Syed Shams Uddin
BUT NEVERTHELESS, a recent minute analysis and summation entitled ‘Conspiracy Not Sympathy’ by veteran journalist Muhammad Qasim Naseem from Gilgit-Baltistan – published in a reputed regional Urdu daily – causes much consternation in that it brings forth startling revelations in the context of the intent behind the resolution passed by AJK assembly on the behest of their prime minister. Surprisingly, the resolution pertaining to and aimed at demanding an AJK-like set up for Gilgit-Baltistan was anvilled and unanimously passed by the AJK assembly the other day which to its movers, was something to efficaciously address the 71-year deprivations of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Elaborating, it is assured that all political parties of AJK – whether within or outside AJK assembly have convergence of opinion to extend their full support to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in having the resolution implemented. Extemporaneously though, a few here in Gilgit-Baltistan naively took it for an unconditional support in the matter of getting an alternate constitutional dispensation for the people of the region while still a very few other opined that it would be an alternative to denial of granting a provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan by the central government and hence this scant number the AJK assembly’s resolution as a positive development at this juncture.
Before taking into account all the questions that crop up as to the variegated perceptions associated with the matter, the learned writers says the fundamental question worth pondering is to him is a reading between the line as to what were the circumstances that prompted the prime minister of AJK to take resort to this resolution. Whether it was at the instance of the leadership of Gilgit-Baltistanthat that such a voice be raised in the AJK assembly or was there such a demand from the federation currently seized with ‘governance reforms’ conrcerning Gilgit-Baltistan to have the resolution be passed by the AJK assembly. Or, is there any precedence where the AJK government and assembly may have ever raised such a voice in favour of Gilgit-Baltistan whenever it came to pressure issues and crucial matter relating to Gilgit-Baltistan? Whether the AJK assembly or government ever raised voice when Gen Zia Ul Haq imposed martial law in Gilgit-Baltistan whereby making it as martial law zone E? Whether the AJK assembly or the government there sought any remedial action to help salvage the situation when Gilgit-Baltistan encountered unrest having plunged into an infernal state in 1988 followed by decades of consequent unrest?
Admittedly, no such voice in favor of Gilgit-Baltistan was raised. But instead, history bears out that whenever any move remained underway in Islamabad and there was any headway in the context of guaranteeing rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, the political leadership of AJK unjustifiably intervened every time with the result that the people of G-B are deprived constantly of their legitimate rights till today. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are not that short-sighted to be forgetful about the AJK leadership and governmental uncalled for intervention barely a month ago when the PTI government constituted committees consensually made recommendations for giving the status of provisional constitutional status to Gilgit-Baltistan. When the time came for taking it up with the federal cabinet, it was the Kashmiri leadership whose intervention stalled the process. The government was constrained to alter its decision and taking resort to a governance reforms order. If these be the facts on record, the question arises why a resolution has been presented in the AJK assembly ostensibly favoring Gilgit-Baltistan at the instance of prime minister AJK and passed so swiftly. The parties of AJK, despite their internal differences opinion in political matter, instantly became united and forged a cohesiveness leading to the ‘resolution’ and the prime minister of AJK suddenly felt an ostensible empathy for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Thus given the past experiences, it appears that tabling the resolution and passing it as above could but be exclusively be in their own interest not Gilgit-Baltistan. This is primarily seeing that the resolution on the face of it, runs counter to the ground realities and militates against the historical perspective of Gilgit-Baltistan. How can the people of Gilgit-Baltistan demand an AJK like set up therefor remains the question mark. It become patently clear that the Kashmiri leadership is seemingly making untiring efforts in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan that this region loses its current status pursuant to which this region has remained associated with and under the federation of Pakistan for the last 71 years at a stretch. In Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan Citizenship Act is in force and it is here that Pakistani flag flutters all across whilst these people have Pakistani identity cards in their pockets. Whenever any one from Gilgit-Baltistan goes abroad, he or she has to travel on Pakistani passport as do the rest of the citizens of Pakistan.
Since 2009, Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively having a provincial face and the institutions here operate exactly on the pattern of and in conformity with the functions of other provinces of Pakistan. Their next stage is indeed having a full-fledged provincial status as a logical outcome. These linkages of Gilgit-Baltistan with the federation of Pakistan are not seemingly approved of and as such deprecated by the AJK leadership. These are the facts which prompted the prime minister of AJK to come up with the resolution in question so that Gilgit-Baltistan becomes a disputed territory which was readily passed by the assembly. The resolution has not haphazardly been brought and passed but instead, it is the outcome of a long planning. In the past, some Kashmiri leaders undertook a movement in the context that along with Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK should be made provisional provinces till the resolution of Kashmir problem. This clearly meant they wanted to gain a provisional provincial status for themselves by using Gilgit-Baltistan for the purpose.
However, on seeing their scheme fizzling out and the myth not getting supplanted for facts in the matter of getting AJK accorded a provisional status by any means, they have now changed their strategy and are working towards getting Gilgit-Baltistan unnecessarily entangled in an imbroglio by having it termed as disputed territory and hence the resolution under reference. If God forbid, their stance sees the light of the day, it will have horrific ramifications for both Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan – something no patriotic Pakistani would favor. The people of AJK deliberately overlook the historical fact that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan under the leadership of Ghazi Haider Khan Amacha, rose in revolt against the Dogra rulers in 1842 and courageously drove out the representatives of the Dogras and their forces out. It is for the second time that they waged the longest struggle (1947-48) against the Dogras and eventually ousted and successfully dislodged them for good and acceded to Pakistan unconditionally. Since throwing off the yoke of the Dogras and doing away with the forcible occupation spanning well nigh one hundred years as above, Gilgit-Baltistan became free and an independent territory and not disputed one. From 1947 till now, every government in the center has accorded a distinct position to this region.
The proponents of above line of thinking mistakenly favoring or seeking a disputed status by way of an AJK-like set up by doing away with the existing status Gilgit-Baltistan as an administrative unit of Pakistan continuously and uninterruptedly for the 71 years after the legitimate accession of the regional may certainly have no answer to the question as to why the liberation day is being celebrated across Gilgit-Baltistan. Does this celebration not mark our liberation on feeing of our territory from the clutches of the Dogras who had forcibly occupied and annexed with the J&K State during the course of a tug of war spanning second half of the 19th century? Many laid down their lives in their just struggle during the course to free their motherland from the clutches of the Dogra occupiers and not for a disputed status – something that cannot at all be gainsaid.
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He tweets@SayyidShams