Nov 04, 2009

Gilgit Baltistan: Detentions Precede Disputed Elections

A new Islamabad-driven ordinance is bringing fresh elections to Gilgit-Baltistan but detentions are already discrediting the process.

Below is article published by the

Top leadership of Gilgit Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) and Jammu Kashmir All Parties National Alliance (APNA) along with all three GBDA candidates for Gilgit constituencies for Legislative Assembly elections to be held on 12th November were detained prior to the election rally here in Gilgit. According to the latest news from Gilgit through sources that cannot be disclosed, the leaders of APNA including its chair and ex member of Gilgit Baltistan Council, Mr. Wajahat Hassan, Secretary Gen. Arif Shahid, Col (rtd) Nadir Hassan and Engineer Amanullah Khan  were later forcibly expelled to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Three detained candidates are named as Shahid Hussain for LA Gilgit 1, Advocate Mohammed Farooq LA Gilgit 2 and Afsar Jan LA Gilgit 3. Other detainees include Advocate Ehsan Ali former President of GB Bar Council, Mohammed Javed former member of District Council and several others whose names have not been confirmed as yet.

Given the strong and wide spread opposition to the Presidential Ordinance by Pakistan titled ‘Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009’ (GBESGO 2009) which induced the forthcoming elections in these long suppressed and exploited regions of the divided Kashmir state, the arrests of election campaigners who of course oppose the Pakistani hegemony in the region are bound to contribute in the rising tide of political resistance against Pakistani domination in all areas of Kashmir State under Pakistani control.

Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Front (NLF), Jammu Kashmir National Awami Party (JKNAP), Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation (NSF), Jammu Kashmir Peoples National Party (JKPNP), United Kashmir Peoples National Party (UKPNP), Kashmir National Party (KNP) Jammu Kashmir National Independence Alliance (JKNIA) and JK Council for Human Rights (JKCHR) have in the past few weeks organized scores of meetings, conferences and protests to denounce the Pakistani steps to govern G&B through a Governor and Chief Minister which they claim are provincial sounding posts indicating that Pakistani is moving towards annexing G&B and paving the way for making the division of Kashmir permanent. On the other hand some voices from within Gilgit and Baltistan are criticizing the ‘Kashmiri Nationalists’ as a bunch of reactionaries whose claims over G&B are as feudalistic as those of the Indian and Pakistani claims over these territories.

In this context Pakistan declared elections in G&B to be held on 12th November 2009. All the nationalist Kashmiris rejecting the whole process as illegal asked for boycott as they do in AJK and IOK. However, many of the G&B nationalists decided to challenge the process through participating in whatever democratic space was created through the GBESGO2009. The Gilgit and Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) is an amalgamation of various local groups that fielded its candidates for elections. However, preventing them from campaigning, their detention and expulsion is not a good example of empowerment or of free and fair elections.