DR VIJAY SAGAR DHEMAN
1. Pakistan assumed full control of the territory in 1947.
Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir State or anyone from Union of
India never even contested Pakistan’s claim. Pakistan made sure that the region is
separated from the POJK and remains devoid of any civil liberties, human rights
or even basic modern habitat. There was no local representation in administration or any courts unlike in the case of POJK. Many a time, the cases for rights and privileges for people of this region were contested in courts in Pakistan resulting many a verdict in
favour of the GilgitBaltistan .In all cases, the Govt of Pakistan either could reverse the decision in higher court or offer some convincing argument to avoid implementation of
the verdict. The basic problem is that the constitution of Pakistan does not consider this region as part of Pakistan even today.
2. In 1963, Pakistan unilaterally handed over approx
5000kms of area of Shakasgam in Hunza to China. Mir of Hunza protested but to no avail.
Thus till 1970, there were no civil rights here and Gilgit-Baltistan continued to be under the tyranny of Pakistan Army. The system of governance was same as during British lease prior to 1947. Till now it was part of POJK but in Apr 1949, this region got bifurcated from POJK by an agreement signed between Pakistan Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Mohammad Ibrahim, President of POJK along with Ghulam Abbas, President of Muslim Conference in POJK. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan today challenge this agreement as it did not have any
rep of Gilgit-Baltistan. Besides, this agreement also contradicts the UN Resolution 91 adopted on 30 Mar1951 and UN Resolution 122 adopted on 24 Jan 1954. The age old
draconian law Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) since British regime to crush the locals was in force. Northern Area Legislative Council (NALC) was formed but instead of electing the
members, they used to be selected from Islamabad. This was only in advisory role with no powers of final say.
3. In 1990 , there was an attempt to give some representation to the locals in
administration and this area was renamed as ‘Northern Areas’. In 1974, Bhutto Govt abolished the state subject law, still in force since Maharaja’s times, and went in for massive Sunni settlements in the garb of traders, mullahs and ex-servicemen. The influx of outsiders did not help the locals in any way and they started resenting their presence. Shia-Sunni riots became very common. Simultaneously, this region being in the vicinity of NWFP, lot of terror organisations (Sunni sect) started
having their terror training camps. This region saw the
worst Shia-Sunni riots in 1998 and 1992. In 1988,
Brigadier Parvez Musharaf personally led the commandos
and 1000 terrorists from Khyber Pakhtoonwa to massacre
the Shias in this region. On an instant, Osama Bin Laden,
who had his hide outs in this region, is believed to have
led the Sunni terrorists to decimate the Shias. Needless to
say that Shias retaliated with full force and survived. In
2009, this area was redesignated as “Gigit-Baltistan’. A
sham assembly of locals was put in place which had to
take concurrence of Prime Minister of Pakistan for any
decision taken. In 2018 and 2020 , important judgements
came from Supreme Court of Pakistan in favour of citizens o Gilgit-Baltistan . The Supreme Court of Pakistan
directed the Govt of Pakistan to restore all constitutional
rights including Human Rights to the citizens of Gilgit
Baltistan. Elections were held on 15 Nov 2020 but the
mass rigging has forced the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan to
take to the streets against the sham victory of Imran Khan
4. Yet the mineral resources of this region i.e Uranium(used
for nuclear weapon), Almunium and Titanium alloys
(used for weapons in outer space) Gold and host of other
minerals are being mined either by the Pakistani private
contractors or the Chinese companies which have been
banned elsewhere in other countries. The locals are not
permitted the small scale mining which they had been
doing since ages. No project from China recruits locals
leading to severe unemployment, poverty and drudgery.
The Chinese has constructed permanent residential
colonies resulting in impairment of local culture , traditions and values. More than 50000 Chinese are in this
region indulging in marrying the local girls to change the
demography of this region.
5. As per a political activist Shakoor Khan, now in exile,
“Gilgit-Baltistan had a population of two million. Now it
has been reduced to approx 14 Lacs. There are no civic
amenities like potable water, electricity. The land and the
forests have been exploited by the Pakistani Generals and
politicians and bureaucrats for their personal gains. The
basic food items coming from Pakistan are of poor quality and are available to public at an exorbitant cost.
Prominent activists like Col Hassan were jailed for 13
continuous years and his home was destroyed. His son
Wajahat Aslam is on exile to UK.” Despite persecution
from the Govt, a movement has been started for independence. Idea of Independent Balwaristan comprising of the
areas of Dardistan, Baltistan , Astore and parts of Ladakh
is gaining ground.
6. Today there are high levels of discrimination, brutality
and victimisation of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan. The
gun cultures whether against Pakistan or China is rampant. The soldiers of Northern Light Infantry of Pakistan
Army(residents of Gilgit-Baltistan) feel slighted due to
sectarian issues. No claim of dead bodies of Northern
Light Infantry soldiers by Pakistan during Kargil War irks
them on continuous basis. The water resources of this
region are being exploited for the gains of China or
Pakistan. Electricity generated in the Bunji dam and other
water harness resources do not get shared with the
locals.The displaced people due construction of these
dams have not been compensated even today.
7. People are also aghast with the announcement of construction of Daimer Basha dam. This dam though being in
geographical region of Basha (Khyber Pakhtoonwa), yet
it is called Diamer Basha dam. This has been done to
avoid paying the royalty to the province. Pakistan has
cleverly avoided the issue by calling it ‘Provisional
Province of Pakistan’ and not ‘Province of Pakistan’ in the
constitution. The electricity produced will go to Pakistan
or China and large tracts of land in Gilgit-Baltistan will be
submerged in water displacing 60000 people in 30 villages. Compensations from Pakistan are hard to come by.
Ever since the construction of the Karakoram HW started
over Khunjreb pass, China, has been looting all rich mineral like Uranium, Titanium, Gold and the forest
resources to damage the biodiversity of the ecosystems in
8. Pakistan has conducted the elections on 15 Nov 2020 in
Gilgit-Baltistan but they are unlikely to bring any change
in the lives of the residents. Pakistan has been forced by
the rattled China to integrate this region in Constitution of
Pakistan. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
passes through this region. If India integrates it back into
its territory, the CPEC would cease to exist. Pakistan has
a dilemma on this. If Pakistan integrates this region as its
fifth province, case of integrating whole of Jammu and
Kashmir in Pakistan territory gets diluted in the proceedings in UNO. But being a subservient vassal state of
China, does it have a choice?
Brigadier Dr Vijay Sagar Dheman is leading Defence and
Strategic Expert, prolific writer, National TV News
Commentator and Internationally Accredited Life Coach.