Feb 26, 2016

Gilgit Baltistan: The Problem of CPEC Strikes Again

This Gilgit Baltistan region is completely excluded from the high financial profits that a project such as the CPEC would bring, despite the fact that this corridor would cross the region, producing a number of negative impacts such as smoke and environmental pollution. 

This article was published by The Barooshaal Times.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Bautista @Flickr


GBUM chief says nationalists never allowed to freely take party in polls and neither people are free to vote for them. 

SKARDU: Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) Engineer Manzoor Hussain Parwana has said that in the eyes of the nationalist political parties elections in the disputed territory have no legal status and neither these sham polls can ever be the expression of the sentiments of the people of the region. 

In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, the GBUM chief said the elections have never been a process to elect the true representatives of the people rather these were a process used by the successive rulers sitting in Islamabad to chose their cohorts and cronies and install in the area to loot and plunder the resources of the people. He said whenever these sham elections are held, the nationalist political parties are not allowed to take part in it freely and neither the people are given a chance to vote for them. On many occasions, nationalist leaders were bundled up and vanished from Gilgit-Baltistan or put in jail a few days before the elections in order to give a free hand to the agents of the rulers to rig the polls and brig in their own people. 

Engineer Parwana said after last year’s elections, many people think that the nationalists have remained silent but their silence can become a catalyst for a larger revolution in the region anytime as there is always a lull before a deluge. He said there was a time when nationalists were declared traitor whenever they spoke for the national cause but now even the federal government and the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan are speaking the language of the nationalists. Everyone in Gilgit-Baltistan is now supporting the stance of the nationalists and when the whole world is speaking the language of the nationalists, headed, it was the need of the hour that the nationalists should remain silent.

He said that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would pass through the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan but despite this the area was not given its due shares and benefit. Instead of smoke and environmental pollution, he claimed, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would get nothing from the mega international project. He maintained that the nationalist political parties always thought of the benefit of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan but unfortunately this CPEC project is not in the interest of the people.

The GBUM chief said that the stance of the nationalist parties was very clear on the CPEC: we are one of the three major parties to the project and as such should be considered the third party in the CPEC and given our shares as such. He said Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory and it is neither a part of China nor Pakistan. As the area has its own distinct cultural and historical identity, without including it in the CPEC project as a partner, none of the two countries – China and Pakistan – can construct and operate the CPEC route through Gilgit-Baltistan. He also demanded that economic zones should be set up in Gilgit, Skardu and Chilas under the CPEC.

He said that the nationalists were not worried about making Gilgit-Baltistan the fifth province of Pakistan and if Islamabad wants to make it its province the rulers would damn care to ask the nationalist about it but it is very clear that Pakistan backs the stance of the nationalist as far as making Gilgit-Baltistan a constitutional province of Pakistan is concerned. He said Pakistan cannot make Gilgit-Baltistan a province as it would negate its long-standing stance and policy on the issue of Kashmir. On the other hand, federalist political and religious parties have for long been demanding that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a province of Pakistan but under any international law their demand cannot be met. The GBUM chief said that that making Gilgit-Baltistan a province was not the solution to the issues being faced by the people of the region. Had it been the case, the people of Balochistan would have been better off and not picked up arms against Pakistan for denying them their rights. 

The resolution of the issues lies in recognizing and preserving the unique identity of Gilgit-Baltistan and empowering the indigenous people to utilize their own resources on their development without interferences from outside, he added. He said that Gilgit-Baltistan fulfilled all the requirements to become a state and there was a need to give the area internal autonomy until the resolution of the issue of Kashmir. 

The GBUM chief also said that the nationalist always talked on the basis of historical evidence and facts. He said the nationalists neither consider Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of AJK, Srinagar nor Pakistan and India. “We consider Gilgit-Baltistan a part of the state of Maharaja Hari Singh and as Kashmir is on the agenda of the UN as a disputed territory, Gilgit-Baltistan is party to that international dispute, accepted by both India and Pakistan as well as the whole world as such.” 

He said for over seven decades, Islamabad could not make Gilgit-Baltistan a part of the country. Keeping this view in mind, it is clear that the disputed territory is not part of any country and has its own geographical, political and historical significance and identity, he added. He said the region was at a cross road ad if the people of Gilgit-Baltistan played the game judiciously, their future would be bright otherwise we would lose a chance and our future generations would be facing the same turmoil and ambiguity as we have been in the mess for over six decades.