Order 2018: A Wake-Up Call for Gilgit-Baltistan

By Haider Ali 

GB Order 2018 is a wake-up call for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It shamelessly shows that what is going on in Gilgit-Baltistan is beyond Colonialism or Neo-Colonialism.

Once there was colonization. And then there came neo-colonialism. But both of these terms fail to adequately describe what’s going in Gilgit-Baltistan. Rather, the most appropriate term for what the Pakistani state is doing with GB is ‘Qabza’.

GB Order 2018, through, its shamelessness, presses us hard to reconsider what we mean by the Pakistani State. The first question, to be asked, therefore, is what is meant by the Pakistani State here? Are we talking about the abstract idea of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Or about the various institutions and individuals who run the state? The object under consideration is the latter, of course.

The harsh reality is that the support of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for the idea of Pakistan is irrelevant for these state institutions and actors in power. A full identification of these institutions and powerful individuals is provided by Hamza Alavi in his study titled “The state in Post-Colonial Societies” such that they can be listed as: 1) The Military Establsihment 2) The Bureaucracy 3) The Capitalists 4) The Feudals and 5) The Political Mafia. For the lack of a better word or of articulation, let us use the term ‘Establishment’ for the collection of the above identified agents of power in the Pakistani State.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the interests of the establishment (Milbus, Bureaucrats, feudalists, Political Mafia and the Capitalists) converge. They desire financial/economic gains and are acting in concert like a gang of thugs.

The more tangible form of the Qabza comes in the form of structural violence manifested through Check-Posts, Seizures of prime property and lands by institutions, Lack of Political Representation and so on and so forth. Whereas, the intangible form of the Qabza can be conceptualized as the Hegemony of the state. A few soldiers at the helm of the Gilgit Rebellion handed the control of Gilgit-Baltistan, unconditionally, to the Pakistani State and ever since, the Pakistani State has exploited Gilgit-Baltistan, unconditionally. It uses Gilgit-Baltistan to formulate and take pride in its country as illustrated by the researcher Nosheen Ali in her work ‘Spaces of Nature-Producing Gilgit-Baltistan as the Ecological Body of Pakistan’. To elaborate the point, let us suppose that the territory of Pakistan is its body. Currently, it is dependent upon Gilgit-Baltistan almost as the body is dependent on the face, as a means for in-taking its supply of survival (Chinese trade and river Indus) and to present itself through an attractive image (Ecological Body). Along-with, the function of the Ecological body, GB also serves to complete the ‘Cultural’ body of Pakistan. It is the ecology and the culture which are used to present the ‘exotic’ image (as termed by Prof. Zaigum Abbas) of a ‘un-peopled’ space. The people have been systematically rendered irrelevant. The fact that, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan know that they had been completely ignored for decades in schemes of development, that their land is vital for the country and that they have been exploited invariably, but still continue to work for and support Pakistan, shows the power of the Qabza on the mind. As Michel Foucalt declared once, “there are forms of oppression which become the new normal”. The hegemony of the state has turned the daily exploitation of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as the normal and ordinary. Naveeda Khan, a renowned Anthropologist conceptualizes such cases where oppression becomes ordinary through the term Qabza.

This mental, discursive and ideological Qabza is instrumental in advancing the interests of the establishment. The clear primary intentions of the establishment implicit in the GB Order 2018 can be listed as: 1) Political Marginalization of GB to secure maximum benefits from CPEC without giving due share to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan 2) Ability to seize and buy valuable land in Gilgit-Baltistan for housing schemes, tourism ventures and mineral resources 3) Create Civil Service and other government service positions for Pakistani Bureaucrats to fill 4) Secure the ability to suppress legal cases against exploitation through installation of top-tier judges from outside of GB 5) Eliminate agents of resistance through legally approved abductions by law-enforcement agencies.

It rests now on the shoulders of the people of GB to mount vehement resistance against the establishment. It is about time we demanded the right to have control over our own land. Especially, it will depend how our intellectuals play their part. Do they limit their opinion to English papers which are disconnected from the people on the ground? Or do they connect with people on the ground and strengthen the movement.

Most of all, we need to formulate our position i.e. whether we want provincial status or autonomy in another form? And we need to frame the movement in a way that it unites the people of GB for the cause and does not alienate certain groups. If the GB Order 2018 is not enough to make people realize the need to organize themselves and fight for their rights, then I don’t know what can be.

You can reach the contributor at jugo.buluk@gmail.com    

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