Gilgit-Baltistan, the area of high strategic and logistic significance, comprises of 28000 sq. km of area. The People of the area, after the liberation of GB as a result of an armed revolt against the then notorious ‘Dogra’ regime in November 1947, aspired annexation with Pakistan and constitutional recognition for their area, but they remained politically orphaned and constitutionally deprived. These areas still have no say in national affairs and representation in the legislation. They are deprived of the very right to vote.
Unfortunately, the federal government has not been able to privilege these areas as other provinces, by providing fundamental rights and a system of representation. With the promulgation of Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment Order 2009, Islamabad claimed accomplishment of longstanding demands of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. As per the new amendments in the order, the powers of the Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas have been truncated and vested in the first provincial government of the area. The federal government claims this order a panacea for the miseries faced by the area and counts it among the prodigious achievements during the tenure, stating the area has been conferred upon with autonomy and self rule.
The Gilgit Baltistan Assembly has the power of legislation at its disposal. Since the promulgation of the order the people were enthusiastic to get a glimpse of the possible brighter future but the order turned out to be too evasive and insubstantial to benefit the masses at large. The people of the area do not give any impression of satisfaction with what is propagated to be a popular decision. They find themselves into an incessant dilemma of promises and sympathies, practiced in the conventional Pakistani politics. The precedent order failed in stamping out the political disenfranchisement of the population. The people assert that the current setup along with all the announced offices and positions are cosmetic and superficial and the autonomy is shallow and unrealistic. The real power still lies with Islamabad, which is not at all inclined to put the “Kashmir Cause” at stake for Gilgit Baltistan. The nationalist groups in the area have termed the order as the old wine in a new bottle which is intended at alluring the few elected representative from the area by allocating them positions and privileges to subside the mounting pressure of people for their rights. The people of these areas have been peacefully demanding their political and constitutional rights since long. The region practically remained invisible in the mainstream political and constitutional structure of the country for almost half century. No substantial step was taken to empower the local populace, which stayed on the mercy of Islamabad controlled local administration. Owing to the strategically vital position of the area, Pakistan can not afford neglecting the area for too long, as political giants like India and China also have their interests vested in the area.
The nationalists in the area are voicing demands for a separate state named ‘Balawaristan’ irked by the constant indifference shown by Islamabad in meeting their demands and these elements are getting attention of the populace of the area. These elements can easily play in the hands of foreign powers, which are latching at this piece of land adorned with scenic beauty and endless resources.
Its time that the government should heed to the concerns voiced by the people of the area and should do some substantial effort to eliminate their long existent grievances. These areas should not be held subjected to the Kashmir cause as the people have struggled to win them liberty and renounce any association with Kashmir. A fifth province can be established comprising the areas of Gilgit, Ghizer, Hunza Nagar, Skardu, Ganche, Diamer and Astore. It will win these areas their constitutional status and Pakistan will be saved from a potential threat of internal instability brewing stealthily.