Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

The lingering constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan

Sheraz Ali

It is a harsh reality that Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Kashmir dispute, not part of Kashmir itself, as wrongly claimed by Kashmiri leadership time and again. The only commonality they share is, in past both areas were governed by same Colonial rulers.  To strengthen their false claims, Kashmiri leadership creates hurdles in the path of every federal government by using its national and international influence whenever, any Government in federal tries to facilitate the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.  According to political leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan this time too, Kashmiri lobby is the main reason behind the U-turn of federal government of PTI from its principle party agenda; to give constitutional status to Gilgit-Baltistan. Masses of Gilgit-Baltistan are in huge shock and have strong reservations after this development. This recent immature move by Kashmiri leadership made the relation between the two regions worst, and fueled hatred among the people of Gilgit-Baltistan towards Kashmiri leadership.

Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan supported the Kashmir cause devotedly with its full soul and sprit in every forum within its due capacity. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan supported Kashmir cause both in the form of practical measures like liberation struggle; in its initial days of struggle back in 1940s and through moral support like celebrating 5th February as Kashmir solidarity day every year. Despite all these sincere measures, the behavior of Kashmiri leadership towards Gilgit-Baltistan is always disgraceful. No doubt this is heart wrenching situation for deprived masses of Gilgit-Baltistan, but at the same time it is erroneously conceived by the G-Bians that Kashmiri leadership are sole troublemakers in their political development process. There are multiple factors which are important to mention here.

First, the state of Pakistan created the current crisis back in 1947 by not accepting Gilgit-Baltistan as its geographical territory regardless of popular-will of the newly self-liberated state of Gilgit-Baltistan. Instead Pakistan linked Gilgit-Baltistan with the Kashmir dispute and decided to keep it as a disputed territory, so they can get majority of votes in their favor in future plebiscite; promised under the UNCIP resolutions on Kashmir dispute. In 21st century the affairs of governance in Gilgit-Baltistan are run from Islamabad in a neocolonial way through appointing political agents and passing orders. Also, the wish of Gilgit-Baltistan to become the constitutional unit of Pakistan is exploited badly since last 73 years.

Secondly, Leadership crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan is a historic fact. It is evident from their role in annexure with Pakistan back in 1949 through unpopular Karachi pact, which was done by Kashmiri leadership on behalf of whole Gilgit-Baltistan. As compare to their counterparts of Jammu and Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan’s leadership despite having successful revolution against occupied Dogra rule in 1947, couldn’t harbor the boat of newly liberated region with a defined status at that time. In 60s and 70s when Pakistan settled dispute of over 2000 area with china, the leadership remained silent. In 90s when Benazir government extended limited self-governance rights to local representatives this time too, they convinced on minimum. Also, the leadership failed to provide the solution to sectarian violence erupted in late 1980s. Resultantly, extremist religious groups got strength in the region. These religious groups were lacking the political wisdom, which further delayed the flourishing of informed political culture in the region. Unfortunately, still a large portion of society is captivated to this thinking, which is a great dilemma and hurdle for political growth of the Gilgit-Baltistan.

Third, Pakistan want to facilitate Gilgit-Baltistan without compromising its stance on Kashmir issue and without provoking India, which is near to impossible in current national and international scenario after the CPEC initiatives.

Last but the most tragic one, the futile role of UN in the region.

Despite these issues the game is not yet over, People in power corridors of Pakistan and the leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan must think somewhat out of the box solution to end the deprivation of Gilgit-Baltistan.

A new political contract between Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan can be a way out, which must extend self-governance in true sense. This include the rights of utilization of local resources and instill the sense of dignity among people. To reach this land marked achievement maturity and sincerity   on both sides is the need of hour. From Gilgit’s side, this time maturity will be shunning the illusion of becoming the constitutional unit of Pakistan. Minimally, they must struggle to gain the disputed status, as Gilgit-Baltistan being the third stakeholder of Kashmir Issue (which is principle stance of Pakistan) also deserve the disputed region privileges granted under the UNICIP resolutions on the either side of Indian held, and Azad Kashmir.



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