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‘GB’s political parties as good and as bad as Pakistan’s political parties’

‘GB’s political parties as good and as bad as Pakistan’s political parties’

ISLAMABAD: “Although the situation of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) cannot be compared to occupied Kashmir – where there is active aggression – things are not good there. I hope the situation is not taken to the extent that young people decide not to live with Pakistan,” Supreme Court advocate Asma Jahangir said on Friday.

The former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was speaking at a press conference to launch a report on a HRCP fact-finding mission titled ‘Gilgit-Baltistan: aspiration for identity, integration and autonomy’.




HRCP co-chairperson Kamran Arif, Asma Jahangir and Khushal Khattack visited GB in August last year for the mission, and prepared a report after meeting with politicians, youth activists and rights activists.

“We are intolerant, and we have to rethink our past mistakes, because multiplying mistakes does not make a nation. Unfortunately, here decisions are made without thinking – such as, it has been decided that Urdu should be enforced all over the country. I say then the Quran should also be taught in Urdu in seminaries,” Ms Jahangir said.

“We should demand our rights, because this country does not belong to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). We have given sacrifices for the country. The people of GB have also given sacrifices for the country; soldiers of the light infantry sacrificed their lives during the Kargil War, and there was an instruction to bury the bodies of soldiers at night.”

In response to a question, Ms Jahangir said the state should move towards addressing issues rather than going towards conflicts.

She added that the mission was not allowed to visit prisons, but they learnt that there were political prisoners who were facing terrorism charges. She said 50 to 60 such people are in jail, and a large number are on the Fourth Schedule are being harassed by the police.

Ms Jahangir said the political parties of GB are as good and as bad as the political parties of Pakistan. “They cannot resist the decisions of the state; similar [to how] political parties of Pakistan could not resist the military courts.”

She said when GB nationalist Baba Jan was arrested, the people protested the arrest but the Pakistani media did not have the courage to cover the incident.

Recommendations

The fact-finding mission’s report recommended that the matter of GB’s constitutional status needs to be resolved as soon as possible, and FB should be given either provincial status or a system like Azad Kashmir’s.

The fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution should be extended to GB, and the use of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Fourth Schedule against political activists should be stopped. The mission also recommended monitoring the authority of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

In addition, the report argued that the people of GB should be taken into confidence regarding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The forcible eviction of local communities for CPEC projects should be stopped, and the people displaced by the Attabad Lake disaster need to be rehabilitated.

It also said women must be represented and given responsibilities in GB’s decision-making bodies.

The report also said the independence of the judiciary should be respected, and all the judges should be appointed from the region with a guaranteed tenure.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2017

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