Letter: Save Gilgit
CHILAS, GILGIT: The purpose of writing this letter is to highlight the constitutional rights movement in Gilgit-Baltistan. The overwhelming majority of people within this region want Gilgit-Baltistan to formally become the fifth province of Pakistan. However, due to the disputed nature of the region, naming it as the fifth official province has faced hurdles.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan largely do not see themselves as part of Jammu and Kashmir. They have a desire to integrate themselves into the Pakistani federation. Without any delay, we, the people of Pakistan, need to fight for their cause and make Gilgit-Baltistan a province of this country. This will mean the citizens of the region will be granted representation in the National Assembly, Senate and local governments, as well as an equitable share in the NFC Award. They should also be able to enjoy all the other rights held by other provinces, as per the 18th Amendment. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will also be able to vote on national issues and feel less alienated if this inclusion takes place.
We must understand the basic point of view that Pakistan consists of Sindh, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata. We must have equitable development for all these units. We are heading towards a very dangerous situation that appears to show that Punjab is the only province where development is taking place.
If the Gilgit-Baltistan constitutional rights issue is not resolved, the Pakistani federation could experience immense damage. The only issues on news channels and for political parties all appear to be Punjab-centric. This is causing feelings of neglect and alienation for a region that has great geostrategic importance. I urge the citizens of Pakistan to please fight for the rights of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2016.