What is the future of Gilgit Baltistan?

People of Gilgit Baltistan are highly educated, peace-loving and intelligent.

But these days, they’re slightly angry. A few days ago, there were protests in the streets and roads and rumor-mongering was taking place outside Pakistan, What’s happening?. Outside Pakistan, there are some news sources who claim that all of Gilgit Baltistan despise Pakistan. And, that Pakistan Army keeps beating up innocent people. Army-brutality is rampant, and so on. Such news are never true. But something strange is taking place these days. There are news spreading around the world that the people of Gilgit Baltistan have taken it to roads. And, there are protests taking place at the roads. If we look at the internation media, it says that the whole of Gilgit Baltistan is out on the roads. That the people of Gilgit Baltistan are bracing themselves for a mega agitation and Islamabad is completely stumped on this. But, if we check out the same news in Gilgit’s own media Pamir Times or Dawn then we realize what was the problem. But before we can understand the issue, we have to go back a few pages in the book of history. Ever since Pakistan took control of this region, It was being controlled directly from the capital city. Until just a few years ago, Islamabad had all the powers at its discretion. Islamabad could do anything. No rules or regulations. Back then, this region was called FANA:,  Federally Administered Northern Areas. But this region was NOT placed above all rules so that they can be exploited. Actually, it was the exact opposite situation. Pakistan wanted Gilgit Baltistan to be included whenever the UN discussed Kashmir issue. For this reason, Pakistan kept the status of this region “disputed”. This way, Pakistan could give favors to Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Pakistan wanted to give special subsidies and tax exemtions If these areas were given provincial status then these priviliges would not have been possible. This favoritism was necessary for Pakistani establishment because whenever referendum takes place in Kashmir and Kashmiris on both sides of the border get a choice to live with either Pakistan or India, They must choose Pakistan. Pakistan wanted to insist upon the world to force India on a referendum until 1999, Pakstan had a policy of liberating Kashmir through armed Jihad. But after 1999, Musharraf took charge of the government and devised a new policy. He believed that the solution for Kashmir will come from diplomacy. He initiated bilateral discussions. But first, Agra Summit failed Kathmandu’s meeting also went in vain. Backdoor diplomacy was started Presented the famous 4-point formula. Nothing worked. And, Pakistan also learned that no world-power will make India (their enemy) just to solve the Kashmir issue. On the other hand, corruption and terrorism were hurting Pakistan badly. Then it became clear that Gilgit Baltistan will have to be given equal rights and liabilites as other parts of Pakistan.

In 2007, Musharraf government gave lots of rights to FANA with Legal Framework Order. In 2009, Zardari government made some ammendments and issued a new order. It was called Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order. Today, this piece of law making the system run in Gilgit Baltistan. The basic theory behind this order is that the resource of Gilgit Baltistan will remain in Gilgit Baltistan. This area will be given province-like status. It will have its own legislative assembly. Its own superior court, and so on. But this is where the problem occurs, It was given province-like status but it wasn’t made a province. And this was the actual demand. What this means is that they have province-like authority but the people cannot elect National Assembly members. Nor does Gilgit Baltistan has a Prime MInister, as Azad Kashmir does. It also means that at every platform where the provinces are represented for instance, Council of Common Interest, Indus River System Authority, National Judicial Council, National Hydro-Electric Board, National Finance Commission etc Gilgit Baltistan is not represented anywhere. Because it is not a province yet.

What it means is that every province has a set quota of natural resources, but Gilgit Baltistan does not. At the moment, Gilgit Baltistan gets everything through an order and this order can be changed anytime. On the other hand, all of the taxes that are present in the provinces, have been imposed in Gilgit Baltistan. This is why they are protesting. These protests are not against Pakistan, they are for merging with Pakistan. People of Gilgit Baltistan say that they want to pay taxes but they should also get their rights. All leading opposition parties of Pakistan supported these protests, including PTI and PPP and, the civil society of Pakistan also stood with Gilgit Baltistan. Now the question arises that if Gilgit Baltistan wants to become a province, who has an objection? The simplified answer is that other provinces have objections. Obviously, if new provinces are made in Pakistan then new resource distribution formulas will also be required. What will be the share of water for each province?
What will be the share of finance for each province? All will have to be decided again. It will be a complete chaos Pakistani version of Game of Thrones. This is the reason FATA is not being merged with KPK. This is the reason that new provinces aren’t being made in Pakistan. But, we will have to make them. Spain’s total population is 50 million, and that country has 50 provinces while Pakistan’s population is 200 million but provinces are only four. It seems that new provinces will start emerging on the map from next year and the process will start from Gilgit Baltistan. Because Pakistan cannot afford to make Gilgit angry. A few days ago, Islamabad decided to abolish Gilgit Baltistan Council. This way, all of Islamabad’s powers will be transferred to Gilgit. The next (and last) step would be to declare Gilgit Baltistan the fifth province.

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