Gilgit: Speakers at an all parties conference held in Gilgit today lambasted successive governments of Pakistan for failing to resolve the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan. The speakers said that the agreements signed between Pakistan and China as part of the Pak-China Economic Corridor are violating the rights of the region’s people. They said that such agreements cannot be accepted till resolution of the disputed status of Gilgit-Baltistan. The speakers said that the federal minister and other government functionaries have been calling GB a disputed region, but efforts are underway to impose federal taxes in the region, without giving the people the right of representation in federal bodies. The speakers also said that the federal government has suspended the State-Subject Rule in GB, paving way for demographic change in the region.
The All Parties Conference was organized by Pakistan Peoples Party and attended by leaders and workers from representatives of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), JUI, Jamaat Islami, Islami Tehreek, MQM, BNF, GB Jamhori Mahaz, APML, Contractors Association, Anjuman-e-Tajiran (GB), Awami Action Committee, PTI, Press Club Gilgit and Lawyers Movement for Constitutional Rights.
The speakers also said that only some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan have remained under suzerainty of the Maharaja of Kashmir. They said that the Hunza, Nagar, Punial, Ishkoman, Gupis, Yasin and the regions of Diamer have never remained parts of the state of Kashmir. The Gilgit, Astore and Skardu remained under the suzernity of the Maharaja of Kashmir till 1st November 1947, when the locals revolved and liberated their region by force. The speakers said that since then the state of Pakistan has taken over control of the region. They said that while India has given constitutional rights to the people of the Indian-Held-Kashmir, Pakistan has kept Gilgit-Baltistan under perpetual limbo. The speakers noted that the youth of the GB region are increasingly raising questions about the future of their region, and their basic political and constitutional rights.
The Gilgit-Baltistan Self-Governance Order, the speakers said, is a sugar-coated phrase, which does not give any significant authority to the region’s people over their resources and land. The speakers also lambasted the federal government for completely ignoring Gilgit-Baltistan in the 51 MoUs signed between Pakistan and China as part of the Economic Corridor. They said that instead of creating opportunities in the region, the resources are being exploited and the locals are being made pushed to the wall on all fronts. The speakers said that under the current scheme of things, Gilgit-Balitstan stands to gain nothing significant from the PCEC, despite of being host to a major portion of the international trade route.
The speakers said that Pakistan has failed to give representation to the people of GB in National Finance Commission, Council of Common Interests and other constitutional bodies, thereby depriving the region’s people of a say in their own governance. The speakers said that the decisions for GB are being made by bureaucrats and politicians who have no mandate whatsoever in the region.
The speakers said that in violation of the UNCIP rules, the federal government has been appointing government officials in the region from elsewhere, in violation of the concept of self-rule. They said that neither is the right of the people to rule accepted, nor is their right to ownership being respected.
The speakers said that all federal taxes i.e. Customs Duty, GST, Central Excise Tax, Income Tax, and Withholding tax imposed on the people of GB are illegal and non-compatible with the political rights and privileges of the people of GB.
The All Parties Conference also resolved that GB being a disputed region under UNCIP resolutions is entitled to be given a system of self-governance and rights and protections on the pattern of J&K under the Constitution of Pakistan.
The conference also demanded that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People must be ensured and maintained till the termination of the constitutional limbo status of GB.
The speakers said that till the termination of the limbo status of GB, the Customs Check Post at Sost (Gojal) should be relocated into the constitutional territories of Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan should be declared a duty-free territory.
The All Parties Conference was a major event where the region’s current political mood was exhibited by people from federalist, religious, progressive and nationalistic parties.