Jun 02, 2009

Gilgit Baltistan: Statement by the AHRC

Active ImageThe government of Pakistan intends to use force against the people of Gilgit and Baltistan under the pretext of eliminating the Taliban.

Below is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:
A recent announcement of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency (ISI) stated that the Taliban are taking shelter in the Gilgit and Baltistan areas. They are a disputed part of Jammu & Kashmir, according to the United Nation Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions of 13th August, 1948, and of 5th January 1949. The announcement has created insecurity among two million people who are already denied development for 62 years since the creation of Pakistan.
The purpose of using the pretext of the presence of the Taliban in the area is to mislead USA and NATO forces who are involved in war on terror. They want to posit that the Taliban is a menace in the construction of the big dams and wish to occupy Gilgit and Baltistan themselves.

The Bhasha Diamar Mega Dam’s reservoir, located in Diamer, would submerge 110 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway and around 80,000 people would be displaced initially. After the extension of the Bhasha dam about 300,000 local indigenous people will be displaced and about a 200 kilometer area up to a Gilgit town will be submerged. This will destroy not only the oldest Buddhist civilization but other ancient civilizations as well.

Pakistan also has a plan to build a Mega dam in Skardu, Gigit district, which will lead to displacement of 200,000 aborigines. In height 650 feet, the Skardu Dam will submerge Skardu city along with its historical and sacred religious places and forts. It will also destroy large deposits of minerals together with ancient structures of all of Baltistan including, Kharmang, Shigar, Khapolu.  Historical parts of Rundo will vanish from our earth forever.

Furthermore, the government of Pakistan also intends to build a third Dam in Bonji (disputed Territory), on the river Indus. No consultation with the people of the area or stake holders has been forthcoming. This project will result in great losses affecting the environment, wild life, minerals including precious stones—estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Summarizing the displacement of various populations, it is estimated that 80,000 will be displaced by the Diamar Bhasha Dam, 300,000 from the Skardu dam and about 30,000 through the construction of the Bunji dam. These are all indigenous people of this land who will be displaced.

The population of Gilgit and Baltistan has never been assured that they will get royalties from the construction of the Bhasha-Diamer dam. It is expected that the reservoir will spread over an area of 7.3 million acres in Diamer, Northern areas of Jammu & Kashmir State would suffer inundation of about 32 villages. Another area of concern is a power house situated some kilometers away in North west frontier province (NWFP).  It is supposed to generate 4,500 megawatts of electricity. Given Pakistan’s step-motherly treatment towards the people of this disputed territory, the royalties from the dam would accrue to the NWFP province and not to the Gilgit Baltistan areas.  The power generating unit will be built in Bhasha in NWFP with the intention and the result of depriving the people of this disputed land of their rights.

Balawaristan National Front (BNF) appealed, on behalf of the 2 million people of Balawaristan (Pakistan Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) to the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank and all the financial and donor agencies and countries including China.  BNF requests them not to provide funds, loans, aid, or technical assistance. And most importantly, that technology not is provided to Pakistan for the construction of Mega dams like Bhasha Diamar Dam, Bonji Dam, Hanzel Dam, Skardu Dam and Khapolu Baltistan dam all of which are on disputed lands. The BNF claims that occupying forces of Pakistan are trying to attack the area of Diamar surrounding the Bhasha Dam. They are doing this under the pretext of eliminating the presence of the Taliban. The real purpose is to crush the struggle for freedom and the anti-Dam movement of the people of Diamar and Gilgit Baltistan.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges government of Pakistan to desist from using the force under the pretext of Taliban and making mega dams to deprive the indigenous people who are the inhabitants since thousands years. The government should also consult the people and stake holders on mega projects and must follow the resolutions of UNCIP. The government’s unilateral decision to make mega dams will be disastrous for the local people as several hundred thousand people will be rendered homeless.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Asian Human Rights Commission
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998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367