Gilgit-Baltistan: No Vote for Region’s Inhabitants during Pakistani Elections
While on Wednesday, 25 July 2018, the population of Pakistan went to the polling stations for their election, the inhabitants of the Gilgit-Baltistan region were denied their democratic right. A disputed territory, Gilgit-Baltistan has been occupied by Pakistan for over half a century in clear violation of international law. Its people exist in a democratic vacuum, lacking both their own autonomous government and equal participation in Pakistan’s democracy.
The following letter appeared in Daily Times:
Sir: On 25th July 2018, people across Pakistan casted their votes to elect the representatives of their choosing; however, the nearly 9.2 million people belonging to Giligit-Baltistan had to be content with just watching the electoral process from a distance. Since being liberated from the Raj seven decades ago, and the subsequent accession to Pakistan, the people of the region are barred from casting their votes for the National Assembly and the Senate since 1947.
Along with Azad Kashmir, G-B is also part of the disputed regions of Pakistan, putting the state in a precarious position of providing the people of this region the rights that they deserve. They need to be allowed to vote for the candidates that might have the power to shape their future.
While the G-B Orders of 2009 and 2018 did bestow the region with some provincial powers, they failed to provide its population with the basic right to vote at the executive level. Arsalan Mehdi who is a resident of GB puts it quite succinctly, observing that “We are the prisoners of geography”. The concerned authorities must look into the matter, by giving GB proper constitutional status so its people may be allowed to cast their votes by the next elections.
Image courtesy of Joseph Bautista