On Nov 1 every year, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan observe independence day. Exactly 65 years back today, the people of this region won independence from the Dogra rule through their sheer bravery and valour. However, after the passage of over six decades, the masses of the area feel that they are still in search of a destination.
In 1947, when the British left the subcontinent, India was divided into two independent states of Pakistan and India. But unfortunately, the status of Jammu and Kashmir state was left undecided under a conspiracy. At that time, Gansara Singh, the uncle of the then Dogra ruler of Kashmir, was the crown of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was part of the Kashmir state. The British were also involved in ruling the region and one Maj Brown was looking after the affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan on behalf of the British at the time of partition. Most of the army of the Dogra rulers were stationed at Bunji, Gilgit and Skardu and it seemed that both the Dogra and the British rulers wanted to continue their occupation of the area by hook or by crook. Although there was no possibility or likelihood that there would be an organized public uprising against the occupiers in Gilgit-Baltistan, the wave of independence running for many years in the subcontinent had also put a far-reaching impact on the people of this region.
In this scenario, some of the local officers of Dogra army had resolved that they would not remain silent and do whatever possible to help the indigenous people in winning independence. As a result, the army soldiers under the command of Col Hassan and Cap Babar prepared a plan to achieve their goal. These army men also had support of the local population. Then one day they besieged the palace of Gansara Singh in the city of Gilgit, leaving him with no other option but to surrender. He was arrested and with it the region got independence. Shah Raes Khan was selected as the first president of the new state, while Col Hassan was made the commander-in-chief of the army. But soon what came to the mind of the new leaders of the new state that they decided to hand over the fate of their new state to the Pakistani rulers. Through a telegram, Pakistan was asked to take over the administrative affairs of the newly-created state of Gilgit-Baltistan. Taking advantage of the golden opportunity, Pakistan lost no chance to occupy the region and till, this day Islamabad has been usurping the rights of the region and not ready to withdraw even under the resolutions later passed by the United Nations.
For the last over six decades, Pakistan has been robbing the indigenous people not only of their basic rights but also their resources without any fear. From 1947 up to 1972, the indigenous people were treated like animals under the frontier crimes regulation (FCR). Under this black law, the people of the region were treated like slaves with all their basic rights usurped. Pakistan also entered into a dubious agreement in Karachi in 1949, not with the representatives of Gilgit-Baltistan but of AJK, to create a basis for complete controlling the region. Till former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto abolished the notorious FCR, Pakistan ruled the region through its lowly bureaucrat who was all in all in the region. With the abolition of the FCR, princely states in the region were also sent packing. During Mr Bhutto’s tenure, the area also saw some reforms but still political rights of the people remained usurped. With the imposition of martial law by Zialu Haq, Gilgit-Baltistan was declared zone E and put under the military rule. However, in 1979, municipal administration system was introduced in the region and the area got its council for the first time. This council was turned into a so-called assembly about 30 years later.
Then the current PPP government introduced the self-autonomy and empowerment order in 2009 under which a new government was put in place. This government has, however, exposed itself as corrupt and inefficient and during the last over three years not only failed to deliver but also put the people of the region in more troubles. The government ministers and other authorities attribute their failure to the system, saying that they have no powers and their efforts to get powers from Islamabad have fallen on deaf ears. The federal government, on the other hand, is not ready to give power to the GB council and assembly to bring any changes to the self-governance and autonomy order of 2009.
With the passage of time, it is becoming more evident that even after the passage of 65 years, there is no change in the attitude of the Pakistani rulers as far as the governance system in Gilgit-Baltistan is concerned. Keeping the intransigence of Pakistan aside, it has also been our misfortune that our own political leadership has failed to struggle for attainment of the rights of the area people. They have always been more loyal than the king and hands in glove with the Pakistani rulers to keep the indigenous people of this disputed region deprived of their rights just for their own interests.
During the last over six decades, Pakistan has taken away trillions of rupees in terms of taxes and other assets from Gilgit-Baltistan and in return given the area people sectarian, target killings, unemployment and lawlessness. As a result, the indigenous people have been at daggers drawn and unable to get united and fight for their lots rights. This has always been the motif of the colonial rulers to keep the populace divided and rule them and Pakistan is still following the same rule to perpetuate its illegal rule in the region in complete disregards to international laws and human rights.
It is time the people of this region revived the sentiment of 1947 to get united and launch a decisive struggle to attain their rights which have been denied to them for decades. Otherwise our coming generations are destined to live in subjugation and slavery. –D.J. Mathal