Byline: Shafqat Jabeen and Mussawar Hussain Bukhari
Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has been run by the (temporary panacea of)reforms packages, LFOs,Presidential Order (PO) 2009 of Empowerment and Self Governance and GB Order 2018. There are still many challenges for autonomy of GB. Since the genuine power rests not with the Chief Minister (CM) or elected assembly but with the governoror Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan. The people of GB rejects joining with Kashmir and urges to be transform their region into Pakistan as its fifth province. The government of Pakistan rejects their calls for incorporation in light of the fact that it would imperil its appeals for the entire Kashmir issue to be settled by UN resolution.
Geo-strategically important region, the whole Economic Corridor is based on; has no say in CPEC projects and parliamentary committee on CPEC.Nobody is there to defend its rights.Before discussing its constitutional, political status, strategic importance and economic issues, it will be pertinent to familiarize the readers with the salient features of the area, including its geography, demography, geo-strategic importance, potentials, resources and administrative aspects, so that the problem is better understood.The whole region of GB was ruled by Sikhs after that it was under the Dogras till 1860. After the thrashing of the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War, this region turned into a part of the princely state called Jammu and Kashmir (JandK). Since 1846 keep on under the Dogras.
In 1877, to limit Russians, the British India Government, as a suzerain power of princely state JandK established the Gilgit Agency including Hunza and Nagar, Gilgit Wazarat, Punial Jagir, governorship of Kuh-Ghizer, Yasin, Chilas, and Ishkoman. GB was the frontier province of JandK in 19th century during Dogra occupation. The populace in GB saw itself to be ethnically not the same as Kashmiris and detested being ruled by the Kashmir state. On 29th March 1935, the British government took control of Gilgit Agency for 60 years. It continued as princely state. Provisional leases of certain areas were given to the British till 1st November,1947. The area was divided into Wazarats.
* Ladakh Wazarat
* Gilgit Wazarat.
Ladakh Wazarat had five seats in state government while Gilgit Wazarat had no representation in elections of 1934, 1937, 1941 and the last assembly that was terminated. On 1st August 1947, the British Government returned that area back to the JandK state government.Hari Singh appealed to India for help and signed the accession, which was not supported by the people. Under the local Rajas and Mirs, the Muslims revolt was erupted against the government and the entire region of GB got liberation on 1st November 1947.Then Shah Rais Khan constituted interim government and Pakistan government also supported it. This was the first self-government.
That government worked for sixteen days only then a junior commissioned officer was appointed as a political agent to deal the state affairs by the Government of Pakistan on November 16, 1947. In April 1949, to legitimize its control and for the administrative control of GB, the Government of Pakistan signed the "Karachi Agreement" with the government of AJandK without the consent of any representative body from the GB asthere was no representation from Gilgit Agency. A separate Ministry of Kashmir Affair was created. It was kept as a secret document and revealed for the first time in the Verdict on Northern Area (current GB) by the High Court of Azad Kashmir in 1990s. GB was linked with Kashmir to gain the help in case of referendum on Kashmir.The administration of GB was entrusted to Pakistan under the resolution of UN. It has been treated as administrative unit of Pakistan since "the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) Resolutions."
Although the name of GB and AJandK is not expressed in the article 1 of the constitution of Pakistan that defines the territory of the state, they form the part of Pakistan. The clause (d) of article 1, the territory of Pakistan includes "such states and territories as are or may be included in Pakistan whether by accession or otherwise." (Constitution of Pakistan) Under the UNCIP Resolution GB and JandK are territories otherwise included. This position was accepted by India through the cease fire agreement 1949, Tashkand Agreement 1966 and Shimla Agreement 1972.(Gillani, May 2011, p. 9).
It is a historical, descriptive and analytical research. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are used to reach at any conclusion.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The main objectives of the study are:
- To understand the current constitutional status, geo-strategic and geo-economics importance of the region in China Pakistan relations.
- To analyze the challenges regarding its autonomy.
- To discovers the opportunities created by the CPEC.
- To find the policy options for the Federal Government of Pakistan.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The geo-strategic significance of GB increased initially with the construction of Karakorum Highway (KKH) and now further increased due to the CPEC. CPEC certainly will be a game changer for the whole country and likely to bring a lot of infrastructure development and business development opportunities for the people of GB too. But there are several challenges to CPEC in GB which cannot be ignored. Because this the region on which the whole Economic Corridor is based;still being run by the PO and waiting for its future fate. India's so-called claim and terming it to be a disputed territory, US secretary of defence support of Indian claim, GB's geographical proximity with Afghanistan through Wakhan strip and known history of sectarian issue in GB remains a major threat and cause of concern for the federal government of Pakistan. Constitutional status of GB can be exploited by external powers.
Keeping all these challenges in mind; this is need of hour that federal government must review constitutional status and mitigate constitutional,politicaland economic deprivations of the region.
GEOGRAPHY OF GILGIT BALTISTAN
GB lies at the extreme north of Pakistan with the border of Afghanistan, China and India, and blessed with three of longest glaciers of the world outside the polar regions, five of 8,000 and more than 50 peaks over 23,000 ft (7,000 meters). In the north, it shares border with Xinjiang Province of China, in the west with Chitral, and in the south with Kaghan, Kohistan and kalam. Towards the East are the territories of Laddakh, Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJandK). It joints the important mountain ranges of Himalayas, Hindukash and Karakorum. It has also K-2 which is the second highest peak of the world. It is linked with rest of the country via Karakoram Highway, also known as Silk Route which starts from Hassan Abdal and ends at the Khunjerab Pass, from where it enters China. It is divided into two units of Gilgit and Bultistan. Its capital city is Gilgit.
It's an estimated population was 1,800,000 in 2008. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics conducted the census in the two territories, but it mentioned that census results of AJandK and GBhave not been included in the census results. (www.pbscensus.gov.pk, 2017)The population is 100 percent Muslim, predominately 40 per cent used to be Shias, 25 per cent Ismailis, who are close to the Shias, followed by 35 percent Sunnis.(Karakoram province or Gilgit-Baltistan, 2009)Shena, Balti, Brushaski, Khowar and Wakhi are the main languages, spoken in different areas.It covers about 29,814 square miles (mA2) area (about six times larger than AJandK, which holds only 4,144 mA2)(Gillani, May 2011, p. 9) of which 94% is snow clad mountains and glaciers. Around 4 % of region, spreading over 2900 square kilometers (kmA2) is covered with forests. Due to rugged mountains and severe weather conditions, the total cultivated area is restricted to only 1.8 %.
The GB is Administratively consisting of 10 districts (and twenty-three tehsils) within three divisions.
* Baltistan Division consist of four districts Skardu, Kharmang, Shigar and Ghanche.
* Gilgit Division consist of four districts Hunza, Nagar, Ghizer and Gilgit.
* Diamir Division comprised of Astore and Diamir.
Astore was separated from Diamer District in 2004 (Dawn, 2005)In 2015, via amendment in GBESG 2009, four districts Shigar, Kharmang, Hunza and Nagar were announced. Previously Hunza and Nagar were single district with the name Hunza-Nagar and Kharmang was with Shigar district. The number of districts has now rose to ten.(Sost Today, 2015)
GB is endowed with a high development potential in livestock, tourism, forestry, minerals, gemstones, energy, and human resource small and medium enterprises, the social sector. (Hussain S. A., 2013) According to an estimate, GB has the capacity to produce 40,000 MW electricity. The Diamer-Basha Dam Project 4500 MW is under consideration. With generating capacity of 7,100MW Bunji project, 2,500MW Thungus and 2,500MW Yalbo project can change the economy. Additionally, any displacement of population or resettlement will also not be involved in these projects. Power needs of Pakistan can be met by the development of only three run-of-the-river projects on the Indus. (Shigri A. A., 2016)