A political activist from Gilgit Baltistan has blamed Pakistan for misusing Schedule IV of anti-terrorism act in the region wherein political activists are being targeted.
At an event organised here by Friends of Gilgit Baltistan, Chairman of Gilgit Baltistan Thinkers Forum, Col. (Retd) Wajahat Hasan Mirza said, “Most important thing, unfortunately, is to end Schedule IV which mainly targets the progressive and political cadre of the area. Its enforcement in a disputed territory like Gilgit Baltistan is totally illegal.”
“The enforcement of Schedule IV is the reason why the public is afraid of raising its voice which thereby, restricts them from attending any political gathering. They have to seek prior permission from the Police to even move places. The atrocity is such, that their bank accounts are seized and their property is confiscated as well,” he added. “So, one can understand how difficult it is for the people residing in the region to raise their voice for political and economic rights,” he explained.
Despite having de facto control over Gilgit Baltistan since 1949, Pakistan had not given the locals any representation until the 2009 ordinance. And despite having attained that, Gilgit Baltistan was not given any control over its own resources in the Reforms Order, 2018, promoting nationalist protests among the locals.
Stuck between Chinese pressure to address the status of Gilgit Baltistan and its own position on Kashmir, Islamabad has failed to address the locals’ grievances. The Gilgit Baltistan Reforms Order 2018 reflected this indecisiveness and Islamabad’s refusal to let go of its autocratic rule over the region.
The people in Gilgit Baltistan are also perturbed by the fact that despite similar constitutional status, GB does not have the same rights as Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Asserting that Gilgit Baltistan is facing an issue related to its political status, Wajahat said, “Now, that it has been ruled by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan is a disputed territory along with Pak-occupied-Kashmir, therefore people are now demanding the political status enjoyed by PoK.”
“Public demands include a separate Prime Minister, President and Judiciary for the region until the dispute is settled,” he concluded.
Dissatisfaction has engulfed the people of Gilgit Baltistan ever since the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was launched, which, the locals say intends to exploit the natural resources of the region and violate the territorial rights of the indigenous people of Gilgit-Baltistan.