GILGIT-BALTISTAN: Often used to woo foreign tourists to its mountains, Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is also called Pakistan's "soft face" is a neglected region where all-around shortages have reduced its people to "begging" before the federal government, the Pak Military Monitor reported.
From fuel to food to power, the shortages have triggered street protests in recent weeks by the local people. They have little by way of political power, share in the administration and no way out of the "anomalous" situation in Pakistan's polity.
Pak Military Monitor reported that the mood is getting anti-federal in the PoK area of Gilgit-Baltistan. Elected representatives do nothing to bring relief to the local people. The Awami Action Committee leading the street protests has begun to say that the national parties have used Gilgit Baltistan as a 'colony' to be exploited by the federal authorities. This will continue unless they are rejected in elections, the Pak Military Monitor reported.
Gilgit Baltistan was forced into the Kashmir dispute after Pakistan illegally occupied a part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947. In 1949, without the consent of the people, Gilgit-Baltistan was made part of the Kashmir issue by the government of Pakistan.
Right from the beginning, "no local resident of Gilgit-Baltistan was considered competent. The region was ruled through the notorious Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Only during Zulfiqar Bhutto's rule, in the first half of the 1970s, the FCR was abolished in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pak Military Monitor reported.
During Ayub Khan's rule, parts of Gilgit-Baltistan were illegally ceded to China. This was under the Sino-Pakistan agreement of 1963, which has a provisional status. Mubashir Hasan, an important minister in Bhutto's cabinet, writes in his book "The Mirage of Power" that during his visit to the region in 1973, he observed that the government accounts of Gilgit Agency were under the control of the Accountant General based in Peshawar, the provincial capital of North- West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Constitutional and political rights need to be given to the locals. Gilgit- Baltistan's representation in the Senate and National Assembly must be ensured. The legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan must be given more powers as an impotent assembly is of no use to the common masses, the Pak Military Monitor reported.
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