Friday, November 11, 2011

'China de facto controls Gilgit-Baltistan in Pak'

Washington: Claiming that Chinese personnel have assumed the de-facto control of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, a Washington-based think-tank told US lawmakers that the area would end up like Tibet and East Turkestan if China's unwarranted interventions are not challenged.

In its testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies called for demilitarisation of Gilgit-Baltistan, promotion of genuine autonomy and democracy, withdrawal of extremist elements, re-instatement of state subject rule and people to people contact between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan.

"The US must persuade both India and Pakistan to open channels of economic and cultural activity between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan and enable the UN to take increase its role in Gilgit-Baltistan to protect the rights of natives," said Senge Sering during a hearing by Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Indigenous People of Asia.

"The Institute believes that substantial decrease in Pakistani influence in Gilgit-Baltistan will allow promotion of indigenous cultures and help neutralise extremism and Arab tribal influences that have been forced upon the natives in the name of Islamic values," Sering said.

Sering, a native of Gilgit Baltistan, alleged that Pakistan and China's vested strategic and economic interests in Gilgit-Baltistan restrict the natives from benefiting from their own resources.

He said that Pakistan's unilateral decision to award mining licenses to the Chinese companies has endangered control of the natives over their land.

"Despite repeated local demands, Islamabad has failed to transfer legislative authority over trade and transit routes; and resource management to the indigenous political institutions, which limits access to revenue worth millions of dollars," he said.

Asserting that Gilgit-Baltistan was a disputed region, Sering alleged that it remains in tight control of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

As of now, more than 180 activists remain behind bars for demanding political and religious rights and many face sedition charges for confronting Chinese and Pakistani companies, he said.

Sering alleged that ISI was using Gilgit-Baltistan as a hide out and launch pad for the extremist militants who actively support Pakistan's Talibanisation.

"On many occasions, natives clashed with these rogue elements but failed to oust them due to pressure from secret service agencies," Sering said, adding the situation, in which thousands of Chinese personnel have assumed de-facto control of the region, poses serious political threats both for the natives and the international community.

"China's presence in Gilgit-Baltistan complicates the Kashmir issue and prolongs the dispute between India and Pakistan which is like oxygen to the terrorists and rogue elements within ISI. The situation could lead to a potential war between three nuclear nations creating political and economic instability at the global scale," he warned.

Sering said many among locals fear that Gilgit-Baltistan would end up like Tibet and East Turkestan if China's unwarranted interventions are not challenged.

"They emphasize that since both Pakistan and China lack constitutional rights and sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan; therefore international community must help in withdrawal of Pakistani and Chinese personnel and citizens from the region," he urged.

Asking the US' intervention, he said that US should help prevent human rights violations caused due to these massive scale land grabs which pose threats to local livelihoods.

"The US must persuade both India and Pakistan to open channels of economic and cultural activity between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan and enable the UN to take increase its role in Gilgit-Baltistan to protect the rights of natives," he said.

The substantial decrease in Pakistani influence in Gilgit-Baltistan will allow promotion of indigenous cultures and help neutralise extremism and Arab tribal influences that have been forced upon the natives in the name of Islamic values, he added. ANI, Nov, 10, 2011

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