|A critical but unknown pivot of South Asia under threat: Organized by BNF |
Speakers: Ngawang Choephel, Abdul Hamid Khan, Mumtaz Khan, Dr. Michael Penders,
David Pentley, Dr. Dirk Terwel, Dr. Lakhumal Luhana and Senge Hasnan Sering
The conference observed that the large scale planned settlement of foreign nationals including from Pakistan is illegal and is in contravention of the international agreements and UN resolutions. This large scale migration is severely damaging the fine demographic balance in Gilgit-Baltistan. Therefore, the conference demands from Pakistan government to immediately call back its people from the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan and reinstate State Subject Rule in Gilgit-Baltistan so all foreign nationals including Chinese, Uighurs and Afghans would evict from the region.
Senge Sering of GBNC presided over conference titled "Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Destruction and Vanishing Indigenous People". Prominent among the speakers were, Prof. David Pentley, Prof. Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann, Dr. Dirk Terwel and Dr. Lakhumal Luhana, Paul Beersmans, Afzal Tahir.
Abdul Hamid Khan, chairman Balawaristan National Front briefed the audience about political and historical and legal background of Balawaristan (Pakistan and China occupied Gilgit Baltistan, Chitral and Shhenaki Kohistan) and the aim and objectives of the Conference. He said that clandestine activities of Chinese and Pakistan forces on the highest mountains of Hunza and other Areas of Gilgit Baltistan has severely upset the balance of nature and may result in serious ecological and environmental disaster in the region. Their practices of exploitation of natural resources of Gilgit Baltistan can further marginalize people economically.
In his inaugural speech, Ngawang Choephel, Chairman of UNPO brought narratives from Xinjiang and Tibet to state that China's interventions in Gilgit-Baltistan will bring the same kind of destruction to flora and fauna, local culture and religious beliefs and demographic structures.
Dr. Michael J. Pendler stated that Balawaristan is an internationally disputed area and therefore China does not have a legal or moral right to carry out its mega projects including tunnels and dams in a seismic zone.
Dr. Dirk Terwel talked about issues of sustainable livelihoods in the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan where the natives face serious challenge of holding on to their receding land. The people of Gilgit Baltistan may experience the same sitaution if government policies failed take sustainable approach.
Prof. Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann of Institut für Geographische Wissenschaften Fachrichtung Anthropogeographie, Berlin, Germany stated that Balawaristan has become the focal point of international political intrigue and the prevalent situation including presence of Chinese workers in the region also draw similar attention.
Dr. Professor David Petley International Landslide Centre, Department of Geography, Durham University, United Kingdom brought different cases of land sliding and glacial melting to focus and raised the issue that Balawaristan is a very fragile ecosystem and remains a target of regular natural rock shifts and unwarranted interventions could increase the risks and destruction.
Dr. Lakhumal Luhana, a native of Sindh Pakistan based in UK talked about Impact of glacial melting and earthquakes on the land and people of Balawaristan and Sindh as both are recipients of Indus River.
Senge Hasnan Sering a native of Gilgit -Baltistan and Director of Gilgit Baltistan National Congress (GBNC) based in Washington DC, USA brought attention to the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory and therefore any economic interventions by Pakistan and China are illegal and violations of the United Nations Resolutions. He reiterated that the China-Pakistan provisional border agreement of 1963, which demarcated the limits of Xinjiang and Gilgit-Baltistan, disallows sovereignty to Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan, which reinforces the legal view that Pakistan must stop construction of dams, tunnels and mineral exploration in the region.
In the second session, Andrew Swan of UNPO talked about possible coordination and sharing of information, expertise with rights groups to promote the cause of natives in the occupied lands.
Afzal Tahir Chairman Kashmir International Front (KIF) based in London talked about presence of troops in Pakistan controlled Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and how the troops are involved in human rights violations.
Paul Beersmans Belgian Association for Solidarity with Jammu And Kashmir mentioned about his visits to both sides of J&K and how natives struggle for more empowerment.
Mumtaz Khan Executive Director, International Centre for Peace and Democracy based in Canada stated that the regimes have failed to provide for their own people yet they waste money on military adventurism in India and Afghanistan. India has demanded opening LOC but Pakistan would not honour the CBMs on Gilgit-Baltistan.