Shia majority reduced to minority in Gilgit Baltistan: Barrister Hamid Bashani
Ever since Pakistan occupied Gilgit Baltistan, there has been a massive reduction in Shia population, falling down to more than half when compared to 1948, according to Barrister Hamid Bashani, a native from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and a Human Rights Advocate.
Addressing a webinar on demographic change in Gilgit-Baltistan, Barrister Bashani said that G-B people have been agitating against the abolition of state subject law by Pakistan which has adversely affected the demographic character of G-B.
These changes, he said, can be gauged by observing Shias who constituted more than 80% of G-B population in 1948 have now been reduced to less than 40%.
“The locals have agitated, protested and frequently raised demands seeking constitutional and political rights.” These protests, he said have been met with brute force.
“Making a mockery of the system, the aspiring candidates are ‘pre-screened’ to ensure entry of only those who support annexation with Pakistan and can contest elections. Voices for Rights in Gilgit Baltistan are suppressed by law enforcement agencies and the nationalist leaders are subjected to torture and imprisonment for peaceful protests,” he said.
Barrister Bashani further said that on September 14, 2012, the G-B legislature assembly passed a resolution demanding complete provincial status in Pakistan, which was rebuffed with the legislative assembly of AJK passing of a resolution (11 December 2014) rejecting GB resolution.
Referring to the UN Resolutions, Junaid Mir, President JK Workers Party said that Pakistan has been claiming J&K status as UN-recognized international dispute and that India cannot unilaterally change the status of the state including its constitutional status, external boundaries and the rights of people of J&K.
Dr. Q A Aashob, JK Civil Society leader said that it was for this reason that despite apprehension that the move would wipe out Pakistan’s moral high ground and goodwill cultivated over last one year; would ease international pressure against India; and if formalized, render resolution of J&K issue more distant, Pakistan is forced to undertake the measure.
Under Chinese pressure which would like to have a clearer status of G-B in order to not only safeguard its investments in the CPEC but also acquire a decisive hold in this strategically important territory so essential to its access to the Arabian Sea.
Ashok Bhan, an eminent Jurist and geopolitical expert, said Gilgit-Baltistan has an area of 72,496 sq. Kms, five times more than that of PoJK with a population of approx. 1.8 million, Gilgit Baltistan has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan since 1947. Under the Karachi Agreement (April 28, 1949), the PoJK govt. under duress ceded the control of G-B to Pakistan, which not only separated Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) from PoJK but also gifted Sakshgam Valley (area of 5,180 sq. kms.) to China in 1963.
“Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement to accord provincial status to G-B is another punch on the wounds of people of GB.”
Making a mention of the constitutional provision of Pakistan under Article 257, Bhan said that the Article states that “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State”.
He added that Pakistan has always tried to project G-B separately from PoJK. Despite PoJK Interim Constitution 1974 referring to G-B as part of PoJK, PoJK Legislative Assembly passing a resolution for the integration of G-B with PoJK and demands by various sections of the society in this regard, Pakistan never re-united G-B with PoJK. It also abolished the state subject rule in G-B in 1974 allowing Pakistani Sunnis to settle there, thereby changing the demographic profile of the state by converting the Shia majority into minority over the years.