ISLAMABAD: Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is also part of the Kashmir dispute and the Government of Pakistan does not have an answer when asked about GB’s legal status, said Awami Workers Party (AWP) president and Supreme Court advocate Abid Hassan Minto on Monday.
Talking to participants of a seminar titled ‘Gilgit-Baltistan: Democracy or a Colonial System?’ he said anyone who speaks against the establishment’s policy is made to face the consequences.
“Just one secretary has the power to run the affairs of Kashmir and GB and now the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is passing through GB. However, controversies are arising which are harming the project,” he said.
He said that the UN, India and Pakistan were not interested in resolving the Kashmir issue. According to the agreement between Quaid-i-Azam and Jawaharlal Nehru at the time of partition, states had the right to remain independent if they wanted, he added, and that heads of states also had the right to decide on the matter.
Speakers at a seminar say people of Kashmir, GB should be allowed to make their own decisions
“In Kashmir, the people wanted to be part of Pakistan while the Maharaja wanted to be part of India. The Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to be part of Pakistan while its people wanted to be with India,” he said.
“Pakistan has been talking about Kashmir and holding a referendum but has not contacted any international body in the last 70 years to address the issue. If the Kashmir matter is solved, there will be no tension between Pakistan and India and the establishment will not get one-fourth of the country’s budget,” he added.
The Army has ruled the country for 35 years but never bothered to take the issue to the International Court of Justice, he added.
“Some elements just want to keep the issue alive and don’t want to solve it. On the other hand, India is an emerging power and no one wants to go against it,” he said.
Other speakers at the event demanded that Baba Jan and the other 11 political activists who were sentenced to 70 years in prison be released.
They said all the prisoners had done was to show solidarity with the victims of the 2010 Attabad landslide.
Baba Jan is a well known social and political activist in GB and an AWP federal committee member.
He is serving his sentence with 11 other activists on charges of terrorism. He was arrested while protesting the shooting of a father and son by the police in a demonstration in support of the landslide.
AWP Punjab President Dr Aasim Sajjad Akhtar said the people of Pakistan need to re-assess their relationship with GB.
“On the one hand, the mountains of GB are portrayed as a symbol of the natural beauty in Pakistan and on the other, the state refuses to constitutionally recognise GB as part of the country. The beauty of its mountains and lakes hide the long political struggle for social justice and equality in GB,” he said.
Representative of the Jammu and Kashmir National Awami Party, Prof Mark Khaleeq said that instead of allowing the people of Kashmir and GB to decide their future, the establishment has been taking decisions for them.
“The people of Kashmir will continue expressing solidarity with the people of GB. The Supreme Court has also decided that GB is not part of Pakistan. So, state agencies should stop interfering in its matters,” he said.
AWP GB President Zahoor Elahi said the problems in the region will increase if state agencies continue to interfere in the matters of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2016