Gilgit-Baltistan first

Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, August 9—-August 15, 2008
THE very ad hoc system that Pakistan has adopted for the last over six decades to control Gilgit-Baltistan testifies that the area is not part of any region but has its own identity and individuality. The modus operandi of Islamabad to control the region is now bringing the people of the area to a single platform calling for freedom. Despite accepting Gilgit-Baltistan as a party to the Kashmir issue, Pakistan has kept the region completely isolated from Kashmir. Nay the rulers have created such a psychological warfare that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan now even dissociate themselves from the issue of Kashmir.The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are now demanding self-governance which is only possible in a sovereign state. Under the present circumstances, federalist parties have also become fed up with the government and have also started demanding an independent governance system for the region. These federalist parties are pressing Islamabad to end decades-old deprivation of Gilgit-Baltistan otherwise they would also join nationalist forces waging struggle for an independent entity. This is far enough to vindicate the legality and objectivity of the demand which has been the cornerstone of the struggle of the nationalist parties of the region. The federalists are now repenting their decades-old support to the government and the situation has reached such an extent that the people of the region are not ready to withdraw their demand at any cost.Pakistani rulers and those who did politics in the name of federalism should now understand that development of the region is not an issue. The issue is people are not ready to further tolerate denial of their identity in which they have been kept for the last over 60 years. The major issue in this region is that the people do not comprehend the actual issue.Poverty and backwardness are rampant in all the provinces of Pakistan, where a few selected areas are being given priority for development. There is more poverty and illiteracy in many villages of interior Sindh and southern Punjab than in Gilgit-Baltitsan. People can live a respectable life if they have the power to run their affairs on their own even if their economic situation is not good because it is a question of national pride and survival. The struggle of the nationalists is not new. It was getting steam in the ’70s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s pragmatic policies cooled it down to some extent. However, the present rulers have no guts to follow Bhutto’s footsteps. Packages and development schemes now cannot stop people from demanding their national identity. Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed area and Pakistan has recognised its status as such in the United Nations. Therefore, the question arises that why people of a region whose status has yet to be determined should abandon their right of identity and culture. As the people of Pakistan are chanting the slogan of `Pakistan first’, we are also rightly placed to say Gilgit-Baltistan first.

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