ISLAMABAD: Seasoned politician and analyst Farhatullah Babar has equated Gilgit-Baltistan with a “Black Hole”, where rights are being denied to the citizens, but they are being forced to ‘perform their duties’.
“We need to hear the voices of the angry youth, otherwise, even from GB, strong resenting tones could lead to a movement, as Mehsud Tehfuz Movement upgraded to Pashtun Tehfuz Movement and spread across Pakistan,” he added. “This volcano of resentment could erupt anytime soon, if not heard and addressed properly,” said the Senator, who is one of the most respected figures in Pakistan’s politics.
Senator Babar also demanded that all human rights defenders must raise their voice for the release of Baba Jan and other activists and journalists held in the GB.
He was speaking at a seminar on Mainstreaming Gilgit Baltistan, arranged by Shaheed Bhutto Foundation at National Press Club, Islamabad.
He asked that if GB is taxed equally, its citizens are provided CNIC and Passport, and if they can take part the military services, then why can’t they be treated equally, and given equal rights.
Prominent activist Marvi Sarmad said that HRCP has highlighted issues of GB. “Human Rights defender Asma Jehangir raised the concerns and grievances of GB from that platform time and again,” she added.
Quoting the recent proposed GB reforms named after Empowerment Order through Sartaj Aziz led Committee, she borrowed the words of Justice (r) Muafazar Ali, who termed the Prime Minister of Pakistan as the Emperor of GB, with sweeping powers on administrative and legislative grounds.
She also quoted the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan that treats equally GB with the rest of Pakistan, which is treated unequally otherwise on various grounds.
Advocate Amjad Hussain President of PPP in GB said that only GB connects five countries of the region. “Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India, China and Pakistan, merge at one or another point of the region.” He also demanded the immediate release of Baba Jan, a rights activist, who has become the victim of forced disappearances that is touching the alarming scale even across Pakistan.
“We need only one Pakistan, not five or six setups of Pakistan within one State.”
He also deplored that with the launch of CPEC, land-grabbing has emerged another serious issue in the region, where the local population is being deprived of the ownership of their centuries-old identity. “Our party’s upcoming manifestos would clear all questions on the status of GB and next phase of the struggle for its rights,” he added.
Noted writer and analyst Ali Ahmed Jan stressed the mainstreaming of GB on the lines of FATA. He said that further delay would create more misunderstandings. He shared that in 1946, the word Northern Areas was coined for the first time, which deprived the region even its identity that was restored during the last PPP government with the naming of Gilgit Baltistan.
Maulana Attaullah Shahab of JUI-F complained that since childhood he had been listening to the stories of GB rights, but still the status is unclear. Echoing Senator Babar’s views, he said, “A youth uprising is brewing up all over GB. The day is not very far, when the same youth would also march to the Islamabad, with a loud demand for their rights and equal status to its citizens,” he added.
Dr Sharif Astori complained that GB doesn’t need any package like any utility store or cellular services offers. He added that repeatedly we are being told that due to dispute of Kashmir, his land was also considered disputed as per international laws and standards. “Therefore, we are not ready to be subdued anymore by Muzafarabad.”
The seminar was attended by a large number of youth and activists from GB who actively participated shared their several grievances that were also highlighted in the keynote speeches and were replied back, accordingly.