Since Bharat has nullified the barriers of integration of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh and released the political map with proper demarcation even for occupied territories, both China and Pakistan are rattled. While China is trying to change the situation on the Line of actual control (LAC) in the Ladakh region, already colonised Pakistan is trying to please the colonial masters in Beijing by creating the drama of elections on the other part of Ladakh that is occupied territory of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)
Pakistan does not shy away when it comes to grab opportunities over meddling with India and this time it is with GB. While India is busy at the eastern front in Ladakh with China on the LAC, Islamabad has come up with a new mischief, including ceasefire violation and cross border firing in a bid to infiltrate terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile Indian forces are giving a befitting reply to the Pakistani violations, Imran Khan has elevated the matter and has now decided to make GB a province of Pakistan.
It is worthy to note that Pakistan’s constitution does not consider GB as its province and has only four regions - Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. This is clearly another provocation by Islamabad, and will only serve to exacerbate India-Pakistan tensions. Pakistan is sitting on Indian land – Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India included the entire region of what is now known as Pakistan-Occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK) and GB.
New Delhi has made its stance on the issue clear, emphasising that Pakistan’s government and judiciary have no locus standi on the territories Pakistan has illegally and forcibly occupied. Further, India completely rejects any action or attempt to bring material changes in such Indian territory occupied by Pakistan. India expects Pakistan to vacate all areas it has illegally occupied with immediate effect.
How GB fell into Pakistan’s hands
Situated in the northwest part of Jammu and Kashmir, the picturesque GB was a mountainous part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir till 1947. Pakistan occupied it after tribal militias backed by regular Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir in the months after Independence. The region was initially named ‘The Northern Areas of Pakistan’, and brought under Islamabad’s direct control. The ‘Northern Areas’ is not to be confused with PoJK, another illegally occupied territory which Pakistan calls “Azad Kashmir”.
In terms of size, the ‘Northern Areas’ is massive, over six times that of PoK.
A decade ago, the federal government in Pakistan enacted the so-called GB Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, and the region was re-christened Gilgit-Baltistan. This region post the abrogation of Article 370 came under the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh.
Demographic Change & Sectarian violence
While Pakistan is harping on the abrogation Article 370 by the Parliament of Bharat, the fact is in 1974 itself Pakistan had abolished the “State Subject Rule” for GB. With the introduction of GB Empowerment and Self-governance Order in 2009 snatched land rights from the locals which opened the door for Pakistani settlements in the illegally occupied Indian region of the UT of Ladakh. This paved the way for settling outsiders, mostly Sunni ethnic Pathans and Punjabis in GBregion and the violence was also started reporting since then. According to one estimate, 30,000 people fled this region due to increased sectarian violence support by Pakistan Government. The minority community of Pakistan likes the Shias, Ismailis, Sufis, and Ahmadis are targeted by Sunni sectarian groups in this region.
Pakistan, under Zia-ul-Haq, made several efforts to alter the ethnic demography of the region. Post 1980s, Sunni Muslims from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started to make an influx through business routes and started to gradually settle in the region
As facts suggest, almost 11,000 families got separated in 1947 living in the areas of Baltistan. Pakistan has destroyed Shina and Balti culture brutally. Scripts of both languages are no longer available.
In 1999, the federal education Ministry of Pakistan suddenly introduced amended textbooks in the GB region that were completely based on Sunni believes and practices. Though Shia protested yet not much headway was made. On August 15, 2003, violent protest broke out in Skardu. In September 2003, Sunni students and teachers protested in support of keeping the changes in the book intact. Afterward, the violence broke out between these two sects. Hence, the government made a minor modification in the In a study conducted by Delhi based think-tank, Law and Society Alliance, has revealed that since Pakistan has illegally occupied the Gilgit Baltistan portion of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir,
The study headed by N.C. Bipindra has revealed that the population of G-B is now approximately 15 Lakh, with around 39 percent Shia, 27 percent Sunni, 18 percent Ismaili and 16 percent Nurbakhshi. Earlier, the region was dominantly inhabited by Shia Muslims with a share of 80 percent.
The report, titled 'Human Lives Matter: A Comparative Study and Analysis of Human Development and Human Rights in J&K and PoJK/G-B', said that the most severe damage to the culture and ethnicity of the region occurred in 1988, when Pro-Pakistani militants supported and Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs, launched attacks in the region. Known as 'The Gilgit Massacre', it lasted for 16 days with continuous bloodshed, killing hundreds of people, burning of more than 14 villages and molestation of local women. Till today, numerous such incidents take place in this area.
At the 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Abdul Hamid Khan of the Balwaristan National Front said: "Human rights abuses are widespread and common in G-B for many decades but the absence of local media and independent judiciary have helped Islamabad to hide its illicit practices."
Known to be one of the most multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-linguist regions of the world, Gilgit Baltistan, in the last seventy years, has not been respected and has faced severe persecution from the Pakistani Army and land grabbing agents of Islamabad.
Impact of Karakoram Highway (KKH)
The KKH linking China with Pakistan through GB resulted in the influx of weapons and drugs in the region. The all-weather road of KKH also allowed the influx of suspects from Pakistan. After any sectarian violence in Gilgit, the people mobility is affected on KKH, as Shias do not travel from Gilgit to Islamabad to avoid Sunni dominated Diamer District and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sunnis avoid Shia area of Nagar.
Impact of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
CPEC is China funded multi-dollar project aims at establishing a network of highways, railways, oil pipelines, electrical power grids, fiber optic cables, and special economic zones, linking the Chinese trading hub of Kashgar in Xinjiang province with the Pakistani port city of Gwadar in Balochistan province. The people of GB feel that this project will only trigger an ecological disaster, a demographic shift and land grabbing and it will threaten their unique culture. With the increase in movement of people from Pakistan and taking over business and administrative jobs here, people of this region feel that they would become minority in their own land. Sectarian violence and terrorist activities have also been increased as a result. A total number of 74 terrorist attacks have been reported from this region between 2007 and July 2014. Pakistan Taliban has also increased its influence in this region.
Islamabad has failed to win the support of the people of this region and Pakistan has been consistently impacting the peaceful environment in this region. The people of this region have paid a big price for the benefit of Pakistan who has been keeping this region into its illegal occupation.
GB during the Covid Crisis
As COVID-19 continues to spread taking lives around the world, it has become a bigger challenge for already suffering people of GB to deal with the crisis in lack of essential goods and services.
Revealing the deep crisis, a human rights activist from POJK, Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza took to his social media handle to disclose that only two ventilators available in GB and Pakistan and China have started the construction of USD 14 billion Diamer-Basha Dam which clearly shows that the Pakistani Army or Civil Governments do not care about the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Role of Bharat
By portraying the “Pakistan Occupied Jammu Kashmir” as Azad Jammu Kashmir, Pakistan has tried to build an opinion that the other occupied territory Gilgit Baltistan is not part of erstwhile Jammu Kashmir. Ethnically and linguistically, the people of Baltistan are related to the Ladakhis while the people of Gilgit, Chitral and Kashmir are Dardic, who speak related languages. All our historical trade routes open towards Ladakh, Kashmir and Tibet. Kashmir and Tibet gave us civilization, which is now plagued by violence, extremism and drug culture introduced by Pakistanis.
There are 24 seats reserved for POJK/POTL in the currently defunct legislative assembly of J&K. India believed that as per UN resolution territorial integrity will be restored and huge number of POJK displaced living in Jammu and other parts of country will go back to their places. But even after 71 years of after the resolution was passed 15 Lakhs POJK displaced persons are still waiting to go back to their native places. The people of POJK/POTL region are constitutionally and legally citizens of India as per the parliamentary resolution of 1994. So, it is the duty of Government of India and parliament of Bharat to protect the rights of its people in POJK/POTL.