Don’t let Kashmir be doomed!
The people of Kashmir are of the opinion that no power on earth can deny the people of Baltistan and Gilgit their right to self-determination. However, there is a flip side to the coin
Revered Captain Imran Khan of PTI, this concerns a momentous issue about the future of Kashmir and the lives of millions of Kashmiris who are already endangered species. Since January 2016 reports started pouring into Kashmir that the government of Pakistan led by Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif of Muslim League has been working on a weird plan to merge Kashmir state territories of Gilgit-Baltistan with the Federation of Pakistan as its 5th province. According to these reports, the justifications cited for the move are that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been all along in favour of such a step; and that they claim that Baltistan and Gilgit were forcibly occupied by Dogra and Sikh alien forces in 1839 and 1843 respectively and clubbed with Dogra State of Jammu and Kashmir province of Lahore Sikh State against their wishes, which travesty of history they undid in 1947 by fighting valiantly against alien forces to liberate their homeland and by throwing in their lot with Pakistan. Furthermore, it is claimed that secession of Gilgit-Baltistan territories from the former Princely State of Kashmir, and their merger with the Federation of Pakistan would be exercise of right to self-determination on part of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan.
The people of Kashmir are of the opinion that no power on earth can deny the people of Baltistan and Gilgit their right to self-determination. However, there is a flip side to the coin. Gilgit-Baltistan, as also Azad Jammu and Kashmir, were accepted by the Federation of Pakistan as parts of the internationally disputed Kashmir State territories in spite of their liberation from the clutches of Dogra Dynasty’s autocracy in 1947-48. The Federation of Pakistan was/is bound by treaty (the Resolutions of UN Commission for India and Pakistan) at the United Nations to facilitate a plebiscite in the entire former Princely State.
Under the provisions of the UNCIP Resolution of January 1949 the authority to nominate PA lied with the Secretary General and the authority to appoint the PA lied with the Head of the Kashmir Government
Howsoever, one may wish to make the world believe that Indian administered Kashmir, AJK, and GB are three separate political entities, the truth remains that they are integral parts of the broader issue of Kashmir. Ideally the Kashmir Dispute should be resolved in one go. However, given the Indian stance on Kashmir, that may not be possible at present.
Therefore, the sentiments and desires of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to rid themselves of the political uncertainty that has, like Kashmir and AJK, plagued their homeland since 1947-8, are absolutely justified. Also they are justified to seek better economic prospects through development of CPEC which would facilitate them to build better trade relations with mainland Pakistan and rest of the world. If they feel that the development of CPEC through their territories entails complete and unqualified merger with Pakistan, they would be within their rights to demand so. The people of Kashmir would not grudge them their rights and aspirations.
Then what is the problem? The problem is the procedure intended to be adopted for executing the process of merger.
The reports, which started coming again this January, suggest that the National Assembly of Pakistan and the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan intend to execute the process of merger of GB without referring the issue directly to the people. This is sure to have disastrous consequences on rest of Kashmir State because this merger would serve as a precedent to Kashmir Legislative Assembly and Indian Lok Sabha. Natural corollaries can be imagined.
The Nawaz government is oblivious to what disastrous consequences the merger of GB will spell out for Kashmiris. It will be a disaster comparable to 1846 and 1947. It seems that the Nawaz government is prepared to barter Kashmir for a pound of steel. What a pity! Kashmiris wonder as to since when has steel become more precious than Kashmiris!
Now, the people of GB. It is natural that with no people to people contacts and no trade links since 1947 the people of GB started looking upon Kashmiris as alien people belonging to some other planet. But they should know that Kashmir and GB happen to be situated on this very earth shoulder to shoulder. For centuries they enjoyed traditional people to people and trade contacts. They suffered bloodshed at the hands of same alien forces (which Kashmir is still suffering). The iron curtain dropped in 1948 by India in Gurez Valley to separate GB from Kashmir will not stay forever. It has to go. In fact Kashmiris have already started clamouring for connectivity with CPEC.
The best way out would be for the government of Pakistan to request the UN Secretary General to nominate a Plebiscite Administrator for holding plebiscite in GB (as also in AJK). Under the provisions of the UNCIP Resolution of January 1949 the authority to nominate PA lied with the Secretary General and the authority to appoint the PA lied with the Head of the Kashmir Government. However, as of now there happen to be three heads of government in the former Princely State of Kashmir – President AJK, Governor GB, and Governor India administered Kashmir. If for some reason, say Indian intervention at the UN, the Secretary General refuses to respond to Pakistan’s request for a PA, then His Excellency the president of Pakistan will be in his rights to nominate a PA and subsequently the governor of GB may appoint him to supervise a plebiscite. This will create a reasonable precedent to be followed in rest of Kashmir State.
Mr Captain the people of Kashmir, who happen to be your fans since your cricketing days and believe you to be a justice loving sportsperson turned politician, expect you to play a principled role as a genuine opposition leader of the country. They expect that you would use your clout to stop the Nawaz government from effecting merger of GB with the federation of Pakistan without a plebiscite. Otherwise Kashmir will be doomed.