BNF chief asks world to help Gilgit-Baltistan attain self-rule

Weekly Bang-e-sahar karachi Saturday, May 24—–30, 2008

Brusseles: Balawaristan National Front BNF) Chairman Abdul Hamid Khan has called upon the international community, particularly the United Nations and the European Union, to support the two million indigenous people of Balawaristan in getting their right of self-rule through their own Constituent Assembly and independent Judiciary. He also demanded that cases registered against all the nationalist leaders should be withdrawn and security agencies operating in the area should be reigned in, so a peaceful democratic process could be started in this disputed region under the supervision of the world bodies. In his address to the UNPO General Assembly in European Parliament at Brussels on May 16-17, Abdul Hamid Khan said the Balawaristan National Front (BNF) has been struggling for attaining the local people’s rights from Pakistan. He said the region is a disputed part of Jammu and Kashmir which came under Pakistani occupation on 16th November 1947. “I feel proud of rendering whatever peaceful struggle I can for my people due to which I have been compelled to live in exile since March 1999. He said he was not living away from his homeland for the sake of luxury or any other purpose but it was his compulsion. “I had been given the option to choose two paths. First, that I should compromise on our rights and abandon my struggle and live a luxurious life at home and be given all types of facilities. The second option was to face elimination so that my children and my nation are left in the darkness of slavery forever. However, I went for a third option which was full of dangers and risks. Instead of committing betrayal with my people, I found a ray of hope in continuing struggle for their rights and preferred to live an exiled life. This is because of some human loving people of the world that I am alive and addressing this august assembly today. EXILE: I was compelled to flee Balawaristan in May 1999 after I wrote a letter to UNO and UNSC members on 4th Oct 1998 about Pakistani agencies’ and Talibaan’s intrigue to invade Balawaristan and then Jammu and Kashmir by converting the local Shia and Ismailia population into extremist Wahabi sect or by killing them and occupy the whole Jammu and Kashmir. LITERATURE: I published a magazine, BALAWARISTAN TIMES, which highlighted the details f resources and their exploitation at the hands of Pakistani regimes. It was banned and all the copies were seized from the market. 2. Pakistan also banned my Urdu book, BALAWARISTAN KA MOOQADIMA (The case of Balawaristan). 3. Pakistan also banned my English book, “THE LAST COLONY of 21st CENTURY” published on 1st Nov 2001 from Gowalmandi, Rawalpindi. 4. Pakistan has also imposed a ban on our website, . Its security agencies strictly monitor physically all the internet café and offices in Gilgit-Baltistan to ensure that the restriction on the website is implemented. He said he was facing sedition charges under section 124-A, which carries lifeimprisonment, in a court of Gilgit. Had I been in Pakistan I would have not been alive. I am here in the headquarters of the European Union to convey the voice of two million neglected and most deprived indigenous people to the international community, he added. “You cannot imagine how on the directives of Pakistani dictators secret agencies worked to conceal the Gilgit-Baltistan issue from the international community, and spent millions of Euros to press the matter under the carpet and distort our image. Even a propaganda campaign was launched against an impartial and respectable member of European Parliament Ms Emma Nicholson, who took the case of Balawaristan including and Pakistani controlled Kashmiri to European Parliament. However, the propaganda failed to achieve its designs and Ms Nicholson succeeded to make the Gilgit-Baltistan issue part of a European Parliament resolution.” The resolution was adopted by 522 while only nine votes came in favour of Pakistan, he added. “Now I would like to speak on some points relating to the region; for example accession by the Mirs, signature of Quaid-i-Azam, the April 28th 1949 Karachi Agreement, withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the region, UNO 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 awareness among our brave troops, a Pathan naib tehsildar (3rd class magistrate) sent from the NWFP to help the newly established country in running its affairs made himself the ruler of the area after dividing the local people on sectarian lines and started to humiliate the national heroes. On 28th April 1949, truce terms were passed under the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) 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 of Jammu & Kashmir a local government was to be set up in Gilgit-Baltistan under the surveillance of the UN Commission. However, instead of facilitating the withdrawal of its troops and establishment of a local government, Pakistan on April 28, 1949, on the same day when Truce Terms were signed in UNCIP, 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 fraud pact it is stated that “All the matters of Gilgit and Ladakh under the Political agent”. We reserve the right to register cases against all the three persons including government of Pakistan under the charges of forgery. KASHMIR ISSUE AND OUR PROBLEMS: As I have mentioned earlier the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been the worst victim of the Kashmir dispute and Pakistani rulers as well as India and the international community are equally responsible for the whole misery of two million people of this disputed land. Had the world community, and the UN in particular, fulfilled their obligations under the UNCIP resolution of 13 Aug 1948, 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 resolution: 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 sovereignty of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. However, what was done all these terms and conditions were violated by Pakistan. Instead of withdrawing troops, their number was multiplied. Today 25,000 troops including 5,000 intelligence personnel, 5,000 Rangers and 40,000 armed men are present in the region. What to talk of provision of human rights, these rights areeven 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. Neither we have a provincial assembly nor a national assembly or a setup like the senate or upper house. The people who have been demanding for their rights according UNCIP are 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 ceded to China without bothering to ask anybody from Gilgit-Baltistan or UNO. A vast area on Shandur was got occupied by the NWFP province because as always the administration officials of Gilgit-Baltistan come from that province and helped their native Pathans occupy our land instead of defending 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. Pakistan can build many dams on its own soil like Kala Bagh etc. It is also a part of Pakistan’s conspiracy to depute two or at least one division troops on the pretext of protecting this so-called dam on the disputed land. It’s an irony that Pakistan is seeking financial help from European Union to build Diamar Bhasha Dam on this disputed land, which is a conspiracy against the indigenous people.
EDUCATION: We have been given a so-called university, named Karakorum International University in the same manner as we have been hoodwinked in the name of democracy by giving us a powerless body, the Northern Areas council. We have been befooled by renaming a degree college as a university. How can an institution be called a university with which no technical, engineering, medical college, law college or a business institution is affiliated. In the service sector, the local people are being kept in subordinate posts in the police, army, judiciary and local administration. Powers are vested in non-local officials who treat their local sub-ordinateand area people like slaves.
SENSITIVE: Everything is described as right when the question of exploitationcomes but when we talk of our rights it is termed serious and a sensitive issue by Pakistani occupying regime. We say this area is sensitive, this belongs to us we havebeen living here for generations and are to live here. You please go back, because of its sensitivity.
SECTARIAN PREJUDICE: This was started in the 1970s during late ZA Bhutto government to divide people into sectarianism. Whenever any peace or democratic struggle is launched, Pakistani intelligence agencies hatch a conspiracy and kill local people on sectarian lines in order to divide them. 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. 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 already 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 honour of the local people would be unsafe. This can be proved from the kidnapping of GBDA chairman Ghulam Shahzad Agha on April 14, 2008. By siding with a Lahori contractor, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies kidnapped Mr Agha on the charge of holding a press conference. You can imagine that when the Diamer Dam is completed what would be the one or two division troops and agency personnel doing there. In 2005, a local teacher Bilal Hussain Qazalbash was kidnapped from Gilgit, so that other employees could not stand up against the regime.
BNF wants 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. We appeal to the civilized world through UNPO to put pressure on the newly democratic government of Pakistan to:
1) Withdraw troops from Gilgit-Baltistan by following UN resolution, to which President Musharraf had also referred.
2) Stop encroaching on Gilgit-Baltistan land including Shandur and halt work on Diamer Dam. Pakistan should also give us back the area in Shamshal which was ceded to China in 1963. It should also cancel allotment of land to outsiders and hand over the retrieved land to the actual owners.
3) Make arrangements for holding election to the legislative assembly in the presence of international community representatives and withdraw sedition and other fake cases against political leaders of the region and 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.


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