Date: 12/2/2000



December 02, 2000

Dawn journalist writes: Aug.14 = Deprivation Day for Gilgit-Baltistan


While Pakistan cries itself hoarse over Indian repression in Kashmir, its own Northern Areas are simmering.

Strategically located, the serenely beautiful region is among the most poverty-ridden parts of the world. Bereft of socio-economic infrastructure the people here are leading a life of misery.

Riven by sectarian quarrels and ignored by Islamabad, the area is seething with anger. Denied legal recognition and political rights for years, the people here are now talking in terms of "freedom" from Pakistani rule.

For the last many years, August 14, the Pakistani Independence Day, has been marked as 'Deprivation Day' by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Protests and strikes have become an everyday occurrence and the Pakistani national flag has been set on fire at several places.

But ominously, the political leaders of this area are now talking of an armed uprising.

Troubled History

Historically, the Northern Areas, comprising the five administrative districts of Gilgit, Skardu, Diamer, Ghizer and Ghanche, voluntarily acceded to Pakistan on November 1, 1947 after revolting against Dogra rule.

Upon acceding to the newly created Islamic republic, the areas were put under the direct rule of Islamabad. According to the 'Karachi Declaration', a nominated Political Agent would regulate its affairs under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

The Pakistani Constitution does not recognize the Northern Areas as a part of Pakistan as it says the region's status is linked to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. So the two-million-strong population, spread over an area of 72,500 sq kms, is politically unrepresented in Parliament.

Ironically, however, the people of the Northern Areas have Pakistani passports and national identity cards.

The people blame Islamabad of violating the 1949 UN resolution and say it is bound to grant self-rule to the locals and withdraw the armed forces of Pakistan within seven months.

"The former princely states are today under the tutelage of Pakistan with no recourse to civil liberties and fundamental rights," says Malika Balistani of the Gilgit-Baltistan National Alliance (GBNA).

"The intention is political. They want to use our vote bank for Kashmir in case of a UN plebiscite," says an office-bearer of Karakorum National Movement (KNM), "Pakistan has no claim over Nothern Areas"

In May 1999, the Pakistani Supreme Court in a landmark judgment ruled: "Northern Areas are a disputed territory and the Government of Pakistan has no claim whatsoever over it."

Directing the government to lend self-rule within six months, the Pakistani apex court said! that people in the Northern Areas should be given fundamental rights at par with other areas of Pakistan.

However, nothing was done.

"The decision remains unimplemented to this date and all that the government is doing is to indulge in cosmetic face-saving measures such as devolution of power or polls to local bodies," says Khalid Athar, a lawyer of Sindh High Court, Karachi.

Elections to the 28-member Northern Areas Council are held every four years. However, these are boycotted by the local parties, who call it as a 'farce'.

"The NAC is a rubber stamp of the Pakistan's federal government," says Raziuddin, a local politician and an ex-member of the NAC.

An all-powerful bureaucracy under the Northern Areas chief secretary actually calls the shots in this region. Though there is Minister of Northern Areas & Kashmir Affairs, he is dubbed "a stooge" of Islamabad.

Not only does the region not have political rights, Islamabad does not brook any criticism of its policies either.

Recently, a popular Urdu weekly newspaper 'K2' was closed down by the administration for criticising the Islamabad regime. Its proprietor Raja Hussain Khan Maqpoon is now fighting a legal battle and stands in danger of being charged with sedition.

Aitzaz Ahsan, former interior minister and veteran PPP leader, says: "Unfortunately the state apparatus in Pakistan has always been oppressive and extortionist."

The cry for freedom grows.

However, the people of the Northern Areas are growing restless now. They are no longer, say their leaders, going to put up with Islamabad's high-handedness.

The local parties point to Azad Jammu & Kashmir, which enjoys an autonomous parliament, bureaucracy, judiciary as well as an elected president and prime minister. They want similar status.

"Pakistan can no more exploit our patriotism," says Major (retd) Hussain Shah of the Muttahida Qaumi Party (MQM). Unless Pakistan recognises their fundamental rights, he sa! ys the people will have to "explore new avenues."

However, others are not as diplomatic. "My political party is seriously thinking of armed and political assistance from whoever it may be to get rid of Pakistan's unjust rule," says Malika Baltistani of GBNA.

She openly says that if their demand for autonomy and fundamental rights was denied, the people of the area "would not mind calling it a day with Pakistan."

At a recent press conference in Karachi, she went to the extent of saying that they would "go with any nation or country that ensured them their basic rights."

Her's is not an isolated voice.

Balawaristan Nationalist Movement's chief Nawaz Naji says: "If the locals can win freedom against the forces of the Dogras without any foreign assistance, they can do so against Pakistan too, if pushed to the wall."

(The writer is a journalist with daily Dawn, Karachi)


Now watch Partitioned (PI) India doing NOTHING to woo back her lost children, even where her lost and betrayed children are restless, directionless and being persecuted.

There is none in 'Broken Bharat' today to comprehend the strategic importance of recovering the territories lost in 1947 and then bringing these under civilised secular rule. Such a wise course will not only bring sanity into her ongoing political chaos, but also ensure her physical security by extending the frontiers beyond Wagah.

Did the people of Gilgit and Baltistan (and EAST Bengal) live in two separate countries and under two different constitutions prior to 1947?

Who has "hijacked" Hindusthan? Who has crushed her brain and guts?

The cowardly collapse of New Delhi has its lethal repercussions far beyond India's bogus borders, created by Nehru, Jinnah and Great Britain in a bogus manner, within days, and without a referendum.

The people of Gilgit and Baltistan (EAST Bengal, Sind, WEST Punjab, Baluchistan, NWFP and North Kashmir) are the people of India. They could NOT be Indian on 14 August and aliens on 15 August 1947!

When the bullies and bandits abducted the fair maiden of Gilgit, her cowardly Indian father said he did not know her. He had never seen her!