POLITICAL, legal, administrative and juridical mainstreaming of Gilgit-Baltistan should have been dealt with long ago. A smooth and speedy execution of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-related projects and a further deepening of strategic, commercial and financial Pakistan-China ties warrant a resolution of political and economic grievances being expressed by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
They deserve equal rights and their socio-economic uplift should not be held hostage to regional developments, and immediate strategic and economic dividends must not undermine our long-term diplomatic objectives.
Historically, GB was the part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and any act intended to extend the de jure jurisdictional and sovereign rights of the state of Pakistan over GB territory would have international ramifications.
The move to grant provincial status to GB and resultant representation in parliament and other constitutional bodies will undermine Pakistan’s stated principled stance of conducting a plebiscite to seek a solution to the Kashmir dispute.
A cautious approach should be adopted before making any drastic move. It is indeed a welcome sign that both PTI government and the military establishment are seeking a consensus-based decision on this sensitive issue.
Aftab H. Wahla
After the illegitimate Indian move to revoke Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, several options are under consideration in Pakistan. The billion dollar question is: is it the right time to take such an action?
As reported by several resources, India is ‘very concerned’ about the development being made in Gilgit-Baltistan regarding CPEC. Work on Diamir-Bhasha dam has already been inaugurated, whereas several other projects are under process.
India claims that GB, being part of Kashmir, is a disputed territory and China should re-consider the passage of CPEC through this territory. It is also reported that India was actually planning a strike at GB in the early 2020 to dismantle the progress and to demonstrate the Indian sensitivity to the international community.
The sensitivity of China regarding CPEC has already been evident by its engagement with India on the Line of Actual Control.
Prior to this issue, China was seeking an enhanced cooperation with India. One of the six corridors of Belt and Road Initiative is the route through Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. This corridor will link China to the Indian Ocean from the eastern border of India.
The trade partnership also grew between the two countries, while India was included in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
On the other hand, India is ready to move further with China on condition that Pakistan should not be a part of any Chinese project.
Sadly for India, that’s impossible now. The overall situation shows that the current status of GB is an advantage for Pakistan
Keeping in view the current strategic situation, it would not be a positive step for Pakistan to give GB a provincial status even provisionally.
GILGIT-Baltistan is geopolitically a very important and sensitive area. The brave people of GB fought their own war of independence against the Dogra Raj and preferred accession to Pakistan.
Under the infamous ‘Karachi declaration’, right after independence, the fate of the GB people was linked with the Kashmir issue. Since independence, the patriotic people of GB have been demanding GB’s merger into national mainstream.
The latest political consensus among different stakeholders is an optimistic sign. The CPEC project and the ongoing tense situation in the India-occupied Kashmir have further highlighted the sensitivity of the issue.
GB can be declared ‘provisional province’ till a plebiscite is held in Kashmir. In GB, there is a high literacy rate and the youth is vigilant and knowledgeable.
The educated youth of GB will warmly welcome any positive move towards constitutional development and legal linkage.
The patriotic people of GB are really proud of their brave army which is stationed even at the top of Siachen glacier to safeguard their freedom.
Niaz Ali Shigri
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020