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People of Gilgit-Baltistan seek autonomy from Pakistan

People of Gilgit-Baltistan seek autonomy from Pakistan

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have demanded autonomy from Pakistan as they feel that they have not been given constitutional rights including the right to vote and elect their government. GB citizens want Islamabad to accord the region constitutional status and not run it remotely from the Pakistani capital.

On Thursday, the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly demanded that the Pakistan government provide constitutional status to the citizens of the region or provide them autonomy under UN resolutions. Members of the Opposition and treasury benches joined hands to demand that Pakistan has been dishing out injustice to the people for over seven decades. The Assembly session was held in Gilgit with Speaker Fida Nashad in the chair.

The members even threatened Pakistan with a protest march from Gilgit-Baltistan to Islamabad.

Even as the GB Assembly members were asking for their democratic rights, Senge H Sering, Director of the Washington-based Institute of Gilgit-Baltistan Studies, echoed their views before the 43th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. He said that the Pakistan Army has been persecuting the people of GB and denying them basic human rights. Sering told the UNHRC that the people of GB live under constant persecution by the Pakistan Army.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is a part of Kashmir, is under dispute between Pakistan and India. Though under Pakistan control for over 70 years, the Pakistani Constitution does not recognize the region as part of the country. The region was part of India after Independence, but Pakistan captured it in 1947 and has held it since then. The people of GB, who are Shias and are multi-lingual, have not accepted Pakistani rule over them. They also resent Islamabad’s policy of settling Sunnis in the region with a view to changing the ethnic structure of the region.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had highlighted these human rights violations before The Heritage Foundation in Washington last year and stressed that these regions are part of India.

In 1994, the Indian Parliament had adopted a resolution that GB is Indian territory and illegally occupied by Pakistan. In fact, even the British Parliament in 2017 had adopted a resolution stating that the Gilgit-Baltistan region is a constitutional part of India and that Pakistan is in illegal occupation of the region..