Fri. May 24th, 2019

Constitutional Status of Gilgit-Baltistan, and CPEC


Doctor Abdul Jalil

A recent decree by Supreme Court of Pakistan pertaining to the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan has spread disappointment and discontentment among the masses of GB, who long for a constitutional status within Pakistan.  Hopes for making a constitutional province have been shattered subsequent to a ruling of Supreme Court on Jan-17th-2019; as such a state of despondency is prevailing in GB.

The Supreme Court ruling was received with mixed sentiments, acceptable for some with existing status and unacceptable to the cherishers of a constitutional province.

It is feared that anti-state elements under the garb of this ruling will try to create chaos at the behest of forces inimical to Pakistan and CPEC project in an otherwise tranquil atmosphere of GB.

In this context, to alleviate the despondency and sense of deprivation, savants and the patriotic elements of GB suggest making the region a constitutional province on the basis of undermentioned irrefutable facts which will not only fulfill the long cherished desire of masses in GB but will also not cause any harm to the Kashmir dispute, lying pending at the UN.

The agreement between Pakistan and China with regard to CPEC is believed to bring an economic and industrial boom from Hunza in the North to Gwadar in South.

Since the inception of CPEC, India, Afghanistan and other covert enemies have become active to thwart CPEC. Their baseless objections and mindless reservations are based on the false assumption that areas extending from Hunza and Ghizer to Chilas and Darrel-tangir are part of disputed Kashmir state. As such no constitutional status can be guaranteed or granted to GB by the government of Pakistan.

Strangely enough, our foreign office has never refuted this venomous propaganda effectively, unleashed by India with respect to CPEC passing through Gilgit on the right bank of Indus River.

Kashmir state is in fact not a disputed territory. Forcibly occupied by India, her fate is to be decided through a plebiscite agreed under UN-resolutions. Even if we agree the disputed status, let us remind ourselves that the areas falling on the right bank of Indus river were never parts of the Kashmir state.

To support the above claim some irrefutable facts are brought to the knowledge of readers of this article which are mentioned as under.

The areas on the right bank of Indus river were not included as parts of Kashmir state during and prior to Mughal dynasty.

Dogras in vain tried to capture Hunza-Nagir, Gilgit and Ghizer but were utterly defeated by the valiant forces fighting under the command of Raja Gohar Aman. His indomitable courage and his forces routed the Sikhs and Dogras and brought them to their knees.

Raja Gohar Aman died in 1860. Few years after his death, Dogras and British forces crossed river Indus, met little resistance and captured Hunza and Nagir in 1892.

Royal Indian forces defeated Sikhs and captured Kashmir in 1846. Later British government sold Kashmir state to Maharaja Ghulab Singh for rupees seventy-five Lacs (7500000), on March 1846 under a treaty called “Amritsar-treaty”.

‘Amritsar treaty’ between Maharaja Ghulab Singh and British government was limited to sovereignty over areas falling on the Eastern and Left bank of Indus River. The areas on the right bank were not included.

It may be remembered that upper Kohistan and Chitral were part of Gilgit until the advent of British Raj in 1862. Amritsar Treaty’s Section 1 doesn’t define areas from Gilgit to Chitral in the West and Chilas, Darel-Tangir in the south as territorial parts of Kashmir state.

Amritsar Treaty’s Section 1 further expounds that possession of vast swathe of land handed over to Ghulab singh in between western bank of river Ravi and eastern bank of river Indus, including ‘Chanba’.

In this treaty areas on the eastern bank of Indus were named as Astore, Baltistan, Kargil and Ladakh.

From 1911-1941, during Dogra regime, representatives from different parts of Kashmir state in the United Kashmir Assembly was as under;

Ladakh-wazarat _____ Monthonat-shah_______ Buddhist

Ladakh-wazarat _____ Kalan-dongo ________ Buddhist

Skardu-tehsil _______ Iftikhar Ali Shah ______ Muslim

Kargil-tehsil ________ Syed Wajahat Ali Shah __ Muslim

Astore-tehsil _______ Wazir Muhammad Khan __ Muslim

According to Muhammad-Saraaf, Editor of “Weekly Kashmir for freedom”, Pages 1519-1520, the following individuals in the year 1937 were nominated from different parts of Kashmir as members of United-Kashmir Assembly;

Ladakh Wazarat ___ Jaghat-Dardool ____ Buddhist

Ladakh Wazarat ___ Kahloon-Labzang-cheodang ___ Buddhist

Skardu Tehsil ____ Muhammad Ali shah ___ Muslim

Kargil Tehsil _____ Wajahat Ali shah ____ Muslim

Astore Tehsil ____ Raja Hussain khan ___ Muslim

Six monthly “Civil Llist of Kashmir State” of 1941, number III, edition 1941, page 122, reflects the names of Kashmir Assembly members from Astore, Baltistan, Kargil and Ladakh, as under;

Ladakh Wazarat _____ Jaghat-Dardool ___ Buddhist

Ladakh Wazarat _____ Nono-cheong ranchan __ Buddhist

Skardu Tehsil _____ Raja Fateh Ali khan ____ Muslim

Kargil Tehsil _____ Ahmed Ali Khan _____ Muslim

Astore Tehsil ____ Raja Ghulam Raza khan ___ Muslim

In the last Kashmir Assembly, which functioned until 1948, the following persons represented Astore, Skardu, Kargil and Ladakh:

(Reference___ “Tehriq Kashmir __ 3rd edition by Rasheed Taseer)

Ladakh Wazarat (leh) ____ Cheorang-ranchan ___ Buddhist.

Ladakh Wazarat ____ Sonam Tanzan (Zanskar) ____ Buddhist.

Kargil Tehsil _____ Ahmadullah Khan ____ Muslim

Skardu Tehsil ____ Raja Fateh Ali Khan ____ Muslim

Astore Tehsil ____ Raja Muhammad Shah ____ Muslim

From the above mentioned facts, it is vividly clear that areas on the right bank of Indus river were never represented in the United Kashmir Assembly, because they were not the territorial entities of Kashmir state.

Gilgit, Ghizer and Hunza were annexed with Kashmir in view of their strategically advantageous position in the face of czarist onslaught on Gilgit borders  “Wakhan-corridor” in the north.

The great game or Gilgit game and Afghan wars, 1st (1839-42), 2nd (1876-1880) and 3rd (1919) were all linked to prevent communist advances into India were managed by British authorities sitting in Gilgit.

Regions annexed to the state for strategic reasons were erroneously called “parts of the Kashmir” state, and declared “disputed”.

As long as Kashmir dispute exists on the tables of UN,it will be difficult for government of Pakistan to accord a constitutional status to whole of GB because Astore and Baltistan are integral parts of the former Kashmir state; they were included in the “Northern Areas” after the partition of India.

It is time to reconsider the whole issue thread bare and pay heed to the historical reality about the regions presently comprising the “Gilgit-Baltistan” region which has hitherto not been considered.

It is lamentable that the centuries old deprived people on the right bank of Indus who were neither represented in United Kashmir Assembly nor in Pakistani Parliament be made scapegoats for unrealistic demands of a section of people.

There is a way forward to alleviate the centuries old sufferings. If the government of Pakistan deems it fit, a constitutional province can be carved out on the right bank of Indus river without harming the Kashmir issue.

The contributor is a former Secretary of Health & Population Welfare, Gilgit-Baltistan. Email: doctorabduljalil@gmail.com 

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