ISLAMABAD, May 31 (APP):The experts Tuesday at a seminar on “Gilgit Baltistan in National Security Calculus” demanded the government to grant Gilgit Baltistan (GB) it’s provisional province status on priority basis to resolve grievances of the people of the disputed territory.
The Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS) organised a day-long seminar to discuss the key impediments leading to the delayed inclusion of GB into national strata despite strong demand of the local masses. The seminar opened with an introductory video on the think tanks’ journey of guiding policy making and research endeavours.
In his welcome remarks, President CASS Air Marshall (R) Farhat Hussain Khan said GB was the only region that shared its borders with three countries sprawling over 72,000 square kilometers and comprising 2 million people.
He said it was home to an important link to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and it’s security was lying with the region.
The CASS President said various governments in Pakistan were observed reluctant to integrate GB into the country as a province. The PPP regime in 2009 gave administrative status sans full empowerment. However, the successive PML-N government took away all the powers bestowed to GB by the PPP government under “the elite’s pressure”, he added.
The PTI government, he said, also retracted from its on draft presented to the Supreme Court on the matter and did not implement the Court orders during her tenure. “The people of GB are deprived of their fundamental right as the regional is neither a province nor part of federation. And are also not part of any decision making owing to their status”.
He concluded that such instances create fault lines that would be a risk to the country’s future and economy.
Director General ISSRA Major General Ehsan Mehmood Khan, in his keynote address, presented a detailed and ground-based review on GB and national security of Pakistan.
He said it was necessary to understand GB which was an important and strategic region 2.66 times larger than erstwhile FATA and also larger than Sri Lanka owing it’s area of 72,496 square kilometers whereas 36 world smaller states combined were also smaller than GB.
It was eight percent of the country’s total area with immense strategic significance with gigantic mountain watersheds, he added.
He mentioned that the region had unique culture, demography and history, adding, “There has been over 50,000 rock art traces found dating back to 5th mellenium B.C”.
He added that GB was the fulcrum of North and dreamland of mountaineers which located between China’s Xinjiang region, Ladakh of India and Wuhan Corridor passing through Afghanistan and Central Asia. The country’s National Security was inextricably linked to GB, he added.
General Khan underlined that GB possessed huge potential of 40,000 MW hydropower generation and had precious minerals of various kind but there was no geographical survey done in the region.
He informed that 70 per cent of the youth population of GB was below 35 years of age. “GB since 1947 has undergone massive socio-economic transformation and emerged as one of the best transformed regions of the country “.
Former Inspector General of Police Afzal Ali Shigri depicted the historical perspective of GB and it’s issues. He said the local people of GB on their own conquered the area and acceded unconditionally with Pakistan.
The GB region since the 1949 agreement with local Kashmiri leaders in Karachi was given to the federal government without the inclusion of GB representatives.
He added that the Agha Khan Foundation while leading various NGOs led a silent revolution by promoting education and awareness among the people of GB. The educated lot of GB after getting awareness protested and demanded to become part of Pakistan, he said.
Shigri said it was the time to take the GB issue seriously before any sense of deprivation taints the perceptions of the third generation of GB which was more aware and educated.
Former Judge, Chief Justice of Supreme Court and High Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Syed Manzoor Geelani said the regions of GB and AJK had been ignored by the policy makers of Pakistan which had their own unique history and diversity.
He said there was no legal and historical impediments for Pakistan to streamline GB in its national strata and it should place these areas into its constitution.
Geelani said the assimilation of GB and AJK was the need of the hour in the socio-economic, and constitutional fabric of Pakistan as both lacked constitutional protection that gave leverage to India for occupying territories of these states.
DG ISSI Ambassador (R) Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said the Indian regime was never interested in resolving Kashmir Issue through dialogue or plebiscite as he engaged with them on various occasions but nothing come out of it.
He added that the integration of GB had no diplomatic and legal implications on Pakistan as it was not violating the UNSC Resolutions rather fulfilling the unfinished agenda.
Ambassador Chaudhry warned that India was heading towards the trajectory to dissolve the Kashmir Issue. He said whatever option was to be given to GB should also be extended to AJK, adding, “It is important for Pakistan to wake up and secure what it has in hand and put a claim on what India occupies.”
Narrative, he said, was very important as India covered all diplomatic, political, military and legal sides to undermine Pakistan’s case on Kashmir at the global forums.
The seminar ended at a healthy question-and-answer session in which experts, GB students and journalists actively participated.
In his vote of thanks, President CASS Air Marshall (R) Farhat Hussain Khan endorsed the unanimous recommendations of the panelists saying GB be given it’s provisional province status as there were no international and diplomatic hurdles.
He added that the country needed to come up with a strong narrative and empowerment of the GB masses whereas the AJK should be given the same option as was rendered to GB.