New Delhi: Pakistan may be raising hue and cry over the government of Indias decision to end special status of Jammu and Kashmir but conveniently tends to ignore the fact that just over a year back it had illegitimately seized all powers of the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of undivided Jammu and Kashmir annexed by it in 1947.
Pakistan government on May 21 last year promulgated ‘Gilgit Baltistan Order, 2018′, which replaced the ‘Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009′, triggering a huge outcry by the locals since it was done arbitrarily without consulting them. India too had lodged a strong protest against it.
The ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018′ effectively ended the powers of Gilgit Baltistan Council and entrusted the Prime Minister of Pakistan with complete authority with respect to the region.
Under the order, all the powers of the local bodies were snatched and even the authority to levy taxes was bestowed with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, which cannot be challenged including in the courts.
The justice system of Gilgit-Baltistan also was tampered with, with Pakistan Prime Minister getting a say in choosing the hierarchy of the judiciary of the region.
The locals had termed it as a move to further suppress the indigenous people of the region, which Pakistan captured by force in 1947 and has been occupying it illegally since. The region is under tight control of Pakistan and even media is not allowed to report fairly about the developments there.
At that time, India had protested strongly against the Pakistan government move. The External Affairs Ministry summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner in Delhi on May 27, 2018 and it was “clearly conveyed that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947”.
The Pakistani diplomat was told that “any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable. Instead of seeking to alter the status of the occupied territories, Pakistan should immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.”
India also asserted that “such actions can neither hide the illegal occupation of part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades”.
Government of India’s consistent position in the matter is reflected in the resolution passed by the Parliament in 1994 by consensus, which emphasized that territories of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan, are an integral part of India.
Gilgit-Baltistan was carved out by Pakistan as a separate entity from occupied Jammu and Kashmir in 1949 under a so-called ‘Karachi Agreement’ without any consultation with the local leadership.
Subsequently, the Pakistan government stripped the region of the ‘State Subject’ rule, imposed draconian laws like Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and encouraged sectarian clashes, besides suppressing even the fundamental rights of the people there.
To suppress the voice of the locals, the Pakistan government has been arbitrarily arresting those speaking against the Pakistani occupation and imprisoning them under draconian laws like Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). One such example is a local political leader Baba Jan.
Exploitation of natural resources of the region, like minerals and hydro potential, has also been highlighted by the locals. The case in point being construction of mega Bhasha-Diamer Dam, against which India has been protesting.