Justice Muzaffar Ali, a retired judge of the GILGIT-BALTISTAN appellate bench of the supreme court, commenting on the judgement, wrote recently that ‘’Persistent denial of granting fundamental rights and constitutional status to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, in fact, tantamount to denial of aspirations of people towards Pakistan….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
The recent Pakistan Supreme Court judgement on Gilgit-Baltistan is a clear reiteration of the Indian stand that the mountainous area is part of Kashmir, an integral part of the Indian union.
The apex court’s judgement, prompted by consistent and vociferous protest from the local community, sets aside decades of Islamabad’s attempts to muzzle people’s aspirations and force a regime on the area which neither the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) want nor is it in line with the spirit of UN resolutions.
Justice Muzaffar Ali, a retired judge of the GILGIT-BALTISTAN appellate bench of the supreme court, commenting on the judgement, wrote recently that ‘’Persistent denial of granting fundamental rights and constitutional status to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, in fact, tantamount to denial of aspirations of people towards Pakistan. The prejudicial attitude of Federal governments compelled people to invoke the constitutional jurisdiction of Supreme Court as last resort to address their basic grievances.’’
He pointed out how even the Imran Khan government failed to meet the aspirations of the people. He wrote that when the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party came to power, it was quick to offer “ hope to the people of Gilgit Baltistan“ by proposing a ‘’provisional provincial status” before the cabinet meeting in pursuance of recommendations made by Sartaj Aziz committee. The issue was placed twice before the cabinet but could not be carried forth because of the pressure from the leaders of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The apex court has now rejected the protestations of the PoK leadership.
Gilgit Baltistan, in fact, has been caught in Islamabad’s stranglehold since independence. Before 1947, it was part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (then identified as the state of Kashmir and Jammu). The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir ruled the princely state comprising five regions– Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, GilgitWazarat, and Gilgit Agency. In 1935, the British took the area on a 60-year lease from the king. The area was returned to the Maharaja 15 days after the independence and thus became part of the princely state. The Maharaja then chose to cede to the newly independent India.
But Pakistan, driven by greed and aggression, chose to militarily annex territories which legally went to the Indian union. Several countries played a devious role in this aggression and as a result, Gilgit Baltistan and its proud people were left in a cleft—it could not become part of independent India and Pakistan did not accept it as a province either. Since then, the people of GILGIT-BALTISTAN have been crying hoarse to live like free citizens.
Pakistan’s problem is that it does not want to accept Gilgit-Baltistan people as free citizens. If they do, then such a move pulls the rug under the state’s policy of using Kashmir as an instrument of violence against its own people as well as people of neighbouring countries. If people of GB are treated as part of Kashmir, then Pakistan will have to move out of the area, give the people autonomy and revisit the entire CPEC project.
People of Gilgit Baltistan deserve to live like independent citizens and not remain subjugated to oppression as if they were living in a colony. In fact, this is what their beautiful home has become—a colony of Pakistan Military. This must end, and the international community must ensure that Pakistan accept GB as part of Kashmir.
In 2017, keeping these sentiments in mind, the British Parliamentarians, in a motion in the Parliament, had declared GB as a legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947. The motion read: “Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression.” Other countries must now take up the gauntlet to free the people of Gilgit Baltistan from the clutches of Pakistan.