GILGIT: A multi-party conference held here on Sunday said that Gilgit-Baltistan, being a disputed region under resolutions of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, should be given rights and protections under the Constitution of Pakistan, on the pattern of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The conference also declared that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreements, in the absence of determination of the status of GB, were a violation of its people’s rights.
The conference titled “The unresolved Status of Gilgit-Baltistan” was organised by PPP at a hotel here.
The conference was attended, among others, by PPP leader Amjad Hussain, JUI-F leader Rahmat Khaliq, BNF leader Nawaz Naji, APML leader Karim Khan, Awami Action Committee leader Ehsan advocate, PTI leader Javed Ali Manwa and leaders and representatives of the MQM, Jamaat-i-Islami, Islami Tehreek and Lawyers Movement for Constitutional Rights.
The conference issued a joint declaration saying that local people, with the help of the GB Scouts, had revolted against the Maharaja of Kashmir and formed an independent government on Nov 1, 1947.
After Nov 16, 1947, the Pakistani government took over the administrative control of the GB on the basis of accession by the Mirs of the princely states in the region.
Despite the accession, the GB has been kept as a disputed territory since then by the Pakistani government in order to win any future UN plebiscite. The GB has been incorporated into the UNCIP Resolution which resolved that till the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, the governments of India and Pakistan will administer the areas with local authority.
The conference declared that the government of India incorporated the Jammu and Kashmir into the Indian constitution and provided a system of governance to its people and gave them representation in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The government of Pakistan provided a separate political set-up to the AJK without incorporating it into the Constitution of Pakistan, but kept the status of GB unclear.
The GB neither has representation in Pakistan’s National Assembly, Senate and other institutions nor has it got representation in the AJK Assembly and the AJK’s other institutions.
The resolution said the AJK had its own constitution, president, premier, flag, an independent judiciary and its fundamental rights had been guaranteed under the AJK constitution. But the GB has nothing of the sort.
The conference demanded that the GB should be given a system of governance on the pattern of the Jammu and Kashmir, adding that it was an internationally accepted principle that without representation there should be no taxation.
The resolution said that Pakistan’s taxes could not be imposed in disputed territories and on their population unless these had been imposed by their chosen and elected representatives and unless they had representation in Pakistan’s elected institutions.
The declaration said that while imposing and collecting federal taxes — Customs duty, GST, Central Excise Tax, Income Tax, and Withholding tax — the people of GB had been treated by the Pakistani government as if they were the citizens of Pakistan, but when it came to resolving the unclear status of the GB and representation of its people in elected institutions of Pakistan, the region’s status had been kept unclear and ambiguous.
The conference demanded that till the resolution of the status of the GB, the Customs checkpost in Sost should be relocated to the constitutional territories of Pakistan and the GB should be declared a duty-free territory.
The conference further said that collection of federal taxes from the people of GB was illegal and unlawful because the region and its people had no representation in the Senate, NA and other political institutions of Pakistan.
The conference announced that a joint struggle would be launched for achieving the constitutional rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2015