Future of Gilgit, Baltistan yet to be decided: PoK PM
21 May 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Islamabad: Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Prime Minister, Attique Ahmad Khan, has said the fate of the 12,000 square miles of northern areas ceded by Pakistan to China in 1965 'is to be decided' as the territory came under the undivided Jammu and Kashmir State. 'Every inch of Gilgit and Baltistan is as important as any other part of the State. The future of 28,000 square miles of northern areas (under the control of Pakistan) and 12,000 square miles of areas that are under the control of China is to be decided,' he was quoted by ‘The Nation’ as telling a seminar in Muzaffarabad, the capital of PoK, yesterday. Khan, son of former PoK president Sarda Qayyum Khan, said northern areas were integral part of the Jammu and Kashmir State before partition and their interests would not be compromised. His statement was regarded significant as a Pakistani or PoK politician seldom refers to the area ceded to China in 1965 as part of the boundary agreement between two countries. Khan argued that on the areas ceded to China, the Pakistan-China agreement has said their future depended on the future of northern areas. The agreement stipulated that after the Kashmir issue is settled between India and Pakistan, the 'sovereign' authority will re-open negotiations with China as to sign a formal boundary agreement. If the authority concerned is Pakistan, the provisions of the present boundary agreement will be maintained in the formal boundary treaty. Also it was rare that politicians in Pakistan or PoK linked northern areas to Jammu and Kashmir. Under Pakistan’s tutelage, the areas incorporating Gilgit and Baltistan were not part of PoK.The status of PoK and northern areas figured differently in Pakistan’s constitution. Both have different sets of councils. It was not yet clear whether Khan was preparing the ground for the resolution of the Kashmir issue through the current peace process between India and Pakistan as his father spoke optimistically about the progress in that direction after his return from participation in a conference in New Delhi. Khan said in his view two kinds of Kashmiri public opinion prevailed, one 'pro-Pakistan' and another 'for independence.' He discreetly avoided mentioning pro-India Kashmiris. He also said it was very difficult to include Kahmiris in the India- Pak dialogue and urged New Delhi to take practical steps to change the ground situation. Interestingly, he also reportedly said that Pakistan should have diplomatic ties with Israel, which Islamabad had so far not recognised. If Pakistan could have ties with India it should accept Israel, which has 'not harmed' Islamabad. He also supported the 'military democracy' headed by President Pervez Musharraf and linked the future of democracy in Pakistan with the civil-military cooperation to make the country politically stable, the newspaper reported.