By Nisar Ali
Islambad: A national seminar on the status of Gilgit Baltistan was organized by Shaheed Bhutto Foundation at the National Press Club Islamabad on Monday. Prominent participants included former senator Afrasiab Khan Khattak, former DIG Afzal Shigri, senior anchorperson Saleem Safi, renowned analyst and columnist Amir Hussain, Hurriyat Conference leader, former Cheif minister Syed Mehdi shah, Senior Minister of GB Akbar Taban, President PPP GB Amjad Hussain advocate, PTI leader Amina Ansari, several politicians, lawyers, columnist, activists and youth leaders.
Speaking on the occasion former senator Afrasiab Khan Khatttak of the Awami National Party said that the Pakistani government should make GB the 5th province, and provide full political and citizenship rights to the region’s people. He said that India has provisionally empowered the Occupied Kashmir, despite of its internationally recognized disputed status. He said that making GB the country’s fifth province will in no way affect the Kashmir issue.
Afrasiab Khattak added that all parts of the present day Gilgit-Baltistan through their rulers and governors had acceded to Pakistan. He urged thethe people of GB to initiate a movement for their political and constitutional right and promised to take part in the movement.
Speaking on the occasion PPP’s provincial President Amjad Hussain Advocate said that a British-Indian court’s decision against the Kashmiri Maharaj stands testimony to the fact that Hunza, Nagar and other areas were not part of Kashmir. They were princely states governed independently,and Kashmiri Maharaja had not claim on the region. He said that keeping the Gilgit-Baltistan region deprived and constitutionally dis-empowered is fueling resentment, and the federalist parties are losing support, especially among the young educated class, who reject the federalist parties’ narratives vis-a-vis the status and future of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that the federation can be strengthened only by empowering the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Senior anchorperson Saleem Safi, who has used his TV programme to raise the issues of Gilgit-Baltistan on several occasions, said that people of Gilgit-Baltistan, Fata and Kashmir are the real benefactors of Pakistan because they did not only accede to, but have been rendering sacrifices for the country’s defense without enjoying all citizenship rights.
“I could not understand the logic that Kashmir cause will become weak if Gilgit-Baltistan is given constitutional right by declaring it the 5th province of Pakistan” he maintained. He urged the government to appoint local Inspector General of Police, local Chief Secretaries and other high officials, and give GB representation in CCI, NFC and other national decision-making bodies.
Retired DIG Afzal Shigri, who regularly writes about Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional crisis, said that the Sartaj Aziz report on Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional empowerment had been competed in March 2017, but it has not been published yet. He urged the government to publish the report and make it public, and implement the recommendations.
Former Chief Minister Syed Mehdi shah, Senior Minister of GB Akbar Taban, PTI leader Amina Ansari, and prominent columnist Amir Hussain also spoke on this occasion.
Participants of the seminar also offered prayers for the soul of Asma Jahangir, who was an ardent and vocal supporter of Gilgit-Baltistan’s political and economic rights.