December 2004 News

Politicians split over status of Northern Areas

1 December 2004
The Dawn
Our Correspondent

Gilgit: Divergent views were expressed by legislators, politicians and intellectuals over the status of Northern Areas viz-a-viz the Kashmir issue during their separate interactions with visiting journalists from India and Indian-held Kashmir here on Sunday. The visit, the first of its kind in the history of the region after the independence of the Gilgit-Baltistan from the Dogra rule in 1947, was sponsored by the South Asian Free Media Association (Safma). Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) Speaker Haji Malik Miskeen and former deputy chief executive Fida Muhammad Nashad, who led the ruling PML team during the interaction with the Indian and Kashmiri journalists, said Northern Areas were not part of Kashmir becuase of its peculiar status according to the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan's 1949 resolution, but have been suffering for the past 57 years due the Kashmir issue. When asked as to why they had not been given a status like the Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian-held Kashmir, they said they were being tranferred powers gradually and were optimistic that the government would give them fully-fledged assembly status shortly. They said they were suffering due to the Kashmir issue and blamed the Indian government for not agreeing to hold a plebiscite to determine the future of the region. The NALC legislators said they would prefer to join Pakistan if a plebiscite was held. However, another ruling PML member, Haji Abdul Quddus, said the region was part of Kashmir but before he could argue his point of view, there was a sort of pandemonium which forced the organizers to divide the NALC delegation into three groups representing the PML, the PML(N) and the PPP (Parliamentarians). PML(N) member Hafizur Rahman said there was no consensus regarding the status of the Northern Areas and called for empowering the NALC with a local chief executive and a local set-up on the lines of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. He said the NALC was devoid of any powers as claimed by PML members. PPP member Ghulam Muhammad said his party had brought about reforms in the region in 1994 and he supported the idea of a local set-up. During the question-answer session the NALC members threw up more confusion when they kept swinging from one standpoint to another regarding the status of the region in the light of the Kashmir issue when they were approached separately. A legislator, who wished not to be named, said the PML legislators were willfully exaggerating facts and figures about the NALC powers and development as they were eying for advisers' posts which were yet to be filled. He said the more they (legislators) talk, the more they increase confusion and contradictions. The visiting journalists' team also held meetings with leaders of Balawaristan National Front led by Haider Taj and Shujaat Ali, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) activists led by Ziaul Haq, Bolor Research Forum chief Amanullah Khan, member Sultan Madad, Dr Ejaz Tehsin, Prof Usman Ali and Fazil Shah. All of them demanded a self-rule for the Gilgit-Baltistan. Earlier, Northern Areas Home Secretary Jamil Ahmed gave a briefing to journalsists' delegation about the administrative, geographical, political and social structure of the region. PID Director Shahid Qasmi and other officials were also present on the occasion. The delegation also exchanged views with local journalists at a dinner hosted by the Gilgit Press Club and discussed problems being faced by the local press. The guests were given traditional woollen caps as gifts. The Northern Areas administration had made elaborate security arrangements for the visiting journalists. The delegation left for Rawalpindi by road on Monday as PIA could not operate a flight due to cloudy weather.


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