BRAIN STORMER: WHY CAN’T WE HAVE GILGIT-BALTISTAN
Gilgit-Baltistan is an integral part of India. It must be given back to us by Pakistan at the earliest. Historically, it was a part of the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir. It is situated on the north-western corner of J&K. Its sheer British treachery for which this vital part of the State was surrendered to Pakistan. The two British officers of the Gilgit Scouts-Major W A Brown and Captain A S Mathieson finally helped Pakistan occupy these areas before it came to India. Therefore Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan without firing a shot through the connivance of Brown and Mathieson. Unlike, todays PoK, thispart of J&K was occupied by Pakistan with the help of the British military. Gilgit-Baltistan then renamed as the Northern Areas of Pakistan. However in 2009, when the Pakistan Government enacted the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, the same Northern Areas were renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan.
Sadly, the areas under Gilgit-Baltistan which India lost to Pakistan is six times larger than the PoK. Till date, Pakistan has not accorded any status of Province or independent area to Gilgit-Baltistan. It is governed by an elected Assembly and a Council under the supreme command of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The regional Government is under the control of the Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan in Islamabad. Ironically, this area does find no place in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Pakistan maintains a very ambiguous stand on Gilgit-Baltistan like that of PoK. Pakistan should not be ashamed of giving a full-fledged status of Province to Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan’s nefarious designs to foment sectarian clashes was very much evident under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the 70’s when he abrogated the ‘State Subject Rule’. Under this rule the local demographic composition, mainly dominated by Shia Muslims was protected. Again, during the time of Zia-ul- Haq, anti-Shia forces were injected to Gilgit-Baltistan and since then the number of Shias have come down drastically in this part. Thus in the early 1980s, the Pakistani Government fully sponsored Shia-Sunni and Shia-Nurbakshi clashes-this largely polarized the divide in Gilgit-Baltistan. Further Zia had supported the tribal Lashkars in May 1988 and helped killing thousands of Shias in Gilgit. Pakistan, before pointing fingers at India, must clean its own record and give due recognition to human rights of its occupied people. And, finally, it is an integral part of J&K, India must get back this part of the State sooner or later.