Politics on Kargil
These days, all of a sudden the over 13-years-old Kargil operation is in the news not only in Pakistan and India but all over the world. In May 1999, the personnel of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) were sent across the line of control to Kargil to take over the Indian army posts and attack them when they returned in the spring. At first, Pakistan announced that they were Kashmiri Mujahiddeen but soon it dawned upon the world that the intruders were regular army personnel belonging to the NLI of Gilgit-Baltistan. These Jawans of the NLI were sent into the Indian side of the LOC by then chief of army staff Gen Pervez Musharraf and his close circle without even the other top brass of the army taken into confidence. When the situation seemed getting out of the hand of the army, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif reached Washington and pleaded the US president Bill Clinton to help him reach a ceasefire with India. As a result the operation came to an end but without any benefit to Islamabad. On the other hand, hundreds of NLI personnel were killed during the misadventure and bodies of many of them still remain scattered at Kargil as the government of Pakistan refused to accept them as its army men. N Now after over a decade, the debate to investigate the Kargil operation is totally political and has nothing to do with the matter in the first place. It is intriguing that the issue has been brought to the limelight again when elections are approaching fast. When the Kargil operation ended in a fiasco, the then army chief could not tolerate the humiliation and sent the elected prime minister of the day packing in a coup and took over the charge and ruled over the country for about nine years. Nawaz Sharif was first sentenced to death in the plane hijacking case and then under a clandestine deal sent to Saudi Arabia on exile where he lived for many years. It is also debatable how a prime minister who came to power with a heavy mandate and appointed his own handpicked director general of the ISI could not get the wind of the Kargil operation when it was being planned and launched by Pervez Musharraf and his close circle. Today the same Nawaz Sharif says that Musharraf kept him in the dark and put the security of the nation at stake and launched the clandestine operation that ended in failure. The question here is that if Nawaz Sharif comes to power would he investigate the Kargil war, would he also be in the dock because he is also a character in the fiasco. Is it all being done as an election ploy to get votes? Who is the actual culprit of the Kargil war, this can only be determined through non-partisan and neutral experts. Another issue is that Gilgit-Baltitan was used for the misadventure and hundreds of young men from this land were killed. Their families were even not provided the opportunity to have last glimpse of their bodies and perform the last rituals. Though it is another matter that by awarding one Nishane Haider and some other medals an effort was made to silence the people of the area. The families of these martyred personnel and people of the region are justified to know what were the objectives of the Kargil operation and who were behind it. Was it the ambition of a single general who put the security of the whole region at risk or were there some other motives? Pakistan had also launched another such operation called Jibralter in 1965 with the motive to liberate Kasshmir but it led to a full-fledged war with India. However, Pakistani leaders instead of learning a lesson from these blunders continue to repeat them. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took advantage of blunders made by Gen Ayub Khan while Zardari took advantage of the mistakes made by Musharraf. But we are of the view that there would be no possibility of probing the Kargil fiasco by an international body of experts. As such, Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif one after the other will be taking advantage of the fiasco by using it for their political ambitions.
The bitter truth
The chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council’s public accountability committee Mohammad Ibrahim has said that there is no flaw in the self-empowerment and autonomy order 2009. However, because of the incompetency and lack of political leadership the objectives of the package could not be achieved. According to him, corrupt, uneducated and people with no experience, who were at the helms, were responsible for bringing the regions at the point of no return. He said professional and experienced people were needed to run the system. He said those criticizing the system were not sincere with the nation. He said today in every household there was the opinion that the package had failed to deliver. This is because political leaders running the affairs of the region have failed, bringing the whole system into a ridicule. He said had experienced and competent people were brought in to run the system today people would have been very satisfied with it and would not have been opposing it. Mr Ibrahim said that Mehdi Shah was an old PPP jiala and had rendered sacrifices for the party. Mehdi Shah can do many more things but he has failed to run the province during the last over three years since he came to power. He said Mehdi Shan and his cohorts would never accept but it is the fact that not a single day during the three years under the PPP ruler has passed without financial troubles and law and order problems. The day Mehdi Shah was sworn in, financial crisis hit the region. Pick up the newspapers of the days before the PPP came to power in the region and compared them with the press of today and you will find that today the newspapers are filed with the news of financial mismanagement and crisis after crisis. Most of the issues confronting the nation and making headlines are: contractors are not being paid their dues and they are in protests, there are no funds for so and so project. Government employees are without salaries for the last so many months. On the other hand, there are the news that the so-called public representatives are living a king’s life at the cost of the poor nation. For the last many years despite the fact that the same party is in power in Islamabad the federal government has stopped releasing the share of the region bringing the wheel of development in the region to a grinding halt. Had there been a competent and energetic chief minister, he would definitely have managed some ways out to control the financial meltdown and also managed timely release of funds from the federal government. But in the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, we have a chief minister who is even unable to ensure that the funds promised by no other than the prime minister of Pakistan are not given to the region. What to talk of other issues, if you ask the chief minister when his cabinet met for the last time, he would not know its exact date. In every department there are rampant mismanagement, corruption and irregularities putting a bad impact on the lives of the people. As a result, the citizens have become fed up with the government and they are reminding the past when governments were not so corrupt and the public issues were not that much compounded. Does the so-called democratic government has any relevance with the lives of the people when there is no peace, unemployment is rising and prices of daily-use items are skyrocketing? The people say that compared to these corrupt politicians who are looting the resources by both hands even the government of military dictator Pervez Musharraf was much better during whose tenure unprecedented numbers of development projects were launched in the region. Two years back, the chief minister had announced to set up a think-tank to guide the government in running the government and even named a former officer as its member. But after making the announcement, the proposal was put into the cold storage only because the rulers were not serious in bringing any improvement in the government process. Even the ministers, advisers and parliamentary secretaries are not doing their work and just draw their salaries and get other perks and privileges. For the last many months the ministers and even the governor sand chief minister have left the region and are enjoying their lives in the capital city of Pakistan at the expense of the poor people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Chairman Ibrahim has very rightly said that instead of blaming the system for our woes, we should pause for a moment and look at the working and credentials of those who have been running the system for the last three years. These people have made the lives of the two million people miserable. The fact is that irrespective of the quality of the package, we should try to realize that what has stopped these corrupt politicians to do any good for the people if they want to do. Is there any obstacle in the system that is hindering them from doing something good? The people of the region are now dead sure that if you put even a divine system in force and ask Mehdi Shah and co. to run it they would corrupt it. It is an established fact that it is the people who deliver not a system. Our misfortune is that we have elected such people in the good name of democracy that they are not able to realize their responsibilities and think it as once in a blue moon chance to fill their coffers and live a king-like life as they may not get the chance again. In a real sense they are not democratic minded as is evident from their behaviour and way of governance. When the chief minister himself says that he is indebted to his party boss Asif Ali Zardar and will remain in power as long as he (Zardari) wants him in power, should we expect that the chief minister will be working with a least thought of doing anything good for the people? In a democratic rule, the future of the leaders is linked with the blessings of the voters but here it seems that the whole lots have been brought to the scene in an autocratic way. In short, the corrupt leaders have made the system corrupt and useless for the masses.
FOR the last 61 years Gilgit-Baltistan has been under the administrative control of Pakistani federal minister. Started in 1970s with the name of a consultative assembly, today this house is called Northern Areas Legislative Assembly. There is no such precedent in the whole world where people are not authorized even to choose the head of their representative body. The so-called house has in the past been called by different names based on its performance. There is no need to write about this useless body because it has become a gathering place of opportunists and turncoats. The credential of the so-called political leaders associated with this house is such that they never tire of serving the bureaucracy and federal ministers against the wishes of the masses besides promoting Lotacracy at the cost of the bright future of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Whenever the people rise against the deprivation and injustices these elements come to the rescue of the rulers by hoodwinking the masses that their problems would be resolved on a priority basis. They also remain in the fore-front in subduing the public anger by propagating the so-called packages and development projects of the rulers. Time has proved that neither the so-called packages were implemented nor the claims of spreading a network of development projects in the region ever proved true. One feels ashamed after reading the statements of many of the leaders in the press.
But they never feel it their obligation to work for the future of the people and promote their identity. Whenever there is a change in the government of Pakistan these elements go one step forward to achieve their own objectives. After the success of nationalist forces in Karachi and the NWFP during the recent elections on Pakistan, some of the members of NALA have announced to form a nationalist party of their own. In this regard some of the members including two advisers have held meetings in Gilgit and Islamabad. They say that after failure of the federalist parties to achieve basic rights of the region, the formation of a nationalist party has become inevitable.
We consider that the move of the NALA members is realistic but there is more to it. When we look at the past it becomes clear that these politicians have in the past changed loyalties and joined the PML-N, PML-Q and the PPP according to the political tidings by telling the masses that they had switched over in order to ensure basic rights for the people. Can the people trust those who changed their conscience with the change of rulers in Islamabad? This time these opportunist elements have changed their modus operandi mainly due to the success of the MQM in Karachi and ANP in the frontier though there is a big difference between the nationalists of Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Pakistani nationalists demand provincial autonomy while such a demand holds no water for those in Gilgit-Baltistan who prefer to base their struggle on complete self-rule for the region. If the members of NALA are really concerned about the future of Gilgit-Baltistan they should take the existing nationalist parties of the region on board and devise a joint strategy instead of forming another party. Political observers believe that the aim of launching such a party is aimed to sabotage the struggle of the nationalist parties who have been very successful to take up the issues of the region at the national and international levels for the last a few decades, perturbing the government and its secret agencies alike. Can we expect that the proposed party would give top priority to the struggle for independence and promotion of national identity.
At this stage, however, nothing can be said about the real aims and objectives of the move. However, the picture would be clearer within a few months. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have entered the 62nd years of their slavery. As a new government has taken over in Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan is still under the rule of ‘martial law.’ Under such circumstances, people of the region would never compromise on the bright future of the region.
IT is unfortunate that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been living in a slavery-like situation and suffering all types of hardships for the last over 60 years. They have never seen a day when they felt satisfied with the affairs of their life. Children in the early days instead of going to school move to workshops or medical stores to feed their aging and poor parents. Due to rampant poverty, the people belonging to a very rich culture and having all kinds of natural resources are compelled to commit suicide. Corruption has permeated all government organizations which have no room for the educated youth. There are open violations of human rights in the region and the state has failed to devise plans to improve the living standards of the people. Neither there is a talk to promote higher education in the region. In such a situation, the people are waiting for a messiah and are not certain whether they would ever be allowed to decide their fate on their own.
The people of this region now realize that a number of generations had already passed away living in slavery but they should not allow the future generations to live a slave’s life any more. The masses have tested the sincerity of the rulers of Pakistan and no more trust their promises. Political leaders of Pakistan have making tall claims that after coming to power they would ensure all basic rights for Gilgit-Baltistan. But how we believe and expect anything tangible from Pakistani rulers when even the name of Gilgit-Baltistan is not mentioned in the constitution of the country. In Gilgit-Baltistan, people have always been hoodwinked by successive rulers of Pakistan for their own interests.
For the last over 60 years, the rulers have been saying that if Gilgit-Baltistan is given any political status it would damage the Kashmir cause. But they have no answer to the question as to what benefit the Kashmir cause has derived by keeping Gilgit-Baltistan deprived of all basic political, economic and constitutional rights.
Keeping UNCIP resolutions aside, can slogan mongering like ‘Gilgit-Baltistan is the crown of Pakistan’ be enough to compensate for the injustices meted out to the region. The rulers should understand that the age of keeping a people enslaved by adopting the carrot and stick policy has ended. The urge to attain the rights cannot be removed from the hearts of the people by commando actions.
There are a number of factors including the role of the bureaucracy, misuse of natural resources, leasing out of minerals to outsiders, violation of the State Subject Rule, etc,. which have alienated the people of this region. The masses of Gilgit-Baltistan are no more in a mood to tolerate these injustices coupled with denial of political, economic and constitutional rights to the region. They understand that except full independent status nothing can guarantee a respectable life for them and their future generations.
GHIZER is the most neglected and backward area of Gilgit-Baltistan where people have been suffering miseries at the hands of public and private sector organizations since the establishment of Pakistan. Taking advantage of the simplicity and innocence of the people authorities concerned have experimented all fair and unfair means here due to which the region is now mired in problems.
Youth of the area after graduation run from pillar to post seeking employments but the government organizations have no room for them. Most of the residents depend on agriculture for their livelihood but there seems no tangible policy to promote this sector and improve the living standard of the people. Corrupt officials have strengthened their position in all departments from NAPWD to education and health in such a way that those who dare to raise voice against them are termed `anti-state elements’. These government officials and their cohorts always spread propaganda against the masses to achieve their own interests.
The district of Ghizer is considered as a stronghold of nationalist forces and on the occasion of Independence Day on August 14 and Pakistan Day on March 23 each year security is put on high alert here. Political observers say the number of those raising voice for their rights is rising in the district. People of Ghizer have expressed their dislike against Pakistani rulers which has helped in igniting a desire for self-rule in whole Gilgit-Baltistan. Whenever the people of the area rise for their rights all means are utilized by the rulers to push them to the wall. It is also ironic that some so-called local political leaders instead of leading the local people have been advocating on the side of the government. As a result, 23 cases have been registered against the youth of the area since 2004 which are pending with the Gahkuch sessions court.
In the recent weeks, minerals were discovered in the nullah of Yasen-Ganday. The government swung into action and without taking the area people into confidence leased out the minerals to a Chinese company. When the public realized that the government was not ready to meet their demands, they revolted and compelled the company to leave the site. As a consequence, the government registered cases against the locals. At present 22 residents of the area arrested in connection with the cases are being tortured at a number police stations in the district. According to Mohammad Madad Shah, the chairman of a committee formed to protect the rights and resources of the people, the incessant blasting in Yasen-Ganday in search of minerals was leading to environmental pollution in the area besides causing depression among the residents.
The workers of the company engaged in the area carried out about four thousand blasts which reportedly led to bursting of a nearby glacier. People fear that the blasts if not stopped could also lead to the spread of various diseases among the people. He alleged that a glacier situated at the altitude of about 13,000 feet, which is the source of water of the Ganday nullah, had been damaged by the blasts. He said within a period of only one month natural resources worth about Rs100 million were extracted from beneath the glacier by the company and sold in the market. He said they had submitted an application to the local police to register a case against the company on the charge of polluting the environment and looting the resources of the area without entering into a lease agreement with the local people. However, the police have as usual remained a silent spectator and are not pursuing the case.
We believe that the foreign company has violated international laws by trying to occupy the natural resources of the region without entering into an agreement with the locals and by damaging the natural environment of the region. Gilgit-Baltistan is considered as a paradise for tourists who come here to see the natural beauty including its lush green fields, high peaks and abundant glaciers. These glaciers are also a source of water which works as a lifeline for agriculture of whole Pakistan. It is disappointing that instead of taking action against the foreign company the government has put innocent people of the area behind bars and torturing them. International organizations should take notice of the activities of the firm leading to damage of the glacier. It is also a fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed region and till determination of the status of the region the rulers cannot launch any type of mega project in the area. The new government should also take notice of the issue and order its officials not to try to sell out the resources of the region and respect their rights on the mineral and other resources.
MARVI Memon soon after returning from a visit to Gilgit-Baltistan presented a bill in the National Assembly during its current session seeking provincial status and other constitutional rights for the region. The bill was, however, rejected soon after it was tabled in the house. Justifying the rejection, PPP leader and federal minister for Northern Areas and Kashmir Affairs Qamar Zaman Kaira said the issue cannot be discussed in the house as it was a sensitive matter and the status of Gilgit-Baltistan was yet to be determined. Thank you very much Mr Kaira. Like former President Pervez Musharraf today you have also accepted the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is not a constitutional part of Pakistan.
We think that the so-called federalist parties especially leaders of the PPP’s Gilgit-Baltistan chapter, who have been boasting that their party after coming to power will ensure all rights to the region, should realize their limitations. It should be an eye opener for all such leaders that they would achieve their objective of a provincial status for the region. Kaira’s statement on the floor of the house is also a victory for nationalist parties and leaders who were being termed a bunch of people living in fool’s paradise by the federalist parties.
Two years back former president Pervez Musharraf had also said that Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the Kashmir issue. Now the ruling party has also conceded that it is a disputed region and not part of Pakistan. The nationalist parties especially the Balawaristan National Front had for the first time way back in 1992 told the nation that Gilgit-Baltistan was the fourth party to Kashmir issue and a disputed area. On this, they were called traitors, put behind bars and tortured. Now after 16 years, a federal minister repeats the facts narrated by the nationalists and the National Assembly rejects a bill. If it is not a victory for the nationalists what is this.
It is time federalist parties particularly the PPP and the PML-N should stop hoodwinking the masses any more and join the struggle with of Gilgit-Baltistan the nationalist parties.
August 14 is celebrated as Independence Day every year with great fanfare. The preparations for the day start full two weeks before the day. Print media brings out special supplements and the electronic media arranges programmes highlighting the significance of the day. It seems that the nation has taken full advantage of the fruits of independence, the objectives have been achieved and the country is just waiting yet another year of progress and prosperity and government’s measures to further improve their lot. However, on the other hand people’s unfulfilled aspirations and socio-economic conditions negate what we have been boasting of the achievements of the last 61 years. The country established in the name of Islam has been lost to the whims and interests of landlords, capitalists and the bureaucracy. If we look at the standard of life in the four provinces of Pakistan and independently assess the sentiments of the people, it will show that the people are facing a sense of frustration, alienation and deprivation. If it is not true then why slogans like Jeay Sindh, Jeay Muhajir, Jeay Punjabi, Jeay Baloch and Jeay Pakhtun are rising. Can we presume that only Punajb is Pakistan and the people of that province are its citizens and the rest are their subjects? We should also look at the phenomena of increasing suicide bombings, murders, unemployment and poverty which have plagued the nation for the last many years.
Though democracy has been restored after over eight years but issues concerning the common man have spiraled after the new government took over. Over the years, politicians and the successive rulers have so openly disfigured the system that the military had to intervene on many occasions. After the dark days of martial laws of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Ziaul Haq, it is useless to say that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had dreamt of a democratic dispensation for the country. The politicians not only paralyzed the political system but also made a travesty of the judicial system. Injustices were done with smaller provinces, national wealth was looted without any accountability and the masses were kept on hollow promises, and industrialists, capitalists and Vaderas were given a free hand to plunder and loot the country.
The Pakistani rulers also played a shameful and dirty game in Kashmir since 1947, which was kept hidden from the world. They claimed Kashmir to be the jugular vein of Pakistan and tried to intervene in any troubled are in the name of Islam. However, the champions of the religion considered it their birth right to rule a people who had sought help from them in the name of Islam. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been treated like animals and kept deprived of all basic human and constitutional rights. The injustices meted out to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be summarized in a few lines.
Two days of independence are celebrated in Gilgit-Baltitan – on August 14 and on November 1. For a long time people of the region did not understand whether August 14 was their day of independence; November 1 or none of them. However, now they have realized that none of these two dates is their day of independence. They have now understood that by attacking on the region on November 1 Pakistan enslaved them and now they have no option but to sacrifice for achieving their full independence.
In short, before picking up the knife to cut the cake on August 14, we should pause for a moment and think whether we are going to commit a mistake. Is it the obligation of a subjugated people to celebrate the day. August 14 is a day of reflection for us and we should think on this day whether we are independent or still deprived of true independence.
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.
It is now clear that the world is at the verge of a new political, social and military turmoil due to worst ever shortage of food. The whole world is faced with a food crisis which is getting worse day by day. Though Pakistan is basically an agricultural country but it is also facing food crisis. For the last over one year, the nation has been facing wheat flour shortage and there are no indications the problem would be resolved soon.The major factor is that the country has failed to meet the food needs of its increasing population. In such a scenario, people of Gilgit-Baltistan are even badly affected as they cannot meet their food requirements on their own. Agriculture in the region is facing problems and the area produces a few vegetables and food that too on a limited scale but major cereal crops like wheat, rice and pulses etc are difficult to produce due to geographical characteristics of the region. As a result, we entirely depend on Pakistan to meet our food requirements. The region is run administratively by a handful of Pakistani bureaucrats who have no concerns about the area’s food requirements. If we purchase the food items from big cities and transport them to the region we have no facilities to store them for long. If the food supply line from Pakistan is disconnected for a single day the whole area would face starvation. This is our weakest point, which has been termed the real cause of our region’s perpetual slavery for the last many decades. It is a conspiracy that to subjugate Gilgit-Baltistan the region has been made totally dependable for everything particularly for the supply of food items on Pakistan.For the last 61 years no proper steps have been made to increase the production of food items and promote agriculture in the area despite the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is gifted with abundance of natural resources.There are millions of acres of barren land in every district of the region which can easily be brought under cultivation to meet the food requirements. With the increase in the population, the government has not taken any steps to enhance food items’ storage capacity in the area.Moreover, wheat cannot be purchased directly rather PASCO supplies the commodity to the area after taking permission from the federal government. The quota for supply of wheat is also based on outdated figures of population and has not been increased in proportion to the population growth. In short, the government has deliberately made the area dependent on Islamabad for every single commodity.It is unfortunate that due to government’s policies, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are distancing themselves from Pakistan. It is high time the government as well as the private sector come forward and took immediate steps to end the food shortage crisis in the region on a permanent basis. The situation also warrants the attention of world forums especially the United Nations, so that the people of this strategically located region did not remain deprived of their basic rights.