Gilgit - Baltistan

Gilgit – Baltistan, center of attention

by Aslam Khan Ghalib 

There are very strong a reason why Pakistan and rest of the world is tilted towards Gilgit Baltistan (so-called Northern Areas).The first reason demanding attention is the geopolitical worth, which is not determined by physical size but location. This is significant since the cold war era from a strategic perspective and still remains equally important in an age dominated by the needs of free trade. Much of the oil and gas which would be heading Pakistan would come through Northern areas. The diamer Dam that is expected to meet much of the energy and water requirements is situated here.  

Nonetheless the beauty of the region which has fascinated many from the whole globe is source of income for many and adds to the economy of the country is still not recognized and appreciated earnestly. 

The image of the region which is something of an obsession with the government of Pakistan is not entirely divorced from reality. What was sown in the early days is being repeated today leading to instability in the region. 

Despite the realities about the region there are still certain elements which have never wanted the region to blossom. This is the reason that still the poor mountain men are deprived of the constitutional rights and many more.

The recent opinion of US regarding Osama’s presence in the vicinity of K_2 is yet another game being planned to let down the image of the region before the entire world. It shows a marked diplomacy and strong interest of US to minimize the rate of the current developmental works being carried out in coordination with China and central Asian countries. It also is an obstacle towards the flow of tourism in the region. 

My request from the well reputed and intellectuals of the region would be to strive for the reinstatement of the rights that have been snatched from the oppressed and to show the real face of the region to the whole world.

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  1. Dear Aslam Khan Ghalib,

    It gives me immense pleasure that you are representing the entire people of Gilgit-Baltistan as a visionary and committed individual. I strongly agree with your comments and like to add that the international forum such as UN related institutions should take serious notice of the deprivation of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and should not mingle this particular area with the Kashmir dispute/issue.

    I already commented on the issue in detail yesterday June 10, 2008 on “the editorial wakeup time for the government” and hope your thought provoking and meaningful article will open the eyes of many national and international human rights activists.

    Keep it up

    Good wishes for your future success

    Thanks and Regards

    Sharif khan

  2. Gilgit-Baltistan instead of Northern Areas sounds good, but what about the other districts of NA? Diamir, Ghezer & Ghanche? Astor? I am not talking about this particular posting by Aslam, but about the entire postings and comments related to NA. We have replaced NA with Gilgit, Baltistan omitting the rest…..!

  3. Dear Aejaz,

    Thanks for sharing and raising a very genuine point. I think, Gilgit Baltistan covers all the districts because historically all the districts emerged later on were part or affiliated with the then Gilgit Agency or part of Balltistan Area.

    However, you are right to remind us about the existing name Northern Areas cannot be omitted or removed until we get a constitutional (common) name.

    I hope through continuous and rigorous efforts at every level, we can change the existing name Northern Area and one expected (neutral) name could be Gilgit-Baltistan as based on its historical perspective.

    Good wishes for your study and future endeavor


    Sharif Khan

  4. Dear readers
    Aslam Khan Ghalib has pointed out an issue which was born in the very beginning of the independence of the Northern Areas. Dear readers, you all are right in saying that even being an important Geopolitical region the northern area is not given attention and the rights have been snatched. As far as the rights are concerned, the government even does not is in the view that we (the people of north ) have rights too.
    Aslam has highlighted the Region in a geographical aspect.
    Dears,as far as the land and the dwellers are concerned it depends on the inhabitants that how they like to see their habitat. We the people of north are today mostly out of the region , involved in our own respective businesses. We will develop our life standards, as we are observing that is happening so. If one achieves his goal and has a quality to cope the problems he/she faces then he feels that every thing is fine.
    Dears it is the need of time that if we are really interested in bringing North out of crises then we have to develop a road map and struggle to achieve the objective.
    Let me tell you the truth and show you the true face, we will be like the kashmiries. Today every second kashmiri who was supposed to be a leader and bring the people out of problems is in abroad living a lavish life,the rest are poor people who are in tension of getting to times meal. So how they will fight for their rights.The same is going to happen with us if we are not going to take some strong and bold steps and do some thing in practical.


  5. …the only threat for the north z from the internal elements[ill wishers n miscreants],who dont want to see the north as a florished region…America although wants progress n the regoin but she z taking such types of steps to confiscate the area as a base to destablise THE GREAT CHINA….whIch z the only threat 4 her…

  6. Congratulations Ghalib for your good contribution regarding the human rights violation in the unrepresentative, consensus-based and so-called Northern Areas.

    Can we go through this article publisehd in the Daily Dawn, September 21, 2007. What we can draw out of this article regarding the neutral names.

    THE Northern Areas of Pakistan, an area of regional and cultural diversity, is the point where Central and South Asia and China meet.

    It is also where the world’s great mountain ranges — the Karakorams, the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Pamirs meet. These attributes make the Northern Areas one of the most strategic regions in the subcontinent.

    Before August 1947, the Northern Areas had their own political identity with princely states established in different valleys. After the emergence of Pakistan, the region’s political entities were endangered as there was no unifying force holding them together. The princely states had emerged on the basis of their ethnic composition and religious beliefs as was clear in the case of Hunza, Nagar, Baltistan and Yasin. After these came under Pakistan’s control, they were given a common name, the Northern Areas.

    Thus the Northern Areas had no adequate logical and historical basis. Several names were suggested for this entity based on its political history. But unfortunately, names such as Baloristan, Burushal, Sargin, Dardistan, etc did not catch on because of the cultural and political diversity of the region.

    Recently, the Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) set up a committee to invite proposals, review suggestions and finalise a name for the Northern Areas of Pakistan. This was a positive move, coming after six decades of neglect. After considering a number of names, the committee opted for Arz-i-Gulistan. But this name came to be disputed and was not considered a good omen for a territory whose status was disputed. Literally, ‘arz’ in Arabic, from where it is derived, means land; and ‘stan’ as a suffix comes from the Persian meaning land or place. So, it makes little sense to call a place “the land of flowers’ land” or “the land of land of flowers”. Metaphorically, this name also raises questions with regard to the region’s representation.

    I have been concerned about the new name for the Northern Areas of Pakistan for the last five years. I deliberated on the issue. The new name should be representative of the people. There are two key religious groups inhabiting these valleys, namely, the Sunni and the Shia, the latter being further divided into the Ithna’asharis and the Ismailis.

    It was thought that the least controversial would be to put together the abbreviations of the great mountain ranges of the world that converge here. In this regard, Baqahistan was proposed four years ago but was not released to the media. The literal meaning of Baqahistan is derived from its two main syllables: ‘baqah’ from Arabic meaning life, and ‘stan’ for place. Baqahistan thus means the “life place” or the “living place”.

    Metaphorically, ‘baqah’ represents the great mountain ranges: for instance, ‘ba’ for Bom-e Dunyo (roof of the world), that is the Pamirs; ‘qa’ for the ‘Qarakorum’ (distorted form of Karakorams); ‘hi’ for the Himalaya and Hindukush; and ‘stan’ for the place where these mountains are located and for the people residing in their valleys.

    The second name for the Northern Areas that is being proposed is Kuhimir, literally meaning the “mountain chief” or the “mountain leader”. ‘Kuh’ in Persian means “mountain” and ‘mir’ in Arabic (shortened from amir) means “leader”. But conceptually, Kuhimir has been abbreviated from the names of the great mountain ranges of the world: i.e., ‘ku’ taken from the Karakorams; ‘hi’ representing the Himalaya and Hindukush, and ‘mir’ for the Pamirs.

    Kuhimir gets its logical position within the geographical locations of the Pamir to its north and Kashmir to the south. More importantly, Kuhimir cannot be controversial like Sargin, Dardistan, Burushal or Boloristan which are derived from their political/ethnic/linguistic affiliation to different groups.

    This would certainly lead towards pluralistic unity of the diverse cultures (ethno-linguistic groups) and regions/valleys of the Northern Areas. It should also be noted that even though the four giant mountain ranges extend beyond the region, the name has been confined to the Northern Areas of Pakistan as that is the point where they converge.

    In conclusion, I would earnestly request the readers and the inhabitants of the Northern Areas to explore ideas to hit on a name that is representative and wins the unanimous approval of the different geographical, cultural, religious and political entities of the region. It is now up to the readers and the leaders of the region at all levels to be objective and deliberate honestly and rationally on this issue.

    The writer is an international researcher and consultant specialising in cultural and social anthropology.

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