After Kashmir got divided between India and Pakistan, both the countries have administrated the territories of the state under their control. But while Indian constitution provides for same rights to its citizens living in Kashmir in representative institutions (like any other state), Pakistan has so far avoided giving representation to people living on its side of Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region in its institutions of governance. Local wisdom dictates that when it suits Pakistan, GB is a formal part of the country; and when it suits Pakistan to show GB as a disputed territory, it is shown as that.
Although the region is not a constitutional part of Pakistan, it has never lagged behind any other province in terms of sacrifices for the sovereignty of the state. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have never complained about their miseries despite having no right to cast votes, no representation in the national assembly or senate, and a strong sense of deprivation in many other fields where other provinces enjoy constitutional rights.
People of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) want to join India not Pakistan
Balawaristan National Front (BNF), is regarded as the most important voice of the indigenous people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The chairman of BNF, Abdul Hamid Khan, who lives in Belgium in political asylum, in his interview to The Sunday Guardian had earlier said “We, the people of PoGB (Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan), have a long experience of 69 years of Pakistani conspiracy against the indigenous people. In the 21st century, we are deprived of even basic rights. We don’t have the right to vote, we don’t have the right to free speech and we also don’t have the right over our own resources and land and we don’t have the right to justice.” He had further said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, who are engaged in a freedom struggle with Pakistan, want to join India.
BNF claims that the Pakistani administration is attempting to alter the demographic profile
BNF claims that the Pakistani administration is attempting to alter the demographic profile of the area, reducing the indigenous people to a minority. In 2002, it opposed what it saw as the Pakistan government’s attempts to impose Wahhabi Islam on the region’s predominantly Shia population under the rule of General Pervez Musharraf
Vested interests (CPEC) reason for this sudden love for GB by Pakistan
The elephant in the room is, of course, China. On taking orders from Beijing to resolve the internal differences on the CPEC to create favourable working conditions for the project to be rolled out smoothly. Thus in order to accommodate the legal concerns of China for its multi-billion-dollar investment plan in CPEC, the Pakistani government has now announced to change the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan region. This tactical move which is purely motivated to get CPEC out of troubled waters is to once again flirt with the sentiments of people of GB who are suffering at the hands of Pakistan.
The old-timers predict that Pakistanis will cry and weep like the way we the people of PoGB did, after our elders did a mistake on 1 November 1947 by fighting against the Maharaja’s forces. They fear that China will never withdraw its forces from Pakistan and if, in the future, any Pakistani demands that from the Chinese troops, China will demand the whole money along with interest, otherwise they will remain in Pakistan’s territory and will subdue Pakistanis as a whole.
BNF leaders and workers, who demanded freedom and opposed CPEC, have been arrested and tortured by JIT and then imprisoned under terrorism charges. Pakistani media and the media in PoGB and PoK are totally under the control of the ISI and have no courage to utter a single word without its permission. The only free media, Kargil International and Daily Baangeshar were banned and the editor of Baangeshar is in jail after being accused of being a terrorist, because he dared to write about the grave human rights situation of PoGB.
People of GB fear demographic shift because of CPEC
There is also the fear that the CPEC may lead to widespread displacement of the locals. Given the secrecy and confusion surrounding the project, its design and its budgetary allocation, three of Pakistan’s four provinces held a well attended All Parties Conference (APC) and vented their anger at the central government for its opaqueness regarding the share of investments for each of the provinces. It highlighted the imbalance in provinces with the largest one Punjab being seen as favoured especially as far as investments on road infrastructure are concerned.
Will Vote for India in case of Referendum say Senior Gilgit-Baltistan Leader
Asserting that India has never committed any atrocities on the people of Gilgit or forcefully occupied its land like Pakistan, Abdul Hamid Khan stated that if a referendum was to take place then the people from the disputed territory would choose New Delhi over Islamabad for governance any given day. He further said that Pakistan must follow United Nation resolutions, withdraw its forces from Gilgit province and let a referendum take place under the world body’s supervision. He further said that Pakistan has used the Gilgit province and imposed war upon their people while India never occupied any of their land.
Pakistan would continue playing with the sentiments of people of GB but nothing concrete would take place
Despite tall claims of the Pakistani government of further empowering the region with the introduction of constitutional reforms, it is very unlikely that it will make a breakthrough regarding the territorial status of the area which is the main cause of concern and suffering of the people of GB. Further this `dark move`, of carving out Gilgit from Kashmir, if it ever happens will be the final nail in the coffin. It’s still an open question how badly Pakistan will mismanage GB, and how far China will go to exploit it.
21 May 18/Monday. Written by firstname.lastname@example.org