THE mammoth public gatherings one after the other at Gahkuch and Skardu under the banner of Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) have made it abundantly clear what the people of Gilgit-Baltistan want in the 21st century. They have given their verdict based on their aspirations to live as a free people among the commity of nations in the world. As the first public show of strength in the far northern district of Ghizer had surprised all and sundry, the one held in the south-eastern district of Skardu within just a week proved beyond any doubt that people in all length and breath of Gilgit-Baltistan have risen for their rights and against the over 60 years of injustices. In short, the two meetings should be seen as the writing on the wall for the future of this neglected region.This also heralds the beginning of a change orchestrated not by unlawful or violent means but by changing public opinion in a democratic and civilized way. The move, among other things, also shows the political maturity and awakening of the people of the region, especially the youth. The two public gatherings also showed that neither any so-called assembly nor any package will be acceptable to the two million people of this region. During the last over 60 years, Pakistan failed to give the region its due identity. Now the people are in no mood to accept any patronage or control either by Pakistan or India. They want full powers, and complete independence. They want a fully powerful and independent assembly to run their affairs as they wish. They are looking for a state of their own where the sons and daughters of the land should be masters of their destiny, where no one should be slave of others, where they should have their own laws and justice system and where people have the rights over their resources. Where everyone should be a Balawaristani first and where people are not divided as Sunnis, Shias or Ismailis. They want a system in which everyone is provided justice, basic rights and all means to live a decent life. The Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance should be credited with creating whatever light is visible at the end of the tunnel. However, the road to attaining our goal is not so easy. We know that the two historic public gatherings of nationalists have turned the table on the forces that are afraid of such movements. There were efforts to sabotage the public meetings. Banners and posters aimed to mobilize the public for the meeting were tore down overnight and Section 144 was imposed in Skardu before the event. It was another matter that the moves adopted by the local administration backfired and brought to the fore how far the authorities could go in adopting undemocratic and uncivilized ways to suppress the democratic rights of the masses to assemble and express their opinions. In Islamabad, thousands of people taking part in the long march for restoration of deposed judges are received with open arms despite the fact that there were chances of law and order breakdown. But Section 144 was never imposed to stop the rally. In Skardu, there is no fear of any suicide bombing, bomb explosion or any law and order issue. The peaceful organizing of a similar rally in Gahkuch was a clear indication that the people did not want to create law and order problems. But even then the usual ruler-subject attitude was adopted and all means were used to suppress the people. But what was the end result: people came out to support the nationalists despite all obstacles created by the administration.