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[Editorial] Brutally Tortured Chairman District Council Gilgit by Paramilitary Forces

July 31, 2009 Leave a comment

The news regarding rangers (Paramilitary forces of Pakistan) stationed in Gilgit city had violently beaten the Chairmen of District Council Gilgit, Muhammad Hussain Advocate, he was taken to hospital with multiple injuries on head and back with impressions of AK-47 rifle but all over his body is reminding people of Gilgit-Baltistan the brutalities exercised by the Administration.

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Chairman District Council Muhammad Hussain Advocate is an elected representative of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan who holds one of the most important position of the area and responsible to protect and ensure development of people of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, in the so called Northern Areas of Pakistan, which is originally Gilgit-Baltistan are ruled by the military, paramilitary and civil administration representing the Govt. of Pakistan and the elected representatives of the people are nothing more than clowns in a maze field. The District council Gilgit compraised of Subdivision Hunza, Nagar and Gilgit.

The very obvious use of violence without any crime by the paramilitary forces of Pakistan, and not to book any FIR against those responsible for the violent abuse of one of the honourable citizen of Gilgit-Baltistan is a high mark of question. It is to be remembered that recently political leaders of Gilgit-Baltistan have protest against an increasing wave of voilence again various political factions by the state administration, the most recent one in that series happened in Skardu Baltistan where 6 political leaders were arrested and tortured.  Muhammad Hussain Advocate was released from illegal imprisonment and torture for two hours by the rangers, only when thousands of citizens marched towards the head quarter of rangers, where the Chairman District Council was under illegal detention and torture.

Paramilitary force (Frontier Constabulary and Rangers) are non local Punjabi and Pashtoon forces imposed on the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan preferring over the existing brave and loyal jawans of Gilgit Scouts. Frontier Constabulary (FC) and Rangers have been charged with their highhandedness and disturbing the local cultural values time and again in the past and among the local people there is heightened hatred and dislikeness for the brutal behaviour of these forces. In addition to unlawful torture and violence most of the poorly allocated development budget funds consumed by these forces, which negatively effects the already poverty stricken people as a major chunk of their socio-economic development funds are consumed by the rangers and FC.

Keeping in view the existing situation of violence and law and order as well as economic status of the Gilgit-Baltistan it would be highly recommendable to replace Pakistani Paramilitary forces of rangers and Frontier Constabulary (FC) with local organizations such as Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts. Immediately the responsible people who tortured and those who had ordered torture of the Chairman District Council Gilgit Muhammad Hussain advocate should be arrested and punished according to a fair justice. As a top priority it should be ensured that none of the citizen of Gilgit-Baltistan be treated and tortured unlawfully by any administrative organ of state in future.

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[Dawn Article] Political unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan

July 26, 2009 2 comments

By Abbas Ali
Sunday, 26 Jul, 2009 | 03:21 AM PST |

GILGIT-BALTISTAN is a simmering cauldron of discontent. The continued deprivation of political, economic and human rights is driving the people of this strategic northern end of Pakistan to desperation. They have been fighting for their rights not just since 1947, when they won liberation from Dogra rule, but since Dogra occupation of 1848.

A brief review of history will be in order to understand the current hostile attitude of the people towards the current political set-up in Gilgit-Baltistan. The British left the Gilgit Agency on July 31, 1947, two weeks before the independence of the subcontinent. On October 27, 1947 the people of Gilgit-Baltistan defeated the forces of Gansara Singh (Dogra Raj) and achieved independence to celebrate their own ‘Yaum-e-Azadi’ on November 1 and founded a new country ‘Islamic Republic of Gilgit’.

However, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan wanted to be part of the newly-born Pakistan. During the transitional period the ‘Islamic Republic of Gilgit’ approached the founder of Pakistan, Quid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah with a plea to join Pakistan. As a corollary, on November 16, 1947 Pakistan established its administration in the area. But until today the region has not become the legal and political part of Pakistan. Many people in the region think that their efforts and sacrifices of their ancestors have gone waste.

The result is that during recent years opposition groups in the region have boycotted the ‘youm-i-Azadi’ celebrations since they think that they are now under the colonial rule of Pakistani Administration. Nothing has changed during the British, Kashmiri and Pakistani rule. The Pakistani administration first ruled through the local Mirs and Rajas but when people turned against them the process of reforms began under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto regime, which did away with oppressive systems of Begar, Hukumi Kharid, Rajigi, ending Miri systems and restoring people’s human rights. The most revered change was considered to be the abolition of Miri system (A kind of feudal system). After the reforms of 1974 Gilgit-Baltistan was at the verge of becoming a fifth province of Pakistan. However, the coup by General Zial-ul-Haq stopped the process of reforms in the region. But since 1980s with the end of Zia’s martial law, the political movement has started again and its momentum is getting stronger every day.

From the beginning, none of the Pakistani governments has taken any significant step to restore the true democratic and basic human rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its report of 1995, American State Department states that, “the political status of the Northern Areas — Hunza, Gilgit, and Baltistan — is not resolved… The area is administered by an appointed civil servant. While there is an elected Northern Areas Council, this body serves in an advisory capacity to the Federal Government and has no authority to change laws or raise and spend revenue”.

The International Crisis Group stated in its report that: “Almost six decades after Pakistan’s independence, the constitutional status of the Federally Administered Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), once part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and now under Pakistani control, remains undetermined, with political autonomy a distant dream. The region’s inhabitants are embittered by Islamabad’s unwillingness to devolve powers in real terms to its elected representatives, and a nationalist movement, which seeks independence, is gaining ground. The rise of sectarian extremism is an alarming consequence of this denial of basic political rights”.

A provocative sense of nationalism is getting stronger in Gilgit-Baltistan. The very same people who had an unflinching loyalty towards the state of Pakistan and were considering themselves as Pakistanis are now talking about separation, freedom and a separate nation of Gilgit-Baltistan. The rhetoric of Muslim unity is no longer in vogue.

This should be a highly alarming situation for the government of Pakistan which must take immediate steps to address the genuine grievances of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in its own interests.

The idea of self-governance, which motivated the people of this region for independence from Dogra Raj, now has turned against Pakistan. Many people say that they have sacrificed their lives for the protection and security of Pakistan in all the three wars with India, at Siachin, Kargil and other fronts and their Jawans are continuously sacrificing their lives, and in the recent war of Kargil, thousands of people have died but in return they got nothing other than repression and deprivation of fundamental human rights.

In recent months, again there has been talk about a constitutional package for Gilgit-Baltistan by the present government. People have this time high expectation of a genuine package under which the true political, legislative and administrative power should be transferred to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, rather than playing another tactic to keep the powers with Kashmir and Northern Areas Affairs (KANA) in Islamabad.

It is in the interest of both Pakistan and the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to immediately give the rights of self-rule to the people of this area, establish an assembly, reform the administration and justice departments where the elected Assembly of the Gilgit-Baltistan should be the supreme authority. This assembly should be responsible for all legislative and executive matters of the area, except currency, foreign affairs and defence could be handled by Pakistan.

Finally, a policy approach towards the political, economic, human rights based on liberty, justice, with minimum interference of the government of Pakistan can secure loyalty and trust of the people. Source

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Future of Tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan?

July 16, 2009 Leave a comment

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Tourism had emerged as an important and lucrative business sector in the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan. Everybody had benefited either directly or indirectly.  Farmers were able to sell their fruit at competitive prices, cooks, porters drivers, tourist-guides, and people in the local transport all of them greatly enhanced their incomes. Enterprenuers took risk to set up businesses  and opened handicraft shops, and borrowed many hundreds of thousands of rupees from banks? Given the current security situation in Swat and elsewhere, what are the chances for any improvement in the international tourism market remains a glaring question for the people of GB.

Despite some efforts by the Government to improve Pakistan’s image and perception abroad, it remains in tatters. Nobody around the globe is prepared to accept Pakistan as a peaceful and a responsible country, despite the fact that most of its inhabitants are some of the most peace-loving and hospitable people on earth. More so in the case of Gilgit-Baltistan where every single tourist is treated with great care and friendship. There have been really a very very few incidents when any foreign tourists was harmed. Yes, K-2, Nanga Parbat and other mighty mountains do kill interpid climbers but the people living in valleys beneath those mountins are as peaceful as they ever were. Yes there have been espisodes of sectarian violence but that has remained generally harmless to our international guests. We in GB should be proud of the fact that we don’t have bomb explosions like those that took place in tourist places like Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt in 2005, and for that matter regular abductions of tourits in Indian side of Kashmir and Bombay. The great people of GB have shown their civilisation by being kind to whoever comes to our land to enjoy the natural beauty and appalud our culture. We have welcomed good people and we will continue to appreciate whoever comes to our and with good intentions.

While we in GB should expres our deep sympathies with poor and vulnerable poplulations that are now suffering in Swat, Buner, Waziristan and elsewhere in a battle for conflicting ideologies but why should we in Gilgit-Baltistan should suffer for nothing. Is it time now that we in Gilgit-Baltistan now seek to project our own unique heritage, identity and try to show  the realities on the ground in Ghizer, Ghanches, Skardu, and Chilas and Astore.

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[News] Pakistan’s Interior Minister Warns of 14 years Jails for SMS and E.mail

July 14, 2009 Leave a comment

In an attempt to block the right of freedom of expression and speech the interior minister of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) the rulling part caliming to be democratic has warned  14 years of jails for SMS and e.mails.

“ISLAMABAD: The government announced on Sunday that sending indecent, provocative and ill-motivated stories and text messages through e-mails and mobile telephone Short Messaging Service (SMS) was an offence under the Cyber Crime Act (CCA) and its violators could be sent behind bars for 14 years.

An official announcement by the interior ministry said that the government was launching a campaign against circulation of what it called ill-motivated and concocted stories through emails and text messages against civilian leadership and security forces.

The announcement does not elaborate what is meant by ill-motivated e-messages, but it is believed that the ‘civilian leadership’ meant President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other politicians.” source

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[Environmental Awareness Walk] Protecting and preserving Environment-Well being of all humans

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Human beings in the entire history of the existence have both affected and been affected by the nature. There is a growing realization in the informed and civilized world regarding complexities on global level regarding atmospheric pollution or global warming.

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     First from right Raja Karamatullah Khushwaqt

Human have lost much of what is valued about environment and much have also been preserved and protected through human actions. For the good of all we in Gilgit-Baltistan have to contribute our share in protecting what is valued for us and generations to come. Interaction between human and environment has constantly changed in our part of the world where people are much more directly dependent on natural sources. The complexities will exist always regarding how best to deal with the environment and natural resources around the naturally rich and beautiful mountain region of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral.  We must always be ready for tradeoffs, unintended or unanticipated consequences, however, creating awareness, engaged advocacy and well-managed environmental policies could provide goods and services that are unavoidable for social wellbeing,  economic development of the region and world. Our region is one of the most naturally beautiful destinations of the world that gravitates thousands of people each year from around the world as tourist, which provide economic opportunities for the people of the Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. We the people oare benefitting from the natural beauty of our beloved Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, it is our duty to protect it as well.

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It is pleasing to notice that our youth and social and political leaders are aware of the situation and have taken lead in creating awareness campaigns on protecting and preserving environment.  Raja Karamatullah Khushwaqt a well known social and political leader is leading environment day campaign in Gilgit city.

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[Photography] Images of Warmth, Compassion and Peace Amid War and Violence:

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment

War is a tormenting state of affairs, and it suspends all normal feelings and supplants goodness of human nature with an urge for ‘irrational violence’. War and violence creates a group feeling and instills a sense of binary opposition across humanity. Take the example of Uighurs and Han Chinese in the recent bloodbath on the streets of Urumqui, Arabs and Jews in West Bank and Gaza, Iraqis and American forces in Baghdad, Shiites and Sunnis in Pakistan, all of them see each other as different species when they engage in violence despite their common humanity. But there are rare occasions in violent times when people forget everything else and only concentrate on daily activities, thinking as if nothing has happened.

The conflict between the Army and the various resistance groups that have coalesced to form Tehriki Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has resulted in 4.43 million individuals being displaced form their abodes. Among these a quarter of a million live in IDP camps set up by Pakhtunkhuwa Government’s Emergency Response Unit (ERU), but all the rest of them have chosen to seek refuge in host community populations, mostly in Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Peshawar and Charsada. These IDPS have opted not to go to the camps and instead have found shelter discreetly, often in the poorest neighbourhoods of unfamiliar communities, sometimes with friends and relatives and at times amid strangers in already crowded cities. It is so ironic that most of the host communities are themselves destitute and they themselves need humanitarian assistance.

One of our friends visited ‘war migrants’  and he has taken few photographs of people caught up in the recent mindless violence in the Swat, Buner, Mardan and the Frontier region. GBPost wishes to share few of these photographs for your reflection.

The photographer has to say the following:

‘‘In May I was in Pakistan looking after my father’s hospitalization. Towards the end of my visit, I visited Mardan and Takhtbai to look at the situation of people coming from Swat escaping the clash between military and Pakistani Taliban. The government of Pakistan calls these people IDPs, which stands for Internally Displaced People.

Most of the photographs that have been appearing in the media portray these people in such a way as to evoke a feeling of pity among the viewers. I hope my photographs do not evoke a feeling of pity!

We are all to some extent “Eternally” displaced people. ‘’ Rafiq Ajani

If you are interested in discovering the issues raised above, at a more deeper level, we suggest that readers should consult Jonathan Glover’s book Humanity, a moral history of the 20th century. Click the following link to read few excerpts

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Humanity-Moral-History-Twentieth-Century/dp/0300087152

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[Editorial] Dissolution of Local Bodies: The electorate of Gilgit-Baltistan?

July 12, 2009 1 comment

On the grounds of security concerns the federal government has used its prerogative to dissolve local governments across Pakistan, and this decision has been apparently extended to Gilgit-Baltistan. It is quite understandable that violence, social unrest and the threat of suicide bombing remains as potent a threat as it ever was. But the decision to do away with elected representatives three months before the end of their term is a very undemocratic process indeed. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistani president talks of ‘my democracy’ wherever he goes around the world and he impresses upon world powers for his stainless democratic credentials and tries to be a great figure at par with his wife Benazir Bhutto, and his father-in-law Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Of course he is the most corrupt politician Pakistan ever has delivered so far. That point aside, but the decision to make local bodies redundant, and render them ineffective until further notice is not a democratic decision at all. This means,  Zardari’s believes in a specific form of democracy that suits only himself and seeks to consolidate his power, of course withthe blessing of his foreign masters.

We in Giligit-Baltistan don’t need to bog ourselves down in the messy Pakistani politics because it is certainly devoid of any virtues, values and principles. Pakistani democracy is the name of a system where thugs, corrupt, immoral, and certainly heartless people get themselves elected through harassing the electorate or they simply select themselves with the blessing of the Army. Local-body elections  should provide us in GB an opportunity to consolidate true democratic principles and nurture the idea of re-connecting our relationship with the State. When we talk of state we don’t necessarily talk of a certain nation-state but we should talk of Government’. In our masses, right at the grass-roots level we the great and dignified people of Chilas, Gilgit, Ghizer, Skardu, Yasin, Hunza and Nagar need to cultivate the idea that it is through strong political and social organization that we can hope to free ourselves from the ills of poverty, illiteracy and lack of access to good health. Local body elections, whenever they happen should serve as an ideal platform to instill the idea of our basic human rights and we should tell them that the establishment in Islamabad has usurped those rights. It would be through the activism of our great people that we will win many tough battles to come.

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