The opposition parties on Monday called for the resignation of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider after the controversial remarks made by him regarding the future of Kashmir took the whole country by storm. Haider's supporters, on the other hand, have rebuked the opposition leaders for their demand.
The statement in question was reportedly given by Haider on Saturday during a joint presser with Gilgit-Baltistan's Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman at the Kashmir House in Islamabad in the wake of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's disqualification by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
According to a video of his media talk making the rounds on social media, Haider allegedly made the remarks after talking about Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan.
While hurling allegations at Khan, when discussing his past life and divorces, Haider allegedly said: “Yesterday, he [Khan] said that I am going to build Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal… is [what we see today] the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal?”
And in the same breath, he added: “If this is the Pakistan that Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal [dreamed of], I will have to think, as a Kashmiri, I should annex my fate with [this country].”
The press conference, which was reported by a section of print media on Sunday, raised a furore across the country, particularly because of its front page coverage by a major newspaper with caption: “We will think to which country to make annexation to.”
Realising the gravity of the matter, Haider’s office issued a clarification later that afternoon, saying that an English and an Urdu newspaper had quoted him “out of the context” and that he stood for the accession of the state to Pakistan.
However, the clarification could not pacify the opposition leaders, some of whom resorted to using harsh words against him on different TV channels.
At their thanksgiving rally on Sunday night, both the PTI chief and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid referred to Haider with a number of rude titles and called upon the people of AJK to surround his residence in Muzaffarabad in protest.
The leaders' strong language kicked up a series of counter attacks from PML-N activists and soon mainstream and social media were swarmed with critical comments from both sides.
On Monday, a handful of PML-N workers staged a protest outside the press club against the PTI, in defiance of a ban imposed by the district administration on political gatherings. They chanted slogans against Khan and torched his pictures.
Haider himself addressed a press conference for a third consecutive day in Islamabad, where he said that PTI chief’s “abusive remarks” against him amounted to insult towards Kashmiri nation and that Haider himself would present his case before his people.
According to a press release, he reaffirmed that the future of Kashmiri people was linked with Pakistan.
Separately, the government also announced to take legal action against the news agency that had released the story of prime minister’s media talk on Saturday.
However, there has no let up in criticism of Haider's remarks coupled with the demands for his resignation.
PTI said it would hold a demonstration in Muzaffarabad on Tuesday, with party regional chief Barrister Sultan Mahmood among its participants.
“All freedom loving Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) are filled with indignation at the unconstitutional and irresponsible statement made by Haider because it has provided India with an opportunity to launch a vicious propaganda campaign against our sacred cause,” said Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, PTI’s senior vice president in AJK.
“Haider has not only hurt the sentiments of Kashmiris and Pakistanis, but he has also violated the oath of his office,” he added.
Separately, Shaukat Javed Mir, PPP’s secretary record in AJK, said he would hold protest demonstrations across AJK on Wednesday on the call of party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
In a tweet on Monday, PPP’s Senator Sherry Rehman said Haider had lost his standing to stay in office and should resign after questioning AJK's allegiance to Pakistan without any delay.
PPP lawmaker in Punjab, Mian Khurram Jahangir Wattoo, also tabled a resolution in the provincial assembly calling for Haider’s resignation.
Mir said the AJK chapter would also table a resolution against Haider in the Legislative Assembly, wherein he would be asked to step down “for making a statement in disregard to his oath.”
He said Haider was in severe distress after Sharif’s disqualification and had thus launched a scathing attack on the apex court judges and the national institutions.