Pakistan Army is running rough shod over a community of indigenous people whose cultures and traditions are now threatened by the multi-billion CPEC project. This could lead to disastrous changes in the region, forcing the indigenous people to migrate to other regions and letting the Chinese destroy the delicate ecological balance of the region….writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Recently India’s CNN-News18.com in an exclusive report exposed Pakistan’s plan to sell parts of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan land to China for the construction of multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
The Gilgit-Baltistan area is Pakistan’s northernmost administrative territory that borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. New Delhi has fervently maintained that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes areas currently under Pakistan occupation, is an integral part of the Union of India. Early reports say that Pakistan is planning to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth frontier.
According to CNN-News18.com, the land was procured mostly by force by Pakistani generals for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The report also says that those resisting are either killed off or incarcerated without a trial.
“Thousands had their land snatched and occupied by the military authorities and their agencies. Under this black draconian rule, nobody can raise their voices against the CPEC,” Wajahat Hasan, Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinkers Forum (GBTF), told CNN-News18.
Locals are not taken in confidence about the CPEC project. They are unaware of the dimensions of the project and how much land, which has been their ancestral land, will be taken away from them. Pakistan Army is all set to take over whatever land their Chinese patrons would demand for creating the corridor and its support facilities. This would mean cultivatable land and pastures and water sources would go under the Chinese drills and explosives as the highways takes shape.
Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman of the Balawaristan National Front (BNF) said that both the countries have to build many cantonments in Gilgit-Baltistan and they will station their huge divisions of army. It is believed that China’s concerns about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan prompted Pakistan to change its status.
With Pakistan planning to declare Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province, the Baloch leaders have warned Islamabad of serious repercussions stating that this development will only lead to massive resistance by the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Another report says that there is a growing resentment among locals over China’s presence in the region. To fulfill the requirements of the project, the government and the army are forcibly acquiring the ancestral land of the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan.
A well known academic from the region, Mr Senge H Sering, who is also the Director of the Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, had this to say about the growing public disenchantment with the project and anger.
“When Pakistan Army was constructing Karakoram highway along with China, no compensation was given to affected people,” he said. “No loss assessment was made. Now, the land acquirement for the CPEC project is being done forcibly. The ancestral land of the people cannot be acquired without paying them compensation and earning their consent. But, the Gilgit-Baltistan government and Pakistan Army are forcibly acquiring the ancestral land of the people.”
In short, Pakistan Army, which has assured the Chinese of protection, is running rough shod over a community of indigenous people whose cultures and traditions are now threatened by the mega economic project. This could lead to disastrous changes in the region, forcing the indigenous people to migrate to other safer regions and letting the Chinese destroy the delicate ecological balance of the region.
Another reason is the realisation among the people that the real benefits of the project will go to the Punjabi heartland and its masters and not the people of Gilgit Baltistan. This will be the repeat of the hydropower projects which Pakistan set up in the area, promising the local people employment and power, but they got nothing when the project was completed and began generating power. They know that this is what is happening this time around also.
The international community must hear the anguished cries of the people of Gilgit Baltistan who not only fear the loss of their ancestral abode in the great Himalayas but also their unique life, customs, language and traditions. It will be a big loss for the world community
The project will cut through the Valleys. Mountain sides will blown up or drilled for tunnels and rivers and streams diverted and bridged all along the passage. This will prove, as in other places, disastrous for the region.
Rivers and streams will soon be clogged with debris from the road building project, raising the level of the water ways or blocking them, both of which could mean frequent bouts of floods downstream, threatening human habitations and cultivable lands. Pastures will be severely affected, forcing people to take their cattle and sheep to higher pastures which may cause further depredation and faster melting of ice from the glaciers.
Destruction of mountain sides will naturally drastically change the ecology of the region, altering weather patterns. Cutting down of trees will fatally damage the eco-system which has sheltered scores of species of fauna and flora. All of these will be threatened by the disastrous project. Some of the fauna and flora might also become extinct. The region is home to unique fauna like Snow Leopard and mountain goats which are already on the verge of extinction and the construction of the corridor will accelerate this process. The massive amount of concrete debris, petroleum left overs, plastic and other garbage will pollute the mountains and valleys for centuries to come. In all, the corridor will be an environmental disaster and contribute to the climate change threat facing the world substantially.
The international community must hear the anguished cries of the people of Gilgit Baltistan who not only fear the loss of their ancestral abode in the great Himalayas but also their unique life, customs, language and traditions. It will be a big loss for the world community.