Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir Issue
It has been discussed at large and then decided that in a meeting held in GHQ chaired by the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa with prominent political leaders to grant “Provisional Provincial Status” to Gilgit-Baltistan.
A heated debate on this decision or proposal is going on whether this decision is right or wrong in the perspective of Kashmir Issue. So many friends have asked my opinion on this very serious matter. I feel engrossed to opine on it as political point scoring on national issues is a great crime. I would very briefly like to throw light on this sensitive issue. Some people have criticized that why this meeting was chaired by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, why not by Prime Minister Imran Khan?
The PM on this point issued a press statement that the meeting was chaired by Army Chief with his permission/ consent. The opposition says that the PM is antagonistic towards opposition leaders and does not want to sit with them. Whatsoever is the case, in my opinion the issue of G-B is not a political but a strategic issue and should have been chaired by Army Chief in the National interest. There should be no politicking on national issues.
Gilgit-Baltistan, historically, was governed by local Rajas/ Rulers. Skardu, Nagar, Hunza, Shigar, Khaplu, Khizar and Kharmang and so many other small states were being ruled by local rulers. These were independent states. The Maharaja of Kashmir conquered these states one by one and forcibly annexed them to Kashmir.
In 1947, when the Britishers left and Pakistan was carved on the map, G-B was governed by the Governor Brigadier Ghansara Singh appointed by Mahraja Hari Singh of Kashmir. As the majority of population was of Muslims, hence the Muslims revolted against Hindu regime of Hari Singh.
Gilgit Scouts and local freedom fighters defeated the army of Hari Singh and liberated the area and announced its accession to Pakistan. We must acknowledge the grand services of Col. Hassan, Major Brown, Saeed Durrani and many others who valiantly fought and freed the people from the yoke of Hari Singh and joined Pakistan.
In the UN resolutions, G-B is part of Kashmir. At the time of division it was under the suzerainty of the Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh. Like G-B , the people of Azad Kashmir also crusaded against Mahraja Hari Singh under the command and leadership of Sardar Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, Sardar Mohammad Abdul Qayyum Khan, Khan of Mung and Col. Mohammad Khan of Rawalakot. The first three freedom fighters and leaders happened to be the students of my father Tehseen Jafri at Poonch City.
According to UN resolutions, Pakistan cannot annex or merge Gilgit-Baltistan. If we do so, then we will do what the Indian Government has done after revoking the articles 370 and 35-A from Indian constitution. The merger of G-B into Pakistan would tantamount to the division of Kashmir.
The “Provisional Provincial Status” does not harm or damage our case in the UN. This Status is temporary. We adhere to the UN resolutions and the people of G-B will vote when Plebiscite takes place. Indian act is absolutely illegal as it collides with UN resolutions and as well with Indian constitution.
In 1992, I was Adviser to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Sardar Mohammad Abdul Qayyum. The people of Cowardo were hit by storm and of Shingoz by earthquake. The PM sent me to Baltistan to make a report of the damages. Later on the government of Azad Kashmir financially helped the affectees. It was the gesture of mutual affection and affinity. I also addressed a big public meeting in Skardu and appreciated the patriotic feelings of the people and appealed them to be united and firmly stand by Pakistan. I agreed with their demands pertaining to political and economic reforms.
Earlier, the people of G-B were being ruled by Pakistani bureaucrats who created fuse and resistance bent in the people. FC was the master of their fate. They were ruled as they were slaves and subjects. Kashmir Ministry was their actual Master. The people had no say in political matters. They felt neglected, disgraced and deprived. During my visit, so many rebels / revolutionaries came to see me and expressed their intense agony and annoyance against the colonial style of Pakistani bureaucracy. I found them very patriotic but smelt the odour of rebellion. I wrote a column in a daily newspaper and urged political reforms in G-B.
First they were given Deputy Chief Executive, then Chief Executive and then Chief Minister. Fida Mohammad Nashad, Mir Ghazanfar and Mehdi Shah remained Chief Executives and Chief Ministers. Syed Asad Zaidi was the Deputy Speaker who was my College fellow at Gordon College, Rawalpindi. He was a great poet, scholar, speaker and politician. He was assassinated by religious extremists. His assassination is an irreparable political and intellectual loss to Baltistan. Most of the eminent religious, literary and political personalities are my friends and we are in touch on national issues. They all are great patriots.
I would suggest that after giving G-B a Provisional Provincial Status, it should be given seats in the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan per their population. Similarly, I suggest that the people of Azad Kashmir also be given seats in NA and Senate as Observers. India had allocated the seats to Kashmiris and they contest and join Indian Assembly but we have entirely ignored the Kashmiris. We must renew the matters of the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan and bring them at par with other provinces.
Barrister Afzal Hussain in his book titled Kashmir and Human Rights in a chapter captioned, “Kashmir Issue and Constitutional Status of Gilgit-Baltistan” has thrown ample light on this issue.
He writes: “According to article number 257 of the constitution of Pakistan, when Kashmir will become part of Pakistan, the internal matters will be settled by the will of Kashmiris.”
In the light of this constitutional obligation, we must appreciate the step taken by the Chief of Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa in national interest. This decision is provisory. It is conditional as this decision is adhered to UN resolutions. It is the act of prudence. It is neither merger nor annexation. It is not a step towards the Division of Kashmir as some people pronounce to score points.
For the Security and safety of CPEC, this step is essential. China should oust India from Ladakh as it is illegally controlled by India. Ladakh is part of Kashmir with the majority of Muslims and Buddhist minority. China and Pakistan with a joint plan must oust Indian illegal occupation of India form Ladakh as it is part of Pakistan.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.