Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Gilgit Baltistan: In the shadow of colonialism By D J Mathal

Under the United Nations (UN) charter and the available explanations around the world, presence of a specific population, a defined geographical territory, culture, traditions and a distinct historical identity are considered necessary for making a nation. On the basis of almost this definition, nations around the world have their existence today. But it is also becoming a reality that powerful nations around the world are becoming hostile to the reality or openly denying this very principle to accept the existence of some nations. There are also some countries who have kept a number of nations in their peripheries hostage to their own will, just to plunder their resources and keep them subjugated. When we look around the world, this fact also becomes clear in the case of Gilgit-Baltistan, which, despite possessing all the characteristics of a nation, has not been given its identity for the last over six decades. It is also a fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is considered as the last colony of the 21st century.

When we go back, it becomes clear that soon after World War II, democracy started taking roots in the world and all those nations who had been colonized by Britain, France and other powers started getting independence from the colonizing powers and a large number of new nations emerged on the map of the world. With this, the movement for independence also gained momentum in the Indian subcontinent where many nations launched struggle to get freedom from the yoke of the British Raj. However, the western powers here conspired to cede independence to the nations after calculating their future geo-strategic and military needs and requirements.

The capitalist system of the West always dreaded communism and already highly impressed from the military and economic potentials of India, the British conspired to promote Hindu-Muslim schism and rifts in order to check the rise of India, especially in the backdrop of its leaders’ close and rising affiliation with the then USSR. This was in this perspective that a decision was taken by the British to merge the hundreds of states, who possessed their own distinct political, geographical and cultural existence at that time, into the two new states of India and Pakistan instead of giving them the right of maintaining their independence. These states were asked to join either India or Pakistan keeping in view their geographical location and aspirations of their peoples. However, in order to keep the two emerging countries under its influence and check the rising influence of the USSR in the region, the British, under a well-hatched conspiracy, created the dispute of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in the north of the subcontinent.

To resolve the issue of this region, the UN was mandated to intervene and hold a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the local people which way they want to go. Under this noble-looking decision, however, lay a trick to prolong the dispute and keep the two nations at each other’s throat. In the war that started in Kashmir in 1947, the people of Kashmir got some of their land vacated from the occupation of the Sikh rule with the help of Pathans and tribal Lashkar while the people of Gilgit-Baltistan kicked out the Dogra rulers. However, on Nov 16, 1948, Pakistan under a conspiracy sent one of its low level officials to the newly-liberated Gilgit-Baltistan on the pretext of providing administrative support and started its never ending occupation of the region. Then in order to prolong its rule in the region and plunder its resources, Pakistan entered into a fake agreement with the leadership of Kashmir and came out with the notorious Karachi agreement of April 28, 1949, linking Gilgit-Baltistan with the issue of Kashmir and claiming to have been given the right to take over the administrative control of the region.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have since then observing April 28 as the black day. What would be more tragic than the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan which had been liberated by its own people was made the colony of Pakistan in the name of religion and nation. It is also tragic that all the three characters responsible for the fake Karachi agreement –Pakistan’s minister without portfolio Mushtaq Gurmani, then president of Azad Kashmir Sardar Ibrahim and head of the Muslim Conference Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas – were alien to Gilgit-Baltistan and had no mandate whatsoever to represent the people of the region or decide about the future of the area.

With this conspiracy, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan started a struggle for getting back their lost freedom and protect their identity as a separate and a distinct nation. However, whenever their struggle got steam, Pakistan’s security agencies worked to divide the
people by pitching them against each other on sectarian basis. This conspiracy of Pakistan to divide and rule the region and plunder its resources continues even today. In play its dirty game, Pakistan ahs never considered basic human rights or international laws and violated the people’s human, constitutional and political rights. It also kept the international community in the dark and misled it by claiming that the region had been given all the constitutional powers and rights.

In this regard, Islamabad has also violated the UN resolutions about withdrawal of its troops for paying way to hold a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the local people about their future.
The latest package introduced by the PPP government in Aug 2009 was also a ploy of Pakistan to prolong its rule in the region and make the world believe that the region enjoyed all the basic political and economic rights as given to the four provinces of the country. But in reality the region remain as enslaved and subjugated as it was six decades aback with its people being treated as third-class citizens deprived of all basic human and political rights.

In the struggle for getting all the rights and ensure protection of the local people’s identity, nationalist parties have been working tirelessly and succeeded to highlight the issue of the region at the international level. They have always rejected Pakistan’s assertion that Gilgit-Baltistan is a geographical part of Pakistan. It never was and never can be because its political status is yet to be decided by the international community keeping in view the aspirations of the local people.

The nationalist parties of the region in particular and others in general are of the view that Pakistan should give freedom to Gilgit-Baltistan in order to save its own integrity otherwise a wave for getting the people’s rights will rise from Balochistan to Gilgit-Baltistan. It is better the rulers sitting in Islamabad realized the gravity of the situation and stopped thinking that the two million people of Gilgit-Baltistan can be kept enslave any further. The people of the region have become more conscious of their rights and their identity and are no more in a mood to believe Pakistan’s rhetoric that it can keep them under control and plunder their resources without any fear of being made accounted for.

No comments:

Post a Comment