By: Ghulam Abbas
In a surprising move, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeez-ur-Rehman was dropped from the list of dignitaries visiting China along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to participate in the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) forum, aimed at regional development through win-win cooperation, without citing any reason.
Reliable sources told Pakistan Today that the chief minister of GB was also included in the initial list of chief ministers (of four provinces) visiting China but ignored in the final schedule for unknown reasons. Though China gives importance to GB in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related negotiations as one of the stakeholders, but zero representation from the area in the important forum has not only annoyed the political parties but also the students and civil society, who have started expressing their strong reservations on social media.
According to an official source at GB government, initially, it was communicated that CM Hafeez will also be part of the visit to China, but later no confirmation or further communication was made by PM Office in Islamabad as per the set procedure.
“We could not understand the reason behind the fresh move, as the chief minister, along with other chief ministers of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been attending meetings of Pakistan-China Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) over CPEC,” he said.
According to sources, CM Hafeez, who is currently on a visit to Italy, was in constant contact with his office to return early in case PM House includes his name in the list of delegation.
The important gathering of the Belt and Road Forum (BRF)—which is part of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road’ initiative launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013—is being attended by 27 other heads of states.
As per the statement issued by the government here, a number of agreements/MoUs related to CPEC projects are also expected to be signed on the occasion.
Showing anger over the approach of federal government, youth in GB have also criticised the ruling party in the area for not protesting against the discrimination. People were also exchanging views on social media soon after they came to know that no one was representing the area in the important event in China.
“Nothing has given to GB in the CPEC related projects. People of the area should raise their voices for their rights without expecting a movement from ruling political party, which is controlled by the centre,” said a retired bureaucrat of the area, adding that KP was now getting its due share in CPEC after a strong protest at various forums.
People also claimed that GB was being ignored in the Pak-China negations amidst criticism from India for running some projects through what Delhi claims the disputed territory of GB.
To attend the important gathering, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, Minister for Planning Dr Ahsan Iqbal, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir, State Minister for Information Technology Anousha Rehman and PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz were also accompanying the prime minister.