By Syed Shamsuddin
A very interesting summation, aptly encompassing has been going on in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) overtime in socio-political context, was published in a regional Urdu daily the other day. The learned writer offered a peep into the brief historical background of the region dating to the post-independence period, and referred precisely to what happened preceding the liberation of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Beginning with briefly recording of the facts about how the British colonizers packed off by giving back the territory of Gilgit, in August 1947, to the Dogra occupiers, quite intriguingly with the condition that the latter would retain Major William Brown – a British military officer – to assign him the command of Gilgit Scouts. The move was ostensibly aimed at checking effectively and blocking Russo-China contacts, as well as to preclude Gilgit region from the impact of communists inroads into this land.
After the successful revolution of 1st November 1947, Gilgit emerged as a nascent independent republic but, ironically, the man installed as its President, together with other top indigenous leadership, preferred government jobs over governance and leadership. Such a hesitance [ on part of the ‘revolutionary govt’] ultimately paved the way for taking over of the reins of administration by a representative of the government of Pakistan, Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan, as a political agent. At almost the same time, the Mir of Hunza and the Mir of Nagar, which remained independent principalities detached from the Republic of Gilgit, wrote letters of accession to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Viewed cumulatively, the local population in its entirety wished to join Pakistan unconditionally as they, so much imbued with the spirit of their affinity with the nascent state, were eager for accession. However, the writer says that he could not have any access to such records pertaining to GB’s formal accession to Pakistan. Nevertheless, their [the locals’] staunch belief and ideological attachment with the nascent republic of Pakistan prompted them to seek an early, unconditional, annexation. In fact, the term accession was unknown to them; they literally meant their successful liberation movement aimed at joining Pakistan. Therefore, an accession, by way of an instrument or otherwise, held no significance under those circumstances.
The summation goes on illustrating that G-B has all along made supreme sacrifices for Pakistan. This is correct in seeing that they [the Gilgit Scouts] wrested an extensive area of 28000 sq miles from the occupying Dogra force valiantly through a purely indigenous movement without any help or assistance from outside and acceded to Pakistan. They are still standing as a bulwark against the enemy from the day of liberation till today, offering an impregnable defense of Pakistan. Not only this but that they have been second to none in overall defense of Pakistan during the entire period.
For the locals, the area has historically had distinctly status save for the forcible occupation of the regions that today form Gilgit-Baltistan by the Dogras during the course of intermittent battling from 1842 till the close of the 19th century. To them, this forcible occupation by the Dogras did not make G-B an integral part of the J&K State.
Since then, the territory has been linked to the Kashmir issue in the ‘larger interest of the state’ despite there being no legitimate ground or valid reason, whatsoever. This is especially in seeing that the local people threw off the yoke of servitude of the Dogras by way of a purely indigenous struggle and liberated their own territory by themselves. Notwithstanding all these facts, the people of G-B supported the state’s narrative and as such the slogans like ‘Kashmir will become Pakistan’ have been quite ubiquitous here too.
Again, the writer makes an apt mention of the three parts of Kashmir’s disputed area with a glaring heterogeneity in terms of governance systems that prevail in each part. The three parts should, otherwise, invariably, have to be treated identically when it comes to praxis in terms of status. The question arises, then, that why each part has had a different system in political parlance compared to the other?
Seemingly, this trichotomy of systems did not harm or violate the UN Resolutions. For instance, Muzaffarabad has symbolically been given a state’s setup with its own president and prime minister, while the IOJK was until last year exercising “internal autonomy” together with a provisional constitution. However, India recently brought an end to the IOJK’s disputed, special, status and declared it to be a part of the Indian constitution by abolishing Article 370. This, too, did not affect the UN resolutions, which demand status-quo in the entire region. The write-up further mentions that during the 1960s, an area of Gilgit-Baltistan at Shimshal was gifted to China but the UN Resolutions were quite silent over this act too. In such a scenario, the write questions, why are over 1.5 million people of G-B, characterized by their exemplary patriotism to Pakistan, deprived of their legitimate demand, terming it detrimental or running counter to the UN Resolutions?
The people of this region are ideologically down-to-earth Pakistani. India, on the other hand, lays claim over this territory terming it her integral part while our own foreign office keeps consistently declaring it as a ‘disputed territory’ which is quite exaggeratedly akin to sprinkling salt over the wounds of people of Gilgit-Baltistan. In such situations, the young generation of this region is naturally angered over and becoming disillusioned with such a stance by the Pakistani establishment. The writer fears that lest such a growing disenchantment and simmering resentment take another direction!
Now, ‘something else is going to happen in Gilgit-Baltistan’, the article says with reference to the ‘villainous American attempts to contain and strangulate China’s 80 to 90 per cent of trade’ taking place via the South China Sea. In this regard the US, in collaboration with Vietnam, Australia and Japan is struggling hard to strangulate this route insofar as Chinese trade is concerned. In the whole process, India too is championing the American cause. In such a changing scenario, America sees the KKH as a challenge along which CPEC is planned. The anti-China powers seeking such a blockade seem intent on and are busy striving to strangulate this route via Khunjrab for China. In this regard, Indian cooperation too is obviously sought. In recent days, India has been exhibiting more aggressiveness in its jingoistic posture by way of statements pertaining to G-B, laying claim over this territory.
These cannot be seen as mere symbolic indicators while much more is to unfold ahead. What is then an imminent danger is that India besides resorting to the blatant aggressiveness and jingoistic policies on one hand can employ underhand tactics on the other hand –something appearing noticeably from the haphazard emergence of publication of hate material/comments aiming at fanning sectarianism via social media in recent days. This makes it quite construable that there is surely a connection somewhere, deduces the writer.
Gilgit-Baltistan has witnessed a praiseworthy peace, tranquility and sedateness for the last five years. The sudden emergence of hate-material on social media and related hate-mongering comments raise intriguing questions in seeing that G-B’s horrific fault-line is sectarianism. Since this territory makes epicenter of multi-sectarian groups, there prevails no homogeneity. Benefiting from this glaring fault-line, the enemy can weaken us if at all we do not remain wary of it. At such a critical time, we must think over very seriously to eschew it.
Why do we not have a look at the plight of the Muslims in India. They are not happy there even today. Their life is miserable there. Thousands of Kashmirs have sacrificed their lives in protest against oppression and repressiveness uncheckably underway there. There is no respect for the fundamental human rights as well as the right to profess one’s faith unfettered. How can it become possible then that India would think differently and be well wisher of any Ladakhi, Kashmiri, Gilgiti or Balti.
The second important thing is that the people of Gilgit-Bltistan, on the whole, have to demonstrate prudence and consensually develop political framework and get to a single platform acceptable to the diverse sects, castes, clans and linguistic groups. WE are implicitly unprepared to recognize each other and this political disharmony and immaturity has demonstrably become so much dangerous that we are today unable to sustain and help thrive only one and single university i.e KIU wehave at present. As writers clarity is not our forte and instead, we tend to wield our pen with a view to use it on the basis of sect, language and clans rather than for the spread of truth. We are divided in numerous small circles. Whether we display our fidelity or loyalty to Pakistan or not, we do admittedly have unswerving allegiance to the select foreign land. We do not have any collective agenda he laments. It has become our wont to welcome the comers while seeing off the goers with great fanfare. To congratulate an assistant commissioner on his posting becomes our Facebook top-trend. This is in short, our mental level of percption. Notwithstanding all these flaws and dominant social weaknesses, we are endowed with innumerable bounties by God Almighty. We are ingrates. Our life and death is with Pakistan and there is of course, no other way out. Our progress indisputably gets toed to our love for Pakistan as proud Pakistanis.
Beware, he warns, if we fan sectarianism once again to please someone somewhere, the loss will be ours, Gilgit-Batistan will lose and the loss will be for Gilgitis and Baltis. Just have a retrospective view, how frantically did we resort to bigotry and peddled hatred all across in the name of sects in the past. We shed blood of innocent people and made ‘No Go Areas’ of own land in the past.
But the net result was precisely that no one could be the winner nor emerge triumphantly. The same could be enacted if we do not take a lesson from the past. The same will happen again and no one will triumph over the other in like manner. What will happen eventually is that our land will turn into an inferno, our own progress will cease, our own farms will be deserted our and own businesses will suffer.
It is a must for us to be imbued with a national spirit to thwart nefarious designs of enemy. It is only then that we can make a united struggle to end our political deprivations and to get our rights from those competent to give them.
It may be possible only when we get to one and single platform. In a recent programme briefly aired on Gilgit TV also highlighted this grave issue with its participants – senior journo Shabbir Mir and anchor Tahir Rana wondered who was doing what on social media and why were the relevant state functionaries not taking timely action especially in seeing that an apparatus of fully manned cyber crime wing is in existence. They concluded that the land of Gilgit happened to be very much fertile where seeds of sectarianism could be sown so easily by the diabolical and divisive forces at work. It is high time that cognizance is taken of the goings-onto nip the evil in the bud.