On April 14, 2012, hundreds of Shias from all over the United States gathered in front of the Embassy of Pakistan to protest Shia and minority killings in the country. Members and supporters of Gilgit Baltistan National Congress also joined the protesters.
Presence of Malika Baltistani, the chairperson of Gilgit-Baltistan National Alliance, was a shot in the arm for the members of GBNC. She delivered an inspiring speech about the rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and condemned Pakistani government for patronizing the terrorists. She lamented that even though Gilgit-Baltistan provides water, minerals and a safe route for Pakistan to China; yet, the native Shias are treated like captives. She said that Pakistan is pursuing the age-old Umayyad and Abbasid policy of Shia persecution. She said, “We are rebels and not traitors and Pakistani policies of alienation are responsible for this.”
On the occasion, the president of Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, Imtiaz Hussain, issued a press release:
The United Nations universal declaration on human rights guarantees freedom of religious practice and expression as a birth right. However, the natives of Pakistan controlled Gilgit-Baltistan have failed to attain their basic rights in the last six decades. Gilgit-Baltistan is an UN-declared disputed area and remains outside the constitutional jurisdiction of Pakistan. Several resolutions passed by both UN Security Council and UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) have asked Pakistan to guarantee genuine autonomy to the region which then ensures freedom of political, judicial and socio-economic rights. However, Islamabad’s failures have caused an irreparable damage to the social fabric. Today, the urban parts of Gilgit-Baltistan present the picture of a war zone where natives live with fear and deprivation.
Gilgit-Baltistan is a Shia majority area with considerable populations of Ismailia, Nurbakhsia and Sunni Muslims. Akin to Parachinar, where native Shias have been converted into a minority in their homeland, people of Gilgit-Baltistan also face ethnic cleansing, as attacks on Shias have become a routine matter. In many cases, law enforcement personnel are found involved in attacks on the Shias. The Shia massacre of 1988, for instance, was sponsored by the regime of General Ziaul Haque. During the episode, which lasted for 16 days, military officials provided direct support to the Jihadi terrorists belonging to Waziristan, Mohmand, Kohistan, Bajor and Swat districts. The Mujahideen attacked fourteen villages and forced tens of thousands of Shias to flee. These IDPs have failed to return to their homes due to lack of governmental patronage.
Shia killings in Gilgit-Baltistan have a history that dates back to 1947, when Pakistani political agent, Sardar Alam Khan, engineered a series of sectarian conflicts to lengthen his autocratic rule. In 1972, the regime once again resorted to sectarianism to justify abrogation of State Subject Rule (SSR) which then culminated into arrival of thousands of illegal settlers in Gilgit-Baltistan. The move which was a violation of the UNO resolutions helped change local religious and ethnic demography and resulted into Shias becoming a minority in the capital city, Gilgit. Hundreds of Shias of Gilgit-Baltistan have lost their lives since then and the assailants remain at large under state protection.
In recent weeks, first on February 28 and then on April 3, terrorists attacked buses loaded with passengers of Gilgit-Baltistan and slaughtered more than 100 Shias. The unfortunate incidents occurred in broad daylight on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) which is dotted with police and military check posts. Eyewitnesses claim that police provided weapons to the assailants, who numbered in thousands. Following the Shia massacre, an indefinite curfew was imposed in Gilgit-Baltistan causing food and medicine shortages. As of now, the region is cut off from the rest of the world as traffic on KKH, the sole road linking Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan, remains unsafe and disrupted, and air travel is cost prohibitive for the vast majority.
Given that Gilgit-Baltistan is an UN-declared disputed area and that Pakistan lacks the constitutional capacity to ensure fundamental rights and protection to the natives of the region; we urge the UNO to make necessary arrangements to ensure safety of life, honor and property in Gilgit-Baltistan. At the same time, we urge the regime in Islamabad to implement the following on immediate basis
1. Respect UNO resolutions and reinstate State Subject Rule (SSR) to protect local ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural demography
2. Ensure protection to local languages and religions
3. Resume trade and travel over Astore-Srinagar, Chorbat-Nubra, Marol-Khaltse, Drass-Gultari and Olding-Kargil roads to ensure travel safety on alternate routes
4. Withdraw paramilitary from urban areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and strengthen local police
5. Remove all militant hide outs and launch pads from Gilgit-Baltistan
6. Arrest and prosecute the militants and military personnel who are involved in Shia killings
7. Return control over natural resources and trade routes to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly
8. Abolish Gilgit-Baltistan Council and Ministry of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs (KGBA) to ensure genuine autonomy as recommended by the UNO
We once again urge the UNO to persuade Pakistan to comply with these just demands
In good faith,
Gilgit Baltistan National Congress
1831 Belmont Rd NW
Washington DC 20009