Pakistan-China Play Gilgit-Baltistan Ball

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By: R C Ganjoo

In a decision taken by Pakistan’s National SecurityCommittee (NSC) on May 19, the civil and militaryLeadership has conceptualized to grant more administrative and financial autonomy to Pok (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan,keeping PoK and GB councils as advisory bodies.
Pakistan has brought substantial changes in the political structure in Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order of 2009 which does not mention GB status as a province of Pakistan.

The lacuna of the NSC order, titled “Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018’, is that the GB assembly shall not discuss “matters relating to foreign affairs, defence, and internal security” and the conduct of a judge. Also no citizen of the region would become the chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court.

This order has invited criticism from political, social and activists based in GB. They say if GB is merged as a part of Pakistan, it should be treated at par with other provinces of Pakistan in every respect. In 1999, the Pakistan Supreme Court judgement extended full constitutional rights to the people of GB. However, direct federal rule has continued to be forced upon the region under the Karachi Agreement of 1949. The 1994 order was superficially revised by Pervez Musharraf in 2006.

Senge H. Sering, a scholar from Gilgit-Baltistan based in Washington DC, in a statement to the US Senate on Rights and Freedoms in Pakistan-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan, recently recalled the UNSC resolution 47 that declares Pakistan an occupier and aggressor in Gilgit Baltistan and calls for its withdrawal. He said , “Pakistan treats Gilgit Baltistan like a colony and even today in this modern day and age; our local people live without basic constitutional rights including the right to vote; the right to send representatives to the parliament,the right to appeal to apex judiciary; the right to employ local languages in educational institutions; and the right to legislate on local land and resources.”

He also mentioned the The Asian Human Rights Commission’s report on Gilgit Baltistan that practices of land grabbing have resulted in the displacement of locals. The report claims that the non-local proportion of the population in Gilgit Baltistan has increased significantly in recent years.

Pakistan’s attempts to make GB as a part of its provinces are aimed at getting the CPEC ( China -Pakistan Economic orridor) executed. Both China and Pakistan have crushed the legitimate voices raised by the people of GB. The locals feel Pakistan and China are exploiting their resources.

China is well aware that Gilgit Baltistan is in dispute. Pakistan’s sovereignty does not extend to this region. Pakistan’s constitution and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, or other federal government institutions do not have jurisdiction in Gilgit Baltistan.

(Courtesy: Power Politics)

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