Gilgit Baltistan Leaders Reject Musharraf's Package
31 October 2007
New Delhi: Leaders of Pakistan-administered Kashmir's Gilgit-Baltistan area, or Northern Areas, have rejected a 'special empowerment' package from President Pervez Musharraf to protest the denial of legal and political rights to them and attempts by Islamabad to change the strategically vital region's demography. At a rally in Gilgit Wednesday, attended by a host of political, social as well as trade organisations, the leaders refused to get 'blackmailed by such offers' which they said were 'aimed at concealing the political atrocities on the people in the occupied region'. According to organisers of the rally reached by email, the speakers instead demanded a 'fully autonomous state comprising Gilgit and Baltistan' until the India-Pakistan row over Jammu and Kashmir was resolved. 'The Gilgit-Baltistan people want their demands fulfilled. Musharraf's tactics are meant to buy time and hide violations of human and political rights,' said Manzoor Ahmed Parwana, chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement who had organised the gathering. Musharraf last month announced a package to give financial and administrative autonomy to the Northern Areas, where federal rule has given rise to accusations of neglect and under development. Under the newly announced package, the existing Northern Areas legislative council based in Gilgit will be given the status of an assembly with powers to make its own annual budget and development plan, which earlier wasn't the case. The post of the deputy chief executive, the number two official of the region, has been upgraded to chief executive. The post of chief executive, who is an official appointed by Islamabad and who calls the shots, has been renamed the chairman of the region. The move by the beleaguered Musharraf is seen as an attempt to counter a surge in political activities in the mountainous region, which borders the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.