GILGIT/ISLAMABAD: A large number of activists from Gilgit-Baltistan have taken to microblogging website, Twitter, to express their apprehensions about ownership over baren lands in the disputed region.
#Reject_Khalisa_Sarkar was trending today in Pakistan as activists used the Hashtag to express their demands, fears and apprehensions, while questioning successive governments’ inability to protect land ownership rights of the region’s populace.
Connected to the Kashmir dispute, Gilgit-Baltistan does not enjoy constitutional protections in Pakistan. Although governments are elected locally through general elections, locals routinely express fears over ownership of their land and resources.
The Khalisa Sarkar laws were enacted by the Sikh invaders almost a century ago, by virtue of which government claims ownership of baren lands. This issue has become a bone of contention in the region.
Recently, Opposition Leader Amjad Hussain Advocate presented a resolution in the GB Assembly demanding annulment of the Khalis Sarkar laws and accepting locals’ right to ownership of all of GB’s lands. The resolution has been given to a committee for further deliberations, after key members of the PTI-led government did not support it.
While PPP leaders and other opposition leaders assailed PTI for “opposing” the resolution, GB Law Minister Sohail Abbas rejected the notion and said that further deliberations are needed before adopting the resolution. He assured the public that the PTI government will defend “every inch” of Gilgit-Baltistan’s land.
Apprehensions about ownership issues have been expressed for decades, but the voices have gained momentum recently, after people and organizations from mainland Pakistan started purchasing lands in the region. PTI has accused PPP’s Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of ending the “state-subject rule” in the region, making it possible for non-residents to purchase land.
Fear have also been created by the arrival of mining companies in the region who are exploring mountains and other baren land for minerals, as well as precious and semi-precious stones. Federal and regional departments and organizations have also been using the land for launching developmental projects.
Meanwhile, GB’s Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmad has also supported the demands for abolishment of “No tor, نوتوڑ” rules, also known as Khalisa Sarkar laws.
Many locals have, for years, expressed apprehension that the region’s already scant usable land may soon be out of the reach, and what remains may be too little for the growing population.