ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, President Azad Kashmir Raja Zulqurnain Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on Monday visited Gilgit-Baltistan. This was the first-ever official tour of Kashmiri leadership to the region in 63 years.
President Zulqurnain and Premier Haider landed in Hunza by a helicopter and stayed with GB leadership for a few hours and spoke to the affected of the artificial lake. A few attempts were made in the past to visit the then Northern Areas but the federal government did not let this happen due to unknown reasons, claimed sources in Kashmir House.
Former Prime Minister Sikandar Hayat had tried to undertake a tour of the Northern Areas in 2003-2004, after an earthquake had hit the areas. However, he was asked not to do so, sources recalled.
Before that, during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, ex-president and prime minister of AJK Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan had also tried to have a direct interaction with the people of Northern Areas more than two decades ago. He was also told to return after he had reached Manshera by road.
“The goodwill visit was pre-planned, but its nature changed in the wake of emergency situation in Hunza, where an artificial lake has been created and it can burst any time,” said one of AJK ministers, while talking to The News here after the visit.
The leadership in AJK and occupied Kashmir had welcomed with caution the special package and status announced for the Northern Areas that was also given a new nomenclature i.e. Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). The Kashmiri leaders, on both sides of the line of control (LoC), had insisted the region should be given status similar to AJK.
Fundamentally, so far as the case of Kashmir is concerned, GB is part of it as a whole and a new arrangement to the region has in a way made the Kashmiris unhappy. However, as a mark of solidarity with GB, Prime Minister Haider invited its Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah to Kashmir House, located in the lap of Margallah Hills. And again, Mehdi was invited to be part of a function in connection with Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5.