By Ghulam Abbas Balti
Baltistan is a mountainous region situated in the midst of Karakoram ranges, south to K2 (Godwin Austin) ‘the world’s second highest mountain’. It is surrounded by mountains in all directions; the average altitude is over 3,350 metres (10,990 ft). Baltistan region connects her border with GilgitDivision in the west, Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China in the north, Ladakh in the east, and the Kashmir Valley in the south. Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947, the region has been partitioned by the Line of Control, with four of her five districts Skardu, Gangche, Shigar and Kharmang accession to Pakistan and the Kargil district has been occupied by India and now that territory links with the part of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. A small portion of Baltistan, including the village of Turtuk in the Nubra Valley, lies in the Ladakh district of Kashmir, India.
Baltistan is home to more than 20 peaks of over 20,000 feet (6,100 m), including K2, the second highest mountain on Earth. Other well known peaks include Masherbrum (also known as K1), Broad Peak, Hidden Peak, Gasherbrum II, Gasherbrum IV, and Chogolisa, situated at Khaplu. View of Laila Peak, located near Hushe Valley (a town in Khaplu ) as well as Deuosai National Park (well known and named as the field of God and the roof of the earth) is also placed in the same region. Such a naturally enriched terrain is visited by thousands of national and International tourists. They all are fascinated by the beauty of nature. In an extension to that the region has great strategic importance and significance for both Pakistan and India example gratia the Kargil War and Siachen War were fought here.
Having these natural resources and the strategic prominence the Government of Pakistan must have given them their due share and right but unfortunately this locality has been completely ignored for the last 66 years. Some time we really feel dissuaded and ask ourselves whether we are Pakistani or not. This miserable condition of no constitutional and political right which remained untouched and unanswered strengthens the above argument more. In a nutshell the people of Baltistan region are not even getting their basic rights to spend their life as an independent citizen like the other citizens of Pakistan.
Having all these natural resources and being one of the best tourist spot of the world most of the national as well as international tourist find it difficult to come to visit this region. Unfortunately, a lot is needed to be done to connect such a great and important place with the rest of the world. For this also there is just a single way connecting Skardu Jiglot road through Karakoram High Way. The Government of Pakistan is working on KKH for the last many years and it is smooth and getting well. But the Sorry state of affairs is that the Government of Pakistan did nothing remarkable for the development/progress of Baltistan region in the last six decades. Today, after 66 years since its independence the people of Baltistan region is left with demanding for the reconstruction of Skardu Jiglot road which in not only an imperative for the development of the area but also this step will play a key role to promote tourism and enhance development. In addition to that this will be a step in the right direction to welcome more and more national as well as international tourists, the last outcome will be the boost up of economy of Gilgit Baltistan Government.
We wholeheartedly appeal to the current Government to leave the Fabian policy regarding reconstruction of Skardu Jiglot road and take immediately concrete steps for reconstruction and standardization of this road so that the people of this region may not suffer any more. The delaying tactics will only be widening the gaps, increasing the mistrust and misconceptions between the rulers and the ruled. If the government does not take further steps in this regard, the people of Baltistan region will find room to raise voice and protest against the sitting Government which is neither in favour of national interest nor good for the transitional phase of democracy.