Presentation by Dr Shabir Choudhry in a Debate on Gilgit Baltistan arranged by Baroness Emma Nicholson in House of Lords on 7 April 2010.
Indeed it is an honour to be here and make a presentation on a topic of Gilgit Baltistan. But before I start my presentation I want to thank Baroness Emma Nicholson and her staff for vigorously working to promote rights of people of Jammu and Kashmir, and especially for the rights of people of Gilgit Baltistan.
Whatever little rights have been given to people of Gilgit Baltistan in Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, we feel that is because of the pressure generated by the EU Kashmir Report which was passed by overwhelming majority by the EU Parliament in 2007. Baroness Emma Nicholson authored that report and played a key role in getting it through all stages in the EU Parliament
Location of Gilgit Baltistan
Areas of Gilgit Baltistan are approximately 72,496 square kilometres; and are strategically very important and full of natural resources. This is where South, Central and East Asia converge. It is at the crossroads of three great civilizations and was traditionally a gateway for both India and China to Central Asia and beyond, in to the heart of Europe. This is old trading route known as the Silk Route which contributed enormously to the wealth of so many countries and brought different civilizations closer to each other.
With time strategic importance of these areas has increased. Apart from India and Pakistan, other countries like China, Afghanistan, Central Asian States, Iran, Russia and America also have keen interest in these areas.
Constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan
Constitutionally and historically areas of Gilgit Baltistan are part of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. The State, as we know, is disputed and its future is yet to be determined by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pre Partition map of South Asia shows the State of Jammu and Kashmir at the top, and areas of Gilgit Baltistan are shown as part of Jammu and Kashmir. Also post partition maps of the region clearly shows the area of Gilgit Baltistan are not part of Pakistan. Similarly UN map of the region shows that these areas are part of Jammu and Kashmir.
Apart from these maps the UN Resolutions on Kashmir clearly show that areas of Gilgit Baltistan are part of the State.
Furthermore the Karachi Agreement of 28 April 1949 (which was signed by Nawab Mushtaq Gurmani a Minister of Pakistan and the ‘President’ of ‘Azad Kashmir’, Sardar Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, and President of the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas), a copy which is distributed to you, clearly shows that these areas are part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan China Agreement
Also Pakistan signed an agreement with Republic of China on 2 March 1963, in which Pakistan gifted away around 2200 square miles of our territory to China which helped them to start a new era of friendship. In article 6 of this agreement Pakistan acknowledged that the sovereignty of the region did not rest with Pakistan. The agreement reads and I quote:
‘The two parties have agreed that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, the sovereign authority concerned will reopen negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the boundary as described in Article Two of the present agreement, so as to sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the present agreement, provided that in the event of the sovereign authority being Pakistan, the provisions of the present agreement and of the aforesaid protocol shall be maintained in the formal boundary treaty to be signed between the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan.’ Unquote
UNCIP Resolution of 13 August 1948
1. As, the presence of troops of Pakistan in the territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes a material change in the situation since it was represented by the Government of Pakistan before the Security Council, the Government of Pakistan agrees to withdraw its troops from that State.
2. The Government of Pakistan will use its best endeavour to secure the withdrawal from the State of Jammu and Kashmir of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals not normally resident therein who have entered the State for the purpose of fighting.
3. Pending a final solution, the Territory evacuated by the Pakistani troops will be administered by the local authorities under the surveillance of the commission.
The areas of Gilgit Baltistan are split in to five districts:
About 2 million inhabits live in these vast areas and the ethnic groups are:
These people speak the following languages:
Pushto and Urdu.
The sect-wise breakdown of population in the Northern Areas is:
Gilgit – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni;
Hunza –100% Ismaili;
Nagar – 100% Shia;
Punial – 100% Ismaili;
Yasin – 100% Ismaili;
Ishkoman –100% Ismaili;
Gupis – 100% Ismaili;
Chilas – 100% Sunni;
Darel/Tangir – 100% Sunni;
Astor – 90% Sunni, 10% Shia;
Baltistan – 98% Shia, 2% Sunni.
Struggle is not religious
The above religious divide is important for people to understand, as some people want to present the struggle as a religious one; and they want to impose a decision in name of the religion.
In my view it is a recipe for a division of the State on communal lines, which will be disastrous for the entire region.
Supreme Court of Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan has issued various judgements regarding areas of Gilgit Baltistan. I will mention only two here.
• During the hearing of the Indian plane (Ganga) hijacking case started in 1971 and ended on 17 May, 1973, the Attorney General of Pakistan admitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan that: “No given part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir can decide on its own, to join either Pakistan or India”.
• The Supreme Court of Pakistan in Habib Wahab al-Khairi case on May 28, 1999, ordered the government of Pakistan: that Northern Areas were constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government of Pakistan should ensure that basic human rights and other political and administrative institutions are provided in the areas within six months. However, the action should not adversely affect Pakistan’s stand concerning the Kashmir dispute.
Preamble to Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says:
‘Therein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;
Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes;
Wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured;
Wherein the integrity of the territories of the Federation, its independence and all its rights, including its sovereign rights on land, sea and air, shall be safeguarded;’
All that is good on paper, as we know what rights and protections are available to people of Pakistan, people of Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Also we know government of Pakistan has great experience in avoid implementation of Court orders.
Gilgit Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009.
On 9th September, 2009 the government of Pakistan issued a new Package for Gilgit Baltistran. In line with its past practise regarding Gilgit Baltistan, the government of Pakistan did not feel important to consult anyone from this area. They did not even consult their appointed Chief Executive or any other member of the Northern Areas Legislative Assembly.
Many people of the area feel in name of ‘empowering people’ the government of Pakistan wants to annex these areas, just like they annexed state of Chitral. Chitral is now part of Malakand Division which is part of Pakistan, just like Swat and Dir.
However in 1878 the Ruler of Chitral known as Mahtar had acknowledged the suzerainty of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, and through him to the British Crown. Thus Chitral was legally part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; and government of Pakistan did not show Chitral as part of Pakistan in the Constitutions of 1956 or in 1962. But in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan declared Chitral as one of its territory.
We oppose this ordinance because:
• This act of Pakistan is in clear violation of its obligations under the UNCIP Resolutions;
• It is against Pakistan’s previous stand on Jammu and Kashmir;
• It is against previous decisions of Pakistani Supreme Court;
• It is against Pakistan’s bilateral agreements with India according to which no country can unilaterally change status of any part of Jammu and Kashmir;
• It is against article 257 of Constitution of Pakistan, which reads:
Article 257 of Constitution of Pakistan
When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.
We fear Pakistani government:
Could do same to Gilgit Baltistan what they did to Chitral;
And in this regard some suggestions have been made to government of Pakistan by Basil Nabi Malik in his article:
‘The Constitutional Dilemma of the Northern Areas of Pakistan, and I quote:
1. ‘Pakistan could resolve this constitutional dilemma….by giving the Northern Areas representation in the National Assembly and in the Constitution, subject to alterations upon the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute
2. Unilaterally accepting the Northern Areas as the fifth province of Pakistan by including a sentence stating that “the Northern Areas shall be the fifth province of Pakistan for administrative purposes, until the complete resolution of the Kashmir dispute”,
3. On the basis of this (right of self determination) Pakistan may initiate a referendum in the Northern Areas in order to ascertain whether they would prefer to exist as a region of Kashmir or as a separate autonomous region’. Unquote
4. We fear that Pakistan can ask its puppet assembly in Gilgit Baltistan to declare accession of these areas with Pakistan or hold a referendum and manipulate the outcome.
Challenge to Gilgit Baltistan Ordinance
In view of the above and many other reasons we thought to challenge Ordinance on Gilgit Baltistan in Supreme Court of Pakistan. For this Kashmir National Party in ----consultation with our ally in the area, Shafqat Inquilabi, a leader of the Balawaristan National Front filed a case, a copy of which has been circulated to you.
The case has been filed and we are waiting for the Supreme Court to constitute a bench to hear the case. We understand judiciary in Pakistan is independent; and we hope that they will provide fair hearing to this case and provide justice to more than two million inhabitants of the area.
Policy of intimidation
We also hope that the Supreme Court will be able to provide protection to Shafqat Inquilabi who is subject to intimidation and harassment ever since he filed this case.
We fear for his life and for safety and well being of his family.
I hope human rights organisations and the international community will help us to get our fundamental rights and right of self determination.
Madam Chair and respected audience I thank you for your patience.