The blaming of Gilgit-Baltistan’s citizens living in different parts of the world as traitors for their alleged involvement in “anti-state activities” is not a one-off incident. Both, at state and public level, this issue has been propagated multiple times by the media; even some locals are also of the view that there is foreign funding involved in the ongoing activism in GB.
Majority of the people in Gilgit-Baltistan are busy in proving their loyalty towards Pakistan. Whatever the circumstances, they are ready to sacrifice their blood for the country and feel pride in calling themselves Pakistan, despite of not being presence in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
With the beginning of new provincial government of PMLN in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2015, the Chief Minster Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman at multiple times in his interviews revealed that he is going to collect the data of the local students studying in different countries of the world. He said that with the help of Federal Interior Ministry the GB Government wants to acquire statistics regarding the actual number of students belonging to GB studying in different countries of the world, particularly their financial means. He implied that GB locals living abroad are being funded by other international security agencies to create unrest in GB, taking advantage of its disputed status and geo-strategic importance.
The wordings of Retired Lt.General Amjad Shoaib, who in an evening show of TV Anchor Dr. Malik of 92 News, blamed locals living in different Gulf countries of involvement in anti-state activities, created a wave of anger and regret across the region. The youth, especially, were not taking any of it. Looking at the reaction of locals and protest at both local and international level, the Governor, Chief Minister and some provincial ministers also responded to the statement, calling it a conspiracy, and demanding action against it.
It is high time for the Gilgit-Baltistan Government to reveal the data it has acquired from the interior ministry regarding its students in different countries of the world and their financial means, so that the government can come up with a workable framework to deal with the this issue and to answer the propaganda against the hard working foreign inhabitants of GB who are acquiring education to contribute in the national development of country and earning money to contribute in the economy of Pakistan.
During recent years, number of activists in Gilgit-Baltistan had been detained by the local courts in GB on accusation of their involvement in activities creating unrest in the region. Further, the accusations of provincial government at different occasions that the activists in GB during different protests were blamed as foreign agents to manipulate local public opinion creates suspicion at national and international level that the voices rising from the local are not genuine. A similar phenomenon we can also see in the Indian administered Kashmir where the activists are detained and blamed as terrorists and foreign agents to curb their democratic rights.
The media monitoring institutions in the country must also take such statements seriously because framing of citizens of a particular area or any particular race can create sense of alienation among the people those communities. With losing trust on the media channels and government institutions can push these people to involve in non democratic activities leading towards turmoil in society.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have stood with the state of Pakistan through every thick and thin, be it war against other countries, or the war against terror within the country. The people of the region despite the absence of fundamental political rights still feel attached to their Muslim brothers and sisters living in mainland Pakistan with the hope that even after seven decades a day will come when GB will be equally treated like other constitutional entities of Pakistan.
The contributor is a Masters Fellow at Department of Media and Communication Science at Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany.