Pakistani political activist Senge Sering has said that the Gilgit-Baltistan region will always be a part of Jammu and Kashmir and the region becoming a “so-called province of Pakistan will not bring development”.
“The region will never become a part of Pakistan. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have witnessed that Balochistan did not see any development despite it becoming a part of Pakistan,” said Senge Sering, President of Institute for Gilgit-Baltistan Studies.
He further said that on the Indian side, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are enjoying freedom and equality under the ‘Constitution of India’ unlike those living on the Pakistan side.
“The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are living without law and judicial or constitutional head for the past 73 years,” he said adding that if they were in India by now the people would be a part of the constitution.
“In 1971, after the India-Pakistan war, India took under its control several villages of Gilgit-Baltistan. Immediately, the Indian government gave them constitutional rights and the constitutional boundary was extended till there. Hence, people in these areas are even able to send their representatives to the Parliament, have access to the Supreme Court, have their own head, local assembly, etc,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the people living on the Pakistani side of Gilgit-Baltistan are in no man’s land,” he added.
Recently, the chief minister of Gilgit Baltistan, requested Pakistan not to close the utility stores in the region. Pakistan closed these utilities, despite the requests. “There is a kind of helplessness in the region,” Sering said.
He further said that in recent years, a wave of demand for freedom started in Gilgit-Baltistan as for the first-time people here got to know that after the 90s they were not part of Pakistan, however under the Indian law.
“The wave gained impulse with China trying to annex the region,” he said.
“Even the region has been granted the status of the fifth province of Pakistan as China wants to have peace in Gilgit-Baltistan to continue with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). To have China complete the CPEC, the Pakistani government has set up police chowkis at every 2-3 miles near the CPEC areas. Further, both China and Pakistan listen and record every conversation and movement of the local people of these areas. This has been done to instill fear among them,” he said.
Sering also said that the local people worry that the Pakistan-China partnership will lead to their exploitation and hence, the issue of their freedom should be taken to international platforms.
“The people here say that while a Hindu nation is giving Baltistanis on its side so many rights while, Pakistan, which claims itself to be an Islamic nation is exploiting them,” he added.
He also alleged that people who talk of freedom are being charged with sedition, treason and terrorism. “They are either put in jail or restricted to their districts,” he added.