Time to promote reconciliation in Gilgit-Baltistan

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, April 26—-May 2, 2008
FEDERAL Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Qamaruz Zaman Kaira’s promises made with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan during his recent visit to the area seem prototype and `conditional’ like the ones committed by the successive governments in the past. The people of this region were expecting that after formation of the new democratic government, the 100-day plan announced by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani would also be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan, but the minister’s visit to the area has further increased people’s reservations and apprehensions regarding Islamabad’s actual intentions in the region. The minister announced to withdraw army personnel from the civilian institutions of the region within 90 days and bring a package for the area but remained silent on announcing any steps aimed to end over 60 years of deprivation and restore national identity of the region. Though he said steps would be taken to bring the region at par with all provinces of Pakistan, but at the same time he termed the issue of giving provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan sensitive and indicated to debate the matter in parliament.
Gilgit-Baltistan, whose future is linked to the larger Kashmir issue, has been kept deprived of all basic human, social, economic, political and constitutional rights for the last over six decades. It should be kept in mind that the future of this region has to be decided by the political leadership and people of Gilgit-Baltistan not by Pakistani ministers and rulers. We should not expect that the rulers of Pakistan would ever compromise on their own interests and give relief to the area people in accordance with their aspirations, because state has its own priorities and the rulers can at best improve upon the steps taken by previous setups. For sure, they have no tangible solutions to the issues of constitutional, economic, social and national identity. Had it been possible for any ruler to do so, President Musharraf was well placed to at least implement his own announcements. Based on all these facts, it can be noted that if the present government wants to take steps for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan, it would have to take a different path than treaded by the previous governments because unlike in the past the area is now politically awaken. The real issues of the region cannot be further sidelined and the people cannot be kept entangled in non-issues to divert their attention from real problems. Now, it is time to take stringent steps to end human rights violations, establish true democratic institutions, end poverty, unemployment and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people. For all these to happen, the right to self-rule should be transferred to the local people. As a first step, establishment of an independent constituent assembly and withdrawal of cases against nationalist leaders are mandatory. The government’s conciliatory approach started in all provinces including Balochistan should also be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan and cases registered against nationalist leaders of the region should be abolished. Particularly, we would like to mention the name of Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Charman Abdul Hamid Khan, who has been living in exile for the last ten years. The present democratic government should drop all cases against Abdul Hamid Khan and allow him to return to his motherland without any fear and apprehension. Similarly, there are hundreds of other nationalist leaders against whom cases are registered in the region. It is high time the government withdrew all such cases and start a new beginning of national reconciliation. The leaders of PPP and the PML-N had made tall claims of bringing revolutionary changes in the area during the regime of Prevez Musharraf and they have now got the opportunity to fulfill these promises and give the people their due rights which they have been denied on one pretext or the other for the last over six decades.


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