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Kashmir separatists warn Pakistan against ‘annexing’ Gilgit-Baltistan

Kashmir’s separatist leadership on Friday flayed a reported proposal by Pakistan to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province, and asked it to desist from embarking on a needless “adventure of annexation”.

Both moderate and hardline separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, issued a joint statement terming any proposal to declare Giglit-Baltistan as the fifth state of Pakistan “unacceptable”.

“Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are a single entity,” they said, adding that the political destiny of Jammu and Kashmir was yet to be decided. The separatist leaders also asked Pakistan to not take steps that could hamper the political and geographical position of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik expressed hope that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will fulfil his commitment regarding the geographical entity of Jammu and Kashmir, and will desist from undertaking this adventure of annexing Giglit-Baltistan as the fifth state of Pakistan,” the statement said.

India also reacted strongly against Pakistan’s reported designs on the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region, which borders the disputed PoK territory, stating that such a move would be “entirely unacceptable”.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said Pakistan will not succeed in concealing the illegality behind its occupation of certain parts of Kashmir through such an action. He also asked the neighbouring country to vacate PoK without delay.

The separatist leaders said though the people of Kashmir have always accepted Pakistan as a “prime party” in the territorial dispute, any step that could hamper its disputed status was unacceptable. “We hail the role played by Pakistan in international forums, but any deviation in its stance on Kashmir and its geographical entity is improper and will prove detrimental to the cause,” the statement added.

No divisions, alterations or changes were acceptable until the residents of Kashmir have been provided with an opportunity to decide the future course of the state, they said, adding that neither India nor Pakistan have the right to alter the geographical status of the region.

The separatist leaders also termed India’s stand on the issue as a “brazen lie”. The country has no right to claim or issue “ridiculous statements” because it has forcibly occupied the state, they said.

Supporters of the separatist leaders later organised a joint agitation to protest the killing of a girl in Kupwara on March 15, besides a campaign aimed at exhorting residents to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha bypolls in the Valley.

Another protest organised in the old city turned violent, with youngsters pelting stones at the police.

Source: Hindustan Times

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