Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Forum Demands Freedom For Gilgit, Baltistan
10 September 2000
New Delhi: Resentment is growing in Gilgit and Baltistan, originally a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but now illegally annexed by Pakistan, even as a major forum comprising various political parties has demanded complete independence from Islamabad in order to protect their fundamental rights. ''Pakistani rule cannot be spread over Gilgit and Baltistan and these areas ought to be treated as a foreign country,'' the chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinkers Forum, Mr. Wajahat Hassan, said in a statement here. Pakistan Government had declared these two areas as part of that country and had kept them under a military ruler nominated by Islamabad. Mr. Hassan said Pakistan never trusted the people of Gilgit and Baltistan ''though they (Islamabad) have been exploiting the areas time and again.'' He alleged that the Government was ''engineering'' blasts in Gilgit and arresting innocent citizens. This was in retaliation to the people''s gesture of observing August 14 as the ''day of deprivation,'' he said.