(News Kashmir Exclusive Interview by Rameez Makhdoomi)
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan (born 1953) was elected the 22nd president of Pakistan Administered Kashmir on 25 August 2011.Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan was born in 1953 in a village “Ali Sojal” (Rawalakot), and brother of renowned figure in political and social scenario of Kashmir Sardar Haji Muhammad Zaman Khan (Late). He graduated from Karachi University and started his political career with an ethnic political party Punjabi Pakhtoon Itehad in Karachi. He joined a Kashmiri political party Tehreek Amel and was elected as Senior Vice President of this party later on. By Safeer Ahmed rind
President Pakistan Administered Kashmir President Sardar Yaqoob has also been a seasoned politician. In an exclusive interview with the News Kashmir, Sardar Yaqoob talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.
Rameez Makhdoomi: How do you see Kashmir issue shaping up in 2016?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan : With the grace of Almighty Allah each and every corner of world that matters in global polity is awakened about the Kashmir dispute. Information counts in this world and we have been able to convey the desired information and message with reference to Kashmir dispute to the world community.
Rameez Makhdoomi: Palestine is now recognized nation state by many and Kashmir issue has not seen much diplomatic breakthrough. What are your views?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :Palestine and Kashmir issue are not much different. We both the nations are same when it comes to the disputed status nature although it is true that many countries have accepted Palestine as country. We hope we will also achieve in near future more diplomatic breakthroughs with reference to Kashmir dispute.
Rameez Makhdoomi: The feel is that Gilgit- Baltistan has problem with administration of Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Your take?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :We definitely recognize the issues of Gilgit- Baltistan and we need to sit with the people and representatives of Gilgit Baltistan to solve their issues. People of Gilgit Baltistan are very patriotic and sensitive. The temporary setup created via Karachi agreement also needs to be taken into consideration. We need considerate and focused view on issues faced by people of Gilgit Baltistan.
Rameez Makhdoomi: How do you look at the moves by Pakistan Government to make Giligit Baltistan as its fifth province?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :We believe that the leadership of Kashmir will be taken into consideration by the leadership of Pakistan before final decision is taken on this issue. I belong to Pakistan People’s Party and martyr Bhutto had kept Kashmir dispute and Kashmir cause as core of Pakistan policy and it is very close to our heart.
Rameez Makhdoomi: So you are trying to indicate you are not in favour of GB becoming fifth province of Pakistan?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :Yes inshallah we are hopeful that it will not be done.
Rameez Makhdoomi: Some Critics say Indian Administered Part of Kashmir has progressed much than Pakistan Administered Kashmir .How true you think are these claims are?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :It is an Indian propaganda machinery at work that gives impression that Azad Kashmir has not progressed much. We need to bear in mind that parts of Kashmir held by India especially Srinagar and Jammu have 2000 year old history of development. While we are very new and had to start from the scratch. Still our education, road connectivity ,Power availability is far better than Indian held Kashmir.
Rameez Makhdoomi: But don’t you feel you still have poor network of universities on your side of Kashmir?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan : We have come up with a number of universities after earthquake and also a network of medical and engineering colleges. After earthquake we were completely devastated but Pakistan Government and world community backed us fully to be back on tracks with a bang.
Yes I agree there is always scope for improvement with reference to improving health and education sector.
Rameez Makhdoomi: Why has agriculture in your part not progressed much?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :Agriculture stagnation has been key area of concern for us. We have in Azad Kashmir millions of people who are working abroad especially in entire middle east and United kingdom and they send solid foreign remittances and on account of this fact too people here are not much focused towards agriculture .
Rameez Makhdoomi: Pakistan Administered Kashmir does not have much online and other forms of media outlets. What is the reason?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :There is definitely a need at government level to increase the information flow and dynamics of e- governance and also media is slowly and steadily coming up to disseminate information to entire world about happenings there.
Rameez Makhdoomi: You have yourself indicated India has a strong media as opposed to Pakistan .Why is it so?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :One cannot rub off the fact that India has a centuries old history and we are a country since few decades plus when our arm in form of Bangladesh was cut in 1971 it was a great blow but still Pakistan has progressed leaps and bounds and we people of Azad Kashmir are grateful to Pakistan for providing us opportunities to shine on global radar.
Rameez Makhdoomi: Many critics believe that Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah hoped to have Pakistan which is secure and prosperous for women and minorities but you have failed on these two counts. Your take?
Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan :On women front I agree we need to take many steps to improve the overall condition of our women. But minorities of Pakistan be it Hindus, Christians or Sikhs are proud Pakistanis and it is a baseless propaganda that minorities are unsafe in Pakistan. Look at the condition of minorities in India as opposed to that we are far far better.