“Federation must end Gilgit-Baltistan’s constitutional, political and economic deprivations”: HRCP

GILGIT: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has concluded a highprofile fact-finding mission to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), comprising Council members Salima Hashmi and Muzaffar Hussain, senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, and HRCP regional coordinator Israruddin, according to a press release.

During its five-day visit to GB, the mission found that the human rights situation in the region had deteriorated, with political workers, rights activists, the legal fraternity and religious leadership expressing their disappointment at the federation’s failure to integrate GB with the rest of the country. The groups that the mission consulted were of the view that GB should, at the very least, be granted provisional provincial status or, as a last option, granted a governance system similar to that of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The political leadership that met the mission also demanded that GB be made part of the electoral reforms process being undertaken to ensure free and fair elections in this region. In addition, the fact that appointments to the higher judiciary are made by the prime minister puts a question mark over the independence, integrity and impartiality of the GB judiciary, eroding public confidence in the institution.

It is a matter of great concern that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly remain under threat in GB: rights campaigners, political workers and students continue to be charged under anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws, particularly Schedule IV.

Based on the evidence, the mission believes that the abolition of State Subject Rule has paved the way for exploitation of local natural resources by external private corporations and individuals not resident in GB. This has led to demographic changes in the region, to the consternation of residents, who also feel that GB is being excluded from development projects, primarily those being launched under CPEC.

The mission is especially alarmed by the apparent surge in suicide cases in various parts of GB, particularly in district Ghizer. A large number of these victims comprise women and the mission has reason to believe that some cases of honor killings have been labelled suicide and thus ‘forgotten’.

The mission is gravely concerned to learn that the victims of the 2010 Attabad Lake disaster have still not been compensated or rehabilitated. The glacial lake outburst floods that occurred recently on the Shishpar glacier have also uprooted over a dozen families with worrying allegations that a state-owned organization may have diverted the flow of water towards the village to protect a resort.

The fact finding comitttee’s report further says that during meetings with people affected by the Kargil War, the mission learnt that they had still not been compensated for the loss of their homes and livelihoods. Respondents alleged that the civilian and military authorities continued to shift responsibility onto each other for the redressal of their grievances. The victims also claimed that security forces had laid landmines in their area, preventing them from returning home.

A detailed report documenting the mission’s findings and recommendations will be released as
soon as possible, says the HRCP communique shared with media.

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