Pakistan has recently announced its plans of annexing the northern areas of Gilgit Baltistan and declaring it as their Fifth Province. In an early day motion tabled recently and at Foreign and Commonwealth oral questions in the Chamber, I have raised my concerns over this arbitrary announcement by Pakistan to the attention of my colleagues in Westminster.
The early day motion stated: “This House condemns the arbitrary announcement by Pakistan declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its Fifth Frontier, implying its attempt to annex the already disputed area; notes that 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; further notes the attempts to change the demography of the region in violation of State Subject Ordinance and forcibly and illegally to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which further aggravates and interferes with the disputed territory.”
I have been speaking for the hapless and less heard minority voices of the sufferers of worst forms of human rights violation by Pakistan for over two decades, including the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and their forced exodus, the plight of Sindhis and Balochis.
Illegal annexation by Pakistan of their neighbouring territory and interference in the geo-political make-up of the region by them is nothing new. After having annexed Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan is the fifth annexation by Pakistan. The plight of the people of each of these regions is not unknown to the world, but certainly is left ignored.
Calling it a “Big Brother” intervention, human rights campaigner from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Dr Shabir Choudhry, in his recent address at a conference held at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said, “The ministers and so called Azad Kashmir government is controlled by Pakistani officials known as Lent Officers, namely Chief Secretary, IG Police, Finance Secretary and Accountant General. Further control is exerted through Ministry of Kashmir Affairs; and Azad Kashmir government officials find themselves at their mercy. Apart from that more than 20 secret agencies operate in these areas to ensure that no one tries to expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. Moreover, Kashmir Council which is chaired by Prime Minister of Pakistan and Pakistani Ministers control everything of importance. Azad Kashmiri government cannot take any decision or challenge decisions of the Kashmir Council on 52 important policy areas. This in practice means they are in worse position politically and administratively than Kashmir under the administration of India.”
“The ministers and so called Azad Kashmir government are controlled by Pakistani officials. Further control is exerted through Ministry of Kashmir Affairs; and Azad Kashmir government officials find themselves at their mercy. More than 20 secret agencies operate in these areas to ensure that no one tries to expose Pakistan’s Kashmir policy.”
In the words of a famous Baloch leader, Harbbyaar Marree: “There are more than 200 independent countries in the world, but none has this prefix azad or independent. For example, France is called France and not independent France and Britain is called Britain and not independent Britain etc. If your country has (the) prefix Azad, then it means there is something wrong. Think carefully, Pakistan is fooling you by giving this false sense of being Azad.”
China’s fast growing influence in the Indian subcontinent has been a matter of concern especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has nothing to do with providing any form of federal benefits to the already suffering people of Gilgit Baltistan. The move is only to give China the eyewash impression by Pakistan of their legal position of Gilgit Baltistan’s constitutional status within Pakistan.
As per Col Tej Tikoo in the India Defence Review, “this alliance holds enormous strategic and economic value. It is speculated that Pakistan gains an economic windfall as a result of this project with the creation of nearly 700,000 additional jobs and an increase of 2.5 percent in its growth rate—highest ever since 1970!” The locals, however, have expressed strong resentment to the construction of CPEC through their area, as this brings them no benefits and in fact will be utilised to further exploit them and their resources to satisfy Pakistan’s elite.
Whilst the economic benefits to Pakistan are immense, it cannot be viewed in absence of its continued record of state sponsorship of terrorism and human rights violations in not only its neighbourhood but also within its own territories. The global fraternity ought to recognise the suppressed voices of the people of Gilgit Baltistan and in speaking of freedom, respect their own wishes.
Bob Blackman, British Conservative Party MP from Harrow East, tabled in the British Parliament an early day motion to condemn Pakistan’s announcement declaring illegal annexation of Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province on 23 March. The motion also highlighted the potential danger emanating as a result of the CPEC.