The relationship between the governments of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has remained fluid over the decades. Nothing concrete was laid out in the initial days of Independence to formalise the relationship. The people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and their leadership, strived hard to get a proper constitution and governance setup. Consequently, a number of legal and constitutional arrangements were introduced during the nineteen sixties and seventies.
In 1974 an Act was introduced, namely the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act 1974 which governs the affairs of AJK till today. The 1974 Act made drastic changes such as switching to a parliamentary form of government, and establishing of a new forum called the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council, which was entrusted with significant legislative and executive powers. The formation of the AJK Council was perhaps intended to streamline the relationship between Islamabad and Muzaffarabad.
However, the overwhelming feeling in Azad Jammu and Kashmir is that the Council has been unable to achieve the objectives for which it was established. The extent of its authority and performance remains debatable. It is widely believed that the Council’s executive powers drastically hamper the elected government's ability to take key decisions related to finance, public policy and socio-economic development.
In this context, the Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), took the initiative to hold a series of debates on this fundamental issue. A day-long roundtable entitled “An Appraisal of Constitutional, Financial and Administrative Arrangements between the Governments of Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir”
, was held on 29th January, 2011. The roundtable aimed at appraising the existing arrangements, and deliberated upon possible changes. It aimed to achieve a broad consensus for future constitutional amendments of the Interim Constitution Act 1974.
The existing arrangements, especially those relating to the AJK Council, have from time to time been criticized. Yet no attempt has ever been made to undertake a structured discussion on the subject, involving all stakeholders.
The participants of the Round Table represent a cross section of AJK civil society – namely politicians, jurists, former and serving bureaucrats, academicians, intellectuals, representatives of the private sector, and other opinion-makers.