Commission accuses Pak of subjugating Gilgit Baltistan, grabbing its land

New Delhi/Islamabad (IANS) The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has slammed the Imran Khan-led government for continuing with the policy of subjugation of the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region, a part India's Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistan's occupation.

In its latest report on human rights violations in Pakistan released on Thursday, the HRCP has said that Pakistan's objection to the abolition of special status for Indian Jammu and Kashmir "appears odd, because Pakistan itself has not granted special status to one of its components (GB)."

The HRCP said that there is a "confusion" regarding the status of the region within the state of Pakistan.

The report of 2019, a copy of which IANS has accessed, said that this year, for the first time, HRCP's annual report on the state of human rights in Pakistan reflects the realities of provincial autonomy and federalism as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.

In a searing commentary, the commission recalled that the GB's province-like status granted in 2009 as per the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order was nullified by an order in 2018, withdrawing whatever "negligible powers" that had been delegated to the region in 2009.

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The 2018 order annulled the GB Council which had local representation, and gave too many powers to the country's Prime Minister, the commission lamented. In 2019, under Prime Minister Imran Khan, this disenfranchisement of people in the region remained unchanged.

The report said that after the Modi government's August 5, 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Foreign Ministry's statement, which claimed GB to be a part of India, "has weakened the position of Pakistan as regards GB, because unlike India-held Jammu and Kashmir, GB enjoys neither special status, nor constitutional cover."

"To address this anomaly, Chairman of Kashmir Committee, Syed Fakhar Imam, had asked the Government of Pakistan on August 2, 2019 to consider restoring the State Subject Rule (SSR) in GB," the human rights commission recalled.

Recounting the history of the state, the commission said that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir had introduced hereditary state subject order in 1927, defining and categorising state subjects and non-state subjects. The rule granted the right to government office, land use and ownership only to the state subjects in Jammu and Kashmir.

"Voices for the rights to land and resources, and protests against settlers, have been getting louder as political parties and civil society organisations demand restoration of SSR to protect the rights and interests of people from exogenous forces and settlers," the commission said.

Accusing the government and other institutions and private commercial entities of "usurping land" in the GB, the HRCP said the land grabbing has increased manifold since the inception of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

"The opposition of the people is evident from the protests held periodically across the region against land grabbing, usurpation and purchase through coercive and covert means. Protest and clashes over the issue of land have been reported in Ghanche, Skardu, Hunza, Nagar, Ghizer and Gilgit districts," the commission said.

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