By A Correspondent
GILGIT: At a mammoth public gathering organized by the Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GDBA) in Gilgit, leaders of nationalist and left wing parties asked the government of Pakistan to immediately dissolve the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) and hold fresh elections for a constituent assembly that could frame a constitution for Gilgit-Baltstan on the pattern of Azad Kashmir.
They also demanded an end to identity crisis of the region by restoring its historical name – Gilgit-Baltistan.
They also asked India and Pakistan to withdraw their forces and civilian officials from the disputed regions of Ladakh-Kargil and Gilgit-Baltistan respectively in accordance with the United Nations resolutions to ensure basic democratic and human rights for the people of the region.
Through a resolution, the speakers said after withdrawal of forces from the region, elections for an independent legislative assembly should be held under a non-partisan international authority, so that the elected representatives of the people could decide about the future of the region.
They demanded that all old and historic roads including the Ghizer-Hunza-Tajikistan, Skardu-Kargil and Astore-Srinagar routes should be opened, so that the divided families could meet each other and tourism and local economy could be promoted through cross-border trade.
Due to its geostrategic position and natural beauty, the region has the potentials to become an attractive place of tourism in the world. Therefore, steps are needed to publicise its potentials and maintain peace in the region. They also demanded that at least one of the airports in Gilgit and Skardu should be converted into an international one.
The speakers also asked the Islamabad rulers to stop further violations of the State Subject Rules introduced during the Dogra rule. The bureaucracy should also refrain from plundering the natural resources of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Provision of necessities of life like water, electricity and gas to the masses was the responsibility of the state. But the government was not mandated to monopolise the resources of the region due to the disputed status of the region and UN resolutions on the issue. Moreover, people of Gilgit-Baltistan were the actual owners of the water resources of their region and the unbridled increase in the hydroelectricity rates were not acceptable.
The speakers said mineral resources of Gilgit-Baltistan were an asset of the people of the region and the government should stop issuing leases to explore the resources to multinational companies and foreigners.
“Under the UN, UNCIP (United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan) resolutions, Simla Agreement 1972 and Tashkent Agreement 1966, Gilgit-Baltistan are a disputed region connected with the Kashmir issue. Under these resolutions, the establishment of an independent and representative government was mandatory in Gilgit-Baltistan in 1947. However, keeping in view the over 61-year of deprivation, changing world politics, geo-strategic position of the area and the struggle of nationalist forces, this gathering demands that the government without wasting time any further should transfer powers to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.”
The meeting also called upon the government to take measures to exploit the resources of the region for the betterment of the people. It said the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly has become a rubber stamp house at the hands of the establishment and vowed to resist its move to further strengthen the hands of the government.
The meeting also asked the government to privatise the Special Communication Organisation and the Public Works Department and hire only local people in the organisations in order to end unemployment in the region.