GB status: Provisional province mantra — facts and fallacies

By Anayat Baig

A new mantra of “provisional constitutional provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan is being floated by the ‘Naya Pakistan‘ proponents, generating another controversy on social media and in political circles. While some pro-province forces are upbeat about the proposition, Kashmiri leadership as usual has expressed their reservation about it.

If such a plan is approved and imposed on Gilgit-Baltistan what will be the consequences for the two million people of GB as well as for Pakistan? Is the proposal doable and viable? Is Pakistan morally, diplomatically and politically in a position to take another U-turn on its own stance on status of GB viz-a-viz Kashmir dispute and defy UN resolutions? Is it another ploy by the establishment and the ruling elite of Pakistan to defuse the rising sense of deprivation among the local people?

If such a plan is imposed on the region, it will only benefit the ruling elite and increase their perks and privileges by giving them representation in Pakistan’s parliament as observers. And the ordinary people and working class will as usual remain deprived of their longstanding demand of internal autonomy, including their own constitution, an independent assembly, judiciary and their fundamental right of ownership on their land, minerals, forests and other natural resources.

What history says?

If we dig deeper into history and analyse the status of GB in historical, geopolitical and cultural perspective, it will be easy to unravel the current jigsaw puzzle.

Gilgit-Baltistan has been a cradle of an ancient civilization, maintaining its unique autonomous status for centuries before falling victim to external invasions by Moghals and Dogras. Some of the rulers who resisted foreign invasion and protected the region successfully included Sher Ali Anchan, Raja Gohar Aman, Dadi Juwari, and Malika Nur Bakht. Historians and travellers in their accounts have not only described the successes of these rulers for defeating foreign invasions and maintaining the region’s autonomy but also their exemplary governance and welfare work.

How the state withered away and divided into small principalities controlled by Sinkiang governorat, Dogras of Kashmir and British colonial power is part of history.

After the Partition of the Subcontinent, the British colonial rulers in collusion with the Pakistani and local ruling elite ended the autonomy of the region through a sinister design implemented by Major Alexander Brown and some local Muslim officers of the Dogra army by annexing the region with Pakistan to create a buffer zone between the Soviet Union, the first Socialist state in the world, and the Subcontinent.

The GB was made disputed and its administrative control was handed over to Sardar Alam, a 16-grade revenue officer from Peshawar. Despite UN resolutions asking Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the region and ensure its autonomy and governance through the elected representatives of the people, Pakistan continued its bureaucratic stranglehold over the region by offering cosmetic reforms to counter any resistance movement, defuse rising sense of deprivation among the local population.

What we want?

We acknowledge Pakistan’s stance and compulsions on Kashmir issue. However, we categorically clarify that Gilgit-Baltistan cannot be made a constitutional part of Pakistan until the resolution of Kashmir dispute.

Given the popular demand and aspirations of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, the best possible option for Pakistan without getting into any diplomatic and political controversy, is to introduce AJK-like setup in GB ensuring an independent assembly with all powers to legislate, protected by its own constitution; the federal government my keep defence, currency and foreign policy; access to justice through an independent judiciary; restoration of the pre-Partition era State Subject Rules to stop demographic change in the region; dissolution of the Federal Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan as well as Gilgit-Baltistan Council.

Political opportunists

As a citizen of Gilgit-Baltistan, we warn Chief Justice of Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister of State for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Gandapur, GB Governor Raja Jalal Maqpoon, Tehreek-e-Insaf’s local leaders, workers, and all those organizations that if any plan was imposed on the region and made GB as a “provisional province of Pakistan” it will be resisted strongly.

The decision to make the GB as fifth province of Pakistan can only be made by the local independent assembly with unanimous resolution.

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