By Noor Pamiri
Chief Secretary sb,
You have insulted the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by taunting us with your callous, uncalled for, irrational and illogical, misinformed statement. You said that since we don’t pay taxes, we should not be demanding/expecting too much. This insensitive and cold response came, when you were informed that women are dying due to absence of gynecologist at a District Headquarters Hospital, in Khaplu, Ghance.
In fact, you have not just insulted us, you have added insult to the injury.
If your crass argument is to be followed to the spirit, then no poor shall have any rights in a state, because s/he will most probably not be able to pay any taxes.
Let me run you through some facts which dispute and negate your fallacious assertion.
Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory. If it is not, as you have said, then correct your Foreign Office colleagues, because that’s what the Foreign Office Spokesman said a couple of days back, when asked about the future of our region.
Mr. Secretary, we have been paying all indirect taxes, like other people of Pakistan. We are not required to pay direct taxes to Islamabad, because we do not have any representation in the national parliament. The recent five-year long tax exemption given to Gilgit-Baltistan is reflective of this undeniable fact. I am sure that you know the universal principle, summed up in the simple to understand slogan, No Taxation, Without Representation.
Even if you expect us to pay direct taxes, then you are duty bound to give us representation not just in the national parliament, but also in NFC, ECNEC and other federal resource distribution forums, because we would need to know how our taxes are being used, and for what purpose. You cannot expect us to pay taxes, and live it in your, or the non-representative politicians’ hands, for whom we don’t vote.
Pakistan has been earning billions from Gilgit-Baltistan, in lieu of tourism taxes, minerals, trade with China. These federal earnings will increase exponentially with the progress of CPEC, but we will never be able to know what happens to our taxes, because our region, so far, even does not have a ceremonial representation in any decision-making body.
The fact is that we do not owe anything to Pakistan, which we proudly call our country, despite of being denied that right for more than seven decades. Despite of not being accepted as equal Pakistanis, we have selflessly rendered uncountable services for the state. I don’t want to repeat them, because they are discussed in detail frequently.
On the other hand, Pakistan, legally and ethically, owes us everything, because Pakistan is committed under international law to take care of our region, develop our region , and give us self-rule, till resolution of the Kashmir dispute, to which we have been forcefully made a party by the state of Pakistan.
Mr. Secretary, you may not realize, while looking at us, the destitute, from the royal pedestal that you adorn, but 100 billions rupees, if that much is paid, is peanuts when compared to the 70 years of misrule and exploitation.
You may know that more than half of the budget given to Gilgit-Baltistan is paid in salaries, or for the perks and privileges, dazzling vehicles, of officials like yourself. I am sure you are not working for us free of cost.
In fact, if we had true self-rule, as Pakistan is committed to give us, then you may have been spared the hardships of working in Gilgit-Baltistan, because, then, our elected government may have been able to choose someone as a Chief Secretary from among us!
Mr. Secretary, since you have expressed lack of understanding of our issues, and our history, and since you seem to be devoid of any compassion, you may kindly go back to the federal capital, where your services might be in more demand.