by Jalal ud Din
Proclamation of the recent autonomy package for Gilgit-Baltistan induced mixed feelings of comfort and dismay among the down trodden people of Gilgit Baltistan. Regretfully, the repeated statements from the Kashmiri leadership and recent meeting of premier of AJ&K with Prime Minister of Pakistan, seems hardhearted actions out of paranoia. Ostensibly, recent abortive attempt to flare up sectarian tension in Gilgit city is a matter of great concern, and it seems that there are some actors intentionally trying to sabotage the recent reforms package.
Glancing through history, it is evident that the people of Gilgit Baltistan never accepted rule of aliens, while living in small independent states, having rivalries among each other, but supportive and united whenever it came to confrontation with an outside enemy. An example of this phenomenon is unity shown by the people of Gilgit Baltistan in 1948 to drive out Dogras from the region on their own fist, and subsequent unconditional accession to Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is also a vivid proof of their unflinching devotion to Islam.
For more than 60 years people of Gilgit Baltistan remained victims of intrigues under the yoke of bureaucracy without any voice and identity be it the imposition of FCR or the heinous attacks by a sectarian tribal Lashkar in 1988. Unfortunately, the scars of 1988 tension are so deep that still the divide is visible in our mundane life. And there is evidence that hidden hands time and again, instigate tension on sectarian grounds when the ‘need’ arises.
A welcoming sign is the recent camaraderie shown by all segments of society in Gilgit Baltistan on recent reforms, although with logical difference of opinions. It seems that now time has come to understand the delicate nature of our existence, and decode the internal and external intrigues that cause fractions among our ranks.
The sense of repression that pervades in the minds of people of Gilgit Baltistan is a result of willful ignorance showed by the federal government over the years. As a result, an invisible, unnoticed, sense of deprivation has been building up among the people of GB. It is common to see people in and around bazaars, at tea kiosks, talking on politics, and from these talks one can sensibly deduce that there is a big question mark in the minds and hearts of the people about; who are we and what is our identity in the federation of Pakistan?
Now, the people can’t be silent spectators of their miseries. It is time for the authorities to take the issue of Gilgit Baltistan seriously; time has gone by when there was ignorance, now you are facing a more informed and literate people. Our long standing demand is constitutional rights; give us greater autonomy with Governor from GB and representation in the parliament of Pakistan.
As far as the voices from the Kashmir are concerned, our question is, if you are demanding ownership of our land on religious grounds the answer is, we had already acceded to Pakistan in 1948, having won our independence in the battle ground, through a telegraphic message sent by the then Mirs of Hunza and Nagar and Mehtar of Chitral. If the answer is no, and you are claiming ownership of our land on the basis of “nationhood”, then sorry, we are not Kashmiris. We are socially, culturally and ethnically different people. We kept our unique identity even under the subjugation of Dogra regime and had demonstrated strong abhorrence of alien rule at many times; the independence war of Gilgit Baltistan being its is the greatest manifestation.
Jalal ud Din is a seasoned development professional, based in Hyderabad, Hunza. He can be reached at email@example.com