By DJ Mathal
The recent visit of American diplomats to Gilgit-Baltistan has raised eyebrows in the region. People from cross sections of society saw the mysterious visit of the diplomats, who arrived in the region without any official permission.
Soon after reaching the city of Gilgit, the delegation met the finance minister of the region and inquired him about the economic position of the region. They also discussed women’s participation in governance and public and private sector organizations during a meeting with a female member of the legislative assembly.
The delegation also visited the women police station where they were briefed about its working. The next day, they visited the chamber of commerce and also held a meeting with leaders of nationalist parties. The nationalist leaders briefed the US delegation about political deprivation of the region, exploitation and usurpation of the rights of the indigenous people at the hands of Islamabad. They were also briefed how the Islamabad is indulged in plundering of the region’s resources by Pakistan. The delegation was informed that the so-called autonomy package of 2009 was a total fraud and it provided benefits to a selected few. The nationalist leaders said that the order had been issued through a presidential decree and had no constitutional protection and, it can be withdrawn at any moment.
They also informed the US diplomats about the reality of the sectarian killings and violence in the region. They maintained that Pakistan’s security agencies were involved in it. They said that the security agencies were in actual power in the region and, they orchestrate such incidents in order to pressure the government of the region to continue toeing their lines. They said the provincial government was toothless and powerless and, as a matter of fact, the chief minister himself had acknowledged that over 3,000 people in the region were working for Pakistani agencies. The nationalist leaders made it clear on the visiting diplomats that the people of the region were neither Pakistani nor Indian but had their own separate and unique identity and, therefore, they should be given independence.
They also briefed the delegation about the construction of the Diamer dam in the disputed region and said without international guarantee the project could not be allowed to go ahead. On the pretext of constructing the dam, a neighboring province of Pakistan had occupied a large swath of the land belonging to Gilgit-Baltistan. The leaders also informed the delegation about the government’s corruption and sale of employments in complete disregard to the rights of the meritorious youth of the region.
The visit of the delegation is generally considered an opportunity for the people of the region to show the real picture of the scene here to outside of the world.
Pakistan has for long been creating confusion and misleading the international community by concealing its usurpation of the rights of the two million indigenous people of the disputed region. It may be noted that whatever the nationalist leaders said during the meeting with the diplomats it had already been acknowledged by the sitting law minister of the region about one month back. Though the chief minister of the region is also fed with the interference of the security agencies in the affairs of the area, he always shies away from openly criticizing them due to obvious reasons.
The US delegation also met with the business community and collected information about trade with China. They were also interested to know how the local traders were benefitting from the trade between China and Pakistan. It may be noted here that the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan is yet to be decided and no power on earth can take any unilateral decision on the issue without taking into confidence the indigenous people.
There are some people who looked at the issue keeping in mind the strategic interests of Pakistan though it is a fact that constitutionally, geographically, legally and politically, Gilgit-Baltistan has no relation with Pakistan and neither the people of this region have made Islamabad their spokesman. For the last over six decades, Pakistan has been ruling the region by force and in order to prolong its rule it has enslaved the indigenous people.
At a time when the people of the region have decided to get freedom any help coming from the world’s sole super power should be welcomed. It is unfortunate that even those raising the slogan of socialism in the region seem shying away from the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed area on the agenda of the United Nations. There is at all no system in the region which we can talk about changing.
The socialist revolution’s leaders should come forward to put in place a new system in the region. In the first phase, we have to get our separate identity recognized from the international community after that we can be able to raise a voice for the labour class and chant the slogan of ‘ labour of the world get united. It is obvious that Pakistan has been occupying Gilgit-Baltistan as an imperialist power and if any power on the surface of the earth offers any help to us we should welcome it. There was also a time when oppression and strong arms tactics were used to subdue the people of the region. Now due to the untiring struggle launched by a few loyal sons of the land, the issue of the region has become internationally recognized and if we pooh-poohed the offer coming from the American as a US agenda in the region, we will loss a golden chance of getting our issues resolved.
We should also expose the conspiracies of making the region a scapegoat of Pakistan-China friendship. Notwithstanding the friendship between Islamabad and Beijing, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will never accept the policy of the two countries to strengthen their relations at the cost of the interest of the two million people of Gilgit-Baltistan. The visit of the US diplomats to the region seems to be a good omen for the future of the region. It also exposed the tall claims of the successive governments of Pakistan that all was well in the region and there were no human rights violations. The visit will further help in exposing the rampant human rights abuses in the region.