Gilgit-Baltistan: A Battleground For The Future
Speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a seminar held in the British House of Commons on 31 March 2011 paints the prospect of major conflict in one of the world’s emerging hotspots.
Below is an article published by International.to:
Madam Chair, friends and colleagues Aslamo Alaykam and good afternoon. I am grateful to The Democracy Forum for arranging this seminar and for providing me this opportunity to express my views on this important topic.
I was once asked to speak on a topic of Mangla Dam upraising. This dam was built in Mirpur, Pakistani Administered Kashmir in 1967, to cater for power and water needs of Pakistan. After failing to build Kalabagh Dam in Pakistan, Pakistani authorities decided to upraise the Mangla Dam. In my speech I explained why Pakistan was upraising this dam and what its implications were.
After the speech one man said, ‘Your entire speech was against Pakistan and you have not said a single word against India’. I said to him, the topic was upraising of the Mangla Dam and Pakistani government was responsible for that, how could I drag India into this debate. But the man insisted that I should have, somehow, criticised India otherwise people would regard you pro India and anti Pakistan.
Unfortunately, over the years a political culture has been established that one has to overlook what Pakistani governments have done to the Kashmiris and continue to do so, but should actively and forcefully criticise India; in order to get a ‘certificate’ of being loyal to the cause of people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The topic of this seminar is Gilgit Baltistan, a region which is legally part of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and which is illegally occupied by Pakistan. I don’t know how to criticise India for what Pakistan and China are doing in Gilgit Baltistan.
Perhaps, I can criticise India for having a contradictory policy on Gilgit Baltistan; and for remaining a silent spectator over the plight of people of this region who are oppressed and deprived of fundamental human rights.
Areas of Gilgit Baltistan have great strategic importance; and are also full of natural resources. Because of the strategic importance, these areas were very shrewdly separated from the rest of the State. Some parts of this region were leased by the British in 1935 to keep watch on advance of the Soviet Russia. Before the end of the British Raj, these areas were returned to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir; but the British ensured that these areas didn’t get in to wrong hands.
William Alexander Brown, known as Major Brown played an important role in Gilgit Rebellion, and ensured that these areas remain under control of Pakistan. Major Brown must have done something worthwhile that he was awarded MBE by the British government; and a medal from Pakistan known as Star of Pakistan.
Colonel Bacon who was a Political Agent of Gilgit met Major Brown and told him that Lord Mountbatten has decided to return areas of Gilgit Baltistan to the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir on 1st August 1947. It was possible that the Maharaja could have appointed his own man as a head of Gilgit Scouts, but the British wanted to ensure that their trusted man is in control of the Gilgit Scouts – the only military force in the region.
Major Brown in his book ‘The Gilgit Rebellion’ notes, and I quote: ‘All Gilgit wanted was the peace and security afforded under the Pax Britanica and the method by which this could have been continued, despite partition, would have been to have made the Gilgit Agency an agency of the North West Frontier Province, directly under HE Governor. This would have ensured continuity in administration, peace, security, and unity: unfertile ground for Soviet seed. My duty was obvious. I must return to Gilgit and lead, advise and help the people over the transition period.’
Source: Independence of Gilgit Baltistan, by Ghulam Rasool, page 122 (...)
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