Human rights in Pakistan-Occupied Gilgit Baltistan
by Sajjad Hussain on 30 Jun 2017 6 Comments

I have the honour to share some chilling facts about the atrocities committed by the Pakistani regime against 2 million indigenous people of UN-disputed Gilgit Baltistan. Political activists, religious persons and students of Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan (PoGB) who do not comply with Agencies’ diktat are framed under the Anti Terrorist Act, also known as Schedule 4 of. But, the real terrorists who bomb and kill innocent civilians in shrines, mosques, roadways and other places, roam free.


It is no secret that Hafiz Saeed, the head of Lashkar-e-Toiba who has been banned by the UN, is a highly respected terrorist in Pakistan. This is clearly shown by the fact that he has been awarded a de facto status like that of a king by keeping him in his house under tight security cover, so that nobody, not even the USA, could get hands on him. There are thousands of terrorist individuals and more than a dozen terrorist organisations active within different madrasas, religious and political parties who are enjoying full impunity under Pakistan government institutions.


Terrorists who killed thousands of innocent people of PoGB on the Karakoram Highway and in Gilgit have not been brought to justice to this day. Nor were the culprits of the Chilas genocide in 2012, in which people travelling from Skardu and Gilgit to Islamabad were stopped near Chilas, dragged out of the buses, and killed after identification. The buses were burnt.


The Pakistan government wants to create fear among the indigenous people of PoGB, so that nobody could dare raise a voice or ask for rights against the will of Pakistan. Those who violate Pakistani orders by demanding something peacefully are declared terrorists. It’s such a disgraceful irony that on one hand Pakistan is sending terrorists to bully and subdue the people of Occupied Gilgit Baltistan, and on the other hand it demands freedom for the portion of Jammu and Kashmir that is still with India.


Pakistan has now falsely framed nationalist workers under its terrorist laws to blame India. The indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan and Balawaristan National Front (BNF) particularly have no place to file an appeal/writ against these Pakistani allegations and atrocities because there is no legal/constitutional judicial system in this UN-declared disputed part of J&K.


Nationalist parties and their publications (newspapers) are banned, while religious hatred and anti-Gilgit Baltistan propaganda is fully supported by the Pakistani occupation regime.


The lives, property and freedom of the people are under serious threat due to Pakistan and China’s joint conspiracy to strengthen their occupation under the garb of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).


The lives of BNF workers and other nationalists are under serious threat because of their constant struggle against the occupation since 1992. Some terrorists are acting on their own when they feel cheated by Agencies, while many others are directed by Agencies against religious and political opponents. In Gilgit Baltistan, where no terrorist organisation has been reported by the Pakistani occupying regime, about 150 people have been charged under Schedule 4.


The peaceful indigenous people of Gilgit Baltistan and nationalists are facing serious threats because they are not willing to bow to the dictation of Pakistani forces, who have choked their legitimate voices and grabbed their lands to build cantonments and torture cells for Pakistani and Chinese forces and their intelligence agencies. After a lapse of 68 years of non-compliance, Pakistan has virtually changed the whole 72,000 sq. kms. area of this UN-declared disputed region in to a military camp.


-        People have no right of vote, freedom of speech and access to Justice.

-        People have no right to choose their representative either in India or Pakistan parliament.

-        Freedom of expression is 100% violated.

-        Access to Justice is denied, because there is no Legal/Constitutional High Court and Supreme Court.


Pakistani political parties are fully sponsored by the military establishment to practice their will, but indigenous nationalist political parties’ voices are chocked by declaring them as terrorists, anti-national and traitors, etc., who dare to oppose CPEC and Pakistani authorities. This is a flagrant violation of not only the UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) resolutions, but ridicules the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and even violates Pakistan’s own constitution and Court verdicts.


Nationalist members who have been jailed in false cases can be hanged or kept in prison for life without giving them the right to appeal in any impartial, legal/constitutional High Court and Supreme Court. One Naveed Hussain from Bargo, Gilgit, was hanged in a fake case without internationally recognised legal process.


The following nationalist workers and leaders are currently in jail:


1)      Majeedullah Khan (from Yasen) arrested on 2 October 2016, seriously tortured by the Joint Investigation Team including all Pakistani agencies and Police, and a staged drama played out alleging recovery of 8 Kalashnikovs from him. He was tortured until 25 October 2016 and sent to jail the same day by declaring him an Indian agent.

2)    Sanaullah Khan, brother of Majeedullah Khan from Yasen, a student in Rawalpindi, was arrested on 4 October 2016, and sent to jail on 25 October 2016 on judicial remand, on terrorist charges. His fault was to send Burushaski language books to Gahkuch, district Ghizer.

3)     Qoowat Khan, president, Balawaristan National Front, Yasen unit; was once released and re-arrested on 12 October 2016, and sent to jail on 25 October 2016.

4)    Mohammad Wali (ex-hawaldar), member BNF, from Yasen. 

5)     Imamdad, arrested on charges of involving in public gathering in Yasen on 8 September 2016.

6)    Inayat Karim, arrested on 30 September 2016, for collecting books and pamphlets, and sent to jail on 25 October 2016 on judicial remand.

7)       Qayoom Khan, general secretary of BNF, Ghizer, and elected member of the Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly, arrested under Schedule 4 on 26 August 2016 from Yasen, for participating in a meeting without permission.

8)    Marooko (havildar, retd) from Yasen on 8 September 2016.

9)    Safdar Ali, central president, BNF, arrested on 12  February 2017, while going with advocate Mahboob Ali to address the media, to refute IGP Zafar Awan’s false allegations against BNF chairman and members.

10) Mahboob Ali, advocate, arrested on 12 February 2017, while going to address the media along with Safdar Ali. Both Safdar and Mahboob were sent to jail after 7 days of JIT torture.

11)  Daulat Jan, Chief Editor Daily Bangesahar (Urdu) and weekly Baang (Eng.) was arrested under Schedule 4, because of his journalistic endeavours.


However, Sher Hafas, member BNF (Yasen), was released on bail, and Sajjad Karim, a minor student who was jailed on 25 October 2016, was released on bail by the Shabaz anti-terrorist judge on 3 December 2016. Many other journalists, former soldiers, advocates, and other members of BNF have been arrested under Schedule 4.


Among those who fled the country to save their lives are advocate Shokoor Khan (fled 14 December 2016); Sher Nadir Shahi, coordinator, Balawaristan National Students Organisation (fled 22 October 2016); and BNF leader and chief coordinator BNSO, Shahid Hussain.


Banned newspapers include Daily Bangesahar GB (Urdu); Daily Baang (Eng.); and the monthly Balawaristan Times. The magazine of BNSO, a nationalist students organisation, has been banned and FIR lodged against Chief Editor Shahid Hussain & Editor Sher Nadir Shahi; both men have disappeared. Many journalists of these newspapers are facing action under Schedule 4 as are others such as Allama Sheikh Mohsin Najafi and Allama Mirza Yousuf, both Shia clerics and non-political figures.


India’s approach towards Gilgit-Baltistan


The issue of Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan has become one of the central issues between India and Pakistan after the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) began. Gilgit Baltistan remained neglected for decades but now Pakistan has indicated its intention to declare the region as its fifth province. This development ignores the fact that Gilgit Baltistan remains a part of the Kashmir dispute. At the same time, the people of Gilgit Baltistan have been demanding constitutional rights with full autonomy, as accorded to Muzzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Local leaders and stakeholders in Ladakh region have put forth demands before the current tension boils over into a conflict. In addition to an airport and the Zojila tunnel, there are demands for an all-weather road. As part of CPEC, over USD 46 billion will be invested in Pakistan in general and specifically in Gilgit Baltistan, where several hydro-power projects are planned. If and when these projects materialise, Gilgit-Baltistan will become like other parts of China.

CPEC has already complicated relations between China and Pakistan. In the past, their relationship was largely driven by the elite, with regard to military and political cooperation. This relationship now faces greater scrutiny from the general Pakistani public. The current discourse in Gilgit Baltistan also suggests growing dissatisfaction with CPEC despite its potential in terms of generating local employment and revenue through electricity generation. Information in this regard is yet to reach ordinary Pakistanis.

Why is China investing so much money in Pakistan? The answer lies in China’s global ambitions. CPEC was originally mooted by Pakistan but gained momentum only after a new leadership rose in China in 2012.


The political status of Gilgit Baltistan remains disputed. In 1994, India unanimously passed a resolution in Parliament declaring Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir as an ‘integral part of India’. Unfortunately, mainstream politicians and media in India remain ignorant of Gilgit Baltistan. With the exception of security and intelligence agencies, most people in India are unable to differentiate between Baltistan and Baluchistan.

Earlier, Gilgit Baltistan were known as Northern Areas, the term imposed on the region by Pakistan to dilute the unique regional and ethnic identity of the region. In 2009, the then Pakistani government granted temporary federal status to Gilgit Baltistan. This was opposed by the Hurriyat Conference, which argued that if Gilgit Baltistan was given provincial status, India would respond by abrogating Article 370 to absorb Jammu and Kashmir.

The Government of India continues to be in denial with regard to Gilgit Baltistan. In 2012, a terrorist attack took place in Chilas, Gilgit, during which they massacred Shias travelling from Gilgit Baltistan to Islamabad. Unfortunately, no one in India or even the Hurriyat Conference uttered a word of protest or outrage. The mainstream political leadership and establishment in India lack a clear vision and policy for Gilgit Baltistan. They generally use the issue of Gilgit Baltistan to counterweight the conflict over Kashmir. It is about time that India developed a clear policy for Gilgit Baltistan.

In 2016, the Department of National Security, Jammu University, organised a workshop titled, Confidence Building Measures: Cross-border Trade in Kargil and Leh districts of Ladakh region. After the workshop, a report was submitted to the Government of India, which highlighted various issues and made several recommendations.


According to the report, there are 15,000 divided families in Gilgit Baltistan and Ladakh and the Kargil-Skardu and Turtuk-Khapalu roads should be opened for trade and travel. The report said, “Except for the cross-border shelling in 1999, Kargil has remained peaceful. However, the Kargil-Skardu trade route (part of the centuries-old Silk Route) has remained closed, while trade on Poonch-Rawalkot and Uri-Muzzaffarabad routes remain unaffected despite numerous cross-border violations, firing, and high tensions between India and Pakistan. This situation must be rectified”. So far, the Government of India has not responded to this report.


The writer is a journalist in Kargil; based on a presentation at a conference on "Human Rights Abuses in Pakistan", by Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, at New Delhi on 23 June 2017

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