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European Parliament Supports Gilgit Baltistan
|by R C Ganjoo|
Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has been struggling to remain independent for the last six decades. Lately, the friends of Gilgit-Baltistan in the European Parliament (EP) have come forward against the Pakistani Government's decision to make Gilgit Baltistan as its fifth province and described it “violation of all democratic and diplomatic norms and also contrary to the spirit of Pakistan's constitution itself, which has since accepted Gilgit-Baltistan not as a part of Pakistan but as a part of Jammu & Kashmir". The European Parliament has also urged the international community intervention to stop Pakistan from absorbing Gilgit-Baltistan and withdraw its security forces. Also in Geneva, on September 11 last, leaders from various political parties raised question against Pakistan stated that GB was practically controlled and annexed by Pakistan.
The statement of EP came up in the backdrop of the GB legislative assembly resolution demanding complete provincial status for the region. The resolution jointly tabled by MLA Muhammad Ayub (Ghizar) and Mutabiat Shah (Hunza – Nagar) of PPP, Amina Ansari (Ghanche) of PMLQ and Agha Muhammad Ali and Raja Azam (Skardu) of MQM supported by vast majority of the assembly members demanded the grant of constitutional provincial status for the Gilgit-Baltistan region. The resolution will have to be approved by the GB Council, headed by the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan. The only voice of MLA Nawaz Khan Naji, Supreme Leader of the Balawaristan National Front, opposed the bill. He said that the resolution is useless because the status of GB is tied with the resolution of Kashmir dispute, which is pending at the UN for almost six decades. He, instead, demanded internal autonomy for GB under the supervision of the United Nations. Supporting his voice the Kashmiri nationalist and other political groups also opposed the resolution, calling it an effort to further divide the Jammu and Kashmir.
A member of fact finding mission team of Pakistan Muslim League Likeminded (PMLL) and member of National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights, Kashmala Tarique after visiting GB region expressed grave concern on continued sectarian killing and warned “ if Gilgit-Baltistan issue was no addressed, it will depict the picture of another Balochistan”. While discussing the situation on GB she told this journalist “the region is strategically very important as its boarders are touched with China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and India and USA are keeping its eyes on it.” She also expressed concern over the separate schools, colleges and even jails for Sunnis and Shias which are augmenting hatred amongst them. She said that all the administration is in control of Punjabis and the local people do not have an opportunity for jobs.
Describing the situation in GB gruesome, Manzoor Hussain Parwana, and Chairman Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) has alleged that the incidents of terrorism in Gilgit-Baltistan are being carried out with the consent of the security establishment. He said "It's out of question to carry out any incident of terrorism in Gilgit-Baltistan without nod from the military establishment. He said the military and civil authorities of Pakistan including the local government of Gilgit-Baltistan were misinterpreting incidents of terrorism as sectarianism to hide their own incompetence.” Giving credence to GBUM leader’s statement, the ministry of interior has also cautioned of possible terrorist attacks in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) areas. In a letter sent by the ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell, the department has urged both the governments to be vigilant, citing that terrorists are being trained in Waziristan Agency and may carry out attacks in G-B or K-P anytime.
Due to constitutional and political deprivation the sectarian conflict has been badly affected the region. Moreover, absence of representation in the National Assembly and the Senate, the area gets no attention in terms of economic and social development.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which remains in Pakistani occupation, is often called world’s last colony. Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, Washington in its statement issued recently has said “Pakistani forces have transformed this peaceful and picturesque region into a military garrison and commit rights violations with absolute impunity”. They have demanded the withdrawal of Pakistani forces and nationals from Gilgit-Baltistan, establishment of autonomous political and judicial institutions to promote democracy and rule of law, promoting freedom of expression and religion, release of all rights defenders and political prisoners of Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistani jails and helping create an atmosphere conducive to promote dialogue among the legitimate stakeholders and bring the Kashmir dispute to its logical end.
According to Senge Hasnan Sering, Director of Gilgit Baltistan Congress,(GBNC)Washington , “China keeps saying that it wants India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir dispute as early as possible, but fails to admit that its own illegal interventions in GB are actually prolonging the dispute and adding to the complexity.”
Beyond any doubt GB is a disputed territory and both Pakistan and China should stop their interventions and investment in mega infrastructural projects. Further, trade and transit facilities of the region should be used with the consent of the natives, he said.
In addition to their misery the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are the direct victims of targeted killing, so-called Jihad and terrorism. According to Manzoor Hussain Parwana the terrorists have safe heavens near to vital highway from where the terrorists thrice hit Karakuram National Highway (KKH) in past seven months and killed more than 60 passengers traveling on KKH.
In 1999, the people of Baltistan rose against the Jihadi-terrorists and ousted them from their homeland. This shows their commitment to their indigenous identity which is based on peaceful existence, inter-ethnic and religious respect, and rejection of terrorism. Gilgit-Baltistan is another ‘far-flung’ but strategically important region, where the writ of the state has been taken away since the Afghan war against the Soviet occupation started under the tutelage of General Zia-ul- Haq. Gilgit-Baltistan was roughed up again during the Kargil operation when external non-state actors were allowed to penetrate the region. All of them either Deobandi or Ahle Hadith poisoned against the Shia majority of the region and supported by the military commanders there, who were conducting the infiltration into the high mountains. It is widely reported in Pakistan media that Shias were targeted by mujahideen “because they were reluctant to help in fighting the jihad against the Soviet occupation”. Shias of Kurram Agency were attacked by mujahideen, followed by the incursion of a Sunni Lashkar into the region in 1988, in order to sort out the majority Shia-Ismaili population of the region.
Senge Hasnan Sering categorically said “GB has been used as a launching pad to promote violence in Kashmir in the name of self-determination. While Pakistan uses violence in GB to oppress the natives and use it as a tool to polticise issues without achieving any meaningful results.” He said the culprits have turned the Kashmir issue into an industry to mint money and keep the peaceful Sufis and Shia of Kashmir their hostage.
Giving, political and moral support to GBNC with Gilgit Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA), the All parties National Alliance (APNA) along has been demanding political, constitutional, economic, social and human rights from Pakistan since 1947 for Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. In a memorandum presented to UNO Observer in Islamabad on October 4 last, demanded effective political and administrative system for PoK and GB, which are being overtly and covertly dictated and governed by Pakistan through its bureaucracy, military and its secret agencies in connivance with their so-called people’s representatives. Arif Sahid, Chairman APNA told about the the significance of 4th Oct that PoK was declared an independent territory on the same day in 1947, which was distorted and changed to 24th Oct (Pakistan distorted ‘Foundation Day’) by Pakistan later on in order to convert it into her colony; while the nationalists of Jammu Kashmir still observe 4th Oct as its ‘Foundation Day’ and also observe the same day as ‘Protest Day’ against the ‘Lent Officers’ of Pakistan in PoK and GB, and also present a ‘Memorandum’ to UNO ‘Observers’ posted at Islamabad as usual.
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