GILGIT: A three-member delegation of US Embassy consisting of Lisa Buzenos, Political/Economic Officer, Kimberly Phelan, Political Officer, and Khalid Javed, the Security Advisor, met Chairperson of Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM), Manzoor Hussain Parwana in Gilgit, who was accompanied by the General Secretary of GBUM, Ghulam Shehzad Agha and member of Core Committee, Ali Noor Mazhar. Mr. Parwana appreciated the US government for financing the Sadpara Dam and supporting the non-profit sector in undertaking grassroots developmental work in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Mr. Parwana urged the international community especially the offices of the United Nations to support the right of self-determination for the oppressed and poverty stricken natives of the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan, which remains in Pakistani occupation since 1947. He reminded that successive resolutions passed by both the UN Security Council and UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) have asked Pakistan to withdraw its forces and citizens from Gilgit-Baltistan and their continued presence in the region is a violation of these accords. He also claimed that representatives of Pakistani secret service agencies, military and political parties interfere in the internal affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Mr. Parwana requested the international community to heed equal treatment and attention to both Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani Kashmir, or the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan will continue to live an impoverished life with complete denial of freedom of expression, press and political activity. He blamed the occupying regime for rampant corruption and gross human rights violations and deplored the ad-hoc ordinance system which has been used to treat the people like captives and the land like a colony.
Mr. Parwana called denial of the right of self-determination and degradation of local national and cultural identity as two main issues. He stated that the regimes create sectarian and racial conflicts to maintain status quo and weaken the masses. He said that the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan despite linguistic and religious differences have co-existed peacefully for centuries. Now, engineered demographic change and ethnic and religious genocide has brought irreparable damage to local social fabric. He reiterated that since Pakistan has no capacity or the will to solve constitutional and economic problems of the region, therefore, the international community must pay immediate attention to address this impasse.
Mr. Parwana claimed that Gilgit-Baltistan with abundance of natural resources and enviable geo-strategic location fulfills the criteria to sustain as an independent country. He said, "We expect brotherly relations with our neighbors namely India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan but do not expect them to treat us like a colony. The international community including our neighbors should respect our will to exist as an independent nation. We intend to use our land and resources for the wellbeing of our people but would refuse to let our neighbors exploit us to enhance their strategic depth or use our poor people as cannon fodder".
Mr. Parwana stated that a democratic and secular state of Gilgit-Baltistan will enable all diverse ethnic and religious groups to co-exist the way they have done in the last several centuries. He said that emergence of Gilgit-Baltistan as a secular state will help neutralize extremism and terrorism in the region. Like India, Gilgit-Baltistan can find strength in ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity. He claimed that ethnic and religious prejudices will die naturally once interferences from Pakistan come to an end.
Showing dissatisfaction in the existing ad-hoc system, Mr. Parwana demanded that a political setup based on the UN resolutions should help Gilgit-Baltistan come out of its six decade long socio-economic and political stagnation. He said that affiliation with Pakistan only helps spreading corruption, resource thievery and terrorism. He claimed that the system has failed to provide relief to the common people as absolute authority lies with the Pakistani secret service agencies and bureaucrats who are only interested in playing divide and rule game to sustain their presence in the region.
Mr. Parwana emphasized that the Karakoram Highway has become unsafe for the traders and tourists and it is the demand of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan to resume trade over historical routes which lead to Ladakh and Wakhan. He stated that trade and tourism along Astore-Kashmir, Kargil-Skardo, Khapulo-Nubra, Drass-Gultari, Gojal-Wakhan and Ishkoman-Badakhshan routes will directly benefit more than a million people of Gilgit-Baltistan. He deplored Pakistani double standards and said that even as Pakistan has granted MFN to India, but this development has failed to resume trade along the Ladakh routes.
While mentioning the hardships of the political activists of Gilgit-Baltistan who remain in jail and face sedition charges, Mr. Parwana, requested the international community to help in their release. He also suggested to the US government to initiate programs in Gilgit-Baltistan to help promote human rights, cultural and economic wellbeing, improved communication and transportation links, freedom of speech, press and political activity, and enhanced literacy and women development. He also requested the USAID representatives to ensure transparency and check corruption during allocation of funds to benefit maximum number of poor.
The delegates termed the meeting very informative and constructive and ensured availability of US investment to promote basic rights in the region. The delegates also ensured scholarships for the students of Gilgit-Baltistan to help them study in the US universities.
Agencies concerned over trips by diplomats
LAHORE: Following reports of an unauthorised trip by US embassy officials to Gilgit-Baltistan, an intelligence agency’s report has expressed serious concern regarding the “secret movement” of foreign missions/diplomats in the country, including covert meetings with officials and private persons – without informing either the foreign office or the interior ministry.
The report, cited in an interior ministry circular has advised foreign missions to avoid this practice to prevent any “untoward incident.”
The report states that a number of foreigners have been found visiting prohibited areas without obtaining a No-Objection Certificate (NOC). It also directs law enforcement agencies to not provide direct security to any foreign missions/diplomats until the foreign office formally gives them details of their presence and programme schedule.
The American officials had directly written to the Gilgit-Baltistan police chief, asking him for security, and arranging for meetings with various lawmakers and professionals.
Following these reports, the interior ministry, other intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the prime minister have taken strict notice, sources said. In this regard, the interior ministry’s National Crisis Management Cell has issues guidelines to all provincial home departments, police chiefs, and heads of law enforcement agencies.
Police Official in Gilgit Suspended for hosting US diplomates
Gilgit: Ms. Tahira, a female Police Officer of Gilgit City, has been suspended for erring to invite US Embassy Diplomats to her house over a meal while they were on visit to Gilgit-Baltistan. According to reports, the DIG Crimes, Mr. Mehmood Ul Hassan has issued a notification of suspension for the female Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP).
Reports also claimed that a committee has been set up to investigate into the matter and to find out what exactly was whispered during the meetup.
Ms. Tahira had hosted the US delegation at her house over a meal that the bureaucrats in Gilgit believe, is an act against the constitution of Pakistan despite the fact that the
constitution of Pakistan does not serve the people of this region.
Critics in GB believe that, the government and the Chief Minister of the region has shown an unnecessary apathy towards the US diplomats – an act that will hardly earn a respect for the hospitable people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan has been a leading recipient of U.S aid and is considered an important non-NATO ally of the United States. Suspecting Tahira’s hospitality for Uncle Sam’s girls is seen a bureaucratic attempt to infuse Anti-Americanism among the masses in the region.