NOBODY can deny the fact that whenever the people of Gilgit-Baltistan agree on a single point hidden forces succeed to create fissures in the region that destroy the unity among the masses. When the people raised voice for attaining their rights in 2005, a worst ever violence marred the region. Similar incidents also occurred in the years 1988, 2001 and 2003. History of the area shows that regional and religious hatred has been used as a weapon to divide the people and entangle them in myriads of problems so that they cannot even think of struggling for their rights. Who is behind all this game? The answer to this question is not difficult. Those who do not want the area people to gain the opportunity and get their rights and determine their future are responsible for the mess. Hundreds of people have lost their lives in sectarian violence, the area is still reeling under the scars of the mayhem and there is a vacuum which cannot be filled so easily. Now the silent majority has realized the gravity of the situation and is looking towards the nationalist parties for a better future. During the last one year or so the representative alliance of the nationalist parties, the Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance, has established its popularity amongst the public and has held mammoth public gatherings one after the other in Gilgit, Gahkuch, Hunza and Skardu. Those who had been losing no opportunity to back the Pakistani government are now faced with frustration. The leaderships of the federalist parties are also supporting the policies of the nationalists. There was a time when even the word `nationalist’ was considered as a curse but now nationalist leaders are being invited to each forum as people understand that the nationalist parties have united the masses in a single platform. This change has again perturbed those forces that were out to create fissures among the people to gain their own objectives. These hidden forces are, therefore, trying to once again push the people into the whirpool of sectarian violence. The recent attack on member Legislative Assembly Himatullah Khan was a conspiracy in this direction. However, the conspiracy failed as the elders of both the sides demonstrated wisdom and succeeded to maintain peace and harmony in the region. However, tension still prevails in the area which is dangerous for the future. In this juncture, we consider that there should be no differences among Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis and Noor Bakhshis, as they all are brothers and sons of the region and have a single goal to achieve for the good of the future generations.The elders and leaders of all political and religious parties and groups should realize the gravity of the situation and maintain unity in their ranks and understand the conspiracies being hatched to destroy unity and peace of the area. They should understand their responsibilities and also the enemies of the nation. The proposal of a peace conference to form a joint committee consisting of the representatives of political, religious and nationalist parties to hold talks with the governments for attainment of people’s rights should be given a serious consideration, as it would be the proper answer to those who hatch conspiracies against people of the area.
People have become conscious about the national identity and recognition of Gilgit Baltistan to some extent and have started realising that they are not free in real sense but are under the control of any country. Neither they have freedom to think and speak nor have they freedom of listening to. The only thing they feel is that they are under the subjugation of any country for the past 60 years.However, now the progressive and conscious people want to further their movement, keeping in view the modern, scientific way of thinking, to get freedom from the yoke of slavery. They have started thinking that the freedom struggle cannot be furthered from a single platform.No conscious person of the world can deny that the policy of divide and rule was imposed on people of the region by oppressing them and keeping them unaware about the outer world. People of this region are compelled to live in the Stone Age even in the challenging times of the 21st century. Creation of an atmosphere of unrest and dependence on fake accords to turn this region into a colony is not only part of a well-thought plan to enslave people but is also tantamount to hoodwinking the international human rights organisations and humanity. The question arises as to who is responsible for subjugation of the people of Gilgit Baltistan and infringement of their rights for past six decades? Who is responsible for subjugation of Gilgit Baltistan: India or Pakistan? And people of this region also need to think whether ignorance and unconsciousness is their destiny?We think that firstly the Pakistani rulers played the game of entangling people of this region in trivial matters by benefiting from their ignorance and political unawareness and did not allow them to think about launching a freedom movement. And they made the Pakistani ministers and secretaries master of this region by keeping locals in the dark and presented these ministers and secretaries in the outer world as representatives of the people of Gilgit Baltistan. When the people of the region got conscious, they came to know that it is too late. The ongoing freedom struggle in Gilgit Baltistan can meet a success but also furthering the struggle against the communal divisions. Besides outsiders, currently some vested interests within the locals are also active and are ready to seal a deal for the personal interests and cheap publicity while setting the national identity and recognition aside.The war against such vested interests and cohorts of bureaucracy from single platform is impossible. If people of the region really want freedom, they should further the freedom movement on every front, as different movements to defeat the occupiers and they cronies will have to be organised and war will have to be fought on various fronts and battlegrounds.We think that besides being struggle for freedom from the 60-year occupation of a state, it is also a communal war. It is a struggle of the middle and lower-middle class against the oppression and for the equality while students are struggling for their rights and national identity. It is a war for joining the civilised nations of the world on the basis of equality. However, the process of revolution can reach a logical conclusion only if all these movements are linked up with each other.If the people of Gilgit Baltistan failed in furthering their struggle in a proper and planned manner, their struggle could be deviated from the right path and hurdles could be created in the way of a revolution. Moreover, the enemies of their freedom would infiltrate in their ranks and every modus operandi would be adopted in an unrealised way to sabotage their movement. Therefore, the revolutionaries will have to first organise themselves and will have to give equal opportunity to everyone of them to serve the people. In short, the political training of people must be made part and parcel of the manifestoes. People of the area will have to be informed in a scientific manner that nations struggle for their freedom, for their recognition and for their identity. They need to be told that waging a freedom struggle is not a crime because we are not part of any country and have risen up to create a country. It is our right and a right is not begged for but snatched. The whole world knows that Gilgit Baltistan fulfils also demands to become an independent state, therefore, people of the region does not need packages but an independent state.
The reality of President Pervez Musharraf’s financial and constitutional package has gradually dawned on everyone. The hopes from the new democratic government in Pakistan for the relief to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are still to be fulfilled. The dreams of drafting a single entry budget have shattered. The annual budget, like always, has been prepared by the bureaucrats in Islamabad – the elected representatives not getting air of the entire process.
The democratic government formed by Pakistan People’s Party has further discredited members of the so-called Northern Areas ‘Assembly’ by curtailing their role in development of the region. The annual development fund of the members has been decreased from Rs50 million to Rs15 million and all the powers still remain with the bureaucracy.
According to President Musharraf’s package, the annual budget had to be prepared by the assembly under single entry formula. For the purpose the chief secretary had been given the additional charge of principal accounts officer. The package was implemented to the extent that the non-local chief secretary was made the principal accounts officer, but NA Assembly is merely a spectator as far as the budget for Gilgit-Baltistan is concerned. The budget that was to be prepared by the representatives (a local council type body) of Gilgit-Baltistan was drafted by bureaucrats. Thus, the bureaucrats became even more powerful during the times of the PPP and the people lost power, prestige and honor, like they experienced under the past dictatorship. Elected members of the NALA and advisors are lamenting the situation. In the pre-budget meeting, the members of the assembly passed a resolution, because they don’t have the right to legislation, denouncing the decision and threatening protests in this regard.
There is a feeling that the democratic era has dawned with installation of the PPP government but ironically the despotism and deprivation are getting deeper and deeper with every passing day. It is surprising to note that the local ‘Jiyala’ PPP leadership had struggled hard to obtain Ministry of KANA for Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira. They had been making claims of dissolution of the NALA, change of leadership and, at least, change of the cabinet in Gilgit-Baltistan.
However, after the first visit of the federal minister, the local leadership went into a state of coma, from which it has yet to recover. They termed the decision of retaining the same setup as a “wise tactic” and tried to defend the federal minister’s decision.
Now the situation has deteriorated to the extent that the local leadership is keeping mum about the bypassing of the so-called assembly in the budget-making process. The second-tier Jiyalas of Gilgit-Baltistan have no moral obligation to defend the first-tie leadership, the federal minister for KANA or chairman or king whatsoever.
In a state of embarrassment, the second-tier Jiyalas are running from pillar to post in Islamabad in search of such an influential person from Lala Musa who can manage a meeting with the chairman of NALA or any senior party leader. A few days earlier, the secretary general of local Jiyalas from Baltistan, Mehdi Shah, somehow got access to Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman and lodged complaint against Kaira. The information minister assured him that a meeting will be arranged with the premier.
Mehdi and Jafar Shah, instead of being happy, became apprehensive. They might have thought that a meeting with the premier might not get them the relief they are looking for but it definitely will irk and annoy Kaira, who is the actual king of this ill-fated and disputed region. Thus, the local leaders of PPP disowned the offer of a meeting with the prime minister and said that their premier is the minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, so he should be told to take care of people in the future.
Ms Sherry looked at them with surprise and told them to leave, assuring that the KANA minister will be informed about their ‘sentiments’. This attitude of the local PPP leadership is humiliating and degrading for the nation to say the least. The issue is a jolt not only for the PPP but is a wakeup call for all the federalist parties of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The graph of desperation and deprivation is going up with every passing day. The trend has also influenced the thinking of several federalist leaders. Advisor on Finance of NALA Mirza Hussain has a prominent place among the federalist leaders but his tone against the government has gone harsher than even the nationalists. He has demanded of the international organisations and Western countries to take notice of the grave injustices of the government of Pakistan with Gilgit-Baltistan. He has been accusing the government of gross violation of basic human rights in the region.
Other federalist parties are numb about the entire situation. The stance of nationalists is being accepted and understood by the masses with every passing day. The biggest nationalist alliance included in Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) are gaining fame and confidence of the people. Processions and public meetings in Gahkuch, Skardu and Gilgit have stirred the political environment of the entire region. Now people are no more demanding ‘rights’ from the government of Pakistan, self-rule is slogan of the day. Independent state is being declared as the ‘destination’. Those who were fighting for Pakistan are now terming Pakistan’s control over the region as an era of slavery. Withdrawal of Pakistani administration from the region is being demanded. Every decision of the government is being criticised by the public quarters. Members and advisors of Q league are distancing themselves from the government. These members and advisors are the ones preferred by Kaira to the local leadership of PPP. The existing situation is clearly revealing that nationalists will win the future election and represent this nation in the future assembly.
Expectations from the democratic government of PPP are taking last breaths. Neither the system has changed nor have the people got any relief. The tsunami of inflation is playing havoc with lives of the people and the situation is becoming dangerous day by day. In Islamabad, however, the flute of peace and tranquillity is being played by the master players. The voice of this flute is so loud that none is listening to the noise emanating from the bosom of the Himalayas, the Hindukush and the Karakorum Ranges. God bless the two million people of this planet!!
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.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are still unable to understand why they have been given a powerless organization in the name of the legislative assembly. A majority of the public now very well understands that they are part of a slave nation and the main reason for this is that those at the helms of affairs are so opportunist and senseless that they take side with the rulers at a very low bidding. The worth or need of this powerless assembly is limited to the fact that that its members receive their masters at the local airports with bouquets of flowers whenever they wish to visit the region. Moreover, the rulers also want to deal with its subject through these local assembly members without directly coming into contact with them. In return, these so-called members of the so-called assembly are given perks and privileges as they deserved. These members are made to realize that they are the rulers of their people, but their own rulers sit in Islamabad. Their extra privileges are development projects’ contracts worth a few thousands rupees plus employments for their near and dear ones. The functions and responsibilities of these members have been confined to give interviews to the media, attend official functions as chief guests, etc. Unfortunately, these members are seen all the day long standing outside the offices of secretaries, deputy secretaries, as well as lowly officials of the PWD. If you check the records of the so-called legislative assembly, you will never see any tangible work. Its meetings are filled with complaints and counter complaints about lack of powers besides criticizing each others. This further perplexes the educated people of the region.However, there is nothing to surprise. In the life of subjugated people such occurrences are a routine. The eagles of independence can only fly high in the sky as is done in Gilgit-Pakistan. It is certain that due to carelessness of Islamabad and the people of Pakistan, the day is not far away when the region would get what its people have been looking for. Public opinion in this regard is changing very fast. Whether the people of Gilgit-Baltistan want independence or not, circumstances are pushing them towards that direction. Expectations pinned in the new PPP-led governments have already gone up in smoke. The PPP Gilgit-Baltistan chapter’s president Syed Jafar Shah himself has informed the top party leadership that if the new government failed to give the people their due rights federalist forces would be weakened giving way to nationalist parties. However, irrespective of Mr Shah’s warning, the PPP government has no time even to get its own house in order. Besides, past experience particularly that of the ‘70s testifies that Islamabad is not concerned with anybody and remains complacent as ever before. It has even no idea that the situation is getting out of its control.
WHEN we look at the political scene of Gilgit-Baltistan, it seems that the people in this region are looking for a messiah to come and fulfill their aspirations. The hapless people of this area are, unfortunately, not aware of the constitutional status of their land neither they know the meaning of a constitution. They are also unaware of the right to self-rule. The masses are more concerned with their day-to-day sufferings due to unemployment, illiteracy, human rights violations and injustices and are compelled to think to get rid of all internal and external conspiracies, which they consider have been the root causes of their problems and ills in society. The people have now also realized that they are not independent, but are still treated as slaves and that without exposing all the facts and characters behind their slavery they cannot further their struggle for attainment of their rights. When nationalist parties started to raise their voice against this slavery and resolved to expedite the struggle for an independent state, the government and its security agencies used all tactics to subdue the voices crying for a separate state besides sowing the seeds of hatred among them and poisoning their minds. Whereas, all means and resources were utilized to prolong the colonial grip on Gilgit-Baltistan, there were also efforts to use the local political forces as a tool by the state and its agencies. The whole world was kept in the dark about the situation in the region and the public was deprived of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of speech while the area was entangled in myriads of conspiracies. Starting from the status of an advisory council, the present so-called elected house has now been given the name of an assembly but the people know its standing and consider it as a dummy house. However, for its members no doubt the house has become a lucrative way to attain their self-interests and the government has been hoodwinking the whole world by showing it as an elected house of the people. The function of the so-called members of the so-called assembly has become limited to wait at the Gilgit and Skardu airports with garlands to welcome their masters – the Pakistani ministers – and members of bureaucracy. Other than that, they also remain working to ensure their own interests, giving jobs to their dear and near ones, arranging contracts of projects for their relatives and attending official functions as chief guests. The drama does not end here. When these so-called elected representatives go to Islamabad and stay at the NA Hostel, they consider it part of their official jobs to present gifts and souvenirs to the secretaries and even clerks of the ministers, etc. Everyone knows that the so-called legislative assembly is a powerless organization which is remotely controlled from Islamabad. This fact is well-known to the representatives themselves and Islamabad is also aware of the actual position and treat the elected representatives as such. Since 1947, each government in Pakistan has been promoting Lota cracy in Gilgit-Baltistan to keep political activity in the region in the backburner. One example of this is that elected representatives became turncoats soon after all elections held in the region so far. The government and its agencies use a carrot and stick policy against them after elections to achieve their own objectives and take unilateral decisions on all small and big matters without involving the so-called elected representatives. Some political leaders are also taught the lesson to tell the masses that they should never ever think of independence because the government has all resources at its disposal to get rid of such elements. This so-called council or assembly has also failed even to pass a resolution so far. Its members have always remained prisoner at the hands of outsider bureaucracy. Even after passage of so many years, these so-called members of the house should realize their obligations and responsibilities. If the new government in Pakistan is really a democratic and independent one, it should take measures to end the 61-year-long subjugation of the people of GIlgit-Baltistan and give them all constitutional and socio-economic rights to run their affairs in accordance with their own wishes. If the PPP-led government also continued to hoodwink the people of the region, it would be disastrous for the whole country because the world is now monitoring human rights violations, denial of rights to the people and most of all dividing the masses on sectarian lines. Would it be possible for Pakistan to continue with the policy of keeping the two million people of the region completely deprived of all basic rights in the 21st century?
Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday, May 31—–June 6, 2008
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan continue discussing their 61-years of deprivation from the levels of muhallahs, streets to five-star hotels, while local nationalist parties hold seminars, public gatherings on the issue besides devising their future strategies. Still the masses are interested to see all facts behind their `slavery’ brought to fore. Because the people have reservations about the ongoing dialogue process between Pakistan and India as well as the present status of the issue of Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan and its possible solutions. The masses also want to know why Gilgit-Baltistan had to face the brunt of the over 60 years of the cat and mouse game between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue. First, the existence of the liberated local state was sabotaged in 1947, and then using different tactics under the garb of lack of constitutional provisions and disunity amongst the masses, the area was denied its due rights. This was followed by engineered tragedies including sectarian violence in the area to make the world believe that the area people lacked unity and did not deserve the political rights. During the dictatorship of Gen Zia in 1988, a group of Afghan militants attacked Gilgit-Baltistan and did not hesitate to destroy even cattle and forest of the area and sowed the seed of an unending sectarian hatred among the peaceful population. Ironically, the report of the 1988 tragedy did not come to open till today. Then in 1999, thousands of NLI personnel were made to fight a mighty army of India. The world was made to believe that Kashmiri Mujahideen, not the Pakistani Army, were at war with India in Kargil. It is ironic that on the one hand the brave soldiers of NLI were sent to Kargil in track suits while on the other they were not provided with even proper rations and weapons, causing their annihilation at the hands of the enemy. When the world knew about the facts, the then US President Bill Clinton was approached for an immediate ceasefire. We believe that a Kargil commission is necessary because Pakistan has refused to accept the bodies of thousands of NLI personnel buried in the mountains of Kargil. Before going on exile in December 2000, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had alleged that then Chief of Army Staff Gen Pervez Musharraf had not taken him in confidence on the Kargil operation. During his exile in Saudi Arabia and London, Mr Sharif also kept on demanding the formation of a commission on Kargil. However, strangely, the PML-N leader after his return to the country seems silent on the demand. This has led the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to believe that there is now no one to listen to their grievances. They say Mr Sharif after his return to the country should have reiterated his demand for formation of a commission on the Kargil debacle. The people of the region are justified in demanding a truth commission to expose all those responsible for the Kargil operation. They also very justly seek return of the dead bodies of NLI personnel from Kargil mountains and bury them in their native areas with military honour. Similarly, in January 2005, sectarian violence spread in Gilgit-Baltistan in which many lives were lost, but, as usual, no inquiry report was made public. The people of the region consider that until and unless all tragedies occurred in the area were investigated and the reports made public, they would see the future of the dialogue process on the issue of Kashmir with skepticism. Therefore, it is mandatory on the new democratic government to make public all reports of the incidents in the region and bring the perpetrators to book to win public sympathy and provide justice to the affected families, and then proceed on to resolve the bigger issue of Kashmir.
Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday May 24—-30,2008
The foreign secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India started in Islamabad after about six months. In the beginning of the composite dialogue, both the countries announced to release prisoners from their prisons as a sign of confidence-building measures. The topics which came under discussion in the fourth round of the dialogue included peace, Kashmir, terrorism, Siachin, Sir Creek, Wooler Barrage and maintenance of trust between the two nations. Both the sides also exchanged some proposals calling an end to cross-border infiltration, promotion of trade, increase in bus service, launching of Muzaffarabad-Sri Nagar postal service and operation of weekly bus service. The Indian Foreign Minister Partnab Mukherje also met President Musharraf, PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan and discussed ways to further promote the peace process.It may be pointed that no new progress has been seen in the current dialogue process between the two sides. Even after so many rounds of talks between the two nations, misunderstanding among the actual party to the issue cannot be removed. However, notwithstanding the reservations and aspirations of the Kashmiris, India and Pakistan want to develop friendly relations with each other to pursue their own interests. Therefore, there seems no silver lining as far as the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are concerned.It may be noted that since the issue of Kashmir was taken to the United Nations, both India and Pakistan have followed their own policies which created complications instead of solving the real issue. Wrong policies of the two nations also led to many wars in the past and there also seems no remedy with the two countries to compensate the destruction and suffering faced by the people of the region due to the volatile situation in South Asia. India has always termed Kashmir its juggular vein and on the basis of Maharaja’s accession has considered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as its constitutional parts. It has also been central part of India’s foreign policy since the very beginning not to compromise on its so-called rights on Kashmir. Due to intransigence of Indian rulers no progress can be made on the issue despite the fact that the issue remained on agenda of the UN. On the other hand, Pakistan kept changing its policy on Kashmir and blindly trusted US promises and assurances on the issue and failed to win the confidence of the international community. Pakistan also failed to achieve the desired objective on Kashmir because it kept the people of Kashmir as well as Gilgit-Baltistan deprived of their basic rights besides doing nothing for elimination of poverty, public frustration and unemployment in the area. It also supported Muslim Conference and Hurreyat Conference which were not in favor of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan not only failed to win world support but it also created the reservation and skepticism of the people of Kashmir and the Gilgit-Baltistan. The worst victims of the over 60 year-long drama have been the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Kashmiris living on either side of the Line of Control have access to some sorts of facilities of life but people of Gilgit-Baltistan have long been exploited and denied their basic social, economic, social and constitutional rights. The region has also been kept away from any sort of political process. The injustices meted out to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan during the period cannot be described in these lines.We also understand that the role of the two countries in the ongoing dialogue process is hostage to the interference of some outside powers. The purpose of excluding the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from the peace process means that the two countries want to make an atmosphere for their own economic and social well being; they are not sincere with the future of the affected people. If the two countries are serious to resolve the issue, they have to end rampant human rights violations in both Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, restore old historical and old routes in the region and withdraw troops from the state. Under the UNCIP resolutions, Pakistan had to end its administrative control on Gilgit-Baltistan and honour the wishes of the local people. It is also important to remind the people of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan that if they failed to determine a clear-cut goal for themselves, their future would be decided by outsiders. This is stated because during the last over 60 years they have failed to visualize a clear path for attainment of their goal due to the fact that the ruling class and its coteries created such a situation in which the common man was kept away from the national affairs. If the Kashmir issue is left to India and Pakistan to decide, it is clear that the final outcome of their deliberations would not be in the best interest of Kashmiris and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. If such a decision is taken at any stage it would not only be disappointing for the affected people but would also be disastrous for both Islamabad and New Delhi. Therefore, a joint and united resistance movement in Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan can only lead the people towards a positive solution to the problem because leaving the future of the region at the hands of India and Pakistan will tantamount to keeping the area in perpetual slavery.
Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, May 17—-23, 2008
A constitution is a document which guides a nation in its evolutionary stage towards its destiny. Without a constitution no nation can preserve and promote its culture and traditions. With a constitution a nation never goes astray from its defined path as it acts like a beacon for the people. Unfortunately, however, Gilgit-Baltistan has remained without such a sacred document for the last over six decades. Only 16 days after the area was liberated, opportunist elements trampled the basic philosophy, objectives and cause of the revolutionary struggle. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan saw horrible and mind-boggling incidents and they were pushed into the flames of religious bigotry and sectarianism after breaking the geographical unity of the region. As a result, national assets came under the control of outsiders and the new generation was presented a distorted picture of its rich culture and history. For some opportunist elements the constitution-less region became a fertile land to achieve their vested interests. Not only the region remained without its constitution but it also became a haven of crimes and social evils. Due to lack of a vision and principles to further a national discipline, social values fell prey to disintegration. In such a milieu, the masses considered slogan-mongering politicians as their saviour. This was a result of a vacuum in political leadership as well as the people’s lack of vision and responsibility. On the one hand, during the last over six decades, the masses were put to political, social and economic exploitations while on the other their collective thought process was sabotaged by dividing them on regionalism, sectarian and linguistic lines. By making them chief executive/chairman, outsiders were given unlimited powers and the region’s resources were kept at their disposal to loot and plunder. The local people were made to believe that the region used to be governed by the Rajas and Mirs and after the end of their rule the common people were not in a position to fill the gap. As a result, the natives remained divided on familial, tribal and regional lines and the outsiders came in and succeeded to establish their monopoly in all spheres of life, and used the local opportunists for achievement of their own objectives. These elements always repeated the mantra of various suggestions on regional basis without raising a voice for the welfare and security of Gilgit-Baltistan. In the process, whereas the national identity of Gilgit-Baltistan was disfigured, the common man also remained deprived of the basis facilities of life. At present the situation is such that human rights are openly violated, people are tired of traveling on broken roads and through dark streets and the educated youth are running from pillar to post in search of jobs. Besides, outsiders have totally controlled trade, while employment opportunities are closed on the local people. Appointment of locals on important posts is even considered a forbidden act. Children in stead of going to schools are sent to stores or workshops to earn a living for their families. Where some schools have been set up they are devoid of basic facilities while colleges are short of hostels and science laboratories. Medical centres have no medicines and other facilities while watchmen and class-IV are providing treatment to patients due to absence of doctors. You cannot find any sphere of life in which people can express satisfaction.
There seem no prospects of change in people’s lives even after 61 long years. When someone raises the issue of basic rights they are termed anti-Pakistan and sidelined. People are now compelled to ask what is in stock for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan? What is their future and what they have to do? Too much water has already passed below the bridge. The rulers should, without further delay, give the area an independent legislative assembly, so that people of Gilgit-Baltistan could also have the powers to run their affairs in accordance with their wishes.
Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, May 10—-May 16 ,2008
Gilgit-Baltistan has remained a victim of human, social, economic and political exploitation for the last 61 years due to stubbornness of both Pakistan and India. Moreover, there is a danger to the very identity and survival of the region. With the division of the Subcontinent in 1947 the imperialist powers of the world divided the states on the basis of their likes and dislikes and the future of Gilgit-Baltistan fell prey to the great game in the region. Before 1947, this region saw small-scale wars in which the local people without difference of color, race and religion fought and defeated the invaders for the collective good of the area. But after partition of the Subcontinent in 1947, not only the newly-liberated democratic region was attacked on November 16, 1947 but also all means were utilized to convert the area into a colony by adopting a number of bogus agreements keeping the people in the dark. Besides, conspiracies were also hatched to divide the local people. The masses first demanded their basic rights and the government promised that they would be given all the rights like roads, schools, hospital etc., step by step. When the people realized that outsider bureaucrats and rulers cannot ensure their rights, they demanded that the region should be made a province. On this the rulers said it would damage the cause of Kashmir. Then the masses said give us an Azad Kashmir-type of setup. The rulers started to delay the issue on one pretext or the other. On the whole, the government had neither a program in the past nor it has it today to end the deprivations of the people. But to kill two birds with one stone, the government sowed the seed of sectarianism in the area which made the future of Gilgit-Baltistan a big question mark. Now the people are justified to ask whether constitutional packages and agreements are enough to end the over 60 years long deprivations. Can the people meet the challenges of the 21st century without having even basic facilities. Is it possible to decide the future of over two million people without their consent. These are the questions which have now developed into a lava that can any time burst out. We understand that the future of this region does not lie in construction of roads, power houses and other projects but is liked with the right of self-rule. History tells us that no nation gives sacrifices to make itself a part of others but strives to gain freedom. On the other hand, history is also witness to the fact that to enslave the people of an area they are entangled in petty issues so that they cannot come out of the mess to ask for major rights.We would like to advise the democratic government of Pakistan to understand the realities of the present-day world which has shrunk into a global village. In today’s world no nation can be kept in the dark, so the rulers should transfer self-rule rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as a first step. Because constitutional packages cannot safeguard the future of the people and their identity. Till the resolution of the Kashmir issue the constitution-less Gilgit-Baltistan should be given a setup under which the people could run their day-today affairs. They should also have the right to utilize their resources as they wish.
Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, April 26—-May 2, 2008
FEDERAL Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas Qamaruz Zaman Kaira’s promises made with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan during his recent visit to the area seem prototype and `conditional’ like the ones committed by the successive governments in the past. The people of this region were expecting that after formation of the new democratic government, the 100-day plan announced by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani would also be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan, but the minister’s visit to the area has further increased people’s reservations and apprehensions regarding Islamabad’s actual intentions in the region. The minister announced to withdraw army personnel from the civilian institutions of the region within 90 days and bring a package for the area but remained silent on announcing any steps aimed to end over 60 years of deprivation and restore national identity of the region. Though he said steps would be taken to bring the region at par with all provinces of Pakistan, but at the same time he termed the issue of giving provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan sensitive and indicated to debate the matter in parliament.
Gilgit-Baltistan, whose future is linked to the larger Kashmir issue, has been kept deprived of all basic human, social, economic, political and constitutional rights for the last over six decades. It should be kept in mind that the future of this region has to be decided by the political leadership and people of Gilgit-Baltistan not by Pakistani ministers and rulers. We should not expect that the rulers of Pakistan would ever compromise on their own interests and give relief to the area people in accordance with their aspirations, because state has its own priorities and the rulers can at best improve upon the steps taken by previous setups. For sure, they have no tangible solutions to the issues of constitutional, economic, social and national identity. Had it been possible for any ruler to do so, President Musharraf was well placed to at least implement his own announcements. Based on all these facts, it can be noted that if the present government wants to take steps for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan, it would have to take a different path than treaded by the previous governments because unlike in the past the area is now politically awaken. The real issues of the region cannot be further sidelined and the people cannot be kept entangled in non-issues to divert their attention from real problems. Now, it is time to take stringent steps to end human rights violations, establish true democratic institutions, end poverty, unemployment and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people. For all these to happen, the right to self-rule should be transferred to the local people. As a first step, establishment of an independent constituent assembly and withdrawal of cases against nationalist leaders are mandatory. The government’s conciliatory approach started in all provinces including Balochistan should also be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan and cases registered against nationalist leaders of the region should be abolished. Particularly, we would like to mention the name of Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Charman Abdul Hamid Khan, who has been living in exile for the last ten years. The present democratic government should drop all cases against Abdul Hamid Khan and allow him to return to his motherland without any fear and apprehension. Similarly, there are hundreds of other nationalist leaders against whom cases are registered in the region. It is high time the government withdrew all such cases and start a new beginning of national reconciliation. The leaders of PPP and the PML-N had made tall claims of bringing revolutionary changes in the area during the regime of Prevez Musharraf and they have now got the opportunity to fulfill these promises and give the people their due rights which they have been denied on one pretext or the other for the last over six decades.
اخباری اطلاعات کے مطابق پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی اور مسلم لیگ(ن) گلگت بلتستان کی صوبائی قیادت نے خطے کے آئینی حقوق کیلئے وفاق میں قائم ہونے والی نئی حکومت سے مذاکرات کے لئے 12 رکنی وفد تشکیل دینے کا فیصلہ کیا ہے یہ وفد بہت جلد اسلام آباد جا کر حکمران اتحاد کے رہنمائوں اور حکومتی سربراہان سے ملاقات کرے گا۔ ملاقات کے دوران وفد گلگت بلتستان کی 60 سالہ محرومیاں اور بدلتے ہوئے عالمی حالات کے تناظر میں خطے کے سیاسی مستقبل کے بارے میں حکومت کے سامنے اپنے مطالبات رکھے گا۔ جس میں علاقے کے لوگوں کو حق حکمرانی دینے کا مطالبہ سرفہرست ہے۔
یقینا یہ بات خوش آئند ہے کہ علاقے کی قوم پرست جماعتوں کے علاوہ اب وفاق پرست اور پاکستان نواز جماعتوں نے بھی حق حکمرانی کے مسئلے کو اپنے اولین ایجنڈے میں شامل کر لیا ہے۔ نہ صرف یہ بلکہ اس مسئلے کے حل کے لئے باقاعدہ جدوجہد کا بھی عندیہ دیا ہے۔ گلگت بلتستان کے سیاسی ایشو کو ملکی یا عالمی سطح پر اجاگر کرنے یا اس حوالے سے کسی وفد کی پاکستانی حکمرانوں سے ملاقات سے قبل یہاں کی سیاسی جماعتوں کو چاہیے کہ وہ گلگت بلتستان کے مسئلے سے متعلق اپنا متفقہ لائحہ عمل تیار کریں اور ایک مشترکہ سیاسی ویژن کے ساتھ آگے بڑھنے کی کوشش کریں۔ یہ بات انتہائی افسوسناک ہے کہ وفاق پرست جماعتیں گلگت بلتستان کے مسئلے پر اپنا کوئی واضح ویژن نہیں رکھتیں۔ کوئی جماعت صوبہ کی بات کرتی ہے تو کوئی پاکستان کے ایوانوں میں نمائندگی کی بات کرتی ہے اور کوئی کشمیر سے ملنے کی بات کرتی ہے۔ یہ تمام جماعتیں جب بھی گلگت بلتستان کے حقوق کی بات کرتی ہیں تو آئینی حقوق کا ذکر کیا جاتا ہے۔ حالانکہ جس خطے کو آئین ہی نصیب نہ ہو وہاں آئینی حقوق کا ذکر کرنا غیر مناسب ہے۔ گلگت بلتستان کا اصل مسئلہ شناخت، تشخص اور حق حکمرانی کا ہے۔
ہم وفاق پرست جماعتوں کو مشورہ دیں گے کہ وہ پاکستان کے موجودہ حکمران اتحاد کو اپنے موقف سے آگاہ کرنے کیلئے علاقے کی تمام وفاق پرست جماعتوں کا ایک نمائندہ وفد تشکیل دیں۔ لیکن ہمارا خیال ہے کہ اس وفد کی ملاقاتیں اس بدقسمت خطے کو حق حکمرانی تو نہیں دلا سکتیں لیکن پاکستانیوں کو ہمارے مسئلے سے آگاہی اور محرومیوں کا احساس ضرور دلائیں گی۔
60 سالہ تاریخ گواہ ہے کہ پاکستانی حکمرانوں نے اس خطے کے ساتھ ایک مقبوضہ علاقے کے طور پر سلوک روا رکھا ہے۔ کبھی اسلام اور پاکستانیت کے نعروں سے یہاں کے لوگوں کو بے وقوف بنایا جاتا رہا ہے کبھی پیکیجز سے بہلایا گیا، کبھی فرقہ واریت کو ہوا دی گئی اور مجموعی طور پر یہ تاثر دیا جاتا رہا کہ یہاں کے لوگ اپنے معاملات سنبھالنے کے اہل نہیں ہیں۔ یہ سب وہی حربے ہیں جو ایک قابض قوت اپنی حکمرانی کو طول دینے کے لئے کرتی ہے۔ اکیسویں صدی کو جمہوریت اور انسانی حقوق کی صدی کہا جاتا ہے۔ اس دور میں ایک انتہائی جغرافیائی اہمیت کے حامل خطے کے بیس لاکھ لوگوں کو مزید محکوم نہیں رکھا جا سکتا۔ انسانی حقوق کی تنظیموں اور یورپین پارلیمنٹ سمیت دنیا کی باشعور قوموں نے اس بات کو شدت سے محسوس کیا ہے کہ خطہ گلگت بلتستان مجموعی طور پر انسانی حقوق کی سنگین خلاف ورزیوں کی زد میں ہے۔ خطے کو حق حکمرانی سے محروم رکھ کر پاکستان کی بیوروکریسی یہاں کے وسائل کو دونوں ہاتھوں سے لوٹ رہی ہے۔ پاکستان کے پاس یہ آخری موقع ہے کہ وہ گلگت بلتستان کے لوگوں کے حق حکمرانی کو کھلے دل سے تسلیم کرے اور عالمی برادری موجودہ جمہوری حکومت سے یہی توقع رکھتی ہے کہ وہ گلگت بلتستان کو UNICP کی قراردادوں کے تحت حق حکمرانی دینے کا اعلان کرتے ہوئے اپنی ملٹری اور سول بیوروکریسی کو اس خطے سے واپس بلا لے اور خطے کو یہاں کے باسیوں کے حوالے کرے، اس ضمن میں مزید تاخیر کسی بڑے طوفان کا پیش خیمہ ثابت ہو سکتی ہے۔ لہٰذا پیپلز پارٹی اور مسلم لیگ(ن) کے وفد کے مطالبات کو سنجیدگی سے لینا ہی پاکستان کے مفاد میں ہے۔
موجودہ صورتحال میں گلگت بلتستان کے عوام کو پرامن طریقے سے انتقال اقتدار کا ایک ہی طریقہ ہے کہ یہاں ایک خود مختار اور آزاد آئین ساز اسمبلی قائم کر کے دفاع، کرنسی اور خارجہ امور سمیت ہر معاملہ مقامی لوگوں کے حوالے کیا جائے۔
Weekly Bang-e-sahar Saturday, April 19—25, 2008
THE leadership of Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in Gilgit-Baltistan has decided to form a twelve-member delegation which will discuss the constitutional and other issues of the region with the high-ups of the coalition government in Islamabad. The delegation will analyze the sixty-year-old deprivations in the light of the changing international scenario and will present its recommendations regarding the political future of the region to the government. The right to rule will be given top priority in the recommendations.
This is a right decision albeit a belated one, because for the first time federalist or pro-centrist parties of Gilgit-Baltistan have also spoken out for the constitutional status of the region. Not only this, they have also decided to make joint efforts to achieve their agenda. Before taking up the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan at the national or international levels, it is necessary for the local leaders to formulate a common agenda and visualize their goals as the parties working for rights of the region have always lacked common ground on which to stand. This is also true for the various national political parties operating in Gilgit-Baltistan to have a clear-cut vision about the issues and their solution. Some parties have been demanding complete autonomy for the region while others are asking for a provincial setup. Not to mention those who have been asking for an Azad Kashmir type of setup. It is not surprising that there are also some other parties that are all for affiliation with Azad Kashmir.
We recommend that the pro-federal political parties should include local people in the delegation. As far as right of self-rule is concerned, a single meeting will not materialize the demand to our satisfaction. We should convince ourselves that even those sitting in the corridors of power have no solution to our depravations and problems, as Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed region. Hence, instead of looking towards others, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should themselves have to decide about their future. It id time for Pakistan should fulfill its obligations in accordance with the resolution of the UNCIP by withdrawing its military and civilian personnel from Gilgit-Baltistan and ending rampant violations of human rights in the region.
The sixty-year history itself speaks of the discriminatory attitude meted out to this region by successive Pakistani governments and its beaurocracy. No serious steps were taken to ensure provision of basic rights to the people of the region. Slogans of Islam and Pakistan were raised amid sectarian strife fuelled by state agencies to give the impression that the people of this region are not at all capable of coping with the local issues.
The 21st century is regarded as the era of democracy and human rights but even today a region of immense geographic importance is literally chained. Rampant violations of human rights in Gilgit-Baltistan have also pricked the conscience of international human rights organizations, European Parliament and other democratic nations of the world who have started raising the issue at various forums of the world.
How long the people of the region would be denied their basic rights? With the formation of a new government in Islamabad, Pakistan has got the last opportunity to resolve the issue. The government in the centre should accept the self-rule right of the region wholeheartedly. The international community also expects that Pakistan will withdraw its military and civil beaucracy from the region in accordance with the UNICP resolution. Any delay in this regard will prove devastating not only for the centre but also for the local people. Besides other parities involved in the Kashmir dispute will also suffer. Last but not the least, the government should give due importance to and accept the forthcoming demands and recommendations of the delegations of Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) from the region.
Under the current circumstances, the only possibility of a peaceful transfer of power to the area lies in making the existing assembly a self-autonomous body with all powers to formulate laws and take decisions independently without any dictation from the centre.