by Abbas Ali
Let’s suppose that RAW is behind the Balawaristan National Front of Hameed and Naji groups and they are active in the area on the behest of Indian desires to destabilize Pakistani interest. Mr. Khattak did not bother to discuss how RAW has got this golden opportunity, if any, to exploit these groups against Pakistani interests. Let’s explore some of the many answers to this basic question but very important ones.
First, History of Gilgit-Baltistan is one among few unique histories in the nations of the world we are living. After the courageous people of these mountain desserts had won their independence from Dogra Raj in October 31, 1947, they voluntarily joined the than Pakistan of Quid – e – Azam. A Pakistan, which was based on two nations theory and destined to become a democratic republic, according to the wishes of its great founders. However, unfortunately the founder of Pakistan died under mysterious circumstances. Soon after the Quid-e-Azam, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister was brutally assassinated while he was addressing with his nation, at the very same place where very recently one of Pakistan’s most revered ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto was heinously killed. From Liaquat Ali Khan to Benazir Bhutto there are many hidden and open sinister chapters in the history of Pakistan, including separation of a significantly Muslim dominated East Pakistan, political murder of Z.Bhutto, Zia’s marshal law and all the latest incidents. All these cases of corruption, murder and breaching constitution are not big deals in Pakistan, it seems. If people of Gilgit-Baltistan could have perceived such a deceptive trajectory of Pakistan, from the ways of the founding fathers, they would never have made the mistake of affiliating themselves with Pakistan, on rational grounds.
Second important issue is the brutal treatment of Gilgit-Baltistan by the Pakistani governing bodies. Let’s count what Gilgit-Baltistan has gained over a long history of six decades. Chronologically the first one is Karakorum High Way (KKH). But why did Pakistan bothered to build KKH? Was it for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan or for the vested interests of Pakistan, herself? It does not require lengthy arguments and answer for this question is very simple. Building KKH was necessary for Pakistan’s survival, because of its dependency on China for all its strategic and military support. With all its tall promises USA has abandoned Pakistan in times of need, such as in its War with Indian keeping Pakistan with open eyes waiting for Naval Station, following it Pakistan divided into two. For the survival of the rest, it was only China who has graciously extended a helping hand while Pakistan was facing hostility from its two other immediate neighbors Afghanistan and Indian. Thus, it was a mere compulsion of Pakistan to build KKH and people of Gilgit-Baltistan incidentally happened to be on this road. It is all, thanks to be the neighbors of China, that people of Gilgit-Baltistan have got KKH otherwise they may still have been suffering, without any link with outer world.
Since then it is not possible to count any major projects which have benefited people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Till recently there was only one degree college in the area, while knowledge hungry youth of Gilgit-Baltistan were suffering discriminatory approaches in the Universities of Pakistan. They still do so because the Karakuram International University (KIU) is still in its infancy, without any proper recognition of its academic standards.
In the entire civilized world there is not a single country where a non-elected person from an alien region controls and heads an elected assembly. But this shameful thing is happening in the Gilgit-Baltistan under the eyes and noses of the Pakistani governing bodies, where a person, most often either from Punjab or NWFP heads the elected representatives of Gilgit-Baltistan in the so called Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA). The chairman of NALA (Minister for Kashmire and NA affairs) is not answerable at any level to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
There is no lack of resources for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan in the region; one of the abundantly available resources is water that could generate much needed electricity not only enough for Gilgit-Baltistan rather it could be heavily exported to other regions as well. But still people of Gilgit-Baltistan consume less than 5 Watts Average power per capita. In rest of Pakistan this average is 48 and the world average is 297. It is not, in anyways, different from the case of Sui gas, which has been used all over Pakistan but not in the villages closest to Sui. The local Sardars, including Bugti, were blamed for under development of Baluchistan but what about Gilgit-Baltistan, there are no Jagirdars (Land Lord) here. Not individuals but state policies keep the people deprived, alienated and oppressed.
Average literacy rate is below 20% in the Gilgit-Baltistan, if we exclude the 85% literacy rate in Hunza because of AKDN’s initiative the average literacy rate of Gilgit-Baltistan will further slid down. Female literacy rate is hardly 7%, again a shameful position. The same worst kind of situation can be seen in all components of the ‘Human Development Indicators (HID); the standard measurement scale of development, introduced by UNDP. People of the area are living in a disgraceful poverty; almost half of 1.5 million inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan live below poverty line.
Given this state of affairs, after 60 years of its independence and affiliation with the Islamic Republic, what options are the people of Gilgit-Baltistan left with other than raising voices for independence and freedom of political, economic and social oppression? Why Mr. Khattak and people like him want the people of Gilgit-Baltistan suffer humiliation and disgrace while the world around them is enjoying fruits of prosperity, development and freedom. It would be very much intelligent for Mr. Khattak and people like him to think of what Pakistani governing bodies have done with the people of Gilgit-Pakistan over the long 6 decades of its history other than, humiliating by denying them the basic human rights of democratically elected representatives, honorable food, clothing and housing, electricity and education. What people of the area have got in abundance was the sectarian and ethnic bloodshed of their own people, which has brought to the Gilgit-Baltistan by the heinous powers in order to suppress a united struggle for the rights; otherwise people of Gilgit-Baltistan lived together peacefully and lovingly with each other for centuries. Why do you need RAW, MOSSAD, KGB or CIA in a situation like this, they do not need to be bothered. People of Gilgit-Baltistan have all their sympathies with all Pakistani brothers and sisters who are also suffering the worst of their lives under their atrocious governments.
One thing which is most important to remember is the awakening of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, who’s brave and courageous ancestors are buried in the historic ‘Chinar Bagh’, the monument of the independence of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is logical to assume that the martyrs, who laid down their lives for independence of Gilgit-Baltistan, did not do so to see their future generations suffering perennially. It is now time for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to struggle for their basic human rights. Certainly now the struggles of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will never die unheard because they have sacrificed a lot to attain the most important power of pen and ink, which cannot be snatched from them no matter how brutal, the oppressor might be.
The Writer is a student of Muslim Cultures at the, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations (ISMC)- Aga Khan University, London