Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan are legal and constitutional part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. At present the State itself is forcibly divided between India and Pakistan. The area that is under the control of Pakistan is further divided into so-called Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas. Although Azad Kashmir has its own administrative structure, including its own flag, Supreme Court, President and its own legislature, but it is by no means Azad (independent).Azad Kashmir was formed to liberate and unite the State of Jammu and Kashmir, but for the past fifty years its structure is used to keep Kashmiri people occupied with the game of politics, completely ignoring its real aims and objectives. Apart from the Kashmiri leaders the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs, which is an administrative set up of the Government of Pakistan, is to be blamed for this. The same Ministry is also blamed for all the wrongs in the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. Let us examine the aims of the Pakistan Government and the game played by them to achieve their objectives.
At the time of the partition of India, Gilgit and Baltistan were legal and constitutional part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The legal position of these areas has not changed since. This was confirmed, once again, in a legal case before the High Court of Azad Kashmir. The Chief Justice, Abdul Majid Malik gave an historic verdict, that the legal position of these areas has not changed, and that they are still legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir.What India has done last year, to divide the area of Kashmir under its illegal control, Pakistan did it in 1949. Areas which were ‘liberated’ from the Maharaja of Kashmir should have become part of the Azad Kashmir Government which was set up to liberate the part of Kashmir still controlled by the Maharaja. What actually happened was completely different to what we were supposed to do. Instead of ‘liberating’ and uniting the State of Kashmir, the Azad Kashmir government lost parts of the liberated areas to the government of Pakistan; and since that time these areas are occupied by Pakistan. Azad Kashmir government, which is supposed to be ‘Azad’, has no control over Gilgit and Baltistan. In fact, Prime Minister and President of Azad Kashmir are not allowed into Gilgit and Baltistan. This could be compared with the situation on the other side of the border, where despite the presence of more than half million Indian armed personnel, and wide scale human rights violations, the Kashmiri leaders are allowed to travel to all parts of the State under Indian occupation. Hurriyat leaders when they are not under detention, and when there is no curfew, are allowed to go to Jammu and Ladakh to present their point of view to the people. Some people, of course, wont like me giving this analogy. They would accuse me of putting both Pakistan and India at same level. This is not my intention. India’s crimes against the Kashmiri people are unforgivable. We have lost more than sixty thousand people at the hands of the Indian Army and Security Forces; and still thousands of people are languishing in prisons without trial. But when something wrong is done by the Pakistani authorities, who are supposed to be our big brothers, we should also have the courage to speak against it. The teaching of Islam is to stop wrong- doing by force if you have the ability to do so; or at least speak against it. And if you cannot even do that then say it in your heart that it is wrong. There could be other people who would say that why I have called Pakistan an occupier of Gilgit and Baltistan. I would ask them to find a definition of an occupier and see if the Pakistani role in Gilgit and Baltistan fits that or not. If it doesn’t then I will apologize for this, but if it does then we have a moral duty to educate people about this occupation and injustice. Remember the people of these areas DO NOT have basic human rights. They don’t have a right to vote, but the Pakistani government is very keen to grant the overseas Pakistanis a right to vote in the Pakistani elections. The Pakistani government is planning to make some important changes to the position of these areas. It is widely believed that these areas would be incorporated with Pakistan. To achieve this a Northern Areas Council was set up some time ago, and the Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas proudly boasted that it is functioning like a ‘Provincial Assembly’. One wonders a ‘province’ of which country? Certainly he did not mean a province of Azad Kashmir. If these areas are annexed by Pakistan, no matter what medium or ploy is used to achieve this, then this will be a clear signal that Pakistan has called it a day on Kashmir. This would also mean that Pakistan has accepted the division of Kashmir; and this would pave the way for the final settlement of Kashmir based on some kind of new version of Dixon Plan. It is believed by many that following the foot - steps of Pakistan, India established a new administrative set up for Ladakh. A similar set up could be established in Jammu and this would make easier the task of dividing the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is true that we Kashmiri are not united and that is one main reason why we are forcibly divided and occupied. But we must show some unity, at least, on this important issue that Kashmir must not be divided between India and Pakistan. We must also oppose the present status of Gilgit and Baltistan, and protest against Pakistani adventures in these areas.
Director, Institute of Kashmir Affairs