Reckless mining by greedy Chinese firms are threatening the eco-system in the region. By opening the region to the mining mafia, Pakistan hopes to subvert history and international norms of resolving political disputes between two sovereign nations. The involvement of China in this dispute is part of this crafty game of deceit…writes Rifan Ahmed Khan
The Chinese have taken over the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) on lease with over 2000 licences granted by Islamabad to different Chinese companies to mine uranium and other precious minerals and metals used in hi-tech sectors like space. The local entrepreneurs have been denied any role in the mineral exploration and extraction leaving the people of the region fuming.
The demand for joint exploration and mining by local businessmen has been outrightly rejected by the federal government in Islamabad. Over 200 applications submitted by local companies for contracts remain in cold storage in Islamabad since 2001. People of the region accuse Islamabad of letting their home on lease to international mining mafia which controls over 50,000 square kilometres in Gilgit Baltistan.
With such a heavy influx of Chinese miners and others in the region, many areas in upper Hunza, like the Chapursan valley have become no-go areas for the locals. Smuggling and other criminal activities have shot up since the Chinese have moved into the areas which not long ago were close to even genuine explorers and mountaineers.
Since Gilgit Baltistan is endowed with enormous water and mineral resources, Pakistan, in collusion with China, is set to make it one of the world’s largest mining pits. The impact of such massive exploitation of natural resources on the local community and environment would be immeasurable. The region is already several stress due to dramatic climate change sweeping the mountainous areas. Glaciers are receding and forests are dying, leaving the local communities to face the double jeopardy of facing the wrath of nature and a greedy Islamabad.
For decades, the region was deprived of political and economic rights. The people of the region were effectively barred from enjoying the privileges of being a citizen of a sovereign nation. In fact, they hardly any rights. And whenever Islamabad made any Constitutional provisions seemingly to help the area and its people, the real intention was always to strengthen its grip over the region. The result was the region remained out of the framework of development despite being extraordinarily rich in natural resources. The communities remained bereft of adequate educational and employment opportunities. Voices of dissent were put down with iron hand. Political leaders, who opposed the Islamabad monopoly over their lives, were punished with imprisonment.
The latest episode in this systematic enslavement of Gilgit Baltistan was the recent Supreme Court judgement which extended its jurisdiction over the region. The court was adjudicating on a writ petition filed by a Gilgit-Baltistan resident challenging the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009. Pakistan had brought in the ordinance to tighten its grip over the region.
Not only was the Supreme Court order against the local people but was in serious contravention of international norms because Gilgit Baltistan was a disputed territory. According to Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan which defines Pakistan’s territory, areas of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir are not constitutional part of Pakistan. Article 257 further stated that these areas formed part of the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and were not a legal part of Pakistan. In short, Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over the region.
These reckless moves by Pakistan are a calculated mischief, in collusion with China, to deny the people of the region their rightful claim to their home and its resources. By opening the region to the mining mafia, Pakistan hopes to subvert history and international norms of resolving political disputes between two sovereign nations. The involvement of China in this dispute is part of this crafty game of deceit.