums in 1948 by addressing the press in UN gallery. The leadership abilities of this guerrilla leader were acknowledged not only by the people of the state but also by the international media on the front page as a testament to the boldness and fearless leadership of this great leader. An example of this is the July issue of the British newspaper “The Herald” in which this young man, full of courage, was introduced as the young president of Azad Kashmir government. He was given the due media attention and was addressed as “rebel”. In 1948, the Defense Council of Pakistan conferred the title of Ghazi-e-Millat on Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan for his services to the cause.
Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan always devoted his energies for the betterment of the state of Kashmir and the honor of being the four-time president of the state also came to him. He also set the record for being the youngest 32-year-old and 85-year-old president of the state. Among his other achievements is the Karachi Agreement which he signed with the Government of Pakistan in April 1949, as president of Azad government of state of Jammu and Kashmir, demonstrating utmost foresightedness, by which Gilgit-Baltistan has been handed over to Pakistan on administrative grounds, until the decision of the entire state, including Gilgit-Baltistan, is not achieved according to UN resolutions. This agreement stands valid until it is complied with.
Few segments criticize this agreement, but this is to bring on record that the revolutionary government of Gilgit Baltistan that was formed by the help of Azad forces on 1st of November, 1947 practically surrendered its right to govern in the hands of the political agent of Pakistan on 16 November, 1947. It’s first ‘revolutionary” president, Shah Raees Khan accepted the chairmanship of supply depot against 250 rupees monthly, as Colnol Hassan Mirza notes in his book “Shamsheer se Zanjeer tak”. Despite of the GB government surrendering the whole liberated area and right of people to govern to Pakistan, as early as 16 November, 1947, Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan was still able to secure his Azad government’s claim on the Gilgit Baltistan area and signed the agreement as representative of the Azad government of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He made sure that the GB area to be declared as the part and parcel of Jammu and Kashmir state till the plebiscite could be held as in January 1949 the right to self-determination of Kashmiris was accepted by UN and international community.
Moreover, the credit for sowing the seeds of democracy in Azad Kashmir goes to same stalwart of Kashmiri politics. His politics in office started from 1947 and ended as the president of same state in 2001. This makes him unique as none of his competitor had such long career and influence on the politics of Azad Kashmir as he did. Christopher Snedden, the famous historian says that he was the only man of his era who made it to 21st century as an active office bearer.
He travelled to different countries in different time to highlight and represent the case of Kashmir at different international forums. The most notable visits include the UNSC visit of 1948 and 1949-50. In the same year 1950, he went to London where he formed Azad Kashmir league which worked for the cause of Kashmir at international level. His visit of Turkey in 1950 got real consideration where he met the Turkish Prime Minister Semsettin (Shamsuddin) Gunaltay at Ankara, which caught the attention of the local press and laid the strong foundation of Turkey’s crucial support for Kashmir cause. In 1964, in a delegation headed by Khawaja Shahab-ud-Din, he again visited Turkey, some African countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.
It was a feature of his fearful, thoughtful and resourceful personality that none of the politicians, even his adversaries, could raise objections to his character, principledness, impartiality and patriotism. Possessing these all-encompassing features, founder of Azad Kashmir state, Ghazi-e-Millat Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, passed away on July 31, 2003, dreaming of complete independence of Kashmir. His death was not just the death of one person but was a great se-back to the cause of Kashmir and Pakistan. On his death the Government of Pakistan announced three days mourning and now every year he is honored by observing a holiday on the same date in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. May his soul rest in peace.
(-The writer is an MPhil graduate in International Relations who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. from Turkey.)
Umair Pervez Khan