President Asif Ali Zardari visited India to exchange niceties. A solid euphoria was created around the visit; the gushing over Bilawal Bhutto; the $ I Million donated by the Bhutto/Zaradri family from what they have looted from the hapless people of Pakistan, particuarly occupied Kashmir; the exchange between Bilawal and Rahul Gandhi; the menu for the high profile lunch and so on. In the melee of this euphoria, it did not strike anyone in the Indian political and bureaucratic set up that, even as the niceties were being exchanged, the Pakistan army and its stooges were massacring hapless people of Gilgit region. We wish to ignore the fact that Indian territory under forcible occupation of Pakistan is being blatantly colonised by the likes of Zardari and his feudal buddies.
The right to live and die with dignity in Pakistan is based on ethnic and religious affiliations. The more closer a person is to the ruling ethnic and religious majority the more respect he commands; the ultimate is being a Punjabi in the Pakistan Army. The terror which comes in the lot of the majority is a political reality in Pakistan. The massacre of Shias across the country is going on unabatedly for the last few decades, but no where the massacre is as massive as that in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The charade of the Islamic state of Pakistan has been exposed in the ongoing massacre in Gilgit. The region’s ethnic population has been reduced to slavery. Their only hope lies in the expatriates who are voicing their concerns across the world. On April 14, 2012, hundreds of Shias from all over the United States gathered in front of the Embassy of Pakistan to protest against Shia and minority killings in the country. Members and supporters of Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress also joined the protesters. Malika Baltistani, the chairperson of Gilgit-Baltistan National Alliance delivered a speech about the rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and condemned the Pakistani government for patronising terrorists. She lamented that even though Gilgit-Baltistan provides water, minerals and a safe route for Pakistan to China, yet, the native Shias are treated like captives. She said that Pakistan is pursuing the age-old Umayyad and Abbasid policy of Shia persecution. She said, “We are rebels and not traitors and Pakistani policies of alienation are responsible for this.”
In a press note the president of Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, Imtiaz Hussain, has stated that the United Nations universal declaration on human rights guarantees freedom of religious practice and expression as a birth right. However, the natives of Pakistan controlled Gilgit-Baltistan have failed to attain their basic rights in the last six decades. Gilgit-Baltistan is an UN-declared disputed area and remains outside the constitutional jurisdiction of Pakistan. Several resolutions passed by both UN Security Council and UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) have asked Pakistan to guarantee genuine autonomy to the region which would ensure political, judicial and socio-economic rights; all of them have been ignored by the Pakistan government with utmost contempt. Islamabad’s failures have caused an irreparable damage to the social fabric of the region, today, the urban parts of Gilgit-Baltistan present the picture of a war zone where natives live with fear and deprivation.
In recent weeks, first on February, 28 and then on April, 03, terrorists attacked buses loaded with people from Gilgit-Baltistan and slaughtered more than 100 Shias. The unfortunate incidents occurred in broad daylight on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which is dotted with police and military check posts. Eyewitnesses claim that police provided weapons to the assailants, who numbered in thousands. Following the Shia massacre, an indefinite curfew was imposed in Gilgit-Baltistan causing food and medicine shortages. As of now, the region is cut off from the rest of the world as traffic on KKH, the sole road linking Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan, remains unsafe and disrupted and air travel is cost prohibitive for the vast majority. After the death of more than 300 people, Imran Khan said, “Failure to keep peace in a sensitive area like Gilgit-Baltistan is entirely because of incompetence and corruption of the government”. This is too little, too late for a massacre that is still going on.
Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, after its protest in US, has made some demands. These include, respect for UN resolutions and reinstatement of State Subject Rule; assured protection to local languages and religions; resumption of trade and travel over Astore-Srinagar, Chorbat-Nubra, Marol-Khaltse, Drass-Gultari and Olding-Kargil roads to ensure travel safety on alternate routes; withdrawal of paramilitary from urban areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and strengthening of local police; neutralisation of all militant hide outs and launch pads from Gilgit-Baltistan into Kashmir; arrest and prosecution of militants and military personnel involved in Shia killings; control over natural resources and trade routes by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly; abolishment of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and Ministry of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs (KGBA) to ensure genuine autonomy as recommended by the UN.
It is quite astounding that the Kashmiri Sunni separatist leadership that harbours ambitions of a greater independent Kashmir including Gilgit-Baltistan has nothing to say about the ongoing holocaust. The silence of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his Hurriyat friends over this ongoing massacre of Shias by Sunni Punjabi settlers is beyond belief. The Indian leadership also needs to take a clear stand on the legal premise that Gilgit is our territory and the people are our citizen. We should not forget the vacant seats in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Parliament for the region under Pakistan control. We must stand for people who are legally our citizens. This is the road map for the future now that we have successfully controlled terrorism perpetrated on our own people from our own soil of Gilgit-Baltistan. We should be going into Gilgit-Baltistan rather than all sorts of terrorists using this territory to come into our land.