Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pakistan Gilgit Package: Self Rule or Annexation

By Prof. Bhim Singh
The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, on 4th September, 2009 threw a bomb shell in the name of ‘empowerment’ and ‘self rule’ governance order for ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ region which Pakistan identified since occupation as ‘Northern Areas’. Its intention is to silence the liberation movement of two million citizens of this occupied area of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947. With the aid and abetment of Pakistani army, the Gilgit Muslim Scouts abducted Kashmir Governor, Brig. Ghansara Singh on 16th November, 1947. Indian army could not rescue the Governor and Pakistan Army took over Gilgit. Since then this region has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan’s military. The Pakistan’s interest in the region is obvious as the geo-strategic importance of the territory has never been in doubt. To the north-east lies the Chinese border, further north is Kazakhstan, to the north-west there is Afghanistan. The controversial Karakoram Highway runs through the region and the Siachen Glacier commands a strategic portion of it. There lies Anglo-American interest too.The recent ‘Self Rule’ Package of Pakistan is 5th attempt to consolidate Pakistan’s occupation in Gilgit. It was Benazir Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1994 who granted a ‘Reform Package’ for the Gilgit region by introducing a so-called ‘24 Member Council’ for the occupied areas without granting civil, political or economic rights. The so-called Council was chaired by an executive officer of Pakistan. The council worked directly under the command of Pakistani army. The ‘Reform Package’ was described by the then Prime Minister of POK, Sardar Qayyum Khan as a joke on the people of Gilgit. In his letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he stated, “This has caused serious concern in our minds. While we study the implications and significance of the decision by the Government of Pakistan, I would urge the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to clarify that this decision in no way affects, or is prejudicial to, the UNCIP Resolutions on Kashmir.” 15 years later another Government of Pakistan led by the same party, PPP, has repeated the same bluff it did in 1994. Now ‘Self Rule’.The present move reveals Pakistan’s dangerous conspiracy to annex strategic areas of Gilgit-Baltistan comprising 32,500 sq. miles of the territory of the erstwhile Dogra State of Jammu and Kashmir as its 5th province. Nearly 5,000 sq. miles out of this area were ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963 under the so-called Karachi Agreement signed by the Chou-en-Lai and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and China respectively. China since has built Karakoram Highway (KKH) which bridges China with Europe via Peshawar (Pakistan). China has also built 16 Air-strips on KKH, mostly used for military purpose. Pakistan has taken up a new project to build 6 Mega Dams in Gilgit-Baltistan with the technical and financial assistance of China. Both these decisions; ceding J&K territory to China and building 6 Mega Dams in the occupied territory of J&K seriously violate the UNCIP resolution of 13th August, 1948 on which Pakistan has been harping for 62 years. Besides, the presence of 5,000 Chinese well-equipped troops as disguised labourers and engineers and the construction of 16 Air-strips on the Highway for Jet Fighters may jeopardize peace process between India and Pakistan. It may effect peace prospects in Afghanistan and endanger India’s security. Anglo-American Bloc has been showing special interest in the region because of China’s presence in the region.The ‘Self Rule Package’ is an improved form of 1974 Interim Constitution of the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’. A comparative study of two documents leads to the conclusion that Pakistan has decided to establish its legitimacy both in POK and Gilgit regions by legitimizing her status from an ‘occupier’ or ‘encroacher’ to a ‘possessor’ so that area does not figure in the list of ‘disputed’ territories. This is to counter Indian claim as maintained to liberate entire occupied territory from Pakistan as has been recorded in Parliament resolution of 1994 during P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Prime Ministership. ‘Self Rule’ Package provides two Houses of the Legislature, a Legislative Assembly (without legislative powers) and a Legislative Council. The Council shall enjoy the legislative powers over all 60 odd subjects identified with municipal powers. The Assembly has no Legislative competence. The decisions of the Council are not subjected to the authority of the Assembly. Interestingly, the Council shall have 15 Members which shall be presided over by the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan is a sitting Minister in the Federal Government who shall also be the Vice Chairman of the Council. Shockingly, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is also the Chairman of the Legislative Council of the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’. Half of the members in the Council shall be nominated by the Prime Minister of Pakistan from amongst the citizens of Pakistan. Similar is the case with the Council of Azad Kashmir. There is a sharp contradiction between Interim Constitution of the ‘Azad Kashmir’, 1974 and Self Rule Package of ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ 2009. The so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ is headed by a President who is elected by the Assembly Members and Prime Minister heads the Government. Both have to be ‘State Subjects’. Pakistan has carefully rather intriguely changed nomenclatures of these two heads in Gilgit-Baltistan. There shall be a Governor, a sitting Federal Minister of Pakistan (of course, a citizen of Pakistan) appointed by the President of Pakistan and the Chief Minister (not Prime Minister) shall be from amongst the members of the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan. This is a clear manifestation of the future game plan of Pakistan to annex Gilgit-Baltistan as its 5th province. The judicial system makes mockery of the present Self Rule ordinance. There shall be some so-called judicial officers. The official language has not been defined. Without a High Court there shall be a Chief Judge with five judges of the so-called Appellate Court. Judges, including Members of Legislative Assembly and the Council shall have to take an oath of allegiance to be loyal to Pakistan and follow Holy Quran. It is not necessary that a candidate for the Assembly should be a state subject in Gilgit. In fact, concept of state subject has been done away with right since 1947. Qualification of a candidate for the Assembly in POK is that he should be a ‘state subject’ within the scope of the law which was promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh through a Royal decree in 1927. This continues to be a strict law in J&K and in POK as well. This rule has not been followed in Gilgit package, enabling Pakistani citizens to settle in Gilgit. Naturally so, because one-third of the total population in Gilgit-Baltistan has migrated from Punjab and Blochistan in past six decades of Pakistani military rule in the area. The ‘Self Rule’ ordinance does not mention whether a candidate for the Assembly or Council should be a Muslim. Naturally, there are no non-Muslims in the region. Not a single non-Muslim survived in the region in 1947. They were killed or converted.In subtle contrast, the Instrument of Accession that Maharaja Hari Singh wrote while acceding to the Dominion of India in 1947 transferred subjects including Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communication and Currency to the Dominion of India whereas Pakistan had brutally exercised its control vis-୶is Defence, Foreign Affairs and all the state subjects over POK and Gilgit treating the territory as its colony. The Gilgit ‘Self Rule’ Package expressly provides that jurisdiction over Defence, Foreign Affairs, internal security and matters connected with these subjects shall exclusively be enjoyed by Pakistan. This amounts in international law as a stark invasion and violation of UNCIP resolution.The package provides Constitution of a two Member Commission to settle boundary-disputes arising between Pakistan and Gilgit regions. Both members shall be appointed by the Governor as employees of Pakistan. There are huge lands in the region has been illegally encroached by Pakistan army and the settlers. The Commission may be used as instrument to regularize the illegal encroachments, instead.A serious diagnosis of the package would reveal a calculated conspiracy to merge or annex Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan as its fifth province. This is to outwit India’s claim over Gilgit-Baltistan.The staunch opponents of this ‘Package’ in POK and Gilgit include Sadar Qayyum Khan, former President and Prime Minister of ‘Azad Kashmir’, the Gilgit liberation movement leaders like Abdul Hamid Khan, Manzoor Hussain Parwana and many others who are spearheading a mass movement within the occupied areas. They are demanding withdrawal of Pakistan armies and referendum in the area. JKLF President, Ammanullah Khan has announced to form a parallel government in Gilgit, whereas Hizbul Mujahiddin, Kashmiri Leader, Master Salahuddin has served ultimatum against the package though, for different reasons. Mr. Arif Shahid of JKNLF has formed an alliance in POK to expose Pakistan’s nefarious design to change demography and cultural identity of the region. The Gilgit-ites fear that political stooges shall be recruited to the so-called Assembly and Council who would be used as rubber stamp in its so-called election scheduled for 12th November, 2009 to serve Pak interest.Pakistan also has managed to sound the rebels in POK with a warning shot that they may also be framed under a similar ‘Package’. Pakistan intends to reconsolidate its full political supremacy over the occupied territory. The interim constitution, 1974 of ‘Azad Kashmir’ may fall as next causality. They may have to live with a similar doze which Pakistan has granted to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistan’s sixth province.The package deserves a serious introspection by the South and North Blocks dealing with J&K. Pakistan has admitted publicly before the international community and the United Nations that it no longer cares for the dictates or sermons incorporated in the resolutions of the Security Council proposing plebiscite in J&K after withdrawal of Pakistan armies and civilian settlers from the occupied territory. Pakistan has made it clear. ‘No to withdrawal’ and ‘no to UN resolutions’. Pakistan has also accepted the status quo vis-୶is J&K. Pakistan has expressly retained Defence, Foreign Affairs and other matters in respect of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan (which formed almost one-third of the area of the state). The subjects which Maharaja transferred to the Union of India in 1947, Pakistan has assumed the same authority over the J&K’s occupied territory after 62 years by declaring, Gilgit-Baltistan as its 5th province which had been under its defacto possession since 1947. Fresh Sino-Pak strategy to grab Gilgit-Baltistan may not go quite pleasant with the Anglo-American Bloc. The US interest in the region remained to establish bases of the Pentagon to keep a watch on the expansionist designs of Communist China. British interest in the region is its ‘earth wealth’ it discovered during its lease period from the Dogra Maharaja in 1935. To cope with the fast changing scenario of POK and Gilgit is a real challenge for the leadership of India and a question mark on the peace prospects in South Asia. Courtesy Kashmir Watch

No comments:

Post a Comment