Since elections were held on November 15 and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) government was set up in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) not a single day passes without further intensification of the colonial oppression of our people at the hands of the Pakistani establishment and its cronies.
Two such recent acts of suppression are worth mentioning here. First is the formation of a committee to (illegally) facilitate the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan into the federation of Pakistan. The committee is headed by minister for Kashmir Affairs and GB Ali Ameen Gandapur who made lofty promises during PTI election campaign one of which was that Pakistan would invest Rs 400 billion if the voters help his party to ascend to power.
However, immediately after coming into power the first thing the PTI government did was to sack 100 government employees. Jobs in Diamer-Bhasha dam project that were promised for locals are now being handed out to aliens from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtonkhawa.
The transparency of recent appointments in Baltistan University have been challenged by the teaching and administration staff who have accused the vice chancellor and the University registrar of nepotism and awarding jobs to their loved ones. The above-mentioned committee consists of the puppet chief minister of GB, the law minister, Attorney General, secretaries of ministries of foreign affairs, defence, finance and federal secretary for parliamentary affairs.
As if this was not enough the committee was further expanded to include the chief secretary, representatives of security agencies as well as joint secretary of the notorious Kashmir Council headed by prime minister Imran Khan himself. None of the Gilgit-Baltistan political or civil society leaders and representatives have been made part of this committee. To attempt to incorporate Pakistani occupied Gilgit-Baltistan into the federal set up is a direct and blatant violation of the UN resolutions which calls for the removal of all Pakistani troops and non residents before any further steps can be taken to settle the bilateral territorial dispute between the two neighbouring countries of India and Pakistan which came into being after Pakistan launched an unprovoked surprise attack on the then state of Jammu Kashmir.
The second act of suppression came on Monday when the federal cabinet of Imran Khan’s government gave approval for the deployment of para- military force known as frontier constabulary in Pakistani occupied Gilgit-Baltistan. This para-military force will initially be stationed in the occupied territory for a period of three years. Already three platoons are heading towards PoGB to take positions around our forests, parks and pastures, rivers, main roads and much more.
CCTV surveillance camera are being installed in key places like the Sher Qila check point in Ghizer district and In Gahkoch. This is an open attempt for deepening the existing colonial occupation of Pakistan on our land. The development of the region which was vociferously claimed to be the top priority of the GB PTI government has turned out to be a nightmare. Skardu market, which until recently used to be a buzzing bazaar and where hundreds of daily wagers used to earn a living and were able to bring food to their table, lay in ruins after 23 hour long daily shedding has forced the traders to pull down their shutters. The situation in other cities is no different.
In Gilgit city, 18 to 21 hours of load shedding each day has now become the new norm. In Astore district ,1500 households have no power and electricity at all for nearly a month now since the power house in Union council Rato broke down forcing local small factories to close down. No doctors have been made available in the hospitals of Gilgit-Baltistan either. In Ghanche for example, patients wander in the corridors of the government hospital searching for a doctor to treat them. Similarly in sub- division Chor Butt, not a single medical officer is reporting for duty. There are no ventilators for those who are gasping for breath during their fight against Coron virus infection. There is no general surgeon to even perform a simple operation to remove an inflamed appendix.
The party that was brought to power on the promise that during Imran Khan’s rule, justice would prevail has proved to be the most unjust government in recent history of Pakistan and occupied territories. Protests against load shedding, cuts in subsidy in food products, plans to impose new taxes and land grab have become a daily occurrence in PoGB. Police and now para- military frontier constabulary deployment is on the increase with already a saturated military presence of one soldier per 25 persons.
As Imran Khan battles an opposition coalition of 11 parties called Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), Pakistani military establishment has hastened its attempts to bring Pakistani occupied Gilgit Baltistan under total control. With a leaderless and directionless public anger based on spontaneity, it will be hard to save Gilgit-Baltistan from the clutches of Pakistani occupation. Only a foreign intervention most importantly by the UN Security Council can now prevent an Indian territory from falling into the abyss of a country ruled by anarchy and run by gun slinging men in the khaki uniform.
(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in UK).