AZAD KASHMIR Pakistan calls the small sliver of land it captured in the first Kashmir war with India (1948-1949) “Azad” (free) Kashmir Ever since 1949, when the United Nations adopted a resolution that ended the brief war between the two countries and authorized Pakistan to administer this part of Kashmir, pending a plebiscite to determine the political future of the entire state, Azad Kashmir has enjoyed some autonomy It has its own constitution, according to which the people of the territory elect their own assembly Azad Kashmir has its own president as its chief executive In actual fact, the administration in Muzaffarabad usually has the same party affiliation as the administration in power in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital Muzaffarabad is the capital of Azad Kashmir and its only significant city The city is about 80 kilometers from Pakistan and 30 kilometers from the border that currently separates Azad Kashmir from Indian Kashmir The boundary between Azad Kashmir and the Indian state of Kashmir was defined twice, once in 1949 and again in 1972 The first definition essentially followed the position of the troops of India and Pakistan when the two countries accepted the cease-fire brokered by the United Nations The second demarcation grew out of the Simla Accord, signed by India and Pakistan on 3 July 1972

The fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which took power in Delhi following the Indian elections of March 1998 formally laid claim to Azad Kashmir complicated once again the relations between Pakistan and India over the future of Kashmir However, it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India’s prime minister in a BJP led coalition, who extended his “hand of friendship” to Pakistan in a speech in April 2003 The speech given in Srinagar, in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, led to the gradual easing of tension between Pakistan and India On 7 April 2005, the border between Azad Kashmir and the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was opened to permit a bus to operate between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar This was the first time that travel was allowed between the two parts of Kashmir See also EARTHQUAKE OF 8 OCTOBER 2005

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