People of Gilgit-Baltistan seek role in framing of package

28 July 2009
The Dawn
Farooq Ahmed

Gilgit: Politicians, lawyers and human rights activists at a consultative meeting here on Tuesday unanimously sought role of public representatives, intellectuals and political parties in the finalisation of the proposed reforms package for Gilgit-Baltsitan. They asked the government to submit the draft package to the Northern Area Legislative Assembly for debate so that people of Gilgit-Baltistan could know beforehand at least what decision was going to be made about their future by Islamabad. The consultative meeting arranged by Human Rights Advocacy Network Gilgit-Baltistan witnessed heated debate over the proposed package. Northern Areas High Court Bar Association president Manzoor Ahmed said the packages announced so far by various governments had strengthened the bureaucratic system not the people. He said the people of the region had been deprived of all those fundamental rights which were being enjoyed by other citizens of the country. The chairman of his own faction of Balawaristan National Front, Nawaz Khan Naji, said that people sitting in Islamabad could not decide the fate of two million people of Gilgit-Baltistan. 'It's the people who should be allowed to discuss their issues,' he added. He said the government couldn't decide the status of the area unilaterally. Mr Naji criticised the establishment for complicating the issues and warned that if Islamabad followed the old colonial policies Balochistan-like situation would arise in this geo-strategically important region. He said huge responsibility rested on the shoulder of public representatives to raise the issue in the assembly. 'But they have disappointed people during their five-year tenure,' he added. Advocate Amjad said the current system of governance in the region was full of flaws and the members could not be held responsible as the system defined their role and they were subservient of the bureaucracy. That's why the bureaucracy is resisting any reforms in the system which will curtail their powers. He accused the Pakistan government of depriving the people of their basic right of self-rule and accused the rulers of deliberately creating Balochistan and Fata-like situation. Badar-ud-Din Badar, former secretary-general of People's Student Federation, said that package was given to employees of a private or government entity and not to a nation. He called for collective struggle for the attainment of rights. District Council member Karim Sher Khan proposed debate in parliament about the future of the resource-rich and strategically important region so that the 62 years sense of deprivation among the people could be mitigated. Former adviser on Information Sikander Ali said full autonomy should be given to the region. He warned the bureaucracy to behave like public servants and not like rulers. Former bureaucrat Abdul Wahid disagreed with the views expressed by some participants and said that Pakistan had given a lot to the people of this region. He expressed his disappointment over the role of lawmakers and asked how many laws they framed during their five-year tenure? Former adviser Ibrahim Sanai said that members in Nala had time and again demanded of the government to present the package in the legislative assembly. He said unless the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were united nothing could be achieved.