ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan government to address the "constitutional, political and economic deprivation" of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), media reported on Thursday. The HRCP issued the statement after the end of a fact-finding mission's visit to the region. The mission comprised Salima Hashmi, Muzaffar Hussain, Ghazi Salahuddin and Israruddin.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Ghazi Salahuddin said the human rights situation had deteriorated in GB, with political workers, rights activists, lawyers and religious leaders expressing their disappointment at Islamabad's failure to integrate GB with the rest of the country. He said the groups that the mission consulted were of the view that GB should at least be granted a "provisional provincial status" or, as a last option, a system of governance similar to that of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Political leaders who met the mission suggested GB be included in the plan for electoral reforms, which is to begin shortly, according to Salahuddin. He said Gilgit-Baltistan cannot benefit fully from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project because of its disputed status. Meanwhile, the people in Gilgit-Baltistan staged a protest in Skardu city against the administration over electricity shortage and power outages in the region.
According to the reports, the locals complained that they have received hefty electricity bills despite frequent power outages. These frequent power cuts had paralyzed the life in the GB and its administration. Protesters slammed the authorities and said that despite having abundant water resources and dams to generate sufficient electricity, the authorities were not doing anything to solve the electricity crisis.
The locals, led by social and political activist affiliated to Baltistan Student Federation Shabbir Mayar, demonstrated against the establishment and said that they will not suffer injustice anymore. In January last year, several cities across Pakistan, including capital Islamabad had plunged into darkness for several hours following a massive nationwide electricity blackout.
Due to Pakistan's fragile power distribution system, outages occur frequently -- an issue that has previously sparked widespread street protests.