Withdraw troops, hand over powers to Gilgit-Baltistan: BNF chief

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, May 10—-May 16 ,2008

Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Chairman Abdul Hamid Khan has demanded withdrawal of troops from Gilgit-Baltistan and handing over of powers to the local people.
In his telephonic address to the participants of a seminar organized by the Balawaristan National Students Organization (BNSO) in Lahore in connection with the Karachi Agreement of April 28, 1949, Mr Khan also demanded that work on Diamer Dam should be stopped till resolution of the disputed status of the region.
He said after a long time when a democratic coalition has come to power in Pakistan he was addressing his brothers, sisters and elders through the platform of the BNSO. Mr Khan said he considered himself a servant of the brave people of Gilgit-Balawaristan and in this capacity has been working for the achievement of people’s rights due to which he has been compelled to live in exile since March 1999.
“We have assembled today to commemorate an event which occurred on April 28, 1949 and shattered our dreams.” He said Gilgit-Baltistan was liberated on November 1, 1947 due to the bravery of our sons. Though the story of the bravery of our soldiers is historical but the political vacuum at the time cost us dearly. The only reason for the political defeat at that time was that we were not politically mature. We had plenty of brave soldiers but had no political leadership. As a result, a lowly naib tehsilder sent from the NWFP to help us in administrative affairs became our ruler by dividing our nation on sectarian lines. Then on November 19, 1947 a secession document was got signed through the fake signatures of Mir Shaukat Ali Khan of Nagar and Mohammad Jamal Khan, the Mir of Hunza. Even Quid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s signature was also shown on the paper dated December 7, 1947. The drama did not end here. On April 28, 1949, the Karachi Agreement came into effect, which was signed by Pakistan’s minister without portfolio Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani, Muslim Conference’s Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, and the president of the so-called Azad Kashmir Sardar Ibrahim. It is another matter that Sardar Ibrahim later declared his dissociation from the document. It should be clarified that the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolution was clear on the issue which says: “Pending a final solution, the territory evacuated by the Pakistan troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the Commission (UNCIP).” 
He said successive governments in Pakistan have claimed that they were not allowed to complete their tenures and would have solved the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan if they had been given a chance to complete their terms. He said now the PPP and the PML-N have formed a coalition government and should not make any excuse and solve the issue once and for all. He said recently federal minister Qamaruz Zaman Kaira visited the region and under the Musharraf package took oath as chairman of the Northern Areas Council. (I still call it council because it is devoid of powers to be called an assembly). Earlier, the chief executive had absolute powers, while now under the new package powers have been vested in the office of the chairman and the local CE remains powerless. It is unfortunate that whenever they introduce a package, real powers are concentrated in Islamabad and locals are made deprived of all rights.
Mr Khan referred to Mr Kaira’s statement in Gilgit in which he termed the issue of giving provincial status to the region a sensitive one, and said he was in agreement with the minister because Pakistan cannot separate Gilgit-Baltistan from the issue of Kashmir and cannot make the region its province before resolution of the Kashmir issue. However, Islamabad can give a special provincial status and Azad Kashmir-type of setup to the area without any hindrances. For this there are no constitutional hitches because in the constitution of Pakistan there is no mention of Gilgit-Baltistan. But it will be much better if Pakistan withdrew its troops from the region in accordance with the UN resolutions and the ceasefire agreement to which Pervez Musharraf has also referred.
After withdrawal of troops, powers should be transferred to the local people under the surveillance of Pakistan and the UN observers. 
He appealed to the coalition government that considering the sensitivity of the region work on Diamer Dam should be stopped till the issue is resolved.
He said undue interference by security agencies in the affairs of the people had badly affected people’s lives. He said those responsible for kidnapping GBDA Chairman  Ghulam Shahzad Agha in 2005  should be exposed and fabricated cases against him be dropped.


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