Spending Independence Day in Gilgit made me realise why GB needs to be integrated into Pakistan
I witnessed passionate fervor among people of GB regarding their commitment to Pakistan. However, the status of GB needs to be sorted out with in order to solve the problems which exist
by: Waqas Mahmood Ali
During his Independence Day speech, Modi targeted Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Kashmir, citing them as disputed territories to be under occupation of Pakistan. In response, the Chief Ministers of Balochistan and GB have suggested that it is attempt to divert attention from Kashmir cause and RAW’s involvement in Balochistan. It seems like Modi has forgotten the history of Independence circa 1947. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan fought under the leadership of Captain Muhammad Raja Babar Khan against the combined forces of Dogra regime and the Indian Army. Captain M. Raja Babar Khan and his comrades succeeded in clearing Gilgit-Baltistan up to the area of Leh (in Kashmir) from the control of Dogra regime. It was a story of heroic bravery. Today, the memorial of Captain Raja Babar Khan stands at the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.
In contemporary era, the CPEC has highlighted the importance of GB’s status. I visited GB and found that the people are quite friendly, cooperative and hospitable. Spending August 14 in Gilgit, I witnessed passionate fervor among people of GB regarding their commitment to Pakistan. However, the status of GB needs to be sorted out with in order to solve the problems which exist in association to the representation factor.
I had residence at the Jutial Cantt where the Pakistan Armed forces have installed their military infrastructure. The Northern Light Infantry (NLI) represents GB’s contribution to the Pakistan Armed Forces. Much development in area covered under Jutial Cantt has been through cooperation and collaboration of Pakistan Army. However, the elected Government has to understand the importance of representation. The power gap in Gilgit is 18 MW. The Naltar power plant is being built which has a capacity of 14 MW – which is near completion. Falling under the CPEC belt, the Government has undertaken initiatives to improve the situation of people residing in GB. The development phase involves infrastructure. The commodities are cheap. The human resource development is in a good position as the people have means of livelihood with ‘developing’ infrastructure and access to education through special status. However, the integration of GB as a province of Pakistan is quite essential for the country to function as an entity that provides proper facilitation in manner of representation. GB needs medical, engineering IT and management colleges. CPEC will provide cover for new opportunities to capitalize upon. The more GB can serve Pakistan, the stronger will be their integration in terms of effectiveness.
While visiting Gilgit-Baltistan, I went to Sost valley and Phander Valley (Ghizer District). Both valleys are adjacent to each other. Sost Valley is near Khunjerab Pass. Phander valley touches the Wakhan area of Afghanistan and border of Tajikistan. The road access from Gilgit city to Sost valley is developed. The road to Ghizer district (Phander valley) needs reformation as it has potential to contribute to earnings for prosperity of GB province through agriculture, transport, services and tourism.
The history of Gilgit-Baltistan is comprised of three stages: Pre-Independence, Independence and Post-Independence. Before delving into historic details, there is a special need to discuss ways to preserve the identity of GB regarding its representative position, natural beauty and rich heritage. It has been recorded that in 2016, the highest ever number of tourists have visited GB. Along with economic importance, there is a strategic value associated to improvement of socio-economic and political situation in GB. During independence, the people of GB fought against accession to India – an act which was in accordance with initial and original plan to join Pakistan. The proof is the memorial of Captain Muhammad Raja Babar Khan which is located in the vicinity of Gligit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. An attempt to ‘localise’ the region can be done through LB elections in next few years once education and development have developed strong roots for propagation for next phase of public reforms in GB. The last LB elections were held in Punjab on 31st October, 2015. Gilgit-Baltistan attained independence on from claws of Indian Army and Dogra regime on November 1st, 1948. It was an uprising against state terrorism and oppressive lies. Today, in Kashmir, we’re witnessing state terrorism. Ban Ki-Moon and Omer Abdullah have acknowledged the reason behind the uprising to be Indian Army’s treatment of Kashmiris. Khawaja Asif, the Defense Minister and Minister for Power, Resources and Development, has stated that Kashmiri youth have rejected Indian occupation. He further said that Pakistan Army has been successful in clearing terrorist pockets in tribal and border areas and, in normalizing urban centers. Durand Line is the internationally recognized border and Pakistan seeks peaceful relations with neighbours. However, there needs to be a specific process of documentation and protocol for people moving across the border and the refugees.
Pakistan’s foreign policy is showing signs of improvement as there has been mature handling in cases of NSG and Kashmir at hands of Pakistani Foreign Office. Since 2011, Syria has become focal point of global alignments. Pakistan provided Putin an upper hand in 2011/12 through closure of NATO supply routes. In time, Russian iron fist countered American invisible hand through the Syrian ceasefire plan. As Turkish coup failed, the Eurasian alliance gained an upper hand. Meanwhile, the military flashpoints in South Asia and Far East Asia were activated (at hands of US/NATO as American Election enters final stage). After the US, it is India that is considered the most important strategic ally of Israel – with whom Turkey has reached a deal this week. India has finalized Chahbahar port deal with Afghanistan and Iran. Narender Modi stated that people in GB, Kashmir and Balochistan have thanked him for taking a stand.
It was Narender Modi who came into power through reins of Indian media, corporate sector and Army despite the allegations of state terrorism which he is repeating in Kashmir. This is where the secular democracy of India has failed to deliver. The answer to Modisation of India is propagation of democratic ideals.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have honoured Independence heroes through memorial in Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative assembly; which was in contradiction to actions of Pakistan Army which denied fighting against Indian Army and Dogra regime despite the direct orders of Quaid-e-Azam.
Gilgit-Baltistan model is an idea that if Pakistan is attacked, the civil-military leadership will not have their suitcases packed to Miami (USA), while the common man and lower ranked Army officers (who genuinely love Pakistan and Islam) are left on their own in armed struggle against India. But to ensure we don’t reach that point, Pakistani and Indian civil society must oppose militaristic oppression, together, as part of moral struggle.
Published in the Nation on Aug 25, 2016