THE controversy over his government's decision to transfer a sizeable piece of forestland in Jammu to a Hindu shrine board brought Ghulam Nabi Azad's puppet rule to an abrupt end on Monday when he resigned as Chief Minister of Held Kashmir rather than face a fresh vote of confidence. There was no other way but to quit after his key ally, the People's Democratic Party, parted ways with him over his mishandling of the issue that gripped the Valley with angry protests. As many as six people were killed and over 350 injured in police firing and violent clashes, which forced Mr Azad to revoke the land transfer orders. But the belated revocation did not help enough, as it triggered equally strong protests by Hindus in the Jammu region and other parts of the occupied state. The message he delivered in his parting speech in the state assembly was that he was satisfied with his work and the objectives he had come with, had been largely achieved. "I don't care whether this government survives or falls...I have shown the way," he said before leaving the House to hand over his resignation to Governor N.N. Vohra. Against the backdrop of Mr Azad's decision, the occupied state now seems set to come under direct central rule, the third time since the resumption of the freedom movement in 1989. And with state elections about four months away, direct rule can be perceived as an attempt by the Congress Party to influence their course. The Kashmiri freedom fighters believe that the land transfer was a ploy to settle Indian Hindus in the territory. It was not without a rationale. Bringing in settlers may be designed to give credibility to the forthcoming elections by increasing the turnout that remained abysmally low in the past, due to the boycott of polls by the Muslim majority. But New Delhi will fail in its effort if it ever tries to tell the world that everything is fine with Kashmiris and they had opted for India in a free vote. The international community is witness to the relentless repression committed by the occupation troops against those trying to liberate themselves from the Indian shackles. And it shows no sign of ending. Mr Azad's resignation has established that the Kashmiris struggling for freedom are a political force to be reckoned with. It is, however, depressing to find some leaders of the present ruling coalition in Pakistan suggesting that the Kashmir issue be put on the backburner and other issues be settled in the ongoing talks with India. They must shed this approach as it will only disappoint the Kashmiris who are looking for Islamabad's moral support.