[Letters to Editor Dawn] Rights of Baltistani people

By: Noor Muhammad

A government that claims to have a very popular base in Gilgit-Baltistan seems to be hell bent on bulldozing the will of the people. Not only has the PPP government been playing with the sentiments of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by delaying the so-called political reforms package, it has also started a spree of constructing dams in the region, without showing any willingness to give the people their basic citizenship rights, including the right to vote. It is unfortunate, unjust and unacceptable.

The list of the government’s excesses in the Gilgit-Baltistan region goes beyond denial of citizenship rights, though.

Some other stains on the government’s dignity and reputation include Diamir-Bhasha dam’s royalty robbery, proposed construction of the Bonji dam without engaging the broader regional audience in the equation, and the plans for making reservoirs like the Katzara and Skardu dams, with complete disregard for the region’s climate, bio-diversity and human lives.

The irony is that there is no one to defend the rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in any of the legislative bodies. What is being witnessed in Gilgit-Baltistan is a very sophisticated and brutal form of post-colonialism where the indigenous people are denied the right to govern their own land and all their rights have been usurped by the government.

There is no dearth of totalitarian ‘leaders’ in the region who would leave no stone unturned to make the ordinary people believe that in the larger interest of the country we, the most loyal Pakistanis, shall not hesitate to sacrifice. And, surely, sacrifices our people have made. Be it Kargil or Siachen, Wana or Malakand, the brave soldiers of the NLI have set unmatchable examples of valour and sacrifice. The reward of their sacrifices, however, is the conversion of the land of their dreams into a land of dams that feed the energy needs of the industrialists of Punjab, NWFP and the rest of the country.

I agree with Dawn’s editorial, published a few days back, in which it was said that if dams in Gilgit-Baltistan were constructed without the consent of the people, it will only weaken the federation.



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