Thursday, 28 March 2013

Pakistan’s Manipulation of the status of Gilgit- Baltistan
Gilgit- Baltistan is the northernmost geographical area of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. It was also known as the Northern Areas in Pakistan. It shares borders with Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor in the North, China in the East and Northeast, Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir to the Southeast and Azad Kashmir to the Southwest. Gilgit Baltistan is highly mountainous and covers an area of 72,971 km squared. It has a population of about a million people.  Gilgit Baltistan came into being by the merger of Ladakh Wazarat, Baltistan Districtm Gilgit Agency and the states of Nagar and Hunza. Both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan make up the disputed region of Pakistan administered Kashmir, as per International organizations and the United Nations. In India it is known simply as Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
In 1947 when erstwhile India was divided into the two states of Pakistan and India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was under the rule of Hindu Raja Hari Singh, even though the majority population was that of Muslims. Upon the division of India Hari Singh kept his state of Jammu and Kashmir as an Independent state. It was neither a part of India nor Pakistan. But, Pakistan attacked his state with the help of the Western Muslim tribesmen in Kashmir and almost reached the current Kashmiri Capital of Srinagar. The Raja could not handle the onslaught and as per General Mountbatten’s suggestion, asked for help from India. In return India asked the Raja to sign the Instrument of Accession, which made the whole territory of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir – Indian Territory.
The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, asked the UN to intervene and the United Nations passed the “United Nations Security Council Resolution 47” which stipulated that Pakistan withdraw all its forces from Kashmir. This was to be followed by a plebiscite to decide the fate of the entire state of Kashmir. But, the withdrawal never happened and the area which remained under the control of Pakistan is known as Pakistan administered Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan is a part of the same.
Pakistan constituted the Sunni majority areas into one administrative unit called Azad Kashmir and the Shia majority areas of Gilgit and Baltistan were called the Northern areas of Jammu and Kashmir. These areas had been leased by the King Hari Singh to the British and once Pakistan overtook these areas, they were incorporated into Pakistan and have since been ruled directly from Islamabad.

The Pakistan government approved a self-governance and reforms package for the Northern Areas which entails that the strategically-located Northern Areas will have rights akin to those of Pakistan’s four provinces, (Punjab, Sind, NWFP, Balochistan). The “Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009” also aims at giving the Northern Areas “full internal autonomy” and changing the region’s name to Gilgit-Baltistan. Under the new system, the Northern Areas will have a province-like status without actually being conferred such a status constitutionally. The region will vote for a legislative assembly, elections to which are to be held in the next three months and a chief minister will govern the region, replacing direct rule by Islamabad

Since then various governments in Pakistan have tried to merge Gilgit-Baltistan into their political structure and the 2009 announcement by Pakistani government, which espoused the idea of Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance, probably stemmed from the fact that the 2007 EU Kashmir report which was passed by overwhelming majority had put the Pakistani government under a lot of pressure.

In her report Baroness Emma Nicholson, who also was the Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament‘s Committee on Foreign Affairs at the time, deplored the outbreaks of violence in Karachi and said that the overwhelming need of the hour, is to „secure an independent justice system to address the situation of the people of Pakistan, and particularly those of AJK (Ajad Jammu and Kashmir) and Gilgit and Baltistan“.  She also stated that Pakistan has consistently failed to fulfill its obligations to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures on its side of Kashmir and expressed her concern about the fact that the region enjoys no form of democratic representation whatsoever. People in Gilgit-Baltistan feel that in the name of “Empowering people”, the Pakistan government actually wants to annex Gilgit-Baltistan just as they had annexed the state of Chitral, which is now a part of Malakand Division of Pakistan.

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