by Ashfaque Ali Khan
It is a sad state of affairs for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan where apparently everyone unrelated to the region is making a hue and cry about the political reforms issue, with exception of the people of these regions themselves. In a précis it ranges from Kashmiri leadership (both in IOK and AJK) to the detestable sacrament of Pakistan’s all opposition fraternities of politicising the issues raised by Governments even if they are valid. Irony of the matter is that the planned package itself is not being considered as ‘enough’ by people of the rocky region.
In order to better understand the validity of these assorted views and insecurities over the issue, firstly we should be looking back into the past. The last independent state of Gilgit-Batistan region which fell to the British rule of India was Hunza valley, which only happened in 1889 A.D.
There may not be any other reason behind affixing the fate of Gilgit-Baltistan with J&K by the British except the ease of governing this tough terrain . It is immensely exasperating for an ordinary person living in Gilgit-Baltistan that his or her identity has so much been mystified by those designating themselves as stakeholders of the region.
Another historical fact became very evident with the end of colonial rule too when the freedom fighters of the region successfully revolted against the then Dogra governor of region, Ghansara Singh, under the charismatic leadership of Col. Mirza Hasan Khan on 1st of November 1947 and to this date, the Independence Day is celebrated on November 1st every year in Gilgit-Baltistan. Seventy two thousand square miles of land were liberated by the poorly armed, poorly trained, semi – military organization called Gilgit Scouts.
No matter, even if the independence war ever fell prey to people seeking credits for their role, the fact cannot be negated that the people fought for “their land” and that was another reason behind not advancing further unnecessarily to join Kashmir’s freedom war which resulted in partial success.
The questions which every person of Gilgit-Baltistan is asking from the Kashmiri leadership and those opposing the action of present Government are:
1. Should the political and/or administrative conduct of the British and Dogras be the benchmark and a reason to justify the claim of Gilgit-Baltistan being the part of J&K?
2. How could possibly, the political reforms process in Gilgit-Baltistan region may affect the Kashmir issue where both have no connections at all from all perspectives ranging from ethnic origin, culture, tradition, societal norms and religious backgrounds in various districts of present Northern Areas?
3. Should people of the region remain happy with the name (i.e. Northern Areas) which was given by the United Nations and hence remain in confusion of what their identity is?
4. Should the political future of 2 million people remain clouded in myths and mysteries in the environment where they don’t know what their political status is and why they are not equal citizens of Pakistan’s other provinces?
5. Should these strong feelings, i.e. of being deprived of constitutional and legislative rights for last more than sixty years, be allowed to culminate in even more deleterious and belligerent nationalist movements which are presently being less heard by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan region?
6. Should, the lack of leadership at par with their ancestors due to lack of opportunities which has amassed with the passage of more than sixty years, be a reason to leave 2 million people unheard at this critical time for whom a tiny ray of hope has just started to shimmer?
7. How could someone expect contentment from those people who have at least one shaheed in their families after proudly battling for their country in almost all the wars and minor armed confrontations, by simply making NLI a regiment and providing subsidy on some food items?
It therefore is the unanimous demand of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan region that let their wishes and aspirations be victimised no more, for an issue which is not their own. The balance of power should now be devolved to the people through their elected representatives so that the process of intellectual, political and democratic evolution could kick off.
The contributor belongs to Hasanabad, Hunza. He is currently based in Karachi.