ISLAMABAD: As the government moves forward to introduce constitutional reforms in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Kashmiri leaders have stood to oppose any move of making the region fifth province of Pakistan through some constitutional amendments.
Addressing an All Parties Conference (APC) organised by a local daily at the National Press Club on Wednesday, Kashmiri leaders including former prime ministers Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan and Sultan Mahmood, Chaudhry Lateef Akbar, Abdul Rasheed Turabi and others said that any move to change the constitutional status of the region would tantamount to divide the state of Kashmir.
Attique said that merging GB with Pakistan would have implications on the dispute over Jammu Kashmir. “If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit-Baltistan, New Delhi will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with India. Thus with one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir,” he said.
Since 1947, he said that the Kashmiri people had been struggling for their right and despite loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, they held that struggle dear to their heart. In reply to query regarding the assumption that the move was linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said that the economic development should not be sought at the cost of the future of millions of Kashmiris.
Addressing the conference, Sultan said that the attempt of merging GB with Pakistan was not mere a rumour since the ruling party in AJK was consulting other political leaders regarding the issue. He said if the federal government incorporates GB into Pakistan and, as a consequence, India consolidates its hold on Kashmir, this will amount to a bartering of (Kashmiri) people’s aspirations.
Lateef Akbar said that Prime Minister Raja Muhammad Farooq Haider Khan had personally contacted him to develop a consensus on the issue of granting constitutional rights to GB as he was asked for the same by the centre.
The mode of the conference was suddenly changed when AJK Minister for Information Mushtaq Minhas indirectly favoured the reform package, saying that the area was deprived of rights for 70 years. “Kashmiri leaders, who are now talking about violation of rights in Kashmir, have never bothered to talk about grievances of people in the region. We should not become stumbling block in the way of granting rights to GB,” he said.
The Kashmiri leaders have hurt their brothers in GB by opposing every move of empowering them, he said. “I remember, the same leaders had opposed and cried over when PPP-led central government has introduced GB Self-Governance Order in 2009. By opposing the empowerment unilaterally, we are further annoying the deprived people,” he said.
Referring to history, he said that the people in GB had vacated their land from Dogra Raj by themselves. “No one from Kashmir had fought for them. To make GB further disputed Karachi Declaration was signed even without the presence of any representative from the area,” he said. In reply to a query, he said that the government was yet to make any decision regarding the constitutional matter of GB.
However, GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman had sought support from the party for constitutional rights of the area during a recent meeting of the parliamentary committee, he added. Later, the Kashmiri leaders through a resolution demanded of the government to avoid any move which damages the cause of Kashmir.
They through the resolution proposed a joint administrative set up for AJK and GB in which the president, prime minister, high court and Kashmir Council will be the same for these two regions.
Courtesy: Pakistan Today