President Shah Rais Khan
Army Chief Mirza Hassan, first from left, Quarter Master Babar Khan and
Chief of General Staff Saeed Durrani.
Political Agent Ghulam Haider, first from left, Inspector General Police Abdul
Hameed and Member Revolutionary Council Muhammad Khan.
ADC to Army Chief Shah Khan, left, and Advisor to the
government Major Brown.
By Habib R. Sulemani
People of this strategically important “province” consider themselves patriotic Pakistanis and have given historic sacrifices for the country during the last 64 years. But, unfortunately, they’ve not been given equal rights of citizenship so far as people of other provinces enjoy under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
We, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, have no representation in the Pakistani Parliament. Therefore, our voice never reaches the corridors of power! Since I started my career as a journalist in the mainstream media of the country, I've been paying taxes according to the law but still I've no right of vote in this country for which three generations of my family have given sacrifices. I'm a more equal citizen of Pakistan! Because I'm from Gilgit-Baltistan, a region about which the Constitution of this country is silent.
A friend says that if Gilgit-Baltistan had Constitutional rights in Pakistan then any Minister, Member National Assembly or Senator would have raised my case in the corridors of power. It seems true in the current situation as parliamentarians have failed to escape from narrow-minded provincialism! After attempts on my life, I’m restricted to my home for the last 19 months but the democratic government is still silent. There is not even one parliamentarian in the country who could dare to speak against the powerful accused. Alas! We've lost the spirit of Mr. Jinnah's liberal Pakistan.
Now, let me give you some information about my Orphaned Land.
Reasons for the injustices
However, last year, under a Presidential Self-rule Order, the Pakistan People's Party-led elected government gave the region an elected administration – governor, chief minister and legislative assembly – for the first time since independence. However, the new setup is powerless and has no Constitutional cover at all. It's said that even a Major of the ISI is more powerful than the elected Chief Minister. Some friends used to joke soon after the elections: "Now you've at least a fake provincial status with fake governor and fake chief minister."
Anyway, there is a fear among the locals that the Presidential Order could be cancelled any time. This fear and uncertainty has further increased the sense of deprivation among the locals in the region—full of undiscovered natural resources.
Start of the tragedy
Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir
Geographical, racial and linguistic differences have always remained there, and for the last six decades they have further widened due to the separate statuses of both regions. Now there’s a globalize view of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan. The narrow-minded Kashmirism has become of age with those leaders who lived out of the region but advocated for making the liberated regain again a part of Kashmir – the broken and bleeding territory of South Asia!
Here are some points which are really disturbing for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Struggle for rights and sectarianism
During the dark era of General Zia, worst sectarian clashes were sponsored under the state. Many people believe that it was a deliberate effort of the dictator to kill the Shia majority, and bring the Sunni Afghan refuges to live in Gilgit-Baltistan permanently.
This alleged dream of the former dictator could not come true but the sectarian killings, started in the 1980s, still goes on. Many innocent people especially government officers and professionals have been assassinated from both sides, Shia and Sunni. The innocent common people of both sects are surprised who comes suddenly on the scene... kills some people from one sect and disappear... then some people from the opposite sect are made target, and impression of sectarian target-killing is given to the public through the establishment-controlled media.
"Even senior journalist have become public-relation officers, who first publish a news of certain officer and then go to his office along copy of the news item to get a smile at least," a friend from Gilgit told on telephone recently.
“Even vegetable and fruit vendors have become journalist in Gilgit-Baltistan. They do what their masters order them," he added. "The common people are scared to death when they hear names of the ISI and MI. Both agencies have spread their network in a way that no-one can trust anybody in the city. People fear to talk to each other.”
“Then how the sectarian killings happen in a small city like Gilgit?” I asked.
“That’s the question,” he said. “For the world’s best spy agency and army, it’s absolutely not impossible to control sectarian killings in a small city like Gilgit if they really wanted to do so!!”
1- Shia factor: The majority of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are Asna Ashri Shia Muslims. The establishment fears that a province dominated by Shias in a Sunni-majority country could create any problem to the security of the state. They Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case is also in their minds.
This fear became stronger after the Islamic revolution in the neighboring Iran. Thus the secret agencies have hired some locals of the community and try to stop any political movement especially for the constitutional rights of the region. A group of media persons, especially the Uks Network of Zaffar Abbas of daily Dawn, is playing a vital rule in depoliticizing the Shia community as a part of the strategy of the secret agencies.
There is a propaganda that the region would be a separate Shia state like Iran. But people know that such a state can't survive surrounded by Sunni-majority regions of Kashghar, Kashmir, Kohistan and Kabul (K4). Moreover, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are thinking globally and they're not separatists either. They just seek basic human rights under the Constitution of the country.
2- Ismaili factor: The Ismaili Shia Muslims are also dominating in two out of seven districts. Due to the international status of The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismailis, the establishment fears that the community could create hurdles anytime.
Thus the establishment has succeed in appointing government officers as office-bearers of the Ismaili Regional Council and in this way they’ve created a new group named after Allama Nasir Hunzai in the community. The secret agencies brought out a scandal of this famous poet of Brushaski language when president of the Ismaili Council was a Wakhi-speaking government officer, Zaffar Iqbal. The current president Assistant Professor (KIU) Manzoor Ali is a Brushaski-speaking and the agencies used him against my family (Wakhi-speaking).
The agencies have ignited the fire of racial-conflict, Wakhi-Brushashki, within the Ismaili community to make sure that they can't unite and do anything politically for their rights. The divide-and-rule policy is in vogue since the so-called independence.
The theory of an Ismaili state in the region is as impossible as any other sectarian based state. The landlocked region can't survive in isolation.
They've been told to advocate for rejoining Kashmir, in this way their minority status would be changed. This is really a dirty game of the dirty establishment. Maulana Fazl Rehman of the JUI is a key player in this game besides the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party and other political groups had publicly announced during the last elections in the region that they would give Gilgit-Baltistan representation in the National Assembly and Senate. Indeed, they can make the country stronger in this way. But they all are silent since then. Was it just a traditional election game? It seems so!
Gilgit-Baltistan should have been an integral part of Pakistan as the Fifth Province right from the very beginning. But, unfortunately, it could not happen. However, the ruling class of Pakistan can do this task even today. Yes bravo! Still it’s not too late!
(This article had first appeared in The Terrorland group blogs last year.—The Terrorland Team)