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Pakistan: Brutal Assimilation In Gilgit Baltistan – Analysis

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By Ajit Kumar Singh*

According to a February 13, 2019, report, the health of political leader Baba Jan, one of the most popular leaders in the region, who is serving a life sentence in prison for his alleged role in inciting violence in the region in 2010, is deteriorating. Protests have been organized across Gilgit Baltistan to demand for proper medical facilities to Baba Jan. A woman protestor argued that “since there is no facility available for angiography in Gilgit Baltistan, he should be shifted to Islamabad or to any other city where he can receive better medical attention”. A more shocking, but expected disclosure, was made by another protestor,

There is not even one dedicated department for health in Gilgit Baltistan, a region which has a population of 25 lakhs. Baba Jan has followers (who can fight for his cause) but what about the poor and destitute. So, it is not an issue confined to Baba Jan but all 25 lakh citizens of Gilgit Baltistan.

Health facilities across the region are inadequate. It is useful to recall, here, that Gilgit Baltistan is one of Pakistan’s most backward regions, with several indicators of human development actually registering worsening trends. According to the Gilgit Baltistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (GB-MICS, 2016-17) report prepared by the Planning & Development Department, Government of Gilgit-Baltistan, in association with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), released in September 2017, for instance,

…the infant mortality rate (IMR) has increased slightly from 71.0 per 1000 live births (data from PDHS 2012) [Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) Health Survey 2012-13] to 73.5 per 1000 live births in 2016-17. Under-five mortality has also increased with almost three percentage points from 89 per 1000 live births (data from PDHS 2012) to 91.8 per 1000 live births; the highest rate being for the age cohort of 20-24 months… About two out of ten children under the age of five in GB are underweight (19.4%). Almost half of children under five (46.2%) are stunted or short for their age…

This is not surprising given the apathetic view of the Governments – both in Gilgit Baltistan and in Islamabad – towards the region. The fact of the matter is that the Gilgit Baltistan Council, which was established with much fan fare, failed to perform its duty to bring development in the region. The following data on the Member Development Program illustrates significant shortfalls in implementation:

Details of Member Development Program*

Financial Year Approved schemes Completed schemes Approved amount Released amount Remaining
2012-13 27 27 19,783,891 19,783,891 0
2013-14 2 0 10,000,000 0 10,000,000
2014-15 76 75 42,280,000 42,178,000 102,000
2015-16 103 0 131,018,949 88,625,949 42,393,000
2016-17 152 0 168,028,000 68,247,240 99,780,760
Total 360 102 371,110,840 218,835,080 152,275,760
*The Gilgit Baltistan Council Secretariat started the Member Development Program to address the basic development needs of the people in year 2013. The objective of this program was to improve socio-economic development through execution of link roads and small village level schemes, such as drinking water, sanitation etc. Under this program, schemes were sponsored by the Members including the Minister-In-Charge, Gilgit Baltistan Council; the Governor, Gilgit Baltistan, being Vice Chairman; Chief Minister, Gilgit Baltistan; and six Elected Members of the Gilgit Baltistan Council.

Despite the many projects ‘completed’, the region remains bereft of basic minimum facilities, even though it has remained one of the most peaceful areas of an otherwise violent country. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Gilgit Baltistan has recorded 85 terrorism related fatalities out of a total of 30,886 across Pakistan, since 2011 (data till March 10, 2019).

Somewhat belatedly, the Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Khan Gandapur announced on March 10, 2019, that a 50-bed cardiac hospital was being built in Gilgit, and is scheduled to be completed by 2020: “The hospital is an important project regarding provision of health facilities to the people of Gilgit and Baltistan.” He also stated that a comprehensive survey was being carried out in Gilgit Baltistan regarding provision of educational and health facilities in the area.

Islamabad’s focus is, in reality, more on changing the constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan than on providing any relief to the population. On January 17, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan while extending its powers to the region argued,

The Gilgit-Baltistan Courts do not, and will not, sit as courts having the power of judicial review in respect of the territory of Pakistan… nor can they initiate judicial review of departments working outside of Gilgit-Baltistan. Instead, the proposed order (or any previous or subsequent such order) can be challenged by, inter alia, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, but only before this court…

A larger seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar was hearing a plea challenging the earlier SC order of restoring Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018.

Significantly, on August 8, 2018, the Supreme Court had restored the Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018, suspending the decision of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 was promulgated by the former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on May 21, 2018, and replaced the Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009, with the ostensible aim of providing the “same rights enjoyed by the other citizens of Pakistan to people of Gilgit Baltistan.” The August 8, 2018, order purportedly provided political, administrative, financial and judicial powers to people in the region. In actual fact, however, the order shifted powers from the Gilgit Baltistan Council — including those related to passing laws relating to minerals and tourism — to the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. A comparative analysis of the 2009 ad 2018 Orders indicates that the ‘special rights’ the people of Gilgit Baltistan enjoyed have been curtailed further. For instance, the Legislative Power, according to the 2009 Order, was vested in the Gilgit Baltistan Council (though this was led by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but also had representatives from Gilgit Baltistan) and the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. As per the 2018 Order, this power lies with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly, which comprises 33 members of which 24 members were Elected through direct Election. The Prime Minister seems to hold final authority in terms of legislative powers, as the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 reads,

If any provision of an Act of Assembly is repugnant to any provision of any law which the Prime Minister is competent to enact, then the law made by the Prime Minister, whether passed before or after the Act of the Assembly, shall prevail and the Act of the Assembly shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void.

Moreover, the overall executive authority of Gilgit Baltistan shall be exercised in the name of the Governor by the Government, consisting of the Chief Minister and Ministers, which shall act through the Chief Minister, who shall be the Chief Executive.

The Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018 was, in fact, passed with an aim to ‘incorporate’ Gilgit Baltistan as the ‘fifth province’ of Pakistan, to quell any voice of opposition to China’s ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Two provisions of 2018 order prominently highlight this reality:

“Government of Pakistan may, if it deems necessary to acquire any land situate in Gilgit-Baltistan for any purpose, require the Government to acquire the land on behalf, and at the expense, of the Government of Pakistan or, if the land belongs to the Government, to transfer it to the Government of Pakistan on such terms as may be agreed mutually”. There was no such provision in the 2009 Order.   Also, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OUNHCHR) Report on Human Rights Concerns in Gilgit Baltistan released on June 14, 2018, the 2018 Order retains restrictions on freedom of expression and association of people that existed under the 2009 Order. Article 9(2) under the fundamental rights section states, “No person or political party in the area comprising Gilgit-Baltistan shall propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to the ideology of Pakistan.” This provision has employed in sweeping initiatives to quash any dissent in the region.

Though Islamabad claims that CPEC projects would create employment opportunities for some 1.8 million people in Gilgit Baltistan, locals explicitly reject the claim. Amir Hussain, a political analyst from the Lower Hunza part of the region, observes,

The Chinese bring their own manpower wherever they go. For CPEC, they are likely to bring seven million Chinese workers to Pakistan. Around 400,000 of them will be working in Gilgit-Baltistan. How will the locals get jobs…? Forget about the jobs; the locals are actually losing their livelihood because of this project.

As SAIR had noted earlier, with opposition to CPEC and the administration’s policies and practices in the region, Islamabad had, on May 9, 2016, placed nearly 140 persons in Gilgit Baltistan under Schedule-IV of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, purportedly to maintain ‘durable peace in the region’: “The imposition of the fourth schedule is a must to maintain law and order. The government will resist all political pressure.” Schedule-IV of ATA, 1997, deals with people who are not directly involved in terrorist activities, but whose affiliation with banned outfits or previous criminal record brings them ‘under suspicion’. They are kept under surveillance by the police to prevent the possibility of their involvement in any potential or future terrorist activity.

Indeed, China has been asking Pakistan to ensure that there should be no opposition to its project and that ‘peace’ is maintained. Islamabad has mastered the art of ensuring the ‘peace’ in the troubled region since 1948 with the help of draconian laws and brutal military might, and is in all likelihood will use the provisions of Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018 (with the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval over it) to intensify the use of brute force, this time ‘more legally’.

Indeed, China has been asking Pakistan to ensure that there should be no opposition to its project and that ‘peace’ is maintained. Islamabad has mastered the art of ensuring the ‘peace’ in the troubled region since 1948 with the help of draconian laws and brutal military might, and is in all likelihood will use the provisions of Gilgit Baltistan Order 2018 (with the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval over it) to intensify the use of brute force, this time ‘more legally’.

*Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

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SATP

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

4 thoughts on “Pakistan: Brutal Assimilation In Gilgit Baltistan – Analysis

  • Avatar
    March 12, 2019 at 3:38 am
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    It is instructive to look at how the locals roughed up the Indian pilot in the Pakistan part of Kashmir. Their hatred for Indian soldiers was plainly visible. That is the region (and the locals) India claims and ‘hopes’ to get from Pakistan? It is time for Indians to do some soul searching and re-think Kashmir. Talking up fiction about Pakistan & Kashmir will not change the facts on the ground. No body in Kashmir wants Indians soldiers to stay. Take a leaf out of Trump’s book – bring your boys back home to India.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      August 14, 2019 at 9:39 am
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      In the same vein, talking up fiction about 1948 UN resolutions without reading them and, forgetting genocidal crimes like using Bin Laden and co. in Gilgit in 1988 to rape and kill Shias besides the relentless demographic changes in the laughably named ‘Azad Kashmir’ and other Northern Areas is ‘fiction’ too.

      Also, the closer reality is, pakistan can shout and yell, no one cares. (That includes China)

      India knows from 1953 (Nehru’s own writings), a significant section of valley has a long historical axe to grind and will not be happy with India for a long time. We will deal with it. We have dealt with 6-7 major and serious secessionist movements…pakistan should focus on itself.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    April 7, 2019 at 5:27 pm
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    Indian news site using the name “Eurasian” to spread hatred against Pakistan.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    April 12, 2019 at 4:15 am
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    “Brutal” is India’s occupation of Kashmir. No such military action has taken place in Gilgit Baltistan in the past 71 years. The people of G-B have never had even one mass protest against Pakistan like the ones you see daily in Indian-Occupied Kashmir against Indian occupation. Mr. Singh, you are only trying to fool the ignorant, but that is your intent isn’t it?

    Reply

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