Zahid Ali Zohri
PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan is going to take his maiden visit to Gilgit-Baltistan(GB) after assuming office. And he would announce his comprehensive package for the region. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen that to what extent, PM gets succeeded in addressing the prolong grievances of people of GB and ensuring them granting their fundamental rights which they are deprived of since 1947.
GB status has remained a geopolitical loophole for Pakistan at every point of time. Despite having de facto control over GB since 1949, state had not given the locals any representation until the 2019 Ordinance.
In the first month of this year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan sanctioned the limbo for GB after ruling that ‘no change can be made’ in its status, which remains subject to the pending plebiscite that would determine the future of Kashmir. But, at the same time, SC maintained that the state should uphold fundamental rights of people of GB as enjoyed by the people of any other province; the fact remains that the locals’ primary demand remains unaddressed. One of the basic grievances of GB people is that State setup in Azad Jammu and Kashmir(AJK) while GB is run through ordinances.
After the recent verdict of SC, a huge layer of demonstrations and protests were observed in the big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Gilgit and Skardu—especially and mostly with the inclusion of youth and students of GB.
Given the fact that how much GB holds a strategic importance for Pakistan as well as in geopolitical perspective—having GB been a region of CPEC origination and project of Diamar Basha Dam—PM should frame a proper roadmap for the GB future to clear the political fog thereby helping the locals determine a unified direction and come up with reasonable demands and expectations. Offering both the AJK and GB a similar uniform political and administrative set up could mitigate: a sense of alienation and marginalization from the people of GB; and any chance of exploitation of the sentiments of deprivation of the locals by our foes.