Brussels Moot on Gilgit & Baltistan Print
Saturday, 12 April 2008 00:00

A 2-day International Conference on Gilgit-Baltistan concluded on 9th April 2008 in the European Parliament under the auspices of International KashmirAlliance (IKA).

The conference was attended by the different groups leading Members of the European Parliament while Baroness Emma Nicholson was the Guest of honor at this occasion. Among the prominent Members of the European Parliament were  Mr. Golik Bogdan, Ms Mihaela Popa; Mr. Jeffery Van orders, Dr Miko Marianne, Dr Charles Tannock, Mr. Marek Czarnecki and Mr. Nirj Deva. Chairman IKA Dr Syed Nazir Gilani, Secretary General Shaukat Kashmiri, Vice Chairman Mr. Mumtaz Khan, spokesperson Dr Shabir Chaudhry, intellectuals, academicians, civil society, journalists and people from different shades of
opinion including Kashmiri diaspora participated in the conference. Baroness Nicholson referred the difficulties, oppositions she had to face from Pakistan circles on adopting report and also the efforts she  had to make to get the insight of Pakistan administered Kashmir & Gilgit-Baltistan because of the access and nature of control of Pakistan. She also told the participants that how and sensitive hard task was this for which she had to go through in series of meetings, interaction with all schools of opinion in order to learn about their views and ground socio-economic and political situation that seriously kept people and area underdeveloped and underrepresented. Especially thanking to IKA and particularly Shaukat Kashmiri, she said that Mr. Kashmiri has made valuable and substantial contribution and cooperation to get this report done in a most-better way to conclude fundamental problems of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

She said “it was the first time to learn about the perspective and prospects
of this area and its territorial significance in the South Asian region.
She said it is also contrary to the fundamental human rights charter
including UNCIP resolutions. Mr. Jeffery Van Orders MEP said that “European
Parliament has special focus on Gilgit-Baltistan most neglected and
marginalized region of former princely state of Jammu & Kashmir and
constitutional, political and socio-economic conditions of the people of
this area. He said that European Parliament would emphasize on Government of
Pakistan to restore the fundamental rights of the people, install democratic
institutions including a constitutional Assembly, self rule and an
independent judiciary. Dr Charles Tannock MEP strongly criticized
discriminatory policies of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern
Areas. He supported constitutional, political and socio-economic freedom and
right of self rule of
 the 2-million people of Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Nirj Deva MEP pointed out
that unemployment, joblessness and marginalized trade and business
opportunities have turned the people of this area under poverty line. He
said it is the right of the people of that region to govern themselves
through democratically elected representatives and Pakistan should end her
control.

Abdul Hamid Khan Chairman BNF, said that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are
suffering during last 6-decades. No democratically elected representative
was included when Karachi Agreement was signed between Pakistan and Muslim
Conference leaders in 1949. He said Northern Areas Legislative Council
(NALC) has no powers on financial and political issues and all the matters
are in the hands of Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA) in
Islamabad. IKA Chair Dr Syed Nazir Gillani said that the British Government
of 1846 has earned a rebuke for selling the people of Jammu and Kashmir to
Maharajah of Kashmir in 1846. However, it is reassuring that by 12 August
1947 the people of Jammu and Kashmir had graduated through their 101 year
long struggle and had achieved "State for the State's People" a "responsible
government", "peoples association", a constitution" a "regime of rights"
guaranteed in the constitution and were still hungry in pursuit of
 their struggle. But unfortunately on two dates, August 12 1947 and October
26 1947 everything changed for them. A one people made an error in judgment
and became victims of an ill placed trust. They were lynched and distributed
both in person and in habitat. Today they are living as three strange people
under three administrations, supervised by India and Pakistan. Pakistan
failed them under 15 August 1947 (proposed on 12 August) agreement and India
failed them under 27 October 1947 (proposed on 26 October) agreement. Since
Pakistan failed to honour her commitment the Government of Jammu and Kashmir
on 26 October 1947 rushed to propose an 'accession' to the Government of
India. He said that the EU report on Kashmir authored by Baroness Emma
Nicholson is the first democratically endorsed document which has made the
people and habitat of Northern Areas of Kashmir visible to the civilised
world. he said “it is high time that EU and the UN take cognizance
 of the grievances of the people of Northern Kashmir in particular and of
the people of Azad Kashmir, in general who are denied the freedom of choice
in elections and are forced to accept a pre-determined self-determination”.

Shaukat Kashmiri elaborated that Gilgit-Baltistan is economically rich in
minerals, forests, water, and tourism. Gilgit-Baltistan is historically part
and parcel of Jammu & Kashmir and two famous rulers of the state were
belonging to the Gilgit-Baltistan region. He pointed out that we endorse the
loyalty and patriotism of Maharajah Hari Singh who introduced State Subject
rule of 20th of April-1927 to protect the identification and culture of
Kashmir. He said Pakistan has subsequently failed to comply with the UNCIP
which asked Government of  Pakistan to withdraw its army, para military
forces and tribals  simultaneously from the state  and India was to withdraw
bulk of forces after that. He said at one hand Pakistan claims to be the
champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but she
has denied the same rights under its controlled parts of Kashmir and
Gilgit-Baltistan. He strongly criticized the role and unlimited powers of
 Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas. In his speech Mr. Kahsmiri
suggested that LoC must be opened and bus service should be initiated
between Ladakh and Gilgit so that cultural link could be revitalized between
and divided families could be reunited in this region. He also suggested to
the MEPs and delegations that a fact finding mission be formed to visit
Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. Mumtaz Khan said that the IKA leadership
has interacted with different international institutions including UN
Council for Human Rights and other notable offices in the world.

Dr Shabbir Chaudhry said that various governments of Pakistan have not only
ruled these areas with an iron fist, they have also divided people on
religious, ethnic and linguistic lines; and have tried to change legal
character by violating state subject laws and by calling these areas as
Northern Areas of Pakistan. He said since 1947 these areas have been under
effective control of Pakistan's Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. Rulers of these
areas whether they were called Political Residents, a Joint Secretary,
Political Resident, Chief Executive or Chairman have always been appointed
by Ministry of Kashmir Affairs. Under this system People of these areas
suffered immensely, and we cannot blame Pakistan alone for that, as
leadership of Azad Kashmir and to some extent leadership of Jammu and
Kashmir have to accept some blame or at least negligence for ignoring the
plight of these people for so long. He said last year Baroness Emma
Nicholson and the EU also
 made enormous contribution to this campaign by passing EU Report on
Kashmir, and we are indeed grateful to all those who worked hard in
preparation and finalising this important report. He said if we seriously
want to help people of these areas then we should demand abrogation of this
LFO, and in its place a system must be introduced where democratically
elected people can legislate laws according to their needs, and where a
system of accountability and transparency is visible. Apart from that a bus
service with Ladakh and traditional trade routes should be opened that
people of forcibly divided region could trade, interact and meet each other.

Among the NGO representatives were Mr. Paul Beersmans president of Belgian
Association for Solidarity with Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. Naeem Khan from Viena,
writer and journalist Mr. Zafar Iqbal Manhas Srinagar Kashmir, Dr Koenraad a
university professor, Franco Marino from Italy, Dr Chris Verschoten of
Brussels University, Flugida Barattoni NGO representative from Italia, Erkin
Alptekin Germany, Mr. Marino Busdachin UNPO the Netherlands, and Kashmiri
diaspora. Dr.Charles Graves from Switzerland, Javid Hayat from Spain and man
others from different groups.

The writer is an Islamabad based Kashmiri journalist.