By Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza
Glasgow [Scotland], May 18 (ANI): Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB) is undergoing unconstitutional and illegal political and economic enslavement under the guise of political sovereignty and economic development.
On May 15, the president of Pakistan Arif Alvi has finally signed the 2020 Amendment Order which modifies Article 56 (Section 5) extending the jurisdiction of the Election Act of Pakistan to PoGB permitting it to conduct a general election and set up an interim government in the occupied territory.
There was no such clause in the previous Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 that would allow the creation of an interim government prior to a general election in GB.
The tenure of the current Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government will come to an end on June 26.
Pakistan has no legal authority to directly interfere in PoGB. According to United Nations resolutions, Gilgit-Baltistan is declared a disputed area and it has asked Pakistan to withdraw its troops from the region.
The decision of the government of Pakistan to set up an interim government in PoGB and to conduct general elections under the guidelines of the Election Commission of Pakistan is a serious breach of the UN resolution and therefore must be challenged by Indian representative at the United Nations.
On May 13, China's state-owned Construction Company signed a deal with Frontier Works Organisation, the commercial arm of the Pakistan army, to start the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam on River Indus.
According to the figures released the total cost of the dam will be Rs 442 billion (approximately 280 billion Indian rupees). It is expected to be completed by 2028 and will produce 4500 megawatts of electricity.
The project is being funded by public sector development funds and commercial loans.
China has a stake of a whopping 70 per cent and Pakistan a meagre 30 per cent. Details of the interest rates at which commercial loans will be obtained have not been revealed and a slight fluctuation in the interest rate could send the construction cost through the roof.
Again, Pakistan has no right to build a dam on PoGB soil, which is actually Indian Territory under the illegal occupation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam will cause enormous environmental destruction including the devastation of the city of Chillas. Furthermore, it will deprive the agricultural lands in Sindh, in Southern Pakistan, of the much-needed irrigation water causing thousands to starve to death due to famine.
On May 15, the Awami Action Committee (AWC), a social rights campaign group, warned that any attempt to introduce the Land Reform Act in PoGB will not be acceptable.
In an interview given on the basis of anonymity, a senior official working in the planning department in Islamabad told this scribe that a new Land Reform Bill is expected to be presented to the PoGB assembly for approval probably before the assembly is dissolved on June 26.
He said that if the Land Reform Bill is passed and becomes an Act then there will be no obstacle in the way of Pakistani State and its military to grab as many mineral-rich mountains, forests land, pastures and barren as well as fertile lands of POGB as they please.
He warned that such an Act would deprive every PoGB citizen of any land rights, as the State of Pakistan will procure them. Furthermore, it will propose to replace the name of Khalsa Sarkar with Government Lands Commission or Pakistan Government Lands Department. Thus giving an impression that the century-old Dogra legacy that protected the land rights of the indigenous people is finally over.
The official said that all barren land would then be procured for administrative and military purposes.
The lands rich in mineral resources and precious stone will be brought under the legal ownership of Pakistan mining and industry department and then could be leased out to private contractors (mostly military and big bureaucrats). He disclosed that thousands of acres of land are to be acquired by the government and sold to private builders who are anxious to build housing colonies for the rich.
The land alongside Karakorum highway will also be procured by the state only to be transferred to the private sector for exploiting it to make mega-profits. The official said that thousands of acres of land would also be grabbed to build Defence Housing Societies and corporate hotels depriving the local population of any chance to own a house.
Plans to upgrade Skardu airport is also now underway and this has raised a few eyebrows. What could be the real purpose of such an upgrade? Most likely it will serve a dual purpose as a commercial airport as well as a military base for China to guarantee protection for the uninterrupted construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and related projects, but the true nature of such an exercise could well be to target India.
Today the people of PoGB live under the dual colonised terror of Pakistan and China. For how long are these mountain people to suffer? Let us never forget that the people of PoGB and PoJK live in Indian territories that have been illegally occupied through a war of aggression waged by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
[Disclaimer: Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in UK.] (ANI)