GILGIT: Lawyers from all the seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan here warned that if by November 1, 2014, Gilgit-Baltistan was not made a separate province or given an Azad Kashmir type of set-up or provided complete constitutional rights after linking it to AJK, a fully-fledged movement for a separate state would be launched in the area.
After a conference of the lawyers from the supreme appellate court, high court bar and district bar associations, a statement was issued by the participants expressing grave concerns over the fact that even after 66 years of the liberation won from the Dogra rule GB was the only piece of land in the entire world with a constitutional set-up of its own. All the affairs of this most sensitive region of the world are still run through remote control under notifications issued by the ministry of Kashmir affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan based in Islamabad. They also regretted that even in this age of human rights the area people were being kept deprived of all their basic rights. This is not the rampant violations of the international conventions on human rights but also in complete disregard to the May 1999 Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment that had called for putting in place a constitutional system for the area.
The lawyers said that despite the high degree of patriotism, the people of Gilgit-Baltisan were still being treated as the third grade citizens deprived of all rights available to people in all other provinces of Pakistan.
This conference expects that keeping in view the geo-strategic significance of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan will review its policy of brinkmanship and stop the divide and rule policy adopted for the region since 1971. Because of these policies, not only the trend of nationalism but separatism was fast taking roots in the whole area, said the statement. Pakistan should understand the fact that this policy of divide and rule and pitching the citizens against each other in the region would be leading to extremism and terrorism to the detriment of not only this region but also the whole country and the state. The conference also spoke about different political movements including those inside Pakistan such as Balochistan despite the fact that people in these areas enjoyed all their basic and constitutional rights. But the issue with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan is unique in the sense that here they have no basic rights given to other citizens under the constitution.
The lawyers expressed their astonishment and ridiculed Pakistan’s excuse that the UN resolutions on Kashmir were an impediment to Islamabad’s giving all the rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The fact of the matter is that, there is no provision in the UN resolution which can stop Pakistan from giving the rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. They said that India gave special constitutional status to the part of Kashmir under its control back in 1949 by inserting a special section (370) in its constitution. The Kashmiris have representation in the parliament of India and also have their own legislative assembly. They also referred to Azad Kashmir, the other party to the issue, who were given special status in 1997 with the establishment of the state with their own prime minister and president.
The conference expressed the astonishment that Pakistan has treated Gilgit-Baltistan spreading over 28000 square miles as a colony and even did not accept the accession request of 947. By declaring the region as a disputed territory the federal government not only disgraced the sacrifices rendered by the people of the region to liberate the land from the Dogra rule but also kept the area people subjugated even in the 21st century.
They also severely criticized the autonomy and self rule order of 2009 saying by keeping the power to amend the rule with the ministry of Kashmir affairs Islamabad had made it a senseless and redundant document. They said this had further added to the sense of deprivation among the people of the area. The conference added that if the federal government failed to correct the system the lawyers would be in the fore front of the movement for a separate state in the region.