GILGIT: The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are celebrating their 70th Independence Day today (Wednesday) amid dejection that their repeated calls for being granted the constitutional status have not been heeded by the successive governments in Islamabad.

The regional government has declared an official holiday on the occasion, where rallies and functions highlighting the importance of the day would be organised.

Tanveer Hussain, a political activist, said in a revolt against Dogra Raj the people of GB had liberated 72,000 square kilometres of land, which connects Pakistan with its all-weather friend China, India, Afghanistan and central Asian countries.

He said his forefathers had sacrificed their lives for liberation of the region from the clutches of Dogra Raj and British colonialists, but 70 years after the liberation, the people of the region were yet to be accepted as full citizens of Pakistan.

Islamuddin, a lawyer, said GB people had always defended the frontiers of Pakistan and had produced heroes like Lalik Jan (Nishan-i-Haider) and Samina Baig, the first woman to have climbed the Mount Everest, but the people had not been given the right to elect their representatives for the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan.

The young lawyer said for decades the GB people had been governed through bureaucracy in Islamabad.

Former IG Sindh and political expert Afzal Ali Shigri told Dawn that it was injustice to keep the GB people deprived of their constitutional rights. “GB people have been struggling for their integration with Pakistan for many decades,” he said.

He said the successive governments in the centre had not bothered to grant constitutional status to the GB people.

Mr Shigri criticised the PML-N-led federal government for delaying the issue of granting constitutional rights to the people of GB.

Talking about AJK leadership’s opposition to GB being declared as part of Pakistan, he said Kashmiris had their own government, Supreme Court and High Court, but the GB people never opposed them. He added it was unfair on part of AJK leadership that they were ‘creating’ hurdles to GB people’s demands.

The biggest project in the history of Pakistan, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is passing through the region, but without determining the constitutional status of GB, he lamented.

Amjad Hussain, PPP GB chapter president, said betterment of the region’s people was not on the priority list of PML-N government.

PTI GB chapter president Raja Jalal Hussain said if his party came to power in the centre it would solve the issues facing the GB people.

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2017

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