[Letter] Gilgit-Baltistan’s status
BARCELONA: Pakistan celebrated its 69th Independence Day with traditional zeal and zest. I came across some posts and comments in social media by the populace of Gilgit-Baltistan on the occasion. Most of the people from the region extended their good wishes to the Pakistani nation, but at the same time, stated that they were inhabitants of a ‘lawless state’. There was one quite succinct comment: “K2, Rakaposhi, Nanga Parbat, Deosai and Shandur plateau belong to Pakistan, except the people of this region.”
People are confused and in a complicated situation over the discordant views and statements of lawmakers of the country about the status of Gilgit-Baltistan. Some politicians opine that it is an integral part of the Kashmir issue while some deny any link with it. When the leadership or political bigwigs visit Gilgit-Baltistan, they assure the inhabitants that they will fulfill their demands regarding constitutional rights, and likewise, their tone alters at once when they visit Kashmir. The time has come that this calibrated policy to engage the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir be shunned and proactive measures be taken to rectify the grievances of the people.
Recently, the political temperatures of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir rose over the status of the former. Some Kashmiri leaders have expressed serious concerns over the purported move to give constitutional rights to Gilgit-Baltistan. The prime minister and the president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir have warned the federal government against any such attempt, terming it more damaging than the dismemberment of the country in 1971. On the other hand, terming the reaction of the Kashmiri leadership baseless, the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly recently adopted a resolution, with the majority recommending that the area be declared the fifth province of Pakistan, constitutionally. The people of the region are tired of tentative packages, temporary administrative rights and sociopolitical lollipops; rather, their ultimate demand is that their region be named the fifth province of the country. This is a vivid example of the patriotism and loyalty of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan that instead of any attempt to move away from Pakistan, their centripetal propensity compels them to wish to remain an integral part of Pakistan, enjoying the same rights that citizens of other provinces enjoy.
M Hassan Nagri
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2015.