GILGIT TRIBUNE

Voice of the Mountain People

Archive for September, 2009

PM hints foreign hand in Gilgit Baltistan violence; says 90pc area people peaceful

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 30, 2009

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday did not rule out the involvement of foreign hand in the recent incidents of violence in Gilgit-Baltistan, saying the area is generally peaceful with no issues of terrorism and law and order.Addressing a press conference winding up his two-day official visit to the country’s serene north, the Prime Minister said the area was inherently peaceful and the people of all sects lived in harmony.

He said 90 percent of the people of Gilgit Baltistan wanted peace in the area and the local ulema had assured to play their role in this regard.

Gilani directed Qamar Zaman Kaira, Acting Governor Gilgit Baltistan to set up an inter-faith harmony committee and asked the Inspector General to put a ban on the display of weapons, so as to ensure that no such incidents occur in future.

On Kashmir issue, the Prime Minister said composite dialogue with India was the only way forward for the resolution of all outstanding issues.

He said Pakistan had been making serious efforts to resume the dialogue process with India after the Mumbai incident and mentioned his meetings with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in Colombo and Sharm el Sheikh in this regard.

He said there could be a possibility of another meeting between the two prime ministers on the sidelines of Commonwealth summit in November.

When asked if Kerry Lugar bill will be discussed in the parliament, the Prime Minister said, “Parliament is supreme and we are ready to discuss any issue at this forum.”

However, he said it was too early to discuss the Bill since it had yet to be passed by the US Congress.

On drone attacks, the Prime Minister termed it “counter-productive”, adding that Pakistan had been trying to convince the world and the United States that the strategy should be revised.

“We have instead demanded to provide us drone technology so that we can take action ourselves on any credible information,” he said.–APP

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Five killed in gun attack on Gilgit van

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 30, 2009

GILGIT, Sept 30: Five people were killed and 14 others injured when suspected terrorists fired at a passenger van here on Wednesday.

A nine-year-old boy died on the spot and four of the injured in hospital.

The van was coming to Gilgit from Basin. The deceased were identified as Shehzada, Noor Mohammad, Nizam, Wazir Shah, Sabir Alam.

Gilgit magistrate Asad Zamin said the administration had got some information about the people involved in the attack and they would be arrested soon.

Police chief Khurshid Alam Khan said that police and Rangers personnel were patrolling the streets.

One man was killed and four others were injured in a grenade attack at a shop in Gilgit last week.

One of the injured, identified as Aqib Hussain, died in the DHQ hospital on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who was here when the passenger van was attacked asked the administration to bring the culprits to book.–Courtesy Dawn

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Gilgit-Baltistan to have its first medical college * Tourism declared industry * Gilgit Skardu airports upgraded: PM unveils Rs12bn uplift package for GB

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 29, 2009

By Our Special Correspondent

GILGIT, Sept 29: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani Tuesday announced Rs12 billion socio-economic package for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan. The package includes a number of projects in health, education, tourism and agriculture sectors.

GILGIT: September 29- Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressing a huge public meeting

GILGIT: September 29- Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressing a huge public meeting

Addressing a big public gathering at Lalak Jan stadium decorated with tri-colour Pakistan People’s Party flags, the Prime Minister unveiled  development projects in the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism amid cheers and slogans.

“You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand and today we are fulfilling it,” the Prime minister said amid slogans and cheers. He said Rs6.5 billion had already been allocated for the development of Gilgit-Baltistan and Rs5.5 billion for capacity building.

“In the budget, we will immensely increase the Public Sector Development Programme for Gilgit-Baltistan,” he said.

Prime Minister Gilani announced setting up of the first medical college in Gilgit provision of an ambulance each for all district and tehsil hospitals. He said Rs870 million had been allocated for health sector.

Mr Gilani said 150,000 tons wheat would be provided to Gilgit-Baltistan on subsidized rate while a horticulture research centre would be set up.

He said cold storage centres would be established to preserve fruits particularly some 55 unique varieties of cherries grown in the area.

Premier Gilani directed appointment of District Commissioner of Hunza-Nagar within a week.

On education sector, he said 540 schools had been transferred to National Education Foundation to improve their quality.

He directed establishment of a bureau of NAVTEC in Gilgit for providing technical education to the youth.

For the development and promotion of tourism, the mainstay of the region, PM Gilani gave the status of industry to tourism.

He ordered for an increase in the number of Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) buses to facilitate the commuters.

Prime minister said quota would be reserved for the locals officers in foreign and national training programmes. He also directed for fixation of basic salary of labourers at Rs6,000.

He said the salaries of police officials would also be increased and directed to fill all the vacant posts.

Gilani directed Acting Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira to allocate land for the housing scheme for low income group, where the government would construct houses free of cost.

He also announced setting up of a housing colony for the journalists of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The prime minister announced upgradation of Skardu and Gilgit airports, adding that Sost Dry Port would also be improved so as to enhance trade links with China.

He asked the Finance Ministry to consider the reopening of regional offices of Zarai Taraqiati Bank, National Bank of Pakistan and House Building Finance Corporation.

The Prime Minister also ordered restoration of ‘Gilgit allowance’ for the government servants which was suspended during Musharraf era.

Meanwhile during a briefing by the Chief Secretary and home secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, the prime minister said the government would utilize hydro and mineral resources for the benefit of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The officials briefed the prime minister on administrative and financial matters of Gilgit-Baltistan, at the FCNA Auditorium here.

The prime minister said the government’s comprehensive economic package for Gilgit-Baltistan would improve the living standard of the people.

Chief Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad briefed the Prime Minister on the transition plan of self-governance, economic package and law and order situation in the area.

He also apprised the prime minister on various projects including poverty alleviation, agricultural diversification and public-private partnership in the social sector.

Home Secretary Muhammad Usman Younus briefed the Prime Minister Gilani on Diamer-Bhasha Dam and about the resettlement and rehabilitation plan for the affected people.

Speaking to a select gathering of local elite, bureaucracy, elected representatives and mediapersons at a luncheon hosted by the Acting Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira at a local hotel, the prime minister said clash between institutions will destroy everything. 

Talking about the cynicism among various sections of people about the internal autonomy given to Gilgit-Baltistan, he said his government had no intention to manipulate or rig elections in the area which has for first time given self-governance and internal autonomy to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

“It was up to the people of the area if they want to change their leadership through fair and free polls to be held first time under judiciary.”

Mr Gilani emphasized that institution building was vital to ensure good governance but also warned that any clash between institutions would be fatal for the country.

He said, the federal government would help the Gilgit-Baltistan government in capacity building, good governance, and institutions building.

He said whoever wins the polls should be given opportunity to rule the area.

Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira said Gilgit-Baltistan needed a comprehensive financial package to undertake development projects.

He said the region got a comprehensive political and administrative package which should be followed by substantial financial support.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira presented a list of demands to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to better living standards of the people.

As the area has harsh weather conditions, he said the government employees should get weather allowance equal to that given in Balochistan.

The minister said Hunza-Nagar should be declared a district and the seven district hospitals should be equipped with ambulances and special packages should be announced for education and health sectors.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should be ordered to upgrade the two airports in Gilgit and Skardu to international standard, he said adding youth should get more seats in medical and engineering colleges in other parts of the country.

More professional educational institutes should be set up. Quota of the local population should be increased in federal services.

He demanded raise in pay of police, better pay package for employees.

He called for doubling of the quota of Benazir Tractor scheme and housing schemes for low income groups.

Kaira saluted the people of Gilgit-Baltistan for rendering sacrifices in blood in wars of 1965 and 71 and in political movements.

Earlier, the Prime Minister was received at the Gilgit Airport by Qamar Zaman Kaira, Federal Minister for Information and Acting Governor of Gilgit Baltistan and other senior officials and PPP local leaders.

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PPP and PML-Q stretch muscles for Gilgit-Baltistan polls

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 28, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Sep 28: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) are stretching their muscles for giving each other tough time in upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly elections. The maiden elections after implementation of Presidential Reforms Package for Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly; previously called Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA), would be held on November 12, 2009 under supervision of the court.marvi pic

 

Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly consists of total 33 seats out of which 24 members are directly elected while three seats are reserved for technocrats and six for women.

 

With October 1st as last date for filing the nomination papers, both PPP and PML-Q have started receiving significant number of applications from aspirants across the region.

 

Sayed Mehdi Shah, President of PPP Gilgit-Baltistan told APP on Monday that their party has so far received applications with an average of five to six candidates per constituency. Even at some places the number was as higher as eight applications per constituency, he added.

 

Shah said Peoples Party has decided to field its candidates in 22 constituencies out of 24 while two remote constituencies would skipped due to shortage of time and ensure focused run for the potential seats.

 

“Well, we have accepted the challenge. We are on the field to contest and win. Our workers, leaders and supporters struggling hard with optimism and higher morale,” he said.

 

When asked about alleged administrative interference, Shah negated the accusations saying that his party was relying upon public power instead of state power as they have huge vote bank in the northern hilly region.

 

“Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had favors on Gilgit-Baltistan people. And now President Asif Ali Zardari-led government has taken mega step for our empowerment and development. I am sure northern region people would not let PPP down,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, MNA Marvi Memon, who is also PML’s incharge for Gilgit-Baltistan, claimed that her party had more strong candidates than Peoples Party and it was going to field candidates across the 24 constituencies.

 

“Position of PML-Q stalwarts is stronger. We hope to regain our previous majority on November 14 when official election results would be announced,” she said.

 

The MNA said she herself visited the area thrice during month of Ramadan while the top PML central leadership was also scheduled to visit the Gilgit-Baltistan to buck-up its candidates during electioneering.

 

chaudhry-qamar-zaman-kaira“Surely performance will make the difference and our track record speaks louder than us as PML had undertaken mega development in the region,” she claimed.-APP

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Gilgit-Balitstan Supreme Appellate Court to expedite judicial matters

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 28, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Sep 27: Under Gilgit-Balitistan Self Empowerment and Governance Order 2009, a separate Supreme Appellate Court has come into existence to deal with judicial issues of the area. The new judicial set up will address a host of issues and matters bringing much awaited relief to the litigants. According to contents of the Order regarding appointment of Chief Judge, other judges and their role and functions, the Order says that before entering upon office, the Chief Judge of Gilgit-Baltistan will have to make before the Governor and any other Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan will make before the Chief Judge, oath in the form set out in the First Schedule.

 

The Chief Judge and judges of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan shall be appointed for a term not exceeding three years and maybe appointed for such further term as the Government of Pakistan may determine, unless they sooner resign or are removed from office in accordance with law.

 

At any time when the office of Chief Judge of Gilgit-Baltistan is vacant, or the Chief Judge, is absent or unable to perform the functions of his office due to any other cause, the next senior Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court will act as Chief Judge of Gilgit-Baltistan.

 

The remuneration and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief .Judge and of a Judge of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court shall be such as are admissible to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

 

Subject to the succeeding provision of this Article, the Supreme Court of Gilgit-Baltistan shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from judgments, decrees, final orders or sentences of the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan.

 

An appeal shall lie to the Supreme Appellate Court of the Gilgit-Baltistan from any judgment, decree, final order or sentence of the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan,-

 

(a)  if the Chief Court has on appeal reversed an order of acquittal of an accused person and sentenced to death or to imprisonment for life; or, on revision, has enhanced a sentence to a sentence as aforesaid; or.

 

(b)  if the Chief Court has withdrawn for trial before itself any case from any court subordinate to it and has in such trial convicted the accused person and sentenced him as aforesaid; or

 

(c)  if the Chief Court has imposed any punishment on any person for contempt of the Chief Court; or

 

(d)  if the amount or value of the subject matter of the dispute in the court of first instance was, and also in dispute in appeal is, not less than fifty thousand rupees or such other sum as may be specified in that behalf by Act of the Council and judgment,  decree or final order appealed from has varied or set,, aside the judgment, decree or final order of the court immediately below; or

 

(e)  if the judgment, decree or final order involved directly or indirectly some claim or question respecting properly or the like amount or value and the judgment, decree or final order appealed from has varied or set aside the judgment, decree or final order of the court immediately below; or

 

(f)   if the Chief Court certifies that the case involves a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of this Order,

 

An appeal to the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court of from a judgment, decree, order or sentence of the Chief Court in a case to which clause (11) does not apply shall lie only if the Supreme Appellate Court of grants leave to appeal.

 

(a)  an appeal to Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court shall be heard by a Bench consisting of not less than two judges to be constituted or reconstituted by the Chief Judge;

 

(b)  if the Judges hearing a petition or an appeal are divided in opinion, the opinion of majority shall prevail;

 

(c)  if there is no such majority as aforesaid the petition or appeal, as the case may be, shall be placed for hearing and disposal before another Judge to be nominated by the Chief Judge:

 

Provided that in case of difference of opinion as aforesaid, the decision of the Supreme Appellate Court shall be expressed in term of opinion of the senior of the two Judges.

 

The person holding office as Chief Judge of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan immediately before the commencement of this Order shall as from such commencement hold office as Chief Judge of Supreme Appellate Court under this Order on terms and conditions prescribed in this Order provided these are not inferior to the terms as conditions applicable to him immediately before such commencement.

 

All legal proceedings pending in the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court, immediately before the commencement of this Order, shall on such commencement, stand transferred to, and be deemed to be pending before the Supreme Court for determination and any judgment or order of the Supreme Appellate Court delivered or made before such commencement shall have the same force and effect as if it had been delivered or made by the Supreme Court.

 

Original Jurisdiction.- (1)  Without prejudice to the provisions of Article-71, the Supreme Appellate Court, on an application of any aggrieved party, shall if it considers that a question of general public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the fundamental right conferred by Part II of this Order is involved, have the power to make declaratory order of the nature mentioned in the said Article. (2) An application made under clause (1) shall be heard by a Bench comprising not less than two Judges to be constituted by the Chief Judge.

 

Issue and execution of processes of Supreme Appellate Court.-  

 

(1)  The Supreme Appellate Court shall have powers to issue such directions, orders or decrees as maybe necessary for doing complete justice in any case or matter pending before it including an order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person or the discovery or production of any document.

 

(2)  Any such direction, order or decree shall be enforceable throughout Gilgit-Baltistan as if it has been issued by the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court.

 

(3)  All executive and judicial authorities throughout Gilgit-Baltistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Appellate Court.-APP

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Gilani vows to utilize hydro, mineral resource of Gilgit-Baltistan for the ‘area people’

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 28, 2009

By our Correspondent

GILGIT, Sep 29: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said the government would utilize the hydro and mineral resources of Gilgit Baltistan for the benefit of the area people. Talking to media persons after being briefed by the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary on administrative and financial matters of Gilgit Baltistan, at the Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) Auditorium here on Tuesday, he said the government’s comprehensive economic package for Gilgit Baltistan would improve the living standard of the area people.

GILGIT: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani being received by the Acting Governor Gilgit-Baltistan, Qamar Zaman Kaira upon his arrival at Gilgit airport

GILGIT: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani being received by the Acting Governor Gilgit-Baltistan, Qamar Zaman Kaira upon his arrival at Gilgit airport

 “The government would not ignore far-flung areas of the country “he observed adding that the government was taking concrete steps to bring them at par with other developed cities.

Chief Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad briefed the Prime Minister on the transition plan of self-governance, economic package and law and order in the area.

He also apprised the Prime Minister on poverty alleviation, agricultural diversification and public private partnership for development of social sector in Gilgit Baltistan.

Home Secretary Muhammad Usman Yunus briefed Gilani about Diamer Bhasha Dam and the resettlement and rehabilitation plan for the affected people.

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Gilani to announce economic package after Eid

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 19, 2009

SKARDU, Sep 18: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will announce economic package for Gilgit-Baltistan after Eid-ul-Fitr. This was stated by Governor Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira while addressing a gathering during inauguration ceremony of the office of new Commissioner of Baltistan Division.

He said that empowerment and self governance order, 2009 is a historic step taken by the present PPP government.  “We have fulfilled the promises of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto,” he added. APP

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Reforms package not to ‘dilute’ stand on Kashmir: Zardari

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 19, 2009

LONDON, Sep 18: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the Gilgit package was aimed at addressing the long standing demands of the people of the area for autonomy, self governance, and empowerment and to respect their basic human rights.

He said this during a call on him by members of the Justice Foundation Kashmir Centre led by Nazir Ahmad Shawl here today. “The people of Gilgit-Baltistan had been disenfranchised since independence and it was time that they were given their political and economic rights” he added.

He said that the package was aimed at resolving the day to day problems of the people which were earlier referred to the federal government.

Spokesperson to the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar while briefing the media about the meeting said the President had assured the delegation that the reforms package would in no way dilute Pakistan’s principled stand on the Kahmir dispute.

He said Gilgit-Baltistan was not declared a province of Pakistan although its people were given some political rights as enjoyed by provinces.

“A clause had also been inserted into the package so as to launch the reforms process without prejudice to Pakistan’s position on the issue of Kashmir” He quoted the President as saying. APP

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The Gilgit-Baltistan saga at DawnNews

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 18, 2009

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Voices around: Gilgit-Baltistan autonomy package wins few friends

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on September 17, 2009


Nirupama Subramanian

A package of reforms recently announced by the Pakistan government for Gilgit-Baltistan appears to have satisfied few among those it is meant to benefit.

Disappointed at what they say is a “package of gimmicks,” the people of the remote region have voiced protests against the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order 2009.

But they are also leery of New Delhi’s diplomatic protest against it, saying they are as much victims of India as of Pakistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northern-most territory governed by Islamabad and an important element in the India-Pakistan wrangle over Kashmir. It is also in the middle of a geo-strategic hot-spot.

To its north, it shares boundaries with Afghanistan and China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region; to the west is Pakistan’s troubled North-West Frontier Province; to its south is Pakistan Occupied Kashmir; and to the east, India’s Jammu & Kashmir state.

New Delhi claims it as part of J&K, and therefore as an integral part of India. Pakistan also links the region to the Kashmir issue, but in contrast to “Azad Kashmir” or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, has kept the territory in a constitutional limbo, referring to it until now only by the geographical appellation of Northern Areas.

About the only thing that has been welcomed in the autonomy package is the renaming of the area as Gilgit-Baltistan, which better conveys that people with a distinct identity live in that region.

Identity is key to the grievances of Gilgit-Baltistan people, estimated at 1.5 million since the last count in 1998. They do not consider themselves Kashmiri and have little in common with them. The majority are Shia, and a significant number are Ismaili. They belong to several non-Kashmiri ethnicities, and speak a host of languages, none of which are Kashmiri.

Their first link to Kashmir came with the British sale of the region to the Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir in the 19th century. After many twists and turns over 100 years, the people of the territory successfully rebelled against the maharaja on November 1, 1947. They put their future in the hands of Pakistan but found the clock turned back on them when Pakistan linked their fate to that of the Kashmiris.

Accepting Gilgit-Baltistan’s accession would have undermined Pakistan’s international case for Kashmir. In later years, Pakistan did not want to forego the votes from Gilgit-Baltistan in the event of a plebiscite on Kashmir.

But unlike ***, which got some make-believe autonomy, the Northern Areas remained an undefined entity.

Analysts believe the remoteness of the region, its scattered population, the absence of links between local leaders and the Pakistani leadership, all combined to deny Gilgit-Baltistan the comparative political largesse bestowed on ***.

The territory came under direct rule of the federal government through the Ministry of Kashmir and Northern Areas (KANA). The military had a big role in administering the region. In 1974, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto ushered in a directly elected “council” but left the administrative system untouched. More reforms packages followed in 1990s, and by the Musharraf regime in 2007, when it was on its last legs. Each promised “maximum autonomy” but contributed only cosmetic changes. To date, the people of the region are only de facto citizens of Pakistan.

The Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order 2009 of August 29, signed by President Asif Ali Zardari on September 7, yet again promises maximum autonomy to the people of the region.

Under the package, Gilgit-Baltistan will have a Governor as in the other four provinces of Pakistan, without constitutionally being made a province. The leader of the Legislative Assembly will be known as chief minister; the Assembly will have 33 members, of whom 24 are to be directly elected; it will have powers to legislate on 61 subjects.

In addition, the Governor will head a 12-member Council, with half the members from the Assembly and half appointed by the Governor. A fresh election for the Legislative Assembly is to be held by November. The territory will also have its own chief election commissioner, a public service commission.

The government has described it as a “province-like” status for Gilgit-Baltistan. But the new measures have failed to satisfy any segment of the Gilgit-Baltistan population.

Those demanding self-governance see it falling well short of empowerment of the local people. Instead, they see the package tightening the federal government’s hold by the appointment of a Governor. The Council is seen as a move to dilute the Assembly’s powers. While the Assembly has been given powers to pass the budget, it does not spell out how much say the Chief Minister will have in framing it. The Assembly does not have the right to legislate on its natural resources, including water and minerals.

Nationalists, whose demand for independence has gained ground over the years thanks to the denial of basic rights to the region, have also rejected the package.

Pakistan did not consult anyone in Gilgit-Baltistan for this package. The provision for chief minister and Governor is illegal because this is not a province of Pakistan,” said Shafqat Inquilabi, a former spokesman of the nationalist Balawaristan National Front.

“We are a separate state,” the young activist said, and the least Pakistan could do, according to him, was to treat it on par with Azad Kashmir until the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

“We are the fourth party to the Kashmir dispute and we must be included in the talks as such,” he said.

Human rights activists have rejected it saying Pakistan has yet again failed to make any constitutional arrangements for the people of the territory, while those demanding complete integration with Pakistan say it has fallen short of their demand that the territory should have been incorporated as the fifth province of the country.

Bar the PPP, national mainstream political parties active in the region view the package as “pre-poll rigging” for the fresh Legislative Assembly election.

Opposition has also come from Kashmiris, who have seen in it an insidious move by the PPP government to dilute their cause by giving a region internationally considered a part of the Kashmir issue a province-like status within Pakistan.

But it has rankled the people of Gilgit-Baltistan even more that while moving to assuage the fear of the Kashmiris —Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a special briefing for *** leaders on September 4 — the government did not take them into confidence even after announcing the package.

Instead of winning hearts and minds, the package has spurred a major debate on the motives behind it. The Kashmiris see pressure from the U.S. or Indians as the reason for the package as according to them, it is a move by the PPP government towards a tacit acceptance of the status quo on Kashmir.

According to one theory being circulated in the blogosphere, the government had hoped the package would act as a sop to clam down opposition in Gilgit-Batlistan to the government plans for construction of dams in the region.

During a recent visit to China, President Zardari signed an MoU for the Bunji Hydroelectric Project in Astore, to be constructed by the Chinese on a “Build, operate, transfer” basis. The dam, estimated to cost up to $7 billion, all of it to be invested by the Chinese under the BOT agreement, will have a capacity to generate 7,000 megawatts of electricity.

Some think China, with its high profile investment in several projects including telecommunications, the expansion of the Karakoram Highway, and the construction of a dry port on the Xinjiang border, is behind the government’s latest move keen that there should be no unrest in the region.

“Without a legitimate government in the area, no outside power in the region has a right to start any infrastructure project. We will consider it illegal and illegitimate unless there is a representative government in Gilgit-Baltistan,” said Ali Ahmed Jan, a founder member of the Karakoram Students Movement, now an Islamabad-based human rights activist.

Some also see it as a move to pacify Western donors concerned about the denial of rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Last week’s protest by India to Pakistan against the Gilgit-Baltistan Order and the proposed construction of the Bunji dam, has also drawn criticism.

Describing the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as the “worst victims of the India-Pakistan dispute”, Mr. Jan pointed out that they were left out of the numerous confidence-building measures of the peace process. A Skardu-Kargil bus route was proposed but never implemented.

“India’s opposition to the package is unjustified unless it can come up with a plan that will give relief to the victims of the Kashmir dispute,” said Mr. Jan. Pakistan had attempted to do this, he said, even though “it is another matter that what they have given is simply not enough”.

Courtesy The Hundu

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