Refugees for opening of border in Baltistan

Weekly Bang-e-sahar, Saturday,April 12-18,2008

Skardu: If the government failed to open Khaplu-Laddakh road to reunite the divided families in Laddakh and Balitistan, the refugees of 1971 will march to the Line of Control (LoC) in protest and take up the issue with the United Nations.
This was stated by leaders of people displaced in the 1971 war from the Nobra sector Sub-Major (retired) Sher Ali, Hafiz Mohammad Bilal Zuberi, Ghulam Ahmed and Mohammad Khan while speaking at a press conference here.
They regretted that both India and Pakistan had opened borders at various points on the LoC to give an opportunity to the divided families on both sides on the divide but no steps had been taken to give relief to thousands of people  affected in the 1948 and 1971 wars and settled in Baltistan. They termed the silence of both the governments on the issue a blatant violation of human rights.
They said people of Chalonkha Torang Tahafti had rendered valuable services and sacrificed their lives for the country in the 1948, 1965 and 1971 wars but their sacrifices were not recognized at the higher level.
Ghulam Ahmed on the occasion recalled that in the 1948 war his grandmother had asked soldiers retreating from the Nobra sector to hand her over the weapons so that she could send her children to the frontier and defend the motherland. This she did in order to boost the morale of the army men. As a result, the retreating soldiers were compelled to go back and fight the enemy. The woman also prepared her seven sons to go and fight along with the army. He said in recognition of her services, the government of Pakistan sanctioned special allowance for her which she used to distribute among the poor.
He said they migrated to Pakistan in 1971 leaving behind their movable and immovable property only for the love of the country. As a result, many families lost contact with their near and dear ones and were still living a miserable life in various parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.
They said the government of Pakistan provided temporary assistance to the refugees, adding they were indebted to the people of Skardu for providing help and assistance to them for a long time. They regretted that despite their sacrifices, the government had done nothing for the displaced people’s rehabilitation and their new generation was faced with lack of education, health care and unemployment.
They said the government had established a commission to rehabilitate refugees in Azad Kashmir and was providing Rs10,000 assistance to each family, besides allotment of 100 kanals of land and reserving seats in educational institutions for their children but no such steps were taken for the refugees settled in Gilgit-Baltistan.
They said uncultivable land was allotted for the refugees in Skadu but there were no facilities of water and electricity.
They called upon the president and prime minister of Pakistan to take prompt steps for their rehabilitation and order the opening of Khaplu-Laddakh road so that they can meet their divided families. The government should also reserve special seats for the children of the refugees in all educational institutions and provide them job opportunities. Besides, special seats should also be reserved for the refugees in the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly, they demanded.



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