Kashmiri migrants still treated with disdain in Pak 20-years on

Muzaffarabad, Oct 14 (ANI): Some 35,000 people fled from the Kashmir valley in India during the 1990s to settle in Pakistan, which claimed to speak for the beleaguered Kashmiri people, but years later, many migrants, disenchanted with the dream of a welcoming Pakistan, want to return to Kashmir.

Pakistan has not yet granted its citizenship to up to 40 percent of the migrants, mostly from the second or third generations, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Other migrants were granted citizenship in 2006 in the run-up to the POK state elections, in what some felt was a cynical ploy by politicians to garner votes.

Presently, most migrants live in camps and subsist on government handouts of about 8 dollars a month per person, and they are not even able to attend college or legally seek employment, as they have neither Pakistani citizenship nor any identity card.

"We're grateful to Pakistan but we're always made to feel different. The people here don't like us, don't mix with us, and it's hard to get a job," said Rana Altaf, a migrant, who lives with his family in a makeshift shanty on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir.

His mother Sobia complained that the family has to struggle for food each month as the men find informal work only occasionally.

"These are a group of people who bring into focus a humanitarian factor of the whole Kashmir dispute. The fact that these people have been living for 20 years in camps remains virtually unknown," says Marjan Lucas, a Senior Program Officer at Dutch non-governmental organization (NGO) IKV Pax Christi, who has been campaigning on behalf of the migrants.

Lucas suggests the Pakistan government has been slow in awarding citizenship rights to the migrants because to do so would mean negating their right to self-determination, as it continues to insist that the 1948 United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for self-determination is the only acceptable mechanism through which the Kashmir dispute with India can be solved.

"They were invited and told to stay until the dispute was resolved. When they came they were welcomed but it was expected that their stay would be temporary, so Pakistan said, 'We don't have to give you ID cards because you have the right to self-determination', " the officer said, adding, "This situation continued and continued and they're still in the same situation they were in when they arrived, and now the third and fourth generations have been born within the camps."

Rana's family head- Abdul- pointed out, "We left our lands, our properties, our animals and businesses to come here," adding, "We want to go back home, but only after the Indian Army has left. What business do they have in Kashmir?"

At the Manak Piyan camp at Muzaffarabad, home to some 2,000 migrants, a schoolteacher, who once fought against India as a member of militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, said, "Nobody wants to take responsibility for us, it's like we don't exist."

"Our right to fight the occupying forces is guaranteed under the United Nations Charter," he further said. "We want to go back home but we are hostages to our situation. Though we respect the people of AJK, their government does not favor us." (ANI)

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