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Implications on Change of Gilgit Baltistan Status

October 15, 2020 | Niloofar Qureshi

We Kashmiris are strange - while on the eastern side of the Line of Control (LoC) one hears chants of “Kashmir banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become (a part of) Pakistan’), those living in Gilgit- Baltistan (GB), which is also part of J&K are hotly resisting Islamabad’s move to make it a part of Pakistan by declaring GB as the country’s fifth province. However, since the LoC seems to have divided not only the territory of J&K but also its people, major contradictions on the issue of Kashmir’s future aren’t uncommon. 

When Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) started the ‘armed struggle’ in J&K, we were told that the aim was to achieve ‘azadi’ (freedom) for making J&K a sovereign state entity, but this dream was short-lived. Thus, though the ‘azadi’ slogan has remained the main stimulant for protests even today, its connotation has undergone a sea-change ever since Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) won the bloody turf war and took over reins of the ‘armed struggle’ from JKLF. Today, ‘azadi’ in Kashmir doesn’t imply independence anymore, but instead it denotes merger of J&K with Pakistan.
However, the revised objective of J&K’s merger with Pakistan isn’t restricted to those involved in the ‘armed struggle’. Even the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has even been accepted this as aim of the ‘self-determination’ movement. Consequently, the Hurriyat leadership has restricted the demand for plebiscite only to Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) even though UN resolution 47 that mentions ‘right to self-determination’ is applicable to entire J&K and not to IaK only. Thus, we have ourselves breached the provisions of UN resolutions on Kashmir and this is the main reason why the UN and international community is not paying any heed to the APHC’s demand of for implementing UN resolutions.
Since the APHC is maintaining complete silence on Islamabad’s failure to fulfil its UN stipulated duty of removing all non-Kashmiris from PaK, which is the mandatory prerequisite for conduct of plebiscite in J&K, how can we expect global support for our selective demand to hold plebiscite in IaK only? In addition to distorting the scope of ‘self-determination’ as mentioned in UN resolutions, by absolving Pakistan of any responsibility necessary to facilitate conduct of the ‘self-determination’ process only adds more credibility to New Delhi’s claim that APHC is Islamabad’s ‘B’ team.
Since our leaders wholeheartedly support Islamabad’s assertion that Kashmir is ‘disputed’ territory, they need to understand its implications. I’m no legal expert but learned advocates known to me are of the unanimous view that when a property (in this case territory of J&K) is ‘disputed’, the claimants have no ownership rights over it till the same is legally resolved in a court of law. Consequently, a petitioner has no authority to change the status of a disputed territory and thus, the day Islamabad declares GB a province of Pakistan, its saying goodbye to its more than seven-decade old claim of J&K being ‘disputed’ territory!
Islamabad may have opted grant provincial status to GB even if it amounts to abandoning the Kashmir cause, but how can the APHC leadership, our intelligentsia and civil rights activists afford to sit back and watch Pakistan betray the Kashmiris? Is it not the time to ask some hard questions like why didn’t Islamabad consider grant of provincial status to GB for more than seven decades and why is it doing so now?
While detractors may attribute government apathy as the reason for the failure of according provincial status to GB, but the explanation is far more reasonable. Islamabad didn’t want to change the status of GB since the same would amount to murdering its own its stand of J&K being “disputed territory”. Islamabad hasn’t given any worthwhile reasons why it’s doing so now and all we have are vague explanations, like Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur saying that “Our government has decided to deliver on the promise it made (of according provincial status to GB) to the people there.”
However, if this was the case, then why are the people of GB opposing this move? And, if this was really the genuine aspirations of GB residents, then when why did the APHC leadership and the United Jihad Council chief oppose this move when it was being considered in 2017? Thus, while the ‘promise made and promise fulfilled’ reasoning is not at all convincing, its much more likely that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through GB surely has something to do with this decision since Beijing has invested an astronomical $60 billion on CPEC.
Though China and Pakistan share a ‘sweeter than honey’ relationship, Beijing is concerned about the possibility of New Delhi creating legal hurdles regarding CPEC running through what it claims as its territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan. And with Islamabad itself contending that J&K is ‘disputed’ territory, the CPEC is currently passing through GB which is legally not a part of Pakistan and thus this project could run into legal trouble. However, once Pakistan makes GB part of its own dominion by granting it provincial status, then Beijing’s worries are over.
Even during 2017 when Islamabad was considering grant of provincial status to GB, there was talk of Beijing being behind this move aimed at securing the legal aspects of CPEC but this proposal could not be implemented due to widespread criticism both in IaK and PaK. However, it seems that since Sino-Indian relations are currently at a new low this time Beijing is not willing to take a risk and thus, even though this move will cause irreparable damage to the ‘self-determination’ movement, this time Beijing seems determined not to allow Islamabad to delay granting provincial status to GB.
Some argue that according, would be a befitting reply to New Delhi’s August 5, 2019 decision of abrogating Article 370, because if India can change IaK’s status, then Islamabad can do the same in PaK. However, this analogy isn’t appropriate because unlike Islamabad, India doesn’t consider J&K ‘disputed territory’ and cites the instrument of accession to substantiate its claim. Thus, its August 5 actions of last year is in line with its stand on J&K and has further strengthened its stand. On the other hand, since Islamabad maintains that J&K is disputed territory, granting provincial status to GB would (to use APHC’s words extracted from its 2017 statement) “tantamount to changing the disputed nature of Kashmir.”
While I’m not aware if APHC has issued any comprehensive statement against the GB move, it is heartening to note that the on behalf of incarcerated JKLF chief Yasin Malik, its acting chairman Abdul Hameed Butt has written an open letter requesting Prime Minister Imran Khan not to grant provincial status to GB as “the proposed annexation of GB with Pakistan will be considered as an act similar to that of the Indian decision of August 5, 2019.” The letter also makes it absolutely clear that the proposed “annexation of GB with Pakistan will further disintegrate the State, and will constitute a grave betrayal of the people of Jammu Kashmir.”
In his letter, Butt has also reminded Khan of JKLF chief’s firm belief that “Bartering away territory for economic growth does not make you statesman” but “resisting short term temptations and not bowing to economic pressures,” does. So, now what remains to be seen is whether Khan will accede to the JKLF’s request and refuse “bowing to economic pressures” that is forcing him to undertake “annexation” of GB, or will he simply relent and thus go down in history as being the person responsible for the “grave betrayal of the people of J&K”?
It is time that all those who stand for ‘self-determination’ in J&K to unite and compel Islamabad to abandon its plans to make GB a province of Pakistan because if this happens, then it’s the end of the ‘self-determination’ for sure!


Email:-niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com

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Implications on Change of Gilgit Baltistan Status

October 15, 2020 | Niloofar Qureshi

We Kashmiris are strange - while on the eastern side of the Line of Control (LoC) one hears chants of “Kashmir banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become (a part of) Pakistan’), those living in Gilgit- Baltistan (GB), which is also part of J&K are hotly resisting Islamabad’s move to make it a part of Pakistan by declaring GB as the country’s fifth province. However, since the LoC seems to have divided not only the territory of J&K but also its people, major contradictions on the issue of Kashmir’s future aren’t uncommon. 

When Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) started the ‘armed struggle’ in J&K, we were told that the aim was to achieve ‘azadi’ (freedom) for making J&K a sovereign state entity, but this dream was short-lived. Thus, though the ‘azadi’ slogan has remained the main stimulant for protests even today, its connotation has undergone a sea-change ever since Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) won the bloody turf war and took over reins of the ‘armed struggle’ from JKLF. Today, ‘azadi’ in Kashmir doesn’t imply independence anymore, but instead it denotes merger of J&K with Pakistan.
However, the revised objective of J&K’s merger with Pakistan isn’t restricted to those involved in the ‘armed struggle’. Even the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has even been accepted this as aim of the ‘self-determination’ movement. Consequently, the Hurriyat leadership has restricted the demand for plebiscite only to Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) even though UN resolution 47 that mentions ‘right to self-determination’ is applicable to entire J&K and not to IaK only. Thus, we have ourselves breached the provisions of UN resolutions on Kashmir and this is the main reason why the UN and international community is not paying any heed to the APHC’s demand of for implementing UN resolutions.
Since the APHC is maintaining complete silence on Islamabad’s failure to fulfil its UN stipulated duty of removing all non-Kashmiris from PaK, which is the mandatory prerequisite for conduct of plebiscite in J&K, how can we expect global support for our selective demand to hold plebiscite in IaK only? In addition to distorting the scope of ‘self-determination’ as mentioned in UN resolutions, by absolving Pakistan of any responsibility necessary to facilitate conduct of the ‘self-determination’ process only adds more credibility to New Delhi’s claim that APHC is Islamabad’s ‘B’ team.
Since our leaders wholeheartedly support Islamabad’s assertion that Kashmir is ‘disputed’ territory, they need to understand its implications. I’m no legal expert but learned advocates known to me are of the unanimous view that when a property (in this case territory of J&K) is ‘disputed’, the claimants have no ownership rights over it till the same is legally resolved in a court of law. Consequently, a petitioner has no authority to change the status of a disputed territory and thus, the day Islamabad declares GB a province of Pakistan, its saying goodbye to its more than seven-decade old claim of J&K being ‘disputed’ territory!
Islamabad may have opted grant provincial status to GB even if it amounts to abandoning the Kashmir cause, but how can the APHC leadership, our intelligentsia and civil rights activists afford to sit back and watch Pakistan betray the Kashmiris? Is it not the time to ask some hard questions like why didn’t Islamabad consider grant of provincial status to GB for more than seven decades and why is it doing so now?
While detractors may attribute government apathy as the reason for the failure of according provincial status to GB, but the explanation is far more reasonable. Islamabad didn’t want to change the status of GB since the same would amount to murdering its own its stand of J&K being “disputed territory”. Islamabad hasn’t given any worthwhile reasons why it’s doing so now and all we have are vague explanations, like Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur saying that “Our government has decided to deliver on the promise it made (of according provincial status to GB) to the people there.”
However, if this was the case, then why are the people of GB opposing this move? And, if this was really the genuine aspirations of GB residents, then when why did the APHC leadership and the United Jihad Council chief oppose this move when it was being considered in 2017? Thus, while the ‘promise made and promise fulfilled’ reasoning is not at all convincing, its much more likely that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through GB surely has something to do with this decision since Beijing has invested an astronomical $60 billion on CPEC.
Though China and Pakistan share a ‘sweeter than honey’ relationship, Beijing is concerned about the possibility of New Delhi creating legal hurdles regarding CPEC running through what it claims as its territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan. And with Islamabad itself contending that J&K is ‘disputed’ territory, the CPEC is currently passing through GB which is legally not a part of Pakistan and thus this project could run into legal trouble. However, once Pakistan makes GB part of its own dominion by granting it provincial status, then Beijing’s worries are over.
Even during 2017 when Islamabad was considering grant of provincial status to GB, there was talk of Beijing being behind this move aimed at securing the legal aspects of CPEC but this proposal could not be implemented due to widespread criticism both in IaK and PaK. However, it seems that since Sino-Indian relations are currently at a new low this time Beijing is not willing to take a risk and thus, even though this move will cause irreparable damage to the ‘self-determination’ movement, this time Beijing seems determined not to allow Islamabad to delay granting provincial status to GB.
Some argue that according, would be a befitting reply to New Delhi’s August 5, 2019 decision of abrogating Article 370, because if India can change IaK’s status, then Islamabad can do the same in PaK. However, this analogy isn’t appropriate because unlike Islamabad, India doesn’t consider J&K ‘disputed territory’ and cites the instrument of accession to substantiate its claim. Thus, its August 5 actions of last year is in line with its stand on J&K and has further strengthened its stand. On the other hand, since Islamabad maintains that J&K is disputed territory, granting provincial status to GB would (to use APHC’s words extracted from its 2017 statement) “tantamount to changing the disputed nature of Kashmir.”
While I’m not aware if APHC has issued any comprehensive statement against the GB move, it is heartening to note that the on behalf of incarcerated JKLF chief Yasin Malik, its acting chairman Abdul Hameed Butt has written an open letter requesting Prime Minister Imran Khan not to grant provincial status to GB as “the proposed annexation of GB with Pakistan will be considered as an act similar to that of the Indian decision of August 5, 2019.” The letter also makes it absolutely clear that the proposed “annexation of GB with Pakistan will further disintegrate the State, and will constitute a grave betrayal of the people of Jammu Kashmir.”
In his letter, Butt has also reminded Khan of JKLF chief’s firm belief that “Bartering away territory for economic growth does not make you statesman” but “resisting short term temptations and not bowing to economic pressures,” does. So, now what remains to be seen is whether Khan will accede to the JKLF’s request and refuse “bowing to economic pressures” that is forcing him to undertake “annexation” of GB, or will he simply relent and thus go down in history as being the person responsible for the “grave betrayal of the people of J&K”?
It is time that all those who stand for ‘self-determination’ in J&K to unite and compel Islamabad to abandon its plans to make GB a province of Pakistan because if this happens, then it’s the end of the ‘self-determination’ for sure!


Email:-niloofar.qureshi@yahoo.com


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Owner, Printer, Publisher, Editor: Farooq Ahmad Wani
Legal Advisor: M.J. Hubi
Printed at: Abid Enterprizes, Zainkote Srinagar
Published from: Gulshanabad Chraresharief Budgam
RNI No.: JKENG/2010/33802
Office No’s: 0194-2451076, 9622924716 , 9419400056
Postal Regd No: SK/135/2010-2019
Administrative Office: Abi Guzer Srinagar

© Copyright 2018 brighterkashmir.com All Rights Reserved.