DR WAJAHAT A DAR
It was on the headlines a few weeks back that federal government is mulling options to merge Gilgit-Baltistan constitutionally as fifth province of Pakistan.
Then, as usual an expected hue and cry was made by AJK polity followed by Hurriat leaders lately. AJK leaders didn’t content with angry and threatening statements, they also went on by passing a resolution through AJK assembly mounting pressure on federal government to revert any possible decision of making G-B as fifth constitutional province of Pakistan.
These events were followed by a statement made by advisor to Prime minister denying any possible plan to merge G-B as a constitutional unit to federation of Pakistan. Thus it brought an end to the hot debate which was going on over last couple of weeks.
Lo and behold, The real stake-holders in Gilgit are just relying on the news channels and media outlets as they have no direct access to the platforms where their future and fate is decided and planned. But the question remains as how long do the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have to suffer in the name of Kashmir dispute while the Kashmiris are enjoying more rights despite being the inhabitants of disputed territory.
Making G-B as part of Kashmir dispute is somehow very grotesque and unfulfilling if the polity of AJK is firm believer of freedom. Back in 1947, when Kashmir was sold by mahraja to India and there were no chances of acceding it to Pakistan, the people of G-B realized the consequences of this situation and thus decided to revolt silently. Taking advantage of its difficult terrain and harsh weather conditions especially during winters, the people of G-B bravely pushed the dogra forces out of the region without any outside assistance. Thus they successfully freed the region from the Mahraja of Kashmir.
In this struggle of independence so many peoples lost their lives. G-B remained as independent state as Republic of Gilgit for 16 days in the map of world. Then they decided to accede to Pakistan which was welcomed by authorities in Karachi, then capital of Pakistan. A political agent was sent to Gilgit City to run the administrative affairs of the region. Here, something unusual and unexpected happened to their fate. Karachi Agreement was signed by AJK Leadership without prior informing the political forces in Gilgit. This agreement gave someone else the right to rule and decide their future. G-B became part of Kashmir dispute and a hope of plebiscite was given to the people, overshadowing the sacrifices of people who lost their lives in the war of freedom against the Dogras.
After almost 69 years to its independence, the political situation is no different from the beginning. There is no representation for G-B in National Assembly and Senate. G-B enjoys no share in NFC award. Even the revenue generated from G-B is not given entirely to G-B. The region was quite backward before 1999. Under the Rule of General Musharraf, a network of Roads were constructed. A university was established in early 2000. Annual budget was increased and number of different developmental projects were launched. These efforts raised the hopes of general public. In 2009, the PPP government approved" Gilgit-Baltistan Self-Governance and Empowerment Order" in order to grant more autonomy to the region by creating an electing G-B Assembly and GB Council. This system of government is still in place.
The imposition of different taxes and rare representation in a billion dollars CPEC project between Pakistan and China has again stirred dissent and anger in the locals of G-B. For them its rather below the belt to impose taxes on them without granting constitutional rights and proper representation in CPEC project. Its time to address the concerns of people of G-B regarding their constitutional rights and representation in CPEC project. The ongoing unrest and turmoil should be an area of concern for the federal government to focus and address the problems of locals of GB in order to avoid any trouble which can derail the overall process. Other forces can take advantage of this situation and government must be vigilant to overcome these forces in order to save the billion dollars project which can serve as a boost to our economy in coming years. Federal government should acknowledge the sacrifices of people of G-B and should grant them their constitutional rights which is their due right. AJK leaders should accept this after all people of G-B want to become part of Pakistan not India, so why there should be so much hue and cry?
The author is a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan and a medical doctor