November 2020 News

Gilgit Balistan Under Illegal Occupation Of Pakistan:Ashok Bhan

12 November 2020
Kashmir News Service

Srinagar: Speaking through a webinar on Gilgit-Baltistan (Jammu & Kashmir: Status & Current Affairs organised by Kashmir (Policy & Strategy) Group. Ashok Bhan, Chairman KPSG, said -the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan has far more strategic importance for India because it is part of JK State as existed in 1947 and Pakistan as its illegal occupier. Ashok Bhan, an eminent Jurist and geo political expert, said Gilgit-Baltistan has an area of 72,496 sq. Kms, five times more than that of PoJK with a population of approx. 1.8 million, Gilgit Baltistan has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan since 1947. Under Karachi Agreement (April 28, 1949), the PoJK govt. under duress ceded the control of G-B to Pakistan, which not only separated Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) from PoJK but also gifted Sakshgam Valley (area of 5,180 sq. kms.) to China in 1963. Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan's announcement (Nov. 1) to accord provincial status to G-B is another punch on the wounds of people of GB. Making a mention of the constitutional provision of Pakistan under Article 257, Bhan said that the Article states that 'When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State'. He added that Pakistan has always tried to project G-B separately from PoJK. Despite PoJK Interim Constitution 1974 referring to G-B as part of PoJK, PoJK Legislative Assembly passing a resolution for integration of G-B with PoJK and demands by various sections of the society in this regard, Pakistan never re-united G-B with PoJK. It also abolished the state subject rule in G-B in 1974 allowing Pakistani Sunnis to settle there, thereby changing the demographic profile of the state by converting the Shia majority into minority over the years. Bhan further said that Pakistan has failed to honour the UN resolution No.47 and UNCIP resolutions of Aug. 13, 1948 and Jan. 5, 1949. Pakistan was termed the aggressor by the UN and was required to remove all its armed forces and tribal invaders and has instead multiplied its forces in the region. He said that even the proposed GBO-2019 merely perpetuates Pakistan's well established stance of maintaining 'ambiguity' about the constitutional status of G-B and that the order also fails to bring about any meaningful devolution of power to the region. He cited the reason for Pakistan's ambiguity on G-B as its efforts to de-link G-B from the 'Kashmir dispute' and to treat the status of the Gilgit-Baltistan region as 'settled'. Importantly, he said that in Pakistan's discourse on J&K, G-B is never mentioned. Barrister Hamid Bashani, a native from POK and a Human Rights Advocate said that G-B people have been agitating against the abolition of 'state subject law' by Pakistan which has adversely affected the demographic character of G-B. These changes, he said, can be gauged by observing Shia's who constituted more than 80% of G-B population in 1948 have now been reduced to less than 40%. The locals have agitated, protested and frequently raised demands seeking constitutional and political rights. These protests, he said have been been met with brute force. Making a mockery of system, the aspiring candidates are 'pre-screened' to ensure entry of only those who support annexation with Pakistan and can contest elections. Voices for Rights in Gilgit- Baltistan are suppressed by law enforcement agencies and the nationalist leaders are subjected to torture and imprisonment for peaceful protests. Barrister Bashani said that on September 14, 2012, the G-B 'legislature assembly' passed a resolution demanding complete provincial status in Pakistan', which was rebuffed with the 'legislative assembly of AJK' passing of a resolution (11 December 2014) rejecting GB resolution. Junaid Mir said UN Resolutions have been contravened by Pakistan: Referring to the UN Resolutions, Mir, President JK Workers Party said that Pakistan has been claiming J&K status as UN recognized 'international dispute' and that India cannot 'unilaterally' change the status of the state including its constitutional status, external boundaries and the rights of people of J&K. He questioned Pakistan asking that in this context, can Pakistan explain; (i) How it segregated Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) from PoJK, thereby bifurcating and changing the boundaries of the state? (ii) Under what provisions Pakistan gifted a part of the so called 'disputed state' to China in 1963? (iii) Why Pakistan abolished the state subject rule in Gilgit-Baltistan (G- B) in 1974? Since then it has changed the demographic profile of the state by converting the Shia majority of the region into minority while settling Pakistani Sunnis. In the context of contravention of UN Resolutions, Junaid Mir said that Pakistan abolished the 'State Subject Rule' in G-B, which under Proclamations of the Maharaja of J&K in 1927 and 1932 safeguarded land-rights of 'state subjects' (permanent residents) of J&K. As the UN advised 'plebiscite' was to be held for the permanent residents of J&K, this step was in complete violation of UNSC Resolutions including UNSC Resolution 38, UNSC Resolution 39, UNSC Resolution 47. Furthermore, through various legislative and administrative manoeuvres, Pakistan has enforced significant 'material changes' in PoJK that have irrevocably changed the ground situation - a clear violation of UNSC Resolution 38 of 1948. It has strengthened its hold over PoJK (including G-B) enforced under the presence of Pakistan's Army and its various auxiliary forces. Another eminent panellist to speak on the occasion was Prof Javed Kakroo, Secretary Kashmir Voice International who spoke on exploitation of natural resources of PoJK (including G-B) by Pakistan and made the following points; ? several projects have been undertaken by Pakistan on its own volition and in collaboration with several other countries in occupied territories of G-B, including connectivity, energy, communication, logistics, among many others in the socio- cultural sector. ? The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also formalizes a plethora of projects in G-B - the major beneficiary of which remains Pakistan and not the people of PoJK. ? Several protests had been carried out in G-B against hydroelectric projects and construction of dams, with local groups contending that their natural resources were being exploited by Pakistan to serve the interests of its Punjab province. Protests have been held against Kohala Hydropower plant, Ghanche area of G-B against Pakistan leasing of pasture land to China for mining, which infringe on rights of G-B people as 'protected people' under International Law. Prof. Kakroo summed up by saying that undertaking these activities, Pakistan as an occupying power has violated legal obligations to conserve natural resources of territories under its occupation in flagrant violation of Hague Convention of 1907. Selling Out Gilgit-Baltistan to Chinese Under CPEC: Next to make a fervent address in the Webinar was Dr. Q A Aashob, JK Civil Society leader who said that it was for this reason that despite apprehension that the move would wipe out Pakistan's moral high ground and goodwill cultivated over last one year; would ease international pressure against India; and if formalized, render resolution of J&K issue more distant, Pak is forced to undertake the measure. Under Chinese pressure which would like to have a clearer status of G-B in order to not only safeguard its investments in the CPEC but also acquire a decisive hold in this strategically important territory so essential to its access to Arabian Sea. Another native of JK -Director USI Maj Gen.BK Sharma(Retd) said Gilgit-Baltistan has the strategic and operational importance for J&K and on ground people are demanding to be part of union of India.