By Dr Shabir Choudhry
August 29, 2009
Pakistan has finally come out with its plan to annex areas of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir - Gilgit and Baltistan. Some Kashmiri activists have always provided benefit of doubt to Pakistani designs on Kashmir dispute; and urge people to concentrate only on ‘liberating’ areas of the State from India.
Among this category of political activists include some so called nationalist leaders who are based in Rawalpindi and around chandni chowk, and who have been working under cover for the agencies of Pakistan to further the interest of Pakistan. It is still time for this class of people to abandon their past policies and advance the cause of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan always had eyes on the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and has made many unsuccessful attempts to grab whole of Jammu and Kashmir. Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir are under direct and indirect control of Pakistan since 1947. Gilgit and Baltistan was directly ruled and was known as Northern Areas of Pakistan – a term always opposed and denounced by the people of the area.
Whereas areas of Pakistani Administered Kashmir, known as Azad Kashmir enjoyed some social and political rights; areas of Gilgit and Baltistan were denied all basic rights and were ruled with iron fist. The situation in Gilgit and Baltistan was so bad that some conscientious Pakistani and some Pakistani human rights activist called it a colony of Pakistan.
Pakistani government knows that legally these areas are not part of Pakistan. Famous constitutional expert Abid Hassn Minto said: “The people of this important region are administered under the Citizenship Act but the territory is not a constitutional part of Pakistan. Pakistan’s Constitution does not say a single word about Gilgit-Baltistan. This is a worst example of human rights violation.” He further said, Gilgit-Baltistan was not constitutional part of Pakistan and people of region had been deprived of all fundamental human rights.
Pakistan has made enormous economic and political gains from these areas since 1947. With help of China they have started many mega projects in the area which benefit both countries – China and Pakistan, and not the people of the area. Pakistan has finalised construction of Diamer Basha Dam, which is the biggest and most expensive project ever taken up by Pakistan. So Pakistani investment and gains in the area are in billions of dollars; and there is no ways they will let go this gold mine.
It was expected that before committing to these mega projects, Pakistan would like to take legal control of these areas. In order to provide a legal cover to this land grabbing they have announced (29 August 2009) a new package. While addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said, ‘Nortehrn Areas’ now will be called Gilgit and Baltistan, which will have 15-member Administrative Council which will choose the Chief Minister. There will be six Ministers along with three Technocrat seats and two women seats.
The Cabinet of Gilgit-Baltistan, according to the news, will approve their budget, but it is not clear who will make the budget. In the past it is always Islamabad who has run the show with help of some local puppets; and it is believed that it will be the case of old wine in new bottles and not much will change. They simply want to change names of different office bearers and give them some additional rights.
Previously Islamabad appointed Chairman, and now his post has been upgraded with a title of Governor, which will be appointed by Islamabad. Similarly the Northern Areas Legislative Council will be upgraded to the status of Assembly; and existing NALAs Advisors will become Ministers. The post of the Chief Executive will be upgraded to the post of Chief Minister.
Furthermore Gilgit and Baltistan will have Auditor General and Election Commissioner, but it is not clear who will appoint them and if they will be local people or they will be Pakistanis, as is the case with Lent Officers in Pakistani Administered Kashmir.
Governors are appointed in provinces and Gilgit and Baltistan is not a province of Pakistan, then what is logic of appointing a governor for these areas. Minister of Kashmir Affairs, Qamar Zaman Kaira has been appointed Governor, and it looks that Islamabad wants to legalise its occupation of these areas.
According to the game plan a new elections will be held in November 2009. Islamabad based bureaucracy and agencies have mastered the art of rigging elections and they will get a result which is desired by Islamabad. Call it Cabinet, Council or group of puppets they will rubber stamp the process ‘accession to Pakistan’. In the past there has been no accession to Pakistan or any kind of election or plebiscite to ascertain the views of the people, yet Islamabad has always relied on lies and claimed that these people have acceded to Pakistan.
Different Kashmiris have shown their reaction to this new move of Islamabad. Abbas Butt, Chairman of Kashmir National Party, expressed his anger and requested all Kashmiris to oppose this annexation of our territory, as it would lead to division of Jammu and Kashmir. Nawaz Majeed, Secretary General of KNP Britain Zone said, it is time that KNP take a lead on this matter and invite all likeminded parties to oppose designs of Pakistan. He said if we remain quiet then it will encourage Pakistan to continue with its policy of grabbing Kashmir, and one day same thing will happen to Azad Kashmir.
While talking to BBC, former Prime Minister of Pakistani Administered Kashmir Sardar Atiq Khan said: he is in favour that people of Gilgit and Baltistan should get their fundamental rights to redress their lack of freedom and other rights, but the way positions of Governor and Chief Minister have been announced indicate that Pakistan wants to make it a province. It shows some kind of conspiracy to divide Kashmir. He further said Gilgit and Baltistan is part of Jammu and Kashmir State, and its future should be decided in accordance with the UN resolutions.
Even Amanullaah Khan could not remain quiet on this. While talking to BBC, he said: Pakistan has brought itself to the level of India. India calls Kashmir as its integral part and Pakistan has annexed a Kashmiri territory and practically divided Kashmir. He said he will oppose this decision of Pakistan. (We know he won’t oppose Pakistan or any of its policies on Kashmir, but in order to stay alive politically he also has to pay some lip service. May be his services will be used to further demoralise and divide Kashmiris).
Manzoor Hussain Parwana, Chairman Gilgit Baltistan United Movement said: “The so-called provincial set is fraudulent and blackmailing offers of the government which aimed to conceal the political atrocities and brutal colonial control on the people in the occupied region”.
He further said: ‘The government of Pakistan’s empowerment act granted to the people of Gilgit Baltistan is illegal and holds no ground at all because Gilgit Baltistan does not fall under the constitution of Pakistan’. The people of Gilgit Baltistan reject the cosmetic package to the region; and demand ‘Azad Kashmir Like set up, to run the region as a country’.
Now that government of Pakistan has put its cards on the table and has once again shown that they have no interest in independence or territorial integrity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; is it not time for people of Jammu and Kashmir to open their eyes and formulate a new policy to counter threat of division of the State.
Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org