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Gilgit-Baltistan:Protesters attack Gulmit Police Station, officials flee

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Aliabad, August 11: Police in Ailabad, Hunza, have opened fire on peaceful protesters, inuring five people. The injured were immediately shifted to hospitals in the major town, where one person has , reportedly, succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital. This is the most violent case of police action in the history of Hunza Valley.

The protesters were mostly those affected by the Attabad landslide disaster and the damming of Hunza River, belonging to Shishkat and Ayeenabad. They were protesting on arrival of the Chief Minister, Syed Mehdi Shah, to the region and demanding early release of funds for rehabilitation.

According to initial reports those injured include one from Aliabad, a student who was caught in the firing on his way back from college, and four protesters from Ayeenabad and Shishkat. Names of the killed and injured are not known at this stage. Hundreds Gulmit/Shishkat/Sost: According to one report hundreds of people have attacked the Gulmit Police Station and smashed all the windows and doors. The police officials have left the station and escaped. Hundreds of people hadgathered in Shishkat, Gulmit, Hussaini and Sost, villages of Gojal Hunza, to protest against the terrorism of police in Aliabad town of Central Hunza, in which two people were killed, and three more were injured.

One of the person killed in the incident has been identified as Sher Ullah Baig (Sheru), 50, hailing from Ayeenabad, Gojal, Hunza. He was, reportedly, a retired soldier of Pakistan Army. Protesters in Shishkat have, reportedly, blocked the dammed Hunza River for boat traffic. Authorities in Sost have also also closed down the Dry Port for indefinite period. “Hundreds of people have gathered in Gulmit and they are chanting slogans against the government and district administration”, an eye-wtiness told Pamir Times Gilgit: Hundreds of people in Zulfiqarabad locality of Gilgit city took to the street, burning tyres in protest, and chanting slogans against the police and GB government. The main Shahra-e-Qauid-e-Azam has been blocked by the protesters since 1 O’clock in the afternoon, till posting of this report.

The protesters are expressing their rage against the government and demanding action against the district administration of Hunza – Nagar and the police officials, as well as public representatives. Speakers in Gilgit have harshly criticized Mehdi Shah sarkar for failing to reign in the police.

It is pertinent to note that a couple of months back police had opened fire on flood affected protesters of Khainar Village, in Diamer Valley, injuring two and arresting many, while they were demanding restoration of electricity supply for their flood-ravaged village.

Nasirabad: According to reports protesters in Nasirabad (Hindi) village of Shinaki Hunza have blocked the Karakuram Highway in protest against the the terrorism of police in Aliabad, Hunza.of people are coming out on streets across the region, protesting against the police brutality and failure of the district administration and government to protect innocent citizens.

The protesting public in Aliabad, after police shelling, have attacked the police station in Ailabad and put it on fire. Religious and social circles have condemned the incident and asked the people to calm down and allow the law to come in action. They have appealed to the appeal to not take law into their hands.

Courtesy: Pamir Times

Gilgit-Baltistan: Violent protests started in retaliation to police firing in Hunza

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Aliabad/Karimabad, August 11: Enraged public have gone on an unparalleled rampage in Hunza Valley, torching important public buildings, including Aliabad Police Station, Civil Court, and camp office of Deputy Commissioner Hunza – Nagar. The protesters are reportedly marching towards Garelth, where office of the Superintendent of Police (SP) is located.

The violent protests started in retaliation to a brutal incident in involving policemen who opened fire on a group of protesters, killing one and critically injuring four more. There are unconfirmed reports about death of 2 people.

Three of the injured have been shifted to Gilgit for medical care.

A senior leader of PPP Gilgit – Baltistan, Manzoor Hussain (aka Manzoor Bagoro), who has recently resigned from the government after developing differences with GB Chief Minister, has condemned the incident and said that instigation of violence in Hunza Valley is part of a “deep conspiracy”. He has demanded immediate action against all involved in the conspiracy.

Courtesy: Pamir Times

Gilgit-Baltistan: Threatened Rock Carvings of Pakistan

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A collage of carvings and inscriptions of different periods shows the heritage on the brink of destruction as the proposed site of the Diamer-Basha Dam hosts some 30,000 ancient art carvings and inscriptions which may vanish forever. – 3D artwork by Mufassir A. Khan

 Pakistan is going to lose one of the most precious rock art carvings due to construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam. The proposed site of the dam hosts some 30,000 ancient art carvings and inscriptions which may vanish forever due to the construction of this reservoir.

The northern area of Pakistan is a mountainous region which lies between the western Himalayas, the Korakoram in the east and the Hindukush in the west. Here, the junction of the ancient routes made the upper Indus a cradle and crossroads of different civilizations.

The junction of the ancient routes made the upper Indus a cradle and crossroads of different civilizations.

Travelers, invaders, merchants, pilgrims and artisans from different ages and cultures used the legendary silk route and its branches to enter in the region. Many of them left their cultural and religious signs on the rocks, boulders and cliffs.

The sun-tanned smooth rocks attracted more visitors and settlers to carve their own signs, symbols, inscriptions and artworks on the same locations. And hence, gradually a rock art archive accumulated in the area and eventually became a wonderland of some 50,000 rock carvings and 5,000 inscriptions from different civilizations ranging from the eighth millennium BC to the coming of Islam (since the 16th century AD) in the region.

The diversity of the rock carvings in the region turned the area into one of the most important rendezvous of petroglyphs in the world.

The history of discoveries

In 1884, a Hungarian traveler, Karl Eugen discovered a Buddhist carving in present Baltistan. In 1907, a veteran explorer, Ghulam Muhammad unveiled another Buddhist petroglyph from the Diamer district.

When the 750 km long, Karakorum Highway (the modern Silk Road) inaugurated in 1978, thousands of more engravings came to view which inspires a German scholar, Karl Jettmar to further explore the rock art wealth.

In 1980, Karl Jettmar and Pakistan’s father of archaeology, Ahmed Hassan Dani launched a Pak-German study group to systematically investigate the ancient rock art in the region.

This area is also famous for the amazing story of mysterious gold-digging ants.Greek historian, Herodotus (in fifth century BC) wrote (Historia III, 102-105) about the land of Dardai, where gold-digging ants – “bigger than fox, though not so big as a dog were used to collect gold particles.”

Another research project entitled “Rock Carvings and Inscriptions along the Karakorum Highway” was initiated in 1983. The Heidelberg Academy of Humanities and Sciences and the Department of Archaeology of Gilgit were responsible for the study group. Professor Harald Hauptmann has been the head of the project since 1989 as a successor of Jettmar.

Talking Rocks

The Shatial, Thor, Hodur, Thalpan, Naupura, Chaghdo and other sites of northern Pakistan having clusters of carvings but the Basha-Diamer area holds thousands of very important rock carvings.

Hauptmann told that a total of 37,051 carvings on 5,928 boulders or rock faces will be inundated after the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam.

The site represents hundreds of inscriptions in Brahmi, Sogdian, middle Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and even ancient Hebrew languages. Some 80 per cent of the writings are in Brahmi language.

Always) remember that (one day) you must die.” –. Photo courtesy of Harald Hauptmann / Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany.

These writings not only provide insights into the religious and political situation but also show the name of the rulers and a rough date of the time. These details of the inscriptions helped the experts arrange them chronologically.

One of the interesting Brahmi inscriptions can be read as; Martavyam Smartavyam, which means: “(Always) remember that (one day) you must die.”

This prehistoric Caprine depiction was discovered in Chilas . Photo courtesy of Harald Hauptmann / Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany.

The earliest rock carvings in northern Pakistan dates back to the ninth millennium BC (roughly late Stone Age). Wild animals and hunting scenes are commonly found in this era but the hunter himself was never found.

The mysterious “Giant Figures” represents the demons, deities or supernatural beings. More than 50 such carvings have been discovered in the area. – Photo courtesy of Harald Hauptmann / Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany.

The following Bronze Age petroglyphs represent the most spectacular carvings of giants. These life size male giant figures with stretched arms could be assumed to be images of ghosts, demons, deities or gods. Some 50 such carvings have been discovered in northern areas but all the giants have no facial features.

In the third millennium BC, agriculture started in the region and carvings of horses were observed for first time. Then in the beginning of the first millennium BC, the area witnessed invasions by new ethnic groups such as the Sakan tribes. They carved sketches of Eurasian animals, most of them very interesting, bizarre and mythical in nature.

Later, another bunch of carvings appeared representing more mythical creatures, horses and warriors with Persian attire. These depicted the Iranian influence in the region and the expansion of Achaemenid Empire in sixth century BC.

The Golden era of Buddhism

In the first century AD, Buddhism emerged in the area as new belief system and reached its peak between the fifth and eighth century. Many spectacular carvings of Buddha and stupas – sacred buildings – and related inscriptions were found carved in the same era.

The beautiful carvings of two Buddhas flanking a stupa. –. Photo courtesy of Harald Hauptmann / Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Germany.

According the Hauptmann, the historic period of early Buddhism started from this area because of findings of old Indian style Khorashti language or Sanskrit. The venerations of Buddha and names of different kings show the climax of Buddhism in this area.

Although addressing Pakistan’s energy crisis is an urgent need and the Basha Dam would help bridge the gap between the demand and supply of power, the conservation and mitigation of these carvings is also very important.

When, asked Hauptmann about mitigation of the rock carvings in one hand and the need of the dam on the other, he said, “We (as an archaeologist) have to respect the decision (to build the dam) but it is very sad for us to lose one of the most rich and diverse rock art provinces of the world.”

According to Hauptmann, the Basha Dam will drown 32 villages and displace more than 25,000 people.

He added that some 3,000 very important stupas and similar number of drawings will be submerged after the construction of the dam. He called to establish a cultural center in Gilgit where original and replicas of the carvings could be preserved along with scientific documents about the geography, history, languages, music, wildlife and other aspects of the northern areas.

This center could be a rendezvous for scholars, writers, visitors and for future generation to discover the exciting history of the region.

Gold-digging ants

This area is also famous for the amazing story of mysterious gold-digging ants.

Greek historian, Herodotus (in fifth century BC) wrote (Historia III, 102-105) about the land of Dardai, where gold-digging ants – “bigger than fox, though not so big as a dog were used to collect gold particles.”

Later, other historians and writers such as Arrian, Claudius Aelianus, Ktesias, and Plinius shed some light on this amazing tale that fox-sized fuzzy “ants” were found in far eastern India in a region with yellow sand rich in gold particles.

The creatures piled up the dust and dirt while digging up the burrows where people would collect them to extract gold.

In 1854, Alexander Cunningham mentioned the fact that “the sands of the Indus have long been celebrated for the production of gold.”

In 1984, a French ethnologist Michel Peissel wrote a book named, “The Ants’ Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas”. Peissel suggested that Herodotus actually mentioned the Deosai Plateau of Pakistan in the story of gold-digging ants.

He said that not ants but (Himalayan) marmot used to dig deep burrows and pile large amount of sand. He further wrote that Deosai Plateau is rich in gold particles where marmot were found in abundance and thus solved the thousands-of-years-old gold-ant puzzle.

Peissel also claimed to interview Minaro, Maruts or Sonival tribes of Deosai Plateau and they confirmed the gold collection procedure through marmots.

But why did Herodotus write about gold-digging ‘ants’? Peissel presented the theory that Herodotus was probably unaware of the Persian language and depended on local interpreters and never claimed to see any ants by himself. He was confused because the old Persian word for “marmot” was very similar to that for “mountain ant”.

The Management Plane

Dr. Ayesha Pamela Rogers is the director of Rogers Kolachi Khan and Associates (RKK) and contracted by the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) for the Heritage Impact Assessment survey and report for the dam.

RKK launched its first report in 2009 as a long term comprehensive management plan to safeguard the heritage and help the people affected by the building of the reservoir.

Rogers agreed that some 30,000 carvings on 5,000 rocks will be affected. Some of them will be totally submerged; others will be seasonally under water and then exposed when water level are low, she assessed.

“Other (rock carvings) will be seasonally under water and then exposed when water levels are low, others which are now at high elevations will be close to the new shoreline. It means mitigation and conservation approaches are needed for this entire situation.

Other threats exist which are not related to the dam – many carvings are being vandalised as we speak – and new risks will arise if and when tourism is developed. Again, all these need to be addressed in a management plan,” she added.

She further said that Wapda is committed to this project and preserving whatever it can.

The pages of history, language and religion have been carved on the upper Indus rocks and they have been talking to humanity for hundred of years. An urgent and comprehensive plan is needed to preserve them for the world and for the generations to come.

Courtesy: The Dawn

Gilgit-Baltistan: US Urges Pakistan to help Revive Silk Road

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WASHINGTON: The new US strategy for South and Central Asia sees Pakistan as a useful partner in a new Silk Road that links the two regions, says the State Department.

Briefing journalists on the fourth core group meeting in Islamabad this week, the department’s spokesman Mark Toner made it clear that the US considered Pakistan strategically vital but stressed the need for Islamabad to gel with the regional economy.

The core group represents the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the countries that are expected to play a crucial role in ending the Afghan conflict. The United States sent its special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mark Grossman, to Islamabad for the meeting.

While in Islamabad, Ambassador Grossman met the core group to discuss “the process of Afghan-led reconciliation, as well as regional economic development along the vision of the new Silk Road that Secretary Clinton laid out in Chennai,” Mr Toner said.

During a visit to Chennai last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged India to work with other regional states to revive the Silk Road.

“Historically, the nations of South and Central Asia were connected to each other and the rest of the continent by a sprawling trading network called the Silk Road,” she said.

“Indian merchants used to trade spices, gems, and textiles, along with ideas and culture, everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the banks of the Bosporus. Let’s work together to create a new Silk Road.”

Pakistan links South and Central Asia and there can be no land trade between the two regions without Pakistan’s participation.

The State Department’s spokesman said that Ambassador Grossman had “a very productive set of meetings” in Islamabad on both issues: the Afghan reconciliation process and the revival of the new Silk Road.

Besides attending the core group meetings, Ambassador Grossman also held meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and ISI chief Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha, the State Department said.

“In his meetings, in general, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the shared interest of our two countries, and acting on those interests in a joint way,” the spokesman said.

“We have said all along that we recognise that there are challenges in our relationship with Pakistan, but it’s in our strategic – both country’s strategic interest to work through those challenges and to build a long-term partnership.”

Mr Toner, however, refused to answer questions on drone attacks, saying he would not address that issue at all.

Responding to a question about the next round of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, which was scheduled in April but has not yet been held, the US official said he had nothing to announce.

The US, however, has continued to engage Pakistani officials on a number of levels.

Initially, it was the arrest of a CIA contractor in Lahore that caused the first delay but the dialogue was postponed indefinitely after the May 2 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Gilgit-Baltistan:Education System and Youth Employeability in GB

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By- Ghulam Tahir
Pakistan is a thickly populated area, like wise the population in Gilgit Baltistan is also rising accordingly. Therefore the institutional arrangements for quality education to youth can not meet the demands of the present and future challenges .It is known that Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates also in this region and the situation is even worse in the rural areas especially for the female population. According to 1953 estimates the literacy rate was 53% while it has grown well in recent years especially on the female side in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan. Since 1965 the successive Governments could not achieve the goal of universal primary education mainly due to a number of factors including rapid population growth and the limited resources being spent on education. Primary education in this country is characterized by low enrolment and high drop-out rates. The number of schools in some rural areas is less while there are sufficient schools in some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan.

There are schools for girls in some areas but in some places parents do not consider girls’ education is important and some times boys are pulled out of the schools. However the girls are more eager to continue with their education, though not always allowed. Despite Government recent efforts to increase the accessibility to basic education by making it free, a huge proportion of children are dropped-out of schools as education is found to be expensive for parents to afford.

Quality of education in terms of physical facilities is not only important in retaining them in educational institutions but also critical in attracting out of school children. Level of physical facilities available at most public and private educational institutions is dismally poor. There is therefore, need to ensure availability of all basic infrastructure and facilities at all educational institutions and levels, particularly at the basic level and provision of more advanced technological facilities like computer ,audio video, toys in addition to a well placed library of books is equally essential.

Keeping in view all these synergies Govt. and the private educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan have setout plans and proposals not only to enhance the capacity of the institutions through trained staff but also endeavor to achieve the target of 100% literacy rate and also the adult literacy rate to its optimum level by 2025. Gov. of Pakistan is currently reviewing its long term educational direction through proposals i.e. vision 2025 and vision 2030, supported by a range of policies included in the white paper on National Educational Policy (December 2006). Looking on these National policies, the Education Department Gilgit-Baltistan also decided in 2005 to frame its own education vision and long-term strategy.

The main thrust of this strategy is to improve the quality of education in Gilgit Baltistan and out line the following main objectives:-

Construct a “road map” for the education sector in Gilgit-Baltistan which is responsive to its unique situation encompasses the various strands of education and establishes priorities;

Ensure good articulation with the key elements of national educational policy making it more contexts specific to the requirements of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The policy thus set out may guarantee in raising the quality of education and expanding access to education particularly females. Some of the sub-strategies are briefly discussed below:-

Free and compulsory primary education by 2015. • All out of school children in formal and non-formal education by 2025.

Early childhood education (ECD) classes in every primary school or community by 2025. • Scholarship for all needy families’ to matriculation by 2025.

All schools and colleges upgraded on need basis by 2025.

Special education centers at tehsil level by 2020.

Technical/vocational and polytechnic institutes in each district by 2015.

Establishment of Medical, Engineering, Veterinary, Forest and Agriculture colleges by 2020.

Inter colleges at Tehsil level and Degree colleges in each District by 2015.

Libraries in all schools and ICT centers in all secondary schools by 2025.

This is a proposal in hand and Govt. will give a thoughtful consideration for implementation as early as possible. There should also be some solution to youth unemployablity which is not only frustrating them but pushing them to negative side.

Gilgit Baltistan like other parts of  Pakistan has a youthful population .According to a statement half of the population is under the age of 20 and three out of four Pakistani households contain one or more young person of age 10-24 years .According to an estimate 2004 there were 61 million children under the age of 15, another 18 million adolescents between the age of 15-19and 16 million youth aged between 20-24 years, another estimate says there is 70% youth population who are under 35 years age. This demographic situation provides our young people with an extra ordinary opportunity to compete in what ever sphere they chose.

The Govt. and the Civil Society (NGOs) should join their hands for the best utilization of this huge resource for nation building and protecting the emotional and physical health of the youth, their skill based education, provision of recreational facilities, employment and above all incorporation of self confidence, motivation and courage to move forward. The challenges, constraints and opportunities, the young people face, vary from region to region and culture to culture from forced early marriages to increased poverty resulting from adjustment policies from armed conflicts to lack of opportunities. For many bread and butter is problem, for others lack of education or poverty are major constraints in life. But no body denies that the youth, where ever they are, need to be redirected to strive for larger well being and prosperity of their country and the area.

The youth of G.B like any other part of Pakistan face a number of problems among them are unemployment, poverty ,lack of resources and training, required education etc. it is now that the society has changed enormously and the communities in different areas have established their own systems of schooling and higher education institutions privately .The basic task is that of raising a responsible, constructive and healthy, youth who enter their working life with their confidence and enthusiasm .

The crux of all this discussion and deliberation gives an idea “who will bell the cat” means who will address all these issues and challenges. On the main front there is Govt. and on the other side there are civil society institutions and the communities. Among the civil society organizations when we talk about education and training to make the youth of the area educated and trained is the Govt. and the AKDN institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan. Among them the most prominent are AKES, AKRSP, AKCSP working in a holistic way at global, regional and local level .there are some other organizations working at regional and local level, one of them is Rupani Foundation (RF) committed to train unemployed youth in Gem stone cutting and polishing, the other sphere of its contribution is early childhood development (ECD) centers in Gilgit and Ghizer.

Every body knows that God has gifted Gilgit-Baltistan with natural resources like land, water, minerals (Gems and semi precious stones) Forest and Wildlife, Natural landscapes (Biodiversity) etc. It has been mentioned earlier that Govt. according to its budgetary provision is doing its utmost efforts though its projects to serve the people but NGOs are also putting their energies to help boost new sources of income , value added products and employment opportunities for a growing and increasingly literate population especially youth both in the farm and non- farm sectors .AKRSP has changed a medium term out look(2011-2016) to address the challenges and opportunities in the years to come on putting the communities on the development of strategic resources of the area on the public and private sector agenda, including Hydropower ,Responsible tourism ,Agro-processing and Minerals, Horticulture etc. Creating and strengthening public private partnership (PPP) and institutional mechanism to deal with common challenges including social protection of the poor and vulnerable, youth development etc. AKRSP has also designed a proposal in “Enhancing Employability and Leadership for Youth” (EELY) program will seek to address the commonly expressed concern by youth under two major sub-themes: Employability and Leadership. According to the forgoing discussion the conclusion could be, “how to educate youth and how their employability can be ensured”.

Basic education is must for all. Students (high flyers) who are financially sound can opt for higher and advanced education but the students who can not further continue their education should be given technical training in different fields of their choice and put to earn their live hood and prepare for their off- springs to give good education and make the country a prosper.

Some of the fields where training can be imparted and employment opportunities can be created could be as under:-

 Land i.e. barren land to be linked with water channels.

 Water: Irrigation, Hydropower.

 Minerals: Gems, Semi Precious stones (Cutting and Polishing).

 Agriculture: on-farm and of-farm, Horticulture etc.

Live stock and Fisheries.

Poultry and Bee Keeping.

 Timber: Furniture, Wood Industry, cottages industries etc.

Business: Handicrafts, basket weaving, cloth weaving, off season vegetables, thread-net products, Rugs and Carpets.

There is a huge stock of raw material in crude form in Gilgit-Baltistan. The only task is to produce value added items and put to sale on a higher price .The available HR is required to be put to work and earn for their own and for the country.

Institutions like Rupani Foundation have already opened training centers in G.B besides early childhood development centers (ECD) for the specialized education of prenatal and 0-3 year’s babies along with their mother, grand mothers and grand fathers. Education Foundation (EF) Gilgit-Baltistan has also been established with its core and District level committees to co-ordinate with Govt. and civil society organization for the promotion and improvement of education activities in Gilgit-Baltistan. Education Foundation Gilgit-Baltistan will have close linkages and collaborative work to remove hurdles in the society to boost technical education to create skillful and technically sound standards to support the area not only in reducing the unemployability but also to cope with energy crisis and communication skills.

A Historical Perspective of Gilgit-Baltistan

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The Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the most spectacular regions of Pakistan. Here the world’s three mightiest mountain ranges – the Karakorams, the Hindukush and the Himalayas – meet. The entire region is like a paradise for mountaineers, climbers, trekkers, hikers, anglers and nature lovers. The region has a rich cultural heritage and variety of rare flora and fauna.

Historically, the area has remained a flash point of political and military rivalries amongst the Russian, British and Chinese empires. Immediately after the end of British rule in the sub-continent in 1947, the people of this region decided to join Pakistan through a popular local revolt against the government of Maharaja of Kashmir.

The Gilgit-Baltistan has always been at the crossroads of conquerors, raiders and travelers. Therefore, its history has been deeply influenced by the various incidences of history. The region has a very rich history which can be understood through periodizations made by historians. It is said that small chieftains ruled Gilgit and Baltistan, until the beginning of the 19th century. They had to grapple with trivial issues amongst each other taking advantage of their weaknesses and mutual rivalries, the Dogra regime of Kashmir annexed these territories around the middle of the 19th century even though they found the control of the area difficult. Baltistan was administered directly by the Kashmir Government as a part of District Laddakh with Headquarters at Leh. The British Indian Government got attraction in the region following the political developments in Russian and Chinese Turkistan during the late 19th century.

The history of Gilgit-Baltistan can be divided into the following periods:

Pre-History: The earliest inhabitants of the Region can be traced back to 5th millennium BC they were known as Rock Art People as they started the tradition of rock carving which was continued by their successors. They were hunters and lived in rocks. There is a general perception that they had religion having faith in mountains.

Megalith Builders: These people came from Chitral and Swat and had the tradition of building large megaliths. They used to have a ceremonial carved stone in the middle which was worshiped. They used metals like copper, bronze, iron, gold and silver. They developed irrigated fields and also depended on livestock like goat, sheep and other cattle. They lived in mud houses as temporary settlement.

Dardic People: According to some historians, the Dardics lived in the present Gilgit-Baltistan during the Achaemenian Empire (4th century B.C). Their economic activities included mining and trading gold. This led to the establishment of a trade route with Central Asia and China.

Scytho Parthians: Various rock inscriptions around Chilas suggest that the Scythians from Central Asia had established their rule in this area around the first century BC The rule of Scythians resulted in the introduction of Kharoshti script and Taxila style stupas and establishment of close trade relations with Taxila. The Scythian rule lasted only two generations between 1 B.C and 1 A.D. This was followed by the Gondophares branch of Parthians. The influence of the Parthians on local culture is evident from the rock carvings of this era which depict some new themes other than those of the earliest inhabitants.

The Kushans: The Khushans moved to Regionbetween 1 B.C and 1 A.D who had already established their rule in Central Asia and China. They used gold for trade purposes and a route passed through Northern Area which was perhaps the Silk Route on which the current Karakoram Highway has been constructed.

The Post Kushans: After the Khushans, the Sassanis from Persia controlled the area in the beginning of 3rd century AD. During that period, Budhism continued to flourish and this area remained a famous crossing point for travel to and from India, China and Central Asia.

The Huns: These were tribes from Central Asia who were warriors. They ruled through several Shina and Brushaski kings called ‘Rajas’. By that time, Budhism was still on its way of spreading.

Medieval to Modern Time

With the decline of Huns, the Rajas became independent. From 612 to 750 AD, the areas were ruled by Patoal Shahi Dynasty who were Budhists and had close ties with Chinese empire. Between 7th Century and early 19th century, parts of the Regionwere ruled by succession of various dynasties including: Tarkhans of Gilgit, the Maghlots of Nagar, the Ayasho of Hunza, the Burshai of Punyal, the Maqpoons of Skardu, the Anchans of Shigar and the Yabgos of Khaplu. In the beginning of 8th century AD the Tarkhan rulers embraced Islam. In the medieval times, Regionremained outside Mughal control although Akber conquered Kashmir and parts of Baltistan while Gilgit retained its independent status until the Regioncame under the control of Dogra rulers of Kashmir in the middle of 18th century. By the end of 19th century, the British Government created the Gilgit agency and appointed a political agent, under a lease agreement with Maharaja Harising of Kashmir. In 1947, the people of Gilgit Baltistan fought against the Maharaja and got independence. Since then, it is being administered under the Federal Government of Pakistan as Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA).

Courtesy: State of Environment and Development- in Northern Areas- IUCN/GoP NAs 2003

Gilgit-Baltistan: Importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

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The Gilgit – Baltistan have the unique distinction of being the converging point of three of the mightiest mountain ranges in the world, namely, the Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindukush. These ranges have many of the world’s highest peaks and the world’s largest concentration of glaciers outside the Polar Regions. In the Karakorum’s alone 30 peaks soar over 24,000 feet (7,500 m) and culminate in the 28,250 feet (8,612 m) high K-2, second only to Mt. Everest in elevation. Sheer rock walls and ravines, plunging thousands of vertical feet down to the rivers flowing below, mark the scenery.

This astounding landscape is the result of the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian plate in this region about 40 million years ago; which is quite recent in geological history. The youth of the Gilgit-Baltistan is reflected in their jagged peaks and continually rising elevations. Nanga Parbat is rising at a geologically dizzying rate of 7 mm per year, which is one of the highest in the world.

These lofty mountains and valleys boast a spectrum of wildlife such as the snow leopard, brown bear, Marco Polo sheep, Himalayan ibex, Astore markhor, golden marmot, woolly flying squirrel and other species, some of which are rare or endangered. Substantial deposits of various minerals and semi-precious stones add to the natural wealth of the region.

Glacial and snow melts are the source of fresh water in this arid region. Water flows into the valleys in the form of nullahs (streams) and makes human existence possible.

The remoteness and limited accessibility of the Gilgit-Baltistan until now have meant that people here have had a high dependence on the natural environment, without access to many modern facilities. Traditional modes of living ensured harmony between the natural environment and human beings. But growing population, greater communication links and infrastructural and developmental interventions are changing traditional lifestyles and increasing the pressure on natural resources.

Amazingly, one of the wonders of modern infrastructure is found precisely in this very tough terrain. The 800 km long Karakoram Highway (KKH) or Shahrah-e-Resham, completed in 1980, starts in the federal capital Islamabad and runs through Kohistan and the Gilgit-Baltistan, past all the way north to the Chinese border at the Khunjerab Top. Most of the way it follows the ancient Silk Route to China and Central Asia. This highway has dramatically opened up the Gilgit – Baltistan, not only facilitating trade and commerce with both down-country Pakistan and China, but also bringing in a greater number of outsiders. The uniqueness of the region still remains, but its inaccessibility is no more.

In addition to the trading importance of Gilgit and its environs, its location at the doorstep of China and Central Asia, with Afghanistan and India also close by, makes it a very strategic area culturally and geopolitically. The people of this area not only share the mountainous terrain with their neighbors to the north and west, but also ethnicity, history, religion, culture and languages. Faces in Gilgit reflect the kaleidoscope of ethnic groups that make up the population of the entire Gilgit-Baltistan. Its geopolitical importance was evident during the British era when the Gilgit Agency was a vital arena in the Great Game politics between Britain and Russia. Today it is still an important strategic link between Pakistan and China and the Muslim countries of Central Asia. The valleys and mountains of the Gilgit-Baltistan present exceptional challenges and opportunities.

Courtesy: KIU