Except Geelani All Others Oppose GB Merger In Pakistan

6 July 2015
Greater Kashmir
Sheikh Junaid

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir based political organisations across the political and ideological divide have strongly criticised the proposal by Pakistani government to grant Gilgit-Baltistan the status of country's sixth province. On 14 January 2014, a proposal sent by the Pakistani federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan suggested that the regions of 'Azad Kashmir' and Gilgit-Baltistan be made the 5th and 6th provinces of Pakistan. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's National Security advisor, headed the committee that suggested granting provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is strategically located and has the only land link with China. President of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Sardar Yaqoob Khan, in a strongly worded statement had said that 'merging Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan union would require a fundamental change in the preamble of Pakistan constitution.' 'Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan cannot become provinces of Pakistan without amendments in the Pakistan constitution, for any such amendment it would require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and Senate,' Sardar Yaqoob said. Quite in tune with Sardar Yaqoob's view, the Srinagar-based head priest and chairman of a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told Rising Kashmir that Pakistan 'would not take any steps to undermine the disputed nature of Kashmir.' 'I hope that Pakistan will not take any steps that would dilute the disputed nature of Kashmir,' Mirwaiz Molvi Umar said. He further said that Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) constitutes the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and its future remained undecided. 'Until Kashmir dispute is resolved Gilgit-Baltistan should be provided all the facilities. But its future only lies with Jammu and Kashmir,' he said, adding that the 'recent elections held there was the best option for making interim arrangements.' However, the spokesman of pro-autonomy National Conference, Junaid Azim Mattu, articulated that the said proposal 'would clearly dilute the stand of separatists and some political forces who are pitching for referendum.' Without naming anyone Mattu was making reference to pro-Pakistan parties based in the Kashmir valley. 'Given the disputed nature of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir the move will dilute the historical significance of the region,' he said. While Mattu showered accolades on his party's autonomy formula as an ideal solution for Jammu and Kashmir, the current Chief Minister's political analyst, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, said that the Peoples Democratic Party's 'self-rule transcends borders and encompasses all regions of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir.' Opposing Pakistan's proposal for GB Parra said that the 'PDP's self-rule document is the only concrete solution for Jammu and Kashmir.' The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-(N) led by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif emerged as the single largest party in the recently held legislative assembly elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. India had strongly objected to the electoral exercise in Gilgit-Baltistan, arguing that it was an attempt by Pakistan to 'camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation' of the regions which are 'integral part of the country'. The USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is also proposed to pass through the GB, which India also objected to because of the disputed status of the region. Except Syed Ali Geelani, all separatist leaders were unanimous in opposing the move to grant provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik while speaking to Rising Kashmir said that he had vociferously opposed the idea of merging GB with Pakistan during the tenure of Pakistan's then President Asif Zardari, who had proposed the idea. 'I was in Pakistan at that time. Flanked by Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir I organised a press conference in which I opposed the idea tooth and nail,' Malik said. In his view any attempts of granting GB the status of province would dilute the very disputed nature of Kashmir. 'We are not against the socio-economic development of the region (GB). We cannot make people suffer for basic governance and administrative matters or make them wait until the final resolution arrives,' he added. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been demanding full citizenship rights within Pakistan. Denial of constitutional rights has also led to dissent in the region during the last 66 years, resulting in strengthening of nationalistic and separatist movements. In 1949, the Karachi Agreement was signed between the Government of Pakistan and representatives of Azad Kashmir and the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference to ratify administrative control of Pakistan over Gilgit-Baltistan without the consent of any representative body from the area.