. Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, May 10—-May 16 ,2008
My dear brothers and sisters of Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral and Kohistan and the brave colleagues of Balawaristan National Students Organization (BNS), Asalam Alaikum.
For the first time in ten years I am addressing the people of Gilgit-Baltistan after installation of a democratic government in Islamabad.
My dear brothers and sisters, neither I am a leader nor a Quaid but a servant of the people of my country i.e. Balawaristan. I feel proud of rendering whatever service I can
for my people due to which I have been compelled to live in exile since March 1999.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am not living away from my homeland for the sake of luxury or any other purpose but it is my compulsion. I had been given the option to choose two paths: First that I should compromise on your rights including self-rule and abandon my struggle and live a peaceful life at home and be given all types of facilities. The second option was I be killed and my children and my nation left in the darkness of slavery for ever. However, I went for a third option which was full of dangers and risks. Instead of committing fraud with my people, I found a ray of hope in continuing struggle for their rights and preferred to live an exiled life which I also considered as a religious obligation. This is because of the well wishes and prayers of my brothers, sisters and elders of the great country that today not only I am alive but am addressing you on this occasion. I assure you that as long as I am alive and as long as you are with me, no Pakistani would keep the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in his pocket because I am here in the headquarters of the European Union to convey your voice to the international community.
In this mission, I am not alone but Kashmiri leaders like Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, Mumtaz Khan and Afzal Tahir are with me to convey your voice to the civilized world. I may add that without their contribution it may not have been possible to raise the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan at the European Parliament and world level. You cannot imagine how on the directives of Pakistan dictators secret agencies worked to conceal the Gilgit-Baltistan issue from the international community and spent millions of rupees to press the matter under the carpet and distort our image. Even a propaganda campaign was launched against a respectable member of European Parliament Ms Emma Nicholson. However, the propaganda failed to achieve its designs. Ms Nicholson, who hails from England, succeeded to make the Gilgit-Baltistan issue part of a European Parliament resolution. The resolution was adopted by 522 while only nine votes came against it. It was due to this reason that visas were denied to the intending participants from Gilgit-Baltistan to attend an international conference on the region at Brussels from April 8-9. We were disappointed at the decision but I congratulate all of you that under the leadership of Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmir we made the conference a big success. I would also like to inform you how Pakistani security agencies are still hatching conspiracies to remove me from my way. There are also some Kashmir leaders who at the behest of the agencies are spreading propaganda against Sardar Shaukat Ali and me to stop us from raising the Gilgit-Baltistan issue at the international level.
Now I would like to speak on some points relating to the region; for example secession by the Mirs, signature of Quaid-i-Azam, the April 28, 1949 Karachi Agreement, withdrawal of troops from the region, guarantee of human rights, local government and security of borders, etc.
Gilgit-Baltistan got independence on November 1, 1947. But soon due to lack of political leadership among our brave troops a Pathan naib tehsildar sent from the NWFP to help the nascent setup in administrative affairs made himself the ruler of the area after dividing the local people on sectarian lines and started to humiliate the national heroes. Even on November 19, 1947 a form was filled out to cede the region to Pakistan under a single pen and signature in the names of Mir of Nagar Shaukat Ali Khan and Mohammad Jamal Khan of Hunza. Even Governor General Quid-i-Azam’s signature of December 7, 1947 was also shown on the document. As these were not real, the government of Pakistan never produced the documents anywhere as a proof. The matter did not end here; and on April 28, 1947 Pakistan committed yet another fraud using the names of then Kashmir leaders Ghulam Abbas and Sardar Ibrahim Khan. At the same time truce terms had been passed under the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UMCIP) under which Pakistan had to withdraw its troops from Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan within seven weeks. Later, this period was enhanced to 12 weeks on the request of Pakistan. Under the UN agreements human rights and security of boundaries were guaranteed and like in other parts a local government was to be set up in Gilgit-Baltistan under the surveillance of the UN.
Instead of facilitating the withdrawal of its troops and establishment of a local government, Pakistan on April 28, 1949 concocted a fake agreement through its then minister without portfolio Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani, and the so-called Azad Kashmir president Sardar Ibrahim Khan and Muslim Conference’s Ghulam Abbas by keeping the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in the dark. In article 8 of the so-called pact it is stated that “If the accession papers of Mirs of Nagar and Hunza were correct, what was the need for the government of Pakistan to enter into a secret deal with unconcerned people in the darkness of night.” If these documents carried any legal and constitutional ground why Pakistan never produced them at any level. We should even register cases against all the three persons under the charges of forgery.
KASHMIR ISSUE AND OUR PROBLEMS: As I have mentioned earlier the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been the biggest victim of the Kashmir issue and in this Pakistan rulers as well as India and the international community are equally responsible. In this process of prolonging slavery, we are also to be blamed. Had we demonstrated sagacity, wisdom and not divided ourselves on sectarian lines we would not have been the last colony of the world in the 21st century and all Pakistani troops and other officials would have been withdrawn from our area in accordance with the UN resolutions and a local government formed under the surveillance of the world body.
GENERAL PROVISSION OF UNCIP: A. The territory evacuated by Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the commission.
B. It will be made publicly known throughout the state of Jammu and Kashmir that peace, law and order will be safeguarded and that all human and political rights will be guaranteed.
These terms are without prejudice to the territorial and the sovereignty of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, what was done negated all these terms and conditions. Instead of withdrawing troops their number was multiplied. Today 25,000 troops including 5,000 intelligence personnel, 5,000 Rangers and militiamen are deployed in the region. What to talk of provision of human rights, these rights are even not considered at all. We even cannot move the court of law against violations of human rights. We have no political rights. We have no right to elect our representatives. We have no right of adult suffrage. Neither we have our own provincial assembly nor a national assembly or a setup like the senate. Since 1971, our innocent people demanding for their rights have been put behind bars. Instead of safeguarding our borders Pakistan has been involved in conspiring to shrink our borders and encroach upon our land. A vast area of Astore and Baltistan was lost to India during different periods. In 1963; 2500 square miles area of Shamshal in Hunza was handed over to China without bothering to ask anybody from Gilgit-Baltistan. A vast area on Shandur was got occupied by the NWFP, as always the administration officials of Gilgit-Baltistan came from that province and helped Pathans occupy our land. Now in the name of Diamer Dam not only a conspiracy is being hatched to submerge a big chunk of our land but efforts are also being made to destroy our culture, history and identity.
EDUCATION: We have been given a so-called university. As we have been hoodwinked in the name of democracy by giving us a powerless body, the Northern Areas council, we have also been befooled by renaming a degree college as a university. The area has no medical college. An institution with which no technical, engineering college is affiliated cannot be called a university. In the service sector, the local people are being kept in subordinate posts in the police, army and local administration. Powers are vested in non-local officials who treat the area people like slaves.
`SENSITIVE’: Everything is described as right when the question of exploitation comes but we talk of our rights it is pooh poohed as a sensitive issue. We say this area is sensitive, this belongs to us we have been living here for generations and are to live here. You please go back.
SECTARIAN PREJUDICE: This was started in the 1970s by some people. Once a DC from the Northern Areas told his counterpart from Chitral during the Shandur festival that we make five Sunni and five Shia boys fight each other and rule the people without any trouble. This is Pakistani formula to rule.
STATE SUBJECT RULE: By using religion as a weapon, outsiders occupied the local land while in other parts of Kashmir non-locals cannot purchase land.
CONSTRUCTION OF DAMS: It is interesting that when we are deprived of all rights the sensitivity of the region is never talked but when we talk of our rights the authorities take cover under the sensitivity drama. When the Diamer Dam is complete Pakistan would deploy over two divisions of troops on the pretext of protecting the water reservoir because one division each is deployed at Mangla and Turbela dams. Even if one division troops are deployed, not only the culture and history of Diamer would be affected but also the lives and honor of the people there would be unsafe. This can be proved from the kidnapping of GBDA chairman Ghulam Shahzad Agha on April 14. By siding with a Lahori contractor, the Pakistani troops picked Mr Agha on the charge of holding a press conference. You can imagine that when the Diamer Dam is complete what would be the one or two division troops and agency personnel doing there. In 2005, a teacher Bilal Husain was kidnapped by ISI, so that other employees could not stand up against the occupiers like late SSP Amir Hamza.
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OR A PROVINCE: The two almost carry same connotation. But one thing is clear. Pakistan can neither amalgamate Gilgit-Baltistan nor make it a province before the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. Because Islamabad cannot justify its action in front of the international community nor the latter can allow it to happen. Besides, before making the region a province, Pakistan has to amend its constitution which is not possible. Our friends who never stop asking for constitutional rights either forget or want to continue the status quo, otherwise can how they even think of attaining rights under a constitution in which even the name of Gilgit-Baltistan is not mentioned. It is for this reason that Pakistan has been treating the area as its colony. Anti-people laws are enforced without any check in the region. The masses are denied their basic rights some time on the pretext of a sensitive issue and some time terming the region part of the disputed Kashmir. Because of these reasons the BNF only talks of a bright future for the people instead of repeating the mantra of constitutional rights and demanding for a separate province.
My dear brothers and sisters, the NA Council is some time called legislative assembly and legislative council. But the reality can be gauged from a statement of former Pakistan autorney general Chaudhry Mohammad Farooq in the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a writ petition (No 11 and 17 of 1994 through Al-Jehad Trust of Pakistan) filed against denial of basic human rights to the people of occupied Balawaristan (Gilgit-Baltistan) in 1994.
17. Functions of the council – subject to the responsibilities of the government of Pakistan under the UNCIP resolutions, and the orders or directions as may be issued by it, and subject to financial limitations as it may impose from time to time, the following shall be the powers and functions of the council, namely:
a). To make the laws with respect to the municipal functions as may be specified by the government of Pakistan,
b). To perform and exercise all powers and functions which may be exercised and performed by a local council in Pakistan.
We want a constitutional assembly, not a local council. We want an independent legislative assembly which can make laws about all issues of the region without outside interference. This legislative assembly will in no way be in conflict with the parliament of Pakistan because this region is constitutionally not governed by Pakistani constitution and parliament.
JUDICIARY: Both the chief court and the appellate court are a continuation of the former judicial commissioner. For this again refer to the statement of the former autorney general of Pakistan before the Supreme Court.
“2). The chief court Northern Areas shall exercise all powers and perform all functions which were being performed by the court of judicial commissioner being the highest court of judicature in the Northern Areas.”
We want a high court and Supreme Court, NOT the continuation of the judicial commissioner.
We want an independent judiciary along with an independent and powerful legislature which is not a continuation of the judicial commissioner.
We appeal to the democratic government of Pakistan to
1) Withdraw troops from Gilgit-Baltistan in line with the UN resolution, to which President Musharraf had also referred.
2) Stop encroaching on Gilgit-Baltistan lan including return of Shandur and halt to work on Diamer Dam. Also give us back the area in Shamshal which was ceded to China. Cancel allotment of land to outsiders and allot the retrieved land among the landless local people.
3) Make arrangements for holding election to the legislative assembly in the presence of international community representatives and withdraw sedition cases against political leaders of the region.
4) Set up an independent High Court and Supreme Court and appoint local judges on merit not on the consideration of political and religious connections.
At last, I would like to convey my message to the sisters, brothers, elders and youth of the region that they should foil all designs of their enemies who want us divided on sectarian lines, use your cognitive power and fight against the present-day shenanigans as the enemy can be very close to you, be careful the enemy may spread propaganda to enslave you and encroach upon your resources and also play your due role in safeguarding the future of the coming generation and attain self-respect in the world.
Long live Balawaristan.