Gilgit Baltistan–A Tale of 71 years of Independence & state’s inadvertance
Ever since mid of 19th century, Gilgit Baltistan came under invasions by troops poured into the territory sent by Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu who was interested in controlling the trade routes to China and Central Asia. Setting their footprints on this region, that included Baltistan and Ladakh also, witnessed many ups and downs in the coming years.Gilgit region along with Baltistan and Ladakh first came under Gulab Singh control in 1842, that fell to British after a few years and then through treaty of Amritsar in 1848, he bought enire Jammu and Kashmir including Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh for 7.5 million rupees and thus became the first Maharaja of Jammu and Kasmir.Raja Gohar Aman in 1846 defeated Maharaja forces and occupied Gilgit region, while Baltistan region didn’t came up with any resistance .Till 1860 that scuffle continued and after death of Rajah Gohar Aman, Maharaja was able to re-establish control over Gilgit region also .Mean while, as British felt Russia trying to expand its influence in the region through porous valleys of Himalayas and Hindukush, a joint mechanism of governance was agreed upon by British and Maharaja.
Then there was Anglo Brusho was in 1891, that resulted in the fall of States of Hunza and Nagar to British-Maharaja rule, though local rulers –Mirs were allowed to continue their authority but right under British –Maharaja umbrella. British government took sole control of the area in 1935, from the state government, through a lease agreement meant for 60 year. In August 1, 1947, the areas were returned to the state government , because of the creation of Pakistan and india by partitioning of subcontinent. By that time, Brig Ghansara singh , who was a close relative of Maharaja, was deputed as Governor of Gilgit Baltistan till 1st Nov, 1947.
Being influenced and encouraged by the emergence of Pakistan, local people with the help of Gilgit Scouts started a revolt against Ghansara singh rule and managed to free this area from Dogra rule on November 1, 1947 .Soon after this liberation, an interim government was formed under Raja Shah Rais Khan of Gilgit.Having been an independent state on global maps for about 2 weeks, elders of this newly formed government of Gilgit state sent an accession request to Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah to take control of these areas.
On this accession request from Gilgit state, Mohammed Ali Jinnah asked Governor of Frontier Province to respond with an understanding that Gilgit agency might be part of the then Frontier province. As a result of this consultation, Sardar Muhammad AlamKhan who served as a mid graded tehsildar in the Frontier province, was nominated as the first Political Agent for GB. He was designated as the final authority of this state of Gilgit Baltistan on 16th November.
Surprisingly In April 1949 an agreement was signed between the government of Pakistan and government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ & K) about the fate of people of Gilgit agency without taking into confidence any insider from Gilgit and setting a worst example of denial of basic rights of the local people of Gilgit agency .That state of denial towards the basic rights of this area is maintained,rather the situation has worsended in terms of provision of rights, allocation of resources, acceptance of political standing in national institutions and Federal allocations
As a result of Notorious Karachi Agreemen, affairs of Gilgit and Baltistan were brought under the control of Political Agent appointed by the government of Pakistan.Since that particular time when Mr Alam Khan landed as a political agent , an endless series of miss governing and abuse of rights started, that continues till now.The then innocence of elders from newly freed Gilgit, their unconditional gift of 28 thousand sq miles of the entire region was taken as granted and the same mindset goes on. That historical mistake of accession wihtout any agreement or conditions backfired in form of denial of basic rights ,usurption of basic rights of self governance and self rule, promulgation of notorious black laws of FCR, Shedule 4 and imprisonment of rights activists and harrasment of proactive political workers, students and youth.
Whatsoever has been done till now, the core issue prevails as the people of this area are not considerred as citizens of Pakistan in terms of constitutional status while on the other hand, they have Pakistani Passport and IDs in parallel. Due to absense of local representtives in REAL Power corridors of Islamabad,there is no room for any voice from GB and thus no remedy of GB issues , no understanding of any resentment or prblems being faced by the people of this area.
Time has changed now, having the previlige of being the most literate area of Pakistan , and a youth with broader intellect level has redrawn the equations now.As a result of this awareness and understanding of issues related to self rule and political rights, there has been emerging more motivation and inclination towards leftist parties with a nationalistic approach.Youth are now being engaged in political activities with an understanding of local scenarios, existance of political issues, constitutional status of their own and messy manouuvers of rulers with confusing atitudes
Extreme confusion is evident when it comes to transfer due political rights,confer on local elected representatives full autonomy and the most important being right of self rule.Trust deficit on part of Federation and Government insititutions on GB people is not a secret. Right in the midst of 21st century, GB is the unique place on this universe, where local individuals are not considered eligible to occupy specific slots in government hierarchy, rather local populace has several times been ridiculed and humiliated for being dependent on GIAs, Subsidies and Funds.From FO Spokesman to Politicans and Ministers of previous and then government, the always available rheoteric has been the proclamation of disputed territory while on the other hand Pakistan never stops to claim the strategic geographic potential of this region, heights of K2, Nanga Parbat, Deosai , KKH, Sweet Water reservoirs, sharing borders with PRC, and the latest being the Pak China Economic Corridor rightly considered as the life line for Pakistan.
Its an irony that people of GB have been denied their basic rights of self rule and political freedom in the name of Kashmir issue. While interestingly, J & K held by India has been given special status in the Indian constitution, given representation in upper and lower houses, and a complete provincial stauts. While the other party to this dispute Azad Jammu & Kashmir, there is no order or ordinancee passed to confer on authority or government structure,rather by virtue of an interim constitution , protected via Art. 256 in Constitution of Pakistan, AJK has been given clear authority unless held a plebiscite under UN, while the least attached and worst affected of this entire episodeis is Gilgit Baltistan, that is dragged with a TAG of DISPUTED TERRITORY, setting aside the enormous sacrifices by and then by the people of GB, ignoring the events of dispelled status of then Dogra-Maharaja Kashmir state, where GB was occupied by Maharaja for a period of time and neglecting the centuries spread independent status of Gilgit Baltistan.
Arguments for declaring GB as disputed are in reality pointless. If we accept that principle, Pakistan once remained part of British rule for around 90 years and after a great struggle and rendering unforgettable sacrifices by the muslims of subcontinent, an independent country emerged as Pakistan. Today if United Kingdom claims that Pakistan and India shuld come under British rule again, as it happened in the history , where would we stand?
Interestingly, neither people of GB nor ever Federation of Pakistan can ever imagine GB going into hands of a separate Kashmir State if ever happens a plebisicte and supposedly majority of J & K votes in favor of either Pakisan or India or a free sate. It makes sense if someone counts on that potential votes expected from J & K populace and then AJK and GB.Could somebody gurantee , as if such a plebisicte is arranged by UN, people of J & K would vote in our favor?
We keep on crying for the large scale demographic changes carried out by Indian Government in J & K by facilitating influx of non muslims population into J & K, so relying on that expected event to happen and give reults in our favor, Is it logical and realistic? Pretending an unforeseen situation, inhabitants of GB are kept far away from their legitimate rights, rather marginalised in a dictatorial way, by promulgating orders that extravagantly empower individualscoming from Pakistan, either Prime Minister of Pakistan or so on.
As of today, when the GB order 2018 is in place, now the EMPOWERMENT is Prime Minister centric and not elected reprsentatices of GB.Making Prime Minister a Holly Cow, whose any action or order is the final verdict in GB , overshadowing and suppressing all orders and legislations made by members of GB Assembly speaks itself of the autonomy this Order 2018 brings for GB people. Where in this this universe an individual who is not a dweller of certain region has the ABSOLUTE , unchallengeable and irrevocable authority over that area, even in colonial systems such an exemption and impervious powers are not imaginable.
Really a lot to wonder when we go through the tragic story of GB, the staus quo has been maintained and people are even deprived of those rights and authority, which are excersied and enjoyed by the people of Indian Held Kasmir and AJK in Pakistan .Whenever asked about the constitutional status of the GB from any Govt official, its like always resorting to the EVER famous rheoteric of DISPUTED territory . Its always defined and depicted as an issue still awaiting resolution from UN as per UNCIP conditions. This ever adopted position of state of Pakistan has never been able to explain why people of GB have been denied even those rights, that are being excersiced by IHK and AJK.
Even if we honor that unfounded notion, as declaring GB consitutinal part of Pakistan would adversely effect Kashmir issue , why is that people of Gilgit Baltistan are being dictated and governed with dictatorial Orders, that are clearly negating the essence of self rule, provincial autonomy , provision of basic rights and all due political freedom within the frame work of either constitution of Pakistan or else an offshoot of the same.
The opted policy for any future plebiscite mudy be GB friendly by appeasing people , giving them confidence ,empowering them with all means and respecting their basic human rights so that they are readily available and mindfully prepared to proceed to the conclusion of that incomplete volunteer accession , initiated on 15th Nov 1947 ,and not like pushing them to the walls, grabbing civil liberties ,abusing their basic human rights , making them believe their own resources a no go area for them and disengaing them on ploicy making on even local issues.
Its an undeniable fact that people of Gilgit Baltistan have unconditional and unshakeable comittment with Pakistan, as they voluntarily annexed their land to state of Pakistan without any fear or greed. This region might be the only region on this globe with movement for accession and acceptance of aspirant status as the only demand. That unditional love and commitment is visible on every canvass of national laurels, from Kargal to Swat, Waziristan to Khyber and Dera Bugti to Siachen.Now all those individuals, who are trying to deshape that transparent face of GB and its 2 million dwellers, are in reality serving those enemies who are ever busy in digging out trenches for pro Pakistan elements and spoil minds of youth to create disorder and resentment
Written by :
Engr. Ashfaq Hussain Khan
Cell : +92-333-5176459
An engineer by profession,served abroad for 10 years , schooling from P S & C Jutial, Gilgit , BE from NED Engineering University, MS Project Management from Linkoping Univcersity Sweden, MBA from Preston University .