ISI kidnapped Gilgit leader, alleges rights activist

April 16th, 2008 - 7:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Sarwar Kashani
Srinagar, April 16 (IANS) Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has kidnapped a Kashmiri political activist from Gilgit-Baltistan because he was opposing a dam project in the “occupied” region, which is under Pakistani control, claims a rights activist. Ghulam Shezad Agha, chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA), went missing Monday, a day after he addressed a press conference against the construction of the Sadpara dam on the Indus river, according to Shafqat Ali Inqalabi, spokesperson of Balawaristan National Front (BNF).

The GBDA and other separatist political outfits there are demanding that the dam project be stopped as they feel Pakistan is manipulating the demography of the region, which they say is part of the larger Kashmir. They are also seeking independence from Pakistan.

According to Inqalabi, Agha has been kept in an ISI interrogation centre in Skardu, the capital of Baltistan, which borders Kargil district of Indian Kashmir.

“This exposes the real face of the ISI and the behaviour of the Pakistani occupying forces towards the political activists of the occupied Gilgit-Baltistan,” Inqalabi told IANS in an email Wednesday.

He said ISI’s interference was growing in the strategically important region, which borders China and Afghanistan and has been part of the Silk Route to Central Asia. The ISI and military intelligence personnel “are very active in Gilgit-Baltistan”, he said.

Though known as the Northern Areas in Pakistan, India considers Gilgit-Baltistan as part of its own Kashmir. The European Union in a report prepared by parliamentarian Baroness Emma Nicholson describes it is as one of the poorest regions in Pakistan.

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 rebellion and resentment among the people.

President Pervez Musharraf launched the construction of the Rs.6-billion Sadpara dam and a hydel-power project last year, inviting severe criticism from dissident politicians in the region. A Lahore-based construction firm is building the dam.

“If the Pakistani occupying forces think they (can) stop our movement through these shameful activities (kidnapping Agha), it is not possible,” Inqalabi said, alleging that ISI was responsible for the Shia-Sunni clashes in the region from 1998 to 2006, in which many were killed.

He said the nationalist leaders of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan, were optimistic after the regime change in Islamabad, where a democratically elected government took over in March.

“But from the day of the result of the Pakistani elections, I was convinced that this change is just for Pakistan, not for the slaves of Pakistan,” he said, referring to the condition of his people.

He warned the ISI officials “not to throw us in war”. “Enough is enough. We are not ready to accept the direct rule of the ISI,” Inqalabi said.

The GBDA has appealed to the United Nations, human rights organisations and the international community to put pressure on Pakistan to end the “inhuman treatment” meted out to the people of “this disputed territory and ensure freedom of speech and freedom of movement and human rights”.

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