While Indians tend to see Pakistan-occupied Kashmir through the prism of antagonistic and terrorist-harbouring Pakistan, politicians from PoK were in fact united on Friday in lashing out against Islamabad's rule of the region and demanding independence from Pakistan.
At an event in the UK, PoK politician Dr Misfar Hassan Khan said that the ''loot and exploitation'' by political parties of Pakistan in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan needs to be stopped, as these areas are ''not a part of Pakistan''.
"I want to convey my message to Pakistan's political parties who have opened shop in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, they need to be closed down. The exploitation of the region should be stopped now," Khan, president of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation League Europe, said at a conference organised by Kashmiri leaders from the Jammu Kashmir National Independence Alliance in Leeds.
The Kashmiri leaders supported PoK Prime Minister Farooq Haider's statement against Pakistani occupation during the conference and asserted that Islamabad cannot keep the region enslaved under its illegal rule.
Taifoor Akbar, a political activist in PoK, said people living in the region are treated as slaves, called traitors, and are regularly abducted and thrown in jail in the name of National Action Plan.
''PoK locals are deprived of basic amenities, they have no roads, factories, even books are banned in the region,'' Akbar said.
He said the Pakistan government has put restrictions on books under the National Action Plan and abducted people and put them behind the bars on sedition charges.
The Pakistan government had established the National Action Plan in January 2015 to crack down on terrorism and to supplement the ongoing anti-terrorist offensive in North-Western parts of the country.
"Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir Farooq Haider and his cabinet should talk to leaders sitting in Islamabad. Pakistani politicians are not allowing the Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir to speak and even abuse him during a TV debate. Now, they are calling the Prime Minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir a traitor," he said.
"We have a Parliament and a Supreme Court in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but we have no right to express our views," he added.
Voicing similar sentiments, Sajjad Raja, general secretary, United Kashmir National Party Europe, said, "It pains me that from day one, Pakistan has been indulging in illegal, immoral and unconstitutional activities.
"Pakistan has always considered Pakistani Kashmir as its property. Through the media, I wish to make it clear to the Pakistani establishment that Kashmiri people are not their slaves," he added.
Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is a resource-rich region, but due to Islamabad's discriminatory policies, the locals are living a miserable life, the activists said. The region remains underdeveloped as people have no jobs and facilities like healthcare and education.
In 2016, PoK locals staged protest against the ''rigged'' 21 July election, which saw Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) winning 32 out of 41 seats.
The protesters had claimed that they were not allowed to cast their votes, and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and others rigged the polls in favour of the PML(N).