In the present era the world has developed and become a global village and people enjoy freedom of basic rights of speech, democracy, education, political activity, economic facilities, and social justice and free media. In the 21st century, the world has become more progressive and importance of human rights is recognized by all the nations.
Unfortunately in this century there are some small nations and regions which are ignored at national level. One of them is Gilgit-Baltistan which is located among four nuclear powers that is china, India, Russia and Pakistan. Its population is approximately 1.5 million and area is 76,000 sq km. Among many problems it faces like the lack of education, political freedom, economic security, legal rights and social justice and most importantly the national identity.the people of Gilgit-Baltistan desire political rights and freedom of choice to enjoy the same basic rights like the rest of the modern world.
Karakuram National Movement has been struggling for the indigenous population of Gilgit-Baltistan to obtain the above mentioned rights for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. I would like to shed light on the objectives of freedom struggle.
KNM demand constitutional rights for Gilgit-Baltistan. According to the 1973 constitution of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan is not a part of Pakistan but remain in temporary control as per agreement with the United Nations. According to the 1948 and 1949 UN resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory like Pakistan controlled Kashmir and Indian controlled Jammu & Kashmir. Till date, Pakistani bureaucracy and military force rules the region with an iron fist.
The people of GB cannot cast a vote to send their representatives to Pakistan’s national assembly and senate. They do not vote for election of Pakistani prime minister, president and or the federal ministers. They are denied the right to become the chief of military forces and chief justices of Pakistani courts. This situation has caused grievance and frustration among the people.
Pakistan is doing political experiment at Gilgit-Baltistan by ruling it through ad-hoc ordinances. There is a legislative assembly in Gilgit-Baltistan but has no rights to legislate. All powers remain with Pakistani chief secretary, military force commander who have disregard to local needs and lack trust in local masses. All important bureaucratic and military officers are imported and locals are barred from acquiring such posts. It is a colonial system prevalent in the 21st century. Such practices have taken away the ability of the natives to control their land and resources and causing economic and cultural downfall in the region. Most of the environmental issues emerge as outsiders from Pakistan have no regards and abuse and exploit our resources and causing ecological damage. Such environmental damages can be controlled if locals are given the right to manage their own resources by establishing autonomous political and economic institutions. We at the Karakoram national movement demand end to these practices and genuine autonomy for the natives.
Second major issue is the lack of educational opportunities in Gilgit-Baltistan. Education is basis for real and sustainable development of a nation. Pakistani government has failed to invest in educational services in the region. The only university established in 2002 lacks qualified faculty, laboratory, and other needed infrastructure. Till date there is no medical college, engineering school, Law College, poly technic and commerce college in the region. Karakoram national movement demands establishment of educational institutions meeting the needs of local students and modern era.
Government has no solution for the fast growing unemployment as most of the highly qualified post graduate students are sitting jobless and facing vicious circle of poverty. There are only government sector jobs at small level where corruption, favoritism, bribery and nepotism are the only laws to acquire those jobs. KNM demands end to such practices and upholding merit in the region
The fourth issue is the worsening law and order situation and state sponsored terrorism. This has polarized the society and divided and weakened them based on sects and linguistic identities. The youth is completely incapacitated to struggle for their national rights. No one is safe including life, honor and assets. In 2012, more than 100 people of Gilgit-Baltistan lost lives in different incidents of target killings.
On 28th February 24 people were killed during travel from Pakistan to Gilgit-Baltistan. on 3rd April 7 people were killed in Gilgit city during protest and on same day 12 passengers died in chelas and then another 22 passengers lost lives to target killers near lolosar .
In these entire incident killers received support from Pakistani secret service agencies and escaped with ease after the brutal massacres. Such incidents have made hundreds of children orphan and wives widow. It is happening despite presence of more than twelve different kinds of paramilitary forces in Gilgit including police, Pakistan Army and thousands of personnel working for the intelligence agencies. But they have failed to protect life and property of people. The state agencies are supporting pro-Taliban terrorist. So far none of culprits’ have been arrested or punished.
State sponsored terrorists have been used by agencies to attack and weaken those who talk about national issues and demand basic rights. Activists like Mr. Aflatoon, Mr. Gazi Anwer, Mr Zakir Hussain, Ashiq Mir and Zubair Ali have been killed by state sponsored mercenaries. Leaders like current chairman of KNM, Mr. Muhammad Javed ex district councilor, MR Shah Zaman, Mr. Manzoor Parwana,Mr Sabir ali shah, syed haider shah rizvi and babajan, Mr. iftikhar hussain, and Amir ali have faced rigorous torture and jail terms for demanding political rights for Gilgit-Baltistan. Iftikhar hussain a leader of Karakoram National Movement and amir ali were arrested when they were protesting against extra judicial murders of two innocent citizens of Hunza nagar. KNM demands end to terrorism, military and police led torture, detentions and demand freedom of speech and political activity in the region
KNM thinks that re-instatement of state subject rule is the most pressing issue of our region. It was abrogated in 1974 by Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto which has enabled illegal settlement of Pakistani nationals in Gilgit-Baltistan and changed local demography. The act is a clear violation of UN resolutions on Gilgit-Baltistan and Jammu & Kashmir. The situation threatens our culture and traditions, and deprives locals of fair competition to acquire jobs and business opportunities and benefit from social services like education and health
On the bases of above issues Karakoram National Movement appeals to the International Human Rights Organizations, free nations as well as UNO to help resolve the lingering dispute of Jammu & Kashmir so the people of Gilgit-Baltistan can choose to live as a free nation. The main demands of KNM are:
- An independent constitutional assembly and judicial system for Gilgit-Baltistan.
Withdrawal of Pakistani bureaucracy and armed forces and giving locals the chance to take up those responsibilities.
3. Open historical routes towards Ladakh, Srinagar and Badakhshan
4. An end to unnecessary interference from China
5. Restoration of state subject rule
6 Equal education opportunities and scholarships for students in international educational institutions
7 Enabling locals to manage their natural resources and mineral wealth
8 Royalty over rivers, glaciers, forests and mineral wealth
9 An end to all those economic practices which have caused damage to local ecology, farmland and glaciers
10 An end to construction of mega infrastructure which is damaging Siachen, Shimshal and Khunjerab glaciers
11 End to trophy smuggling and illegal hunting in local national parks given the big role of Pakistani military in this regard
12 End to construction of mega dams in Gilgit-Baltistan which will inundate hundreds of miles of arable land and pastures
13 End to cultural genocide. KNM demands restoration of local languages as medium of instruction in local schools
The contributor is the Central General Secretary of Karakuram National Movement. He can be reached at email@example.com.