Rights Violation In POK, Gilgit-Baltistan
4 August 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: Large scale human rights violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan areas have been pointed out in reports and submissions made before the United Nations sub-commission on the promotion and protection of human rights, being held at Geneva. Sources told Times News Network on Monday that some of the reports alleged that the Pakistan government was implementing a well- conceived plan according to which 'people of Gilgit-Baltistan were being reduced to minority by violating the state subject rule. This is a move by the Pakistan government to reduce the Kashmiris into a minority' by allowing people from outside to settle there. It further pointed out that 'prior to partition, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in order to protect rights of his people, made a law that non-Kashmiris could not purchase land in the state.' 'After forced division of the state between Indian and Pakistan, authorities in Pakistan started violating this law and now it has reached such a stage that local people feel that they will soon become a minority in their homeland,' he added. The PoK 'continues to be ruled by despotic nominees of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan - or the Northern Territories as they are called by Pakistan - remain without any constitutional status and their people denied self-rule. Political activists standing up for the rights of the people are harassed, imprisoned and tortured as exemplified by the recent attempt on the life of Baltistan National Front leader Nawaz Khan Naji by a group of policemen who fired at him in Ghezer district,' submitted Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri. Chairman of diplomatic committee of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in UK, Dr Shabir Choudhary, intervened to say that 'the area known as Northern area of Pakistan is not a Pakistani territory. It is part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and its real name is Gilgit and Baltistan. 'It is unfortunate that this vast area of Gilgit and Baltistan, which is more than 72,000 sq km with a population of around two million, is administratively cut off from PoK,' Dr Choudhary said. He added that people of this area were deprived of basic human rights and Pakistani authorities treated it as 'occupied land'. 'This unfortunate region, which still lives in dark ages, is split into five districts - Gilgit, Skardu, Diamir, Ghizer and Ghanche.' Dr Choudhary further told the UN body that these areas had always been governed directly from Islamabad through an appointed chief secretary, who was law in his own right as he was armed with the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) laws. Another participant pointed out that there were no civil rights, no free press was allowed to function, there was no judiciary and no representation of the people living in this region. There have been some agitations and as many as 20 activists of the Baltistan National Front have been jailed.