Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, April 26—-May 2, 2008
Gilgit and Baltistan, which is rightly regarded as the last colony on earth, is legally, constitutionally and historically part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, although at present it is under illegal occupation of Pakistan.In a presentation at the Brussels conference, Dr Shabbir Chaudhry said various governments of Pakistan have not only ruled these areas with an iron fist but they have also divided the people on religious, ethnic and linguistic lines besides trying to change the legal status of the area by violating the State Subject laws and by calling these areas as Northern Areas of Pakistan. Many writers, historians, European Union report on Kashmir and contradictions of Pakistani governments on the subject of Gilgit and Baltistan clearly expose Pakistan’s stand on Gilgit and Baltistan. One only has to look at the Karachi Agreement of 28 April 1949 (which was signed by Nawab Mushtaq Gurmani, a Minister of Pakistan and the ‘President’ of ‘Azad Kashmir’ Sardar M. Ibrahim Khan, and President of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas); and China Pakistan agreement of 2 March 1963.In the Karachi Agreement, the Muslim Conference leadership signed the agreement and practically gave away these areas to Pakistan even though it had no legal or moral right to sign the document on behalf of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, as the Muslim Conference did not have even a single member of their party in these areas. Similarly, Pakistan signed a treaty with China and gave away around 2,200 square miles of our territory to China which helped them start a new era of friendship with China. However, Pakistan, in this Border Agreement, once again accepted that the sovereignty of the region did not rest with Pakistan as Article 6 of the document read, and I quote: “The two parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the boundary as described in Article Two of the present agreement, so as to sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the present agreement, provided that in the event of the sovereign authority being Pakistan, the provisions of the present agreement and of the aforesaid protocol shall be maintained in the formal boundary treaty to be signed between the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan.” This clearly shows that even Pakistan did not regard these areas as part of its territory. But because these areas are rich in natural resources and have great strategic importance, Pakistan doesn’t want to lose control on these areas. The total areas consist of approximately 72,496 square kilometres, and have always had pivotal strategic importance, as it is regarded as ‘axis of Asia’, where South, Central and East Asia converge. Both India and China regarded Gilgit and Baltistan as a gateway to Central Asia and beyond to heart of Europe along the ancient Silk Route. Since 1947 these areas have been under effective control of Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. Rulers of these areas whether they were called Political Residents, a Joint Secretary, Political Resident, Chief Executive or Chairman have always been appointed by Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. One might ask about the role of government of India in this regard, which claims that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is ‘an integral part’ of the Indian Union. True, the Maharaja acceded to India but it was a ‘provisional accession’ and had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. If India regarded the state of Jammu and Kashmir as its own then how one is to view India’s behaviour and silence in this regard. Was India not under any obligation to protect life, liberty and property of the people in the entire State? In this regard IKA (International Kashmir Alliance) and some other NGOs can rightly take credit for highlighting the plight of these unfortunate people, and helping to bring Gilgit and Baltistan on the political agenda. Through our concerted campaign we have ensured that these areas are perceived as part of the Kashmir dispute. Last year Baroness Emma Nicholson and the EU also made enormous contribution to this campaign by passing EU Report on Kashmir, and we are indeed grateful to all those who worked hard in preparation and finalising this important report. EU Kashmir Report and Baroness Emma Nicholson has made very valuable contribution to the struggle of Kashmir by defining geography of the State to quash Pakistani propaganda on the issue of Gilgit and Baltistan; and by making an important distinction about right of accession and right of self-determination. What Pakistan is supporting and has been supporting since 1947 is not right of self -determination but right of accession. I want to make it clear that our struggle is for right of self -determination and not any kind of accession. Pakistani governments have great experience in violating and abusing laws by introducing Legal Frame Orders known as LFOs. Not only they introduced many LFOs and ordinances for Pakistan but they have also generously introduced many LFOs for Gilgit and Baltistan. And the last in the series was introduced in October 2007 by President Musharraf who likes to implant democracy by use of gun and helicopter gunships. This LFO superseded the previous LFO introduced in 1999. Pakistani authorities have hailed this as a big leap forward in empowering the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, but in practice very little has changed. People of the area have a local Chief Executive but he will be subservient to the Chairman who will also be Minister of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas. He enjoys enormous powers as· He is not answerable to the Assembly; He cannot be impeached by the Assembly; A vote of no confidence cannot be tabled against him; He can veto any legislation passed by the Assembly; His approval is must to make any law effective; His powers and actions cannot be challenged anywhere .
The judiciary in practice has been made subservient to the executive which already enjoys enormous powers. Judges have no job security. The bureaucracy will write Annual Confidential Reports of the Judges making them insecure and dependent on these bureaucrats. The Chief Secretary has the powers to transfer Chairman of the Chief Court or employees of any other department or corporation.
Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, April 26—-May 2, 2008