Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), formerly known as Northern Areas of Pakistan, is a gateway to China from Pakistan and South Asian countries. If we look at history, we will see that its geographic importance has always made it vulnerable, be it during the British rule in India or during the Soviet invasion. More than 1.5 million inhabitants of G-B consist of those from different clans. However, there is no strict narrative of history, which can explain the lineage of the people of G-B.

This region consists of seven districts namely Gilgit, Ghizer, Hunza/Nagar, Astore, Diamer, Skardu and Ganche. The G-B legislative assembly runs the affairs of the region, which consists of 15 members, all elected from G-B, while the command and control system is still under the Kashmir Affairs Division.

Known all over the world for its highest mountain peaks K-2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II, and numerous other peaks, G-B attracts thousands of tourists and mountaineers each year. Its unique landscape is divided into different beautiful valleys and has been declared a heaven on earth and a great source of attraction for tourists for a long time. But unfortunately, this region does not seem to have a political identity of its own.

The brave forces of G-B liberated this region from the Dogras on November 1, 1947, and acceded to Pakistan on the basis of religious and geographical realities. The Pakistan Army was not involved in the battle and no UN force helped G-B then, but ironically, the UNCIP passed a resolution without consultation with the freedom fighters and the leaders of the region in 1948-49, which declared this region to be a “disputed territory”. In the same resolution, Pakistan was authorised to run the affairs of the region under an interim arrangement, which Pakistan has been doing to date.

It is interesting to note that the map of Pakistan shows these regions as part of Pakistan, but despite that, G-B has no political representation in the country. The region barely has representation in the National Assembly. When compared with other tribal areas on the outskirts of K-P, this is sheer injustice. The area is ruled under the Constitution of Pakistan, yet, the people have no right to vote. The recent statement by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid in which he said that, “Geographically, Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Pakistan, but legally it is not part of Pakistan” has further rubbed salt on the wounds of the inhabitants of the region.

The people of G-B have Pakistani National Identity Cards, yet they do not belong to Pakistan. The courts of this region do not belong to Pakistan. How on earth can this situation be justified and how can around 1.5 million people of the area be deprived of their rights and representation? If the territory of G-B is disputed, so are those of Indian-held Kashmir, but people from that region seem to enjoy voting rights and also have representation in the Indian parliament.

A Brief History: 

Consisting of many small states ruled by local Rajas and
Mirs, Gilgit and Baltistan were subjugated in the 19th
century by the Dogra rulers of Kashmir through deceit and
division and integrated into the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1947 when great changes were taking place in united India
and the Muslims were struggling for a separate homeland,
the people of Gilgit and Baltistan also realized the
importance of the opportunity presented to them by history
in the wake of Pakistan’s inception. They seized the moment
and revolted against the repressive Dogra rule.
As in the case of the 1857 War of Independence, the soldiers
of Gilgit Scouts led the revolt, and unlike that ill-fated, earlier
event succeeded in overthrowing the Dogra raj. Governor
Ghansara Singh surrendered and was arrested. On 1st
November, 1947 Gilgit declared its independence and a
Revolutionary Council was established. There then ensued a
prolonged struggle for liberating the entire area of Gilgit and
Baltistan. Following a year-long struggle marked by a
scarcity of resources, Baltistan was also liberated. During
this period of time, the people of Gilgit and Baltistan fully
participated and actively supported the soldiers who were
leading the war of liberation.
After successful liberation of their areas, the people of Gilgit
and Baltistan unanimously opted to join Pakistan.
Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan neither merged
Gilgit and Baltistan with Jammu and Kashmir, which would
have been a logical outcome of its official stand, nor
announced the territories’ formal accession to Pakistan.