Gilgit Baltistan has been a disputed area for as long as Pakistan gained independence and the debate about their constitutional fate is brought up every other year because people of the region cannot claim to be citizens of the country.
A people who have had to survive for 70 years within a country, without getting the right to identify as its citizens are bound to feel alienated
This alienation is evident from the fact that people from Gilgit Baltistan celebrate a different independence day – November 1, the day they first got freedom. The reason why they are not able to celebrate 14th of August as their independence day is because the state has never given them the right to identify as Pakistanis. Back when the Dogra Raj ended with the rebellion led by Colonel Mirza Hassan Khan, the new state could not survive on its own. They requested the newly carved out Pakistani federation to take the region in its space, but the state always maintained that Gilgit was also a disputed territory like Kashmir. Since Pakistan and India were seeking a plebiscite at the United Nations, the Pakistani state thought the people of Gilgit voting in the plebiscite would swell the vote in favor of Pakistan and put Pakistan at an advantage. But the plebiscite never took place and the fate of Gilgit Baltistan was never decided.
People of Gilgit Baltistan have been agitated because the fate decided for them was never one that they wanted
The country refuses to accept them, the people have taken up the responsibility of developing the place and educating themselves. One complaint that the people always have is that when someone from Gilgit Baltistan succeeds internationally, the country jumps at the opportunity to call them Pakistani but within the country, they are not really Pakistanis at all.
Theoretically #GilgitBaltistan is a legal & constitutional part of #JammuAndKashmir, India, & practically it is illegally occupied by #Pakistan since 1947, where people are denied even their fundamental rights including the right of #FreedomOfExpression.
India wake up! Will you?
— Sajeda Akhtar (@Sajeda_Akhtar) May 28, 2018
Over the years, many legislations have been introduced under the guise of inclusivity but they have only curbed their rights more
The recent addition to the list is the Gilgit-Baltistan Order-2018. According to the authorities, this new law will allow GB to come under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani supreme court and GB will have the same status as the rest of the provinces in the country. The idea is that people of GB will be able to demand their rights in any court of Pakistan. The question remains that if GB is legally a part of Kashmir, which is a disputed territory, how useful is this order and what will it change?
No person from #GilgitBaltistan can be appointed as judge in Supreme Court of Pakistan and in High Courts, then why retired judge of supreme court or retired chief justices of high courts of other provinces could be appointed as chief judge of #GilgitBaltistan under #GBOrder2018.
— Abaidullah Baig (@BaigAbaidullah) May 28, 2018
We got in touch with a few people from Gilgit Baltistan to know what they think of the newly promulgated order and here is what they have to say
The new order is still far from granting the civil rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and being so, it effectively precludes G-B of any formal representation in Pakistan’s national institutions like Parliament. Without that, the new order has granted the Prime Minister of Pakistan a set of ultra-constitutional powers, thus effectively making GB a small kingdom, subservient to the whims and desires of the Prime Minister of Pakistan; for whose election people of GB can’t vote. – Zaigham Abbas
In my opinion, although the newly promulgated law ensures judicial, administrative, financial and political powers to Gilgit-Baltistan to a limited extent; the long-term demands of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for representation in National Assembly and greater constitutional rights as conferred to all the provinces of Pakistan under schedule IV of the constitution of Pakistan have been neglected and remained untouched. So, GB ordinance 2018 makes no difference for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan talking about constitutional rights rather it gives greater powers to Prime-Minister and his cabinet to intervene in the provincial affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan. – Daneal Ahmed
I think that the expansion of fundamental rights is a welcoming change. But, as a resident of a disenfranchised region, I am ambivalent towards this law. On one hand, I do understand that there are changes in affording a greater discretion to GB government over financial issues and with new rights, people can voice their opinion with greater confidence. Preventive detention and arrests without charges have been explained with greater clarity with a time frame for maximum imprisonment with quite reasonable mechanics. Judiciary has seen reforms with High Court of GB becoming more empowered. People have been offered a chance have the decision from Supreme Appellate Court (SAC), equivalent to Supreme Court in the Federation, reviewed. The business of government and legislation has acquired more clarity. Governor of GB can only be from GB. So, these issues do meet some of the demands. However, on the other hand, the main grievance of GB residents is lack of representation in national legislature and resource sharing institutions. These issues still remain unaddressed. – Sultan Mehmood
There is an ongoing protest against the new order in Gilgit Baltistan
— Mohsin Garwa (@mohsin_garwa) May 28, 2018
The reforms introduced by the government do not represent the wishes of the people, which is why they are forced to have the following stance
There is a "foreign hand" who want to destablize Pakistan, and that foreign hand is unfortunately the very establishment of Pakistan formed by the "arrogant elites" sitting in Islamabad, who impose upon us draconic orders like #GBOrder2018 made by their PAs.#WeRejectGBOrder2018
— Gilgit-Baltistan (@GBpak) May 28, 2018
Such reforms which do not address the grievances of the people only result in further alienation of the population. Reforms under the guise of betterment, but introduced only for the benefit of the state, will result in lack of trust in the government.
Pakistan Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of 2.6 billion rupees Gilgit-Naltar Expressway Road project, Gilgit-Baltistan Secretariat project and Inaugurated state-of-the-art GBLA assembly building. #GilgitBaltistan #Pakistan #EmergingPakistan @pid_gov @alinashigri @GBpak pic.twitter.com/NCXHXMYsTH
— Emerging Pakistan (@dev9_) May 28, 2018
Cover image via: @GhanishKuxh / Twitter