Assembly Can Stonewall WPR Proposals

17 January 2015
Kashmir Reader
Irfan Mehraj

Srinagar: As long as the state assembly and local governments resist, the refugees from West Pakistan cannot become the permanent residents of the state with voting rights in the assembly, legal experts said. Granting the WPRs these concessions can happen only at the cost of a violation of the state's separate constitution. A person must be the permanent resident of the state at least for 14 years before 1954 to qualify as the state subject, said noted lawyer Zafar Shah. West Pakistan refugees do not meet this requirement. 'They cannot give permanent resident status to West Pakistan Refugees because they first have to amend the constitution of J&K and for that you need a two-third majority in the Assembly,' Shah said. A parliamentary panel has recommended Permanent Resident Certificate and right to vote in Assembly elections for the WPRs, who according to an estimate constitute 8% of state's population, and displaced persons (DPs) from Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) besides a financial assistance of Rs 30 lakh per family. The panel also recommended 'de-freezing' of eight seats for displaced persons from PaK and reservation for both groups in the Assembly. Union Home minister Rajnath Singh swiftly approved a few recommendations of the panel, including the one suggesting that WPRs shall be recruited in central paramilitary forces and a quota of seats shall be provided for their children in professional institutions like the children of Kashmiri Pandits. While Hurriyat Conference (G) has warned of a 'strong movement' if the recommendations are implemented, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat has called an 'emergency meeting' of its executive members on Monday to discuss the issue. National Conference and PDP have pledged to 'fight tooth and nail' any attempt to tamper with state's demography. Sheikh Showkat said the WPRs were deliberately settled in parts of Jammu to change the state's demography. 'They could have been easily settled in Punjab on lands left behind by Muslims who migrated to West Pakistan at the time of partition,' Showkat told Kashmir Reader. 'It is to be noted that in the name of West Pakistan refugees they can settle anyone in Kashmir.'