Friend or foe of Kashmiris?

By: Hamid Mir      Published: 12:29 PM, 5 Nov, 2020
Friend or foe of Kashmiris?

It was a big explosion but its intensity was felt only in Azad Kashmir and occupied Jammu and Kashmir. 

There was some hue and cry in Islamabad over this explosion but no heed was paid to it in the corridors of power. 

This explosion happened in Gilgit on November 1 when Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan. A majority of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were jubilant over this announcement but it led to a mourning-like situation in both parts of Jammu and Kashmir. 

November 1 fell on a Sunday and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front had called an all-party conference at an Islamabad hotel that day. In that conference, except for the Tehrik-i-Insaaf, all important political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir were in attendance. A delegation of All Parties Hurriyat Conference was also among the attendees.  

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider told the conference participants that Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan. APHC leaders Abdullah Gilani, Yousaf Naseem, Mehmud Saaghir, Abdul Mateen and Hassan al-Banna immediately rejected this announcement, after which a resolution was also unanimously passed against the decision. Those who supported the resolution included the PML-N and AJKPPP. 

It may be recalled that the PML-N government had set up a committee under the leadership of Mr Sartaj Aziz to determine the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan. That committee had recommended that in the light of a Supreme Court decision the Gilgit-Baltistan should temporarily be given the status of a province. Also, it was recommended that the new province be given three seats each in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan

When the recommendations of the Sartaj Aziz Committee came to light, APHC leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Yasin Malik wrote a letter to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif that the decision to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province of Pakistan would weaken the Kashmir case in the United Nations because Pakistan has consistently been saying from day one that G-B is a part of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Because of APHC’s opposition, Nawaz Sharif took no further action on the Committee’s recommendations. 

In the 2018 election, the PPP said in its manifesto that Gilgit-Baltistan would be given the status of a province. 

On the one hand in their election campaign, the PML-N and the PPP are supporting Gilgit-Baltistan as a separate province but the two had opposed a separate province idea in the JKLF-hosted conference. 

Truth is always bitter. The truth is that in 1947 territories in Gilgit-Baltistan were part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was because of this reason that then Pakistan Foreign Minister Zafarullah Khan had said in the 228th session of the UN Security Council that Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. 

This is also a fact that on November 1, 1947, a Scouts officer Major Brown had revolted against Governor Ghansara Singh, who had been designated by the Dogra Raj. Then Jammu and Kashmir Sixth Infantry Captain Mirza Hassan Khan supported the revolt and arrested Ghansara Singh. 

Captain Mirza Hassan Khan had played an important role in the Kashmir liberation war and was elevated to the rank of colonel.      

This hero was arrested in 1951 along with Colonel Faiz Ahmed Faiz and others in the Rawalpindi conspiracy case. The allegation was that these army officers were not satisfied with the Kashmir policy of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and thus making a plan for the independence of Kashmir in collaboration with Maj-Gen Akbar Khan. And for this purpose, they wanted to remove Liaquat Ali Khan.

I want to say that this hero of the Gilgit-Baltistan independence movement is a hero for the Kashmiris as well. But unfortunately, fissures were created, misunderstandings were engineered between Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan after the creation of Pakistan.

On the one hand, Gilgit-Baltistan was declared part of the Jammu and Kashmir at the United Nations and, on the other, Liaquat Ali Khan inked the Karachi Agreement in 1949 with Azad Kashmir President Sardar Ibrahim Khan after pressuring him, under which the Government of Pakistan took over the responsibility for Gilgit-Baltistan.

Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas of the Muslim Conference too signed this agreement. Also, no one can deny this fact that Pakistan’s state institutions, after snatching Gilgit-Baltistan from Azad Kashmir and declaring it as the Northern Areas, started treating the local population as slaves.

Initially, the locals conveyed their grievances to the Azad Kashmir leadership and the Muslim Conference did raise its voice for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. But a local Muslim Conference leader Pirzada Muhammad Alam was arrested in Astore.

Then came the 1970 elections. The leadership of the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front observed the Gilgit-Baltistan Week and demanded that polls should be held in Gilgit-Baltistan just like Azad Kashmir.

JKLF Chairman late Amanullah Khan in the second volume of his autobiography has written that when they reached to address a rally in Gilgit on November 27, 1970, he was arrested along with Maqbool Butt Shaheed, Mir Abdul Manan, Pirzada Ghulam Mustafa and GM Mir with a treason case registered against them.

Unfortunately, the young generation of Gilgit-Baltistan hasn’t been told that Maqbool Butt – the martyr of Kashmir – was arrested in Gilgit for raising his voice for their rights.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan too love Pakistan and the people of Azad Kashmir too love Pakistan. But the painful thing is that the ruling class of Pakistan has pitched the two against each other. Unfortunately, not only Imran Khan but also the PML-N and the PPP are equally part of this episode.

The Kashmiris were the first to raise voice for giving constitutional rights to Gilgit-Baltistan. But alas! This thing should have happened in a manner where the Kashmiri leadership today wouldn’t have been rejecting a separate province.

It was not considered that what would be the future of the state which Article 257 of Pakistan’s Constitution mentions as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was not also considered that the AJK Supreme Court had declared G-B as the party of the Kashmir state and AJK Assembly through a resolution also recognised G-B as its area.

They how this happened and how these matters are going to be settled? In the recent past, the leaders of both the government and the Opposition and the military leadership had decided that the decision to make G-B a province will be taken after the November 15 elections there and all the stakeholders will be taken into confidence in this regard.

But, Imran Khan in order to win the elections made that announcement on November 1 the credit for which PML-N and PPP would also like to claim. If rights are granted by just making a province, then the people of Balochistan are not making so much noise today.

There was no difference left between the PTI, and PML-N and PPP when it comes to political opportunism and short-sightedness. In presence of such friends, Kashmiris do not need any other enemies.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist.