by Farooq Ganderbali
Islamabad is systematically changing the demographic pattern in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan region by settling Pakistani Punjabis and Pushtuns over there. The identity of Kashmiris on the other side of the Line of Control has systematically been eroded by Islamabad. Tensions are rising in GB as significant part of the Shia population in GB feels that Islamabad had systematically marginalised them for decades. All top officers in GB administration are outsiders and therefore locals consider the government apparatus as an alien one.
Sectarian violence in GB isn’t common either, according to people from the region currently settled in the West. There are fears that sectarian violence will rise with Islamabad’s decision to try to alter the status of GB as this will lead to flight of other communities in the region. Shias have reportedly been at the receiving end. In 2012, several members of the Shia community were massacred by Sunni group Jundullah (also active along Pak-Iran border).
Despite several internal recommendations, Pakistan continues to exclude people of Gilgit-Baltistan from any meaningful participation in democratic processes. Pakistan continues to abuse and has failed to observe state subject rule, hence, local people are forcefully evicted from their land and property. freedom of expression of GB’s people is brutally suppressed under Pakistan National action plan.
hundreds of people are arrested, tortured, killed, political activists/members of civil society/journalists and politicians being jailed. Pakistan is using anti-terror laws to press the dissent. The banned outfits are operating as usual.
However, the people of the region are no longer ready to take things lying down. They are coming out in large numbers to protest against the arbitrary manner in which they are being treated. In mid-March this year POK witnessed massive protests over a demand to abolish the “Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council” that exerts overwhelming federal influence in the governance of the region. The council functions under none less than the prime minister of the country.
The people of the region, who have been denied basic fundamental rights since partition of the country, are now openly protesting despite the threat of extreme brutality that the Pakistani establishment resorts to in order to quell their voices. Such is the frustration of the people that they are ready to face danger to their very lives for the sake of their future. Activists of the region are also vociferous in their assertion that the Government of Pakistan has been an active party to the consistent exploiting their natural wealth
Exploitation of natural resources in POK and Gilgit-Baltistan has deprived the natives of the region of their natural wealth. Pakistan is plundering their natural resources without consultation of the local population. Mega projects in the disputed territories of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan is a clear violation of the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir and other international laws.
It is now a common sight in POK for activists to be seen on the streets chanting slogans like “We want freedom,” ‘Down with Lent Officers,” “Foreign forces quit from Jammu and Kashmir,” “Stop plundering natural resources of POK and Gilgit-Baltistan.”
by Farooq Ganderbali