August 11, 2009

Gilgit-Baltistan: International Seminar

Last July 2009, a 2-day Seminar organized by the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation (HRCF) discussed 'Religious Extremism in NWFP, Swat and Chitral: Impact on Gilgit-Baltistan'.

Below is an Press Released issue by the Gilgit Baltistan United Movement:

 

Religious Extremism in NWFP, Swat and Chitral: Impact on Gilgit-Baltistan  

 

2-Day International Seminar

Society, Culture and Politics in the Karakoram Himalayas

Venue: ICSSR Conference Hall, New Delhi

(23-24 July 2009)

Organized by: Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation (HRCF)


 

Extremism does not belong to any religion, school of thought or special geographical condition. Extremism is the attitude of human being which is certainly developed due to the surrounding atmosphere, injustice and unusual training.

The beginning of the existing era of the religious extremism starts with cold war, in which Pakistan has offered its shoulder to get rid off the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. The province of NWFP, Northern Areas and Tribal Areas due to proximity with Afghanistan was used extensively for war purposes. General Zia-ul- Haque provided military training to millions of Muslims around the world in the name of Jehad-e-Afghanistan. These Mujahideen filled with spirit of Jehad, performing small experimental incidents in Pakistan, proceeded to conquer Afghanistan and Kashmir. These Mujahideen had been intemperate after the withdrawal of Soviet Union's army from Afghanistan, scattered around the world and organized in the name of Alqaida and Taliban to spread their specific concept of Islamic ideology.

Gilgit Baltistan was a peaceful land free from religious extremism, sectarianism and prejudice. The people from all school of thoughts were living as members of one family, despite the fact that Shias were in majority. Government of Pakistan breached the State Subject Rules (SSR), settled thousand of people from NWFP in Gilgit Baltistan, and converted the local majority into minority. The language, culture, customs and social values of Gilgit Biltistan had been ruined, and the sectarian movements had been provoked, for fighting with locals. Proper planning had been made for the settlement of outsiders in Gilgit Baltistan, for this purpose Administrative heads from NWFP had been sent to Gilgit Baltistan and housands of acres of land has been distributed amongst outsider to settle them in Gilgit Baltistan. Beside commercial and administrative posts have been awarded to outsider, due to this reason the locals of Gilgit Baltistan is facing external interference.

Gilgit Baltistan was victimized by these religious extremists in May 1988 when on the consent of General Zia-ul-Haque and official agencies sent 80 thousand militants/Lashkari to attack Gilgit Baltistan. The Lashkari comprised of tribesmen of NWFP and Afghani natives. The Lashkar reached Gilgit after covering a distance of 600 Kilometers by Karakoram Highway. The genocide of Shias was the main aim of this attack. The Lashkars which were fully armed with heavy weapons committed genocide and terror activities in Gilgit, settlements were ruined, human being, animals and un-harvested crops were burnt and the Shia population of Jalalabad were burnt alive. Hundreds of women were raped, humiliated and kidnapped. No case was registered against these militants nor were they asked the reason of the attack on Gilgit Baltistan. The shameless invasion and killing of humans has been concealed from the world and instead it was broadcasted by Pakistani media that Taliban captured the Jalalabad city of Afghanistan.
 
The religious extremism or Talibanisation in NWFP, Chitral and Swat has adverse affects on Gilgit Baltistan and these peaceful regions are at the target of terrorism and war against terrorism.

Asian Human Rights Commission has revealed in a report of June 1, 2009 that Government of Pakistan intends to use force against the people of Gilgit Baltistan under the pretext of eliminating the Taliban.

"A recent announcement of the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency stated that the Taliban are taking shelter in the Gilgit and Baltistan areas. The purpose of using the pretext of the presence of the Taliban in the area is to mislead USA and NATO forces who are involved in war on terror. They want to make believe that the Taliban is a menace in the construction of the big dams and wish to occupy Gilgit and Baltistan themselves". (AHRC quoted).

The following are the causes of Talibanization in Gilgit and Baltistan Regions

GEOGRAPHY OF GILGIT BALTISTAN

Gilgit Baltistan border Swat, Dir, Chitral and Kohistan districts of NWFP. Nowadays Northern Areas of Pakistan are the "Heaven of terrorists" and the attention of the whole world is on the absconded terrorists in the Northern Areas of Pakistan.  Due to calling Gilgit Baltistan as Northern areas, this land is directly targeted by terrorists. Gilgit Baltistan is not Northern areas of Pakistan and nor this land is constitutional part of Pakistan, but unfortunately Pakistan has administrative control on it and officially calls it Northern Areas of Pakistan.

Now the name "Northern Areas" is threat to the identity and survival of Gilgit Baltistan because extremist easily penetrate and seek safe heaven in this region.

 
AREA OF SHIA MAJORITY

The concept of indigenous majority is deteriorating day by day in Gilgit Baltistan and locals are converting into the minority.  At the time of 1947 the Shias were in majority of Gilgit Baltistan, but after occupation by the Government of Pakistan, under a special policy, Wahhabis settled from other provinces particularly from NWFP, due to this reason  the demography is changed there. Majority of the people who settled in Gilgit Baltistan belong to tribal areas and NWFP. So many sectarian violations been took place in Gilgit Baltistan and the terrorists involved in these incidences belong to tribal areas or NWFP. Under the patronage of government none of the accused had been arrested and no one is punished.

Wahhabis residing in Gilgit Baltistan have soft corners in their hearts for the Taliban of Swat, Waziristan and NWFP. So many people received military training in past and performed Jehad with full spirit. Pro Taliban elements of Gilgit Baltistan may provide the safe adobes to the extremists due the same sect and sympathy and therefore Taliban may arrive in these areas.  
 
YOUTHS OF NORTHERN LIGHT INFANTRY REGIMENT

In 1988 when tribal militants/Lashkar attacked Gilgit Baltistan in victorious way then they were defeated by hundreds of local people. Those were retired or serving soldiers of Northern Light Infantry (NLI). They forced the lashkar of 80 thousand to run way. The thousand of soldiers of NLI Regiment today are fighting against terrorists in tribal areas, Swat and NWFP.

 If  Taliban are facing defeat in the hands of the youths of Gilgit Baltistan then tomorrow the situation may change and cause hate in their hearts against the youths of NLI and may cause harm to Gilgit Baltistan. Keeping in view these facts presence of NLI soldiers in tribal areas and NWFP is not favorable. The dead bodies of the soldiers of Gilgit Baltistan is received in Gilgit and Baltistan Regions from Tribal areas and NWFP, due to this reason the society of the Gilgit Baltistan is affecting very much. People are all the time worried about their relatives, which causes the breakdown in social and economical activities.  

 
KARAKORAM HIGHWAY (KKH)


The people of Gilgit Baltistan call Karakoram Highway "bloody road" and "killer Highway". This is the only land road which connects Gilgit Baltistan with Pakistan. People residing on both sides of this highway have Taliban influences. In past there had been so many killing incidents in which the people of one school of thought had been killed after getting down from the vehicles on KKH. People are forced to travel on this road because this is the only way for the transportation of goods and commodity of life, if this road blockade temporarily then the communication of Gilgit Baltistan collapses with the rest of the world and people suffer from hunger, the economical development of Gilgit Baltistan depends upon KKH. The Taliban activities continue with the beginning of American war against the Taliban, the blockage of this road, puts bad impacts on Gilgit Baltistan.

So many terrorists absconded due the army operation in Swat against the Taliban and settling in the surrounding areas through which KKH passes, if ny action is started against the terrorists then the economy of Gilgit Baltistan will be ruined. China is performing works on the extension plan of KKH, therefore the fighting against the terrorism is becoming clear at KKH. In case fighting against Taliban take place at KKH then the people of Gilgit Baltistan will be deprived from the traveling facilities and all commodities of lives.

 

UNSATISFATOTRY SECURITY MEASURES

The feeling of insecurity is increasing day by day amongst the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Government has already deployed FC, Rangers, and paramilitary forces to maintain law and order situation in the region. Billions of rupees is being spent on such forces from the development budget of the area, but the activities of terrorism fail to contain in Gilgit Baltistan. In side the city of Gilgit on every square and roads, armed forces are deputed, at the time of entering the city and on moving from one place to other people are searched thoroughly and citizens are harassed with out any cause.

The interesting situation is that the terrorists after doing their activity very easily escape in the presence of these forces, but the Pakistani forces turn a blind eye. The persons involved in the sectarian violence of 2005 had not been arrested nor has any one punished. This year Syed Asad Zaidi, the Deputy Speaker of Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) including another person was assassinated at the distance of few meters of Ranger's Check Post but the authorities fail to arrest the accused.  The people understand that the terrorists activities in Gilgit are backed by the non-local civil administration agencies.

In Gilgit Baltistan secret agencies also interfere in the personal matters of the people, these official agencies deputed to maintain peace, and control deteriorating law and order situation, but they are engaged day and night in destabilizing Gilgit Baltistan. There are so many incidents in which official agencies picked the local peoples and killed them by severe
tortures. In June 2009, Sadiq Ali was killed while he was in police custody. It is common opinion that official agencies killed him during torture during arrest. The law enforcer especially Frontier Constabulary (FC) belong to tribal areas and NWFP and they present security threats to the local people. In the presence of these forces and intelligent agencies, threat of Talibanisation also exists in Gilgit Baltistan. The Inspector General Police and Chief Secretary of Gilgit Baltistan had not rejected the possibility of the threat of Talabanization in Gilgit Baltistan and also disclosed that a
'Great Game' would be started in Gilgit Baltistan.
 

FOREIGN CIVIL AND MILITARY ADMINISTRATION

The highest posts of the administrative affairs, judiciary, administration and security designated to persons who belong to other provinces of Pakistan and they are all anti-Shia elements. The security and political conditions of the Gilgit Baltistan is in their hands and these people keep precarious conditions in Gilgit Baltistan for their own benefits and for the extension
of their employment .The local people are kept unaware regarding the law and order situation. Whenever any matter of law and order situation occurs in Gilgit Baltistan, then these people go to Islamabad and come back only after the incident is over.

In 2005 when sectarian violence occurred on the issue of curriculum after the murder of Shia Leader Syed Ziauddin Rizvi, at that time the administrative heads Chief Secretary, I.G.P. and Home Secretary were in Islamabad and this year when murder of Deputy Speaker of NALA took place, during this course of time, I.G.P.. Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and DC Skardu were in Islamabad. The people protest against this situation and demand the removal of the non-local administration. The non-local administration may tend to protect the Taliban in Gilgit Baltistan, because this helps administration to keep the local people restricted from the struggle for their rights and to maintain threat against the locals. The occupied administration is not aware about the geographical condition, mountainous paths and caves, due to this reason they can not prepare better
security plan and the lack of security can enhance the Talibanisation in Gilgit Baltistan.

 
ARRIVAL OF SWAT AFFECTEES


Millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) are created due to operation against terrorists in NWFP and Swat and they have started to arrive in Gilgit Baltistan also, these people have reached to their relatives, who are the new settlers of Gilgit Baltistan. Their arrival may cause the entrance of extremists in Gilgit Baltistan.

 

Gilgit Baltistan is under threat due the unsatisfactory condition of security and checking. Gilgit Baltistan is suffering from economic instability since before, and upon the arrival of these IDPs, these areas are also affected economically. There is no guarantee that they will return to their homes after end of the operation, because government is ever in favor to settle the non locals in the region. The sympathy with the IDPs on the basis of humanity at its own place but the plan to settle extremism in Gilgit Baltistan can not be ignored.

 
SUGGESSTION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Gilgit Baltistan borders China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and India. Talibanization in Pakistan as well as Gilgit and Baltistan Regions will affect India, Tajikistan and China. If extremists gain influence in Gilgit and Baltistan Regions then an inter-dominion crisis will occur the peaceful land of Gilgit Baltistan will become the field of war. International Community has to play its role to save the Gilgit Baltistan from the effects of the Talibanisation.

The following measures can be adopted for keep safe Gilgit Baltistan from religious extremism or Talibanisation.


REINSTATING THE HITORICAL NAME (Gilgit & Baltistan)

In 2008 Northern Areas Legislative Assembly (NALA) recommended through a resolution that the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan be called by its historical and actual name of "Gilgit and Baltistan", in place of so-called 'the Northern Areas'. The Government has not approved this resolution. Gilgit Baltistan in respect of geographical and historical matter is not the northern areas of Pakistan but due to calling of this regions as Northern areas, Gilgit Baltistan has also been included in the fight of Northern and tribal areas of Pakistan. 


Domestic and international press broadcast the news of fight against the terrorism in the northern area, and common people thinks that this action is going on in Gilgit Baltistan. However, Gilgit Baltistan is 800 kilometer away from the northern areas of Pakistan. Due to the name Northern areas, the tourists of the world have stopped coming to Gilgit Baltistan and severe
losses are occurring to the local economy. Since then thousand of people have become jobless who thrived on the tourism industry.

To save the Gilgit Baltistan from the Talibanisation and keep away the impacts of Talibanisation, it is necessary that area may be liberated from the name of Northern Areas and should be called its historical and original name "Gilgit Baltistan".


RESTORATION OF STATE SUBJECT RULE (SSR)

The economic development, law and order of the Gilgit Baltistan depend upon the restoration of State Subject Rules. Government of Pakistan violated the SSR to convert the local population in minority by settlement of the non-residents in Gilgit Baltistan. After dissolving SSR the economic, political and social circumstances have changed in Gilgit Baltistan. If the non-residents are not evicted by the implementation of SSR, then Taliban may also adopt residence here and the houses of non-residents may provide the safe heaven for the Taliban. The restoration of the SSR becomes essential to save the Gilgit Baltistan from the religious extremity and Talibanisation.

 
GOVERNMENT TRANSFERRED TO LOCALS


The public demand regarding the execution of Local Authority Government has been increasing day by day because the non-residents administration holding their posts for the last 62 years, which is deteriorating the circumstances in Gilgit Baltistan, The administration of the area can be improved by positing of local persons on High Administrative posts and the posting of the local peoples on administrative post will cause to block the external ntervention.


SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS TRANSFERRED TO LOCALS


The security of Gilgit Baltistan is in the hands of non-resident forces i.e. FC and Rangers. The withdrawal of FC and Rangers is necessary to improve the security matters of Gilgit Baltistan, because FC and Rangers is blamed for the involvement in sectarian violence and the local people consider themselves unsafe in the presence of FC and Rangers. To create feeling of
protection, the security of Gilgit Baltistan must be hand over to NLI and Northern Areas Scouts. Terrorists can be blocked by deputing the division of NLI and Northern Scouts at the entrance ways of Chitral, Swat and NWFP.


OPENING THE HISTORICAL AND BUSINESS CORRIDORS

War against terrorism is severely affecting the economy of Gilgit and Baltistan, to enhance its economic activities, all historical and business corridors joining Ladakh, Tajikistan, Afghanistan with Gilgit Baltistan, should be opened. By opening of Kargil to Skardu, Ashkoman to Tajikistan and Astor to Srinagar corridors for the business purposes, this will cause the revolution in the economy of the peoples. The people will not depend on the KKH, and they will get alternatives corridors for their businesses. The strength of the tourists will enhance in Gilgit Baltistan because the tourists coming to India and Tajikistan shall get an opportunity of safe tourism on transit visa, which is beneficial for the area.

Religious extremism has no place in Gilgit Baltistan. Although if attempted to target its local population or try to sabotage the extension plan of KKH by the Talibanisation, then certainly it will be enmity of 2 million people who already deprive the human and basic rights.

Today, the beauty, culture, custom, archaeological monuments and thousand years old historical bequest and heavenly valleys of Karakoram, Himalayas, Ladakh and Hindu Kash is facing religious extremism; therefore the world should play its role to save Gilgit Baltistan from Talibanisation.

The mountains, Glaciers, water , minerals, wild life, archaeological monuments  and culture is the assets of whole world and it is the responsibility of whole world to secure these assts. Lets come, and promise today in the conference of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation that we will play our role domestically and internationally to save Gilgit Baltistan from the religious extremism.