BY NIAT WALI
GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), formerly known as Northern Areas of Pakistan, is a gateway to China from Pakistan and South Asian countries. If we look at history, we will see that its geographic importance has always made it vulnerable, be it during the British rule in India or during the Soviet invasion.
More than 1.5 million inhabitants of G-B consist of those from different clans. However, there is no strict narrative of history, which can explain the lineage of the people of G-B.
This region consists of seven districts namely Gilgit, Ghizer, Hunza/Nagar, Astore, Diamer, Skardu and Ganche. The G-B legislative assembly runs the affairs of the region, which consists of 15 members, all elected from G-B, while the command and control system is still under the Kashmir Affairs Division.
Known all over the world for its highest mountain peaks K-2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II, and numerous other peaks, G-B attracts thousands of tourists and mountaineers each year. Its unique landscape is divided into different beautiful valleys and has been declared a heaven on earth and a great source of attraction for tourists for a long time. But unfortunately, this region does not seem to have a political identity of its own.
The brave forces of G-B liberated this region from the Dogras on November 1, 1948, and acceded to Pakistan on the basis of religious and geographical realities. The Pakistan Army was not involved in the battle and no UN force helped G-B then, but ironically, the UNCIP passed a resolution without consultation with the freedom fighters and the leaders of the region in 1948-49, which declared this region to be a “disputed territory”. In the same resolution, Pakistan was authorised to run the affairs of the region under an interim arrangement, which Pakistan has been doing to date.
It is interesting to note that the map of Pakistan shows these regions as part of Pakistan, but despite that, G-B has no political representation in the country. The region barely has representation in the National Assembly. When compared with other tribal areas on the outskirts of K-P, this is sheer injustice. The area is ruled under the Constitution of Pakistan, yet, the people have no right to vote. The recent statement by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid in which he said that, “Geographically, Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Pakistan, but legally it is not part of Pakistan” has further rubbed salt on the wounds of the inhabitants of the region.
The people of G-B have Pakistani National Identity Cards, yet they do not belong to Pakistan. The courts of this region do not belong to Pakistan. How on earth can this situation be justified and how can around 1.5 million people of the area be deprived of their rights and representation? If the territory of G-B is disputed, so are those of Indian-held Kashmir, but people from that region seem to enjoy voting rights and also have representation in the Indian parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2014.