Gilgit leaders ask China not to invest in ‘disputed’ region

April 29th, 2008 - 7:22 pm ICT by admin  

By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, April 29 (IANS) Separatist leaders of Pakistan-ruled Gilgit-Baltistan region Tuesday asked China not to enter into any accord with Islamabad for various projects in the “disputed” region. “The territory is disputed and doesn’t come under the ambit of the Pakistani constitution, and China should not enter into any agreement with Islamabad,” said Manzoor Hussain Parwana, chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM).

“Gilgit-Baltistan is not part of Pakistan, but even then Islamabad has been entering into various treaties and contracts with China and was executing various projects in the region,” Parwana told IANS in an email.

Pakistan in partnership with China is currently undertaking various projects in the strategically crucial region, which include widening of the Karakoram Highway, building the Diamer-Basha Dam and laying of railway track.

“It is very surprising that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have completely been kept in the dark about the agreements between the two countries,” the separatist leader said.

Parwana, who is also an editor of a Gilgit-based banned daily, said separatist leaders held a public gathering at Ghari Bagh in Gilgit Tuesday to protest against the agreements.

Leaders of various separatist groups, including the Balawaristan National Front, Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement, Karakuram National Movement, Blore Research Forum and Bloristan Labour Party, addressed the gathering, he said.

Known as the Northern Areas in Pakistan and administered by a separate federal ministry, India considers Gilgit-Baltistan as part of its state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The European Union in a report prepared by parliamentarian Baroness Emma Nicholson describes it as one of the poorest regions under Pakistan’s rule. Released last year, the report highlighted the absence of representative democratic institutions in Pakistani Kashmir, particularly in the Northern Areas.

The state of neglect has given rise to resentment and rebellion among the people.

“The 60-year-old colonial rule in the region has ruined and paralysed the indigenous economic, social and cultural fibres. The system imposed on the region by the government of Pakistan has failed to ensure basic rights of the people,” Parwana said.

He said the “roots of dictatorship” were getting stronger in the region.

Parwana said Gilgit-Baltistan was passing through a “critical and decisive period” and issues of its political independence and identity were being debated in international forums.

“The world’s human rights organizations, the International Crisis Group and European Parliament are now debating and raising a finger at political, constitutional and socio-economic conditions of Gilgit-Baltistan,” Parwana said.

“However, unfortunately, the so-called public representatives of the area are still acting as puppets of the Pakistani government,” he added.

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