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Protests Erupt in Gilgit-Baltistan Over Power Cuts

The participants of the rally said that they face power outages of around 22 hours daily, and the authorities are not doing their part to resolve their issues….reports Asian Lite News

People in Gilgit-Baltistan have been facing severe load-shedding for a long time. The agitation of the people recently turned into a massive protest, resulting in scores of women and children organising a rally to express their anger.

The participants of the rally said that they face power outages of around 22 hours daily, and the authorities are not doing their part to resolve their issues.

The enraged protesters chanted slogans against the government and lamented that bureaucrats and VIPs are, however, provided uninterrupted electricity through special power lines.

The women participants in the rally mentioned that they cannot complete household chores in the absence of electricity, and the children are also unable to study.

Noor Bano, a local resident from GB, stated, “We had to come out on the roads to protest after being helpless. The system of electricity is really bad here. We are not getting electricity, it has only been there for about an hour and a half. In that short period, we can neither iron clothes, cook food, nor fill water (with a motor). Already, everything is frozen (due to the cold weather). We are forced to protest on the roads.”

There have been several protests over these issues in recent months, but the administration has continued to ignore people’s plight and has taken no steps to ease their problems.

Another local resident, Sharleen Fatimah, said, “The electricity is there around 7 am and is there until around 8 am. During this short time, in Gilgit city, everything is frozen–snow is present on machines, we cannot switch on those water machines (motors). The biggest issue is that we do not have water. The second one is that our children go to school and their uniform is not ironed, and the teachers complain.”

The locals now blame Pakistan for false claims of granting autonomy to the occupied territory. The elected representatives of GB have no say in policymaking, and people are denied even basic fundamental rights and crucial necessities.

Bibi Gul, another resident of the local area, when asked about the severity of the situation and the government’s response to it, responded by saying, “I think that the government is not working in the right manner. We have seen numerous governments come to power but none of them have been able to solve our problems. Every government has a statement, that there is less water, which is why electricity cannot be generated but that is not the case.”

“We have water and rivers in GB, but no government can properly cater to the issue. Even the current government of GB is not taking care of us. The VIPs and the government workers are getting special privileges via special lines, but ultimately the common man suffers,” she added. (ANI)

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Protests Paralyse Gilgit-Baltistan

The rallies, organised by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, are an attempt to display their agitation against the central and local regimes….reports Asian Lite News

As the protests against the revocation of wheat subsidies by Islamabad have intensified, Gilgit-Baltistan continues to remain at a standstill.

People in groups of thousands are now marching from their villages to Gilgit City, intending to put up a united front against the central regime. The people who were previously protesting in their villages over their grievances are now marching towards Gilgit city while chanting slogans of “Chalo Gilgit.”

They have now realised that their demands will not be met if they do not make their voices heard by senior leaders.

According to an estimate, approximately ten thousand people are already participating in a massive protest at the Ittehad Chowk in Gilgit City.

These rallies, organised by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, are an attempt to display their agitation against the central and local regimes.

A protester said, “We have been protesting here for more than a month now, yet we have not given up, and we will not give up.”

“And even after this, if the government does not listen to our demands, we will take action to grab our freedom,” he added.

Another protestor, while addressing a rally, said that the level of atrocities by the regime has fallen to such a level that “they are now targeting our basic needs like food, and we will not tolerate it at any cost.”

Further, another protester from Gilgit, while addressing the problems of the people, said, “I want to call upon the regime, which used to count us in mere hundreds, to call us unemployed and useless. They are now welcome to come and see if their estimations are correct.”.

“Let me tell you that this is a group of poor people; we are the people who have been oppressed and we are a group of farmers,” he said.

“We are here to fight for our rights–for food, education, and electricity. We are not here to represent any particular group or party but they are here to raise their voices to get their basic rights,” he said. (ANI)

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Gilgit-Baltistan Demands Basic Rights

In recent years, locals have voiced frustration with Islamabad’s government, using various organizations to express grievances amid a lack of regional development….reports Asian Lite News

Since Pakistan’s unlawful occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan, the residents of the region have encountered numerous challenges.

The inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan have been consistently denied their rightful rights, with successive governments in Islamabad perpetuating unfair treatment towards them.

However, in the past few years, the common people in the region have started to express their anger towards the government in Islamabad. In the absence of any growth and development, people are venting their grievances through different organisations.

Recently, on the call of the Awami Action Committee Gilgit-Baltistan, protest meetings were held in the Pak-occupied region demanding the proper share in taxes. “The federal government collects the tax on our mountains, tourist points and from the climbers who come here. We don’t get our proper share. The money that comes from the tourism sector also goes to the federal government. Apart from that, the government is getting crores of money from the new NHA toll plaza. We are just demanding our proper share and legal rights,” said Faizan Mir, leader of the Awami Action Committee.

There are widespread protests in Gilgit-Baltistan against the government over issues such as load shedding, poor education, and unemployment. The fact that Gilgit-Baltistan’s leadership has partnered with the Islamabad regime to plunder resources has left the populace disillusioned. The residents of Gilgit-Baltistan allege that both governments are robbing them of everything, including food.

A vehicle drives past campaign flags of different political parties ahead of the legislative assembly elections in the city of Gilgit, Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan, November 9, 2020. Picture taken November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Umer Farooq – RC2A2K91T5S4

Wheat prices have been significantly increased in Gilgit-Baltistan, and protesters in the region want the wheat subsidy to be restored as quickly as possible. The Islamabad-controlled government in Gilgit-Baltistan is also facing backlash for supplying low-quality wheat.

Threatening the government with a shut-down strike, people have said that if their demands are not met soon, they will start blocking the roads.

While demanding basic necessities like employment, energy, wheat, and education, the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan are also bringing up the problem of land grabbing.

According to reports, the Pakistani Army and officials of security services are engaged in illegal land grabbing in the region.

In such troublesome circumstances, the opening of the Skardu-Kargil road has been demanded by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, who feel that it is the only way to lessen the darkness in their lives. (ANI)

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Leaders Raise Concerns Over Child Marriage in Gilgit-Baltistan

Speakers voiced worry about the lack of regulations safeguarding women in the area, especially the practice of early child marriage….reports Asian Lite News

Civil society representatives including the head of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) expressed concerns over the absence of laws and constitutional protections for women in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan region, especially underage marriage, according to Dawn.

To empower women in Gilgit-Baltistan, they wanted swift legislation. The NCSW recently organised a two-day National Consultation on Child Marriage, with the second round taking place in Gilgit on Friday, with the assistance of partners United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Unicef, and UN-Women.

GB Minister of Women’s Development Ms Dilshad Bano, GB Assembly Speaker Nazir Ahmed Advocate, GB Secretary of Social Welfare Development Fida Hussain, experts, policymakers, and representatives from federal and GB departments were among the attendees, Dawn reported.

Speakers voiced worry about the lack of regulations safeguarding women in the area, especially the practice of early child marriage.

A law to prohibit child marriage was going to be introduced in the GB assembly, according to Speaker of the GB Assembly Nazir Ahmed Advocate, Dawn reported.

He said that a law to ban underage marriages was presented to the GB legislature in 2015, but it has not yet been tabled.

As the event’s primary guest, Ahmed commended the NCSW chairperson in particular for his significant interest in the problem of child marriage in Great Britain. In our society, he noted, “we do not permit anyone to drive, work, or enter into an agreement before reaching the age of majority, which is 18 years.” (ANI)

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Law And Order: Pak Army To Be Deployed In Gilgit-Baltistan

The decision was made during a meeting of the Parliamentary Peace Committee headed by Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Gulbar Khan…reports Asian Lite News

In order to maintain the law and order situation in the region, the Gilgit-Baltistan government has decided to call in the army, it emerged on Saturday, as per media reports.

The decision was made during a meeting of the Parliamentary Peace Committee headed by Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Gulbar Khan. In view of the worsening law and order situation in the region, the meeting decided deployment of Rangers, scouts and FC personnel in big cities, Geo News reported.

The huddle also decided to impose Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, a law concerning the maintenance of public order, in the region.

Meanwhile, the Gilgit-Baltistan administration imposed a ban on “illegal gatherings” and blockage of streets, Geo News reported.

Heavy contingents of Rangers, scouts and law enforcers will be deployed in all major cities to ensure peace in the area.

The Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister has warned of strict action against spreading hatred on social media platforms and via other sources, the reports said.

The developments came after panic and unrest spread in the region following protests in Diamer’s Chilas, Dawn reported.

The protesters blocked the Karakoram Highway and the Babusar Pass road for three days demanding the arrest of a religious leader from Skardu for allegedly passing controversial remarks, Dawn reported.

Protest demonstrations were also held in Astore, Gilgit, however, they were called off after the registration of a first information report against religious leader Agha Baqir Al-Hussaini.

In reaction to it, a markets and transport strike was observed in Skardu with protesters also blocking main roads, including the Juglot-Skardu road.

Subsequently, the Gilgit-Baltistan government had decided to deploy the Karakoram Task Force and police personnel on the KKH, Juglot-Skardu Road and Babusar Top to ensure the safety of passengers and the movement of vehicles.

On Friday, a meeting of the Parliamentary Peace Committee was held in Gilgit to discuss the law and order situation in the region.

According to a handout issued by the Gilgit-Baltistan Information Department, it was decided in the meeting that legal action would be taken against those who insult the beliefs and holy personalities of any religion in public meetings.

“It was decided in the meeting that the army will be called in in light of the overall situation of the region and for maintaining peace. Besides this, Rangers, GB Scouts and FC personnel will be posted in the big cities.

“The government will take all measures to maintain law and order and continue tourism activities in any situation. In this regard, the Gilgit-Baltistan Home Department has immediately imposed Section 144 on illegal gatherings and blocking roads,” it stated, adding that strict action would be taken against violators, Dawn reported.

The government has also urged the citizens to cooperate with the administration by displaying “unity and harmony”.

It added that the GB government was keeping a close watch on “those who propagate hatred through social media and other means”.

Meanwhile, the Special Communications Organisation (SCOM) — a public-sector organisation working under the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication — said mobile internet services in Gilgit-Baltistan have been stopped and downgraded to 2G.

It said that decision was taken on orders of the government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Dawn reported.

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Political crisis worsens in PoK’s Gilgit-Baltistan

Due to a lack of political freedom, every election is contested on the basis of tribe affiliation and boot-licking of the local military commander of various army garrisons in PoK….reports Asian Lite News

Hundreds of policemen had this Monday (July 3) encircled the assembly building in the Gilgit city in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (PoGB) and in less than half an hour cordoned it off.

A new chief minister was supposed to be elected on the same day when the police requisitioned the assembly building on the orders of the court, according to Amjad Ayub Mirza, an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the United Kingdom. In less than half an hour the police had encircled the assembly building and cordoned it off forcing staff members, members of the assembly and the journalists present to leave the premises and then the police sealed the entrance.

Meanwhile, on July 4, the appellate court of PoGB gave its verdict on an ongoing case regarding the nature of the law degree of the chief minister of PoGB. The verdict said that the law degree was fake and therefore Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf member and CM Khalid Khurshid was disqualified as both a member of the house as well as his office.

On April 11, the prime minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Tanveer Ilyas, was called to attend the high court in the capital city of Muzafarabad.

A full bench was awaiting him and when he arrived at the court he was accused of contempt of court for making a remark during a public meeting in which Tanveer Ilyas had said that (a US 15 million Saudi-funded education project that he had managed to secure from Saudi Arabia), was in limbo because the court had a stay order on it.

The court disqualified him for his remarks and his membership of the house and prime minister office was annulled.

Later through manipulation, horse trading and exertion of pressure on the legislative assembly members by the Pakistan government and military establishment, a PTI forward block was set up under the leadership of Chaudhry Anwar ul Haq.

Haq, with the collaboration of the Kashmir chapter of the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, formed a new coalition government in PoK and got himself ‘elected’ as the new Prime minister.

The same story is now being repeated in PoGB. A ‘Hum Khayal group’ or the ‘Group of Like-minded’ (read forward block) comprising PTI dissidents has been formed by Javed Manwa who was the finance minister in the previous government.

Manwa claims to have the support of at least 10 members of the assembly and has said that ‘a coalition government (in PoGB) is the need of the hour. He claims that for months he was in consultations with other members of the assembly of PTI. He also claims that more members of the assembly will be joining his ‘group’.

Currently, Imran Khan’s PTI is split into three groups in PoGB. Haji Gulbar Khan is leading one group; the second group is under the command of Javed Manwa while the now defunct CM Khalid Khurshid is leading a third.

In both PoK and PoGB, the mechanism of the judicial coup has been applied. A new Chief Minister for PoGB will now be ‘elected’ on July 13.

There is a strong indication that the PoGB chapter of the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz will be accommodated in the new cabinet with ministries being offered as bribes to seduce them into supporting Manwa.

Pakistan’s interference with the political process in both PoJK and PoGB is nothing new. What is mind-bogging is the shameless manner in which the elected sitting executives of the respective occupied territories have been dismissed from their offices using judicial coups.

History tells us that whichever government comes to power in Pakistan they always get the assistance of the Pakistan military establishment to manipulate the election through the above-mentioned tactics of horse trading and exertion of pressure on the legislative assembly.

Due to a lack of political freedom, every election is contested on the basis of tribe affiliation and boot-licking of the local military commander of various army garrisons in PoK.

As the economic crisis grows by the day, the populations of both occupied territories are looking for alternate ways to address their grievances and put forward their demands.

Therefore, whether it is the pensioners associations, government employees, school teachers and health workers or civil society they have all taken to the streets to protest and observe sit-ins.

The anger of the masses is growing by the day and they seemingly have lost hope in the current political system on PoK and PoGB.

Aware of the consequences of such anger, the Pakistan military has allegedly instructed the Tehreek e Labaik Pakistan (section of PoK), a religious cult group based on its adoration of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, to hold PoK-wide protests against the desecration of the Quran in Sweden.

Meanwhile, the TLP has planned rallies in PoK for July 7 and another rally is due on July 11, which is being organised by the 30,000-strong Azad Kashmir School Teachers Organisation that aims to conduct a long-march toward Muzafarabad to highlight their demands.

Stakes remain high, both in the arena of politics as well as in the field of public discontent.

Only time will tell if the masses of PoK-GB would be able to by-pass religious demagogy and fanaticism and take their struggle to meet its logical end, which in my opinion, would be to seek liberation from Pakistani occupation and re-join mother India, the largest democracy in the world. (ANI)

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Chinese delegation due in Gilgit-Baltistan next week

15 members of the delegation from China, basically Chinese buyers hailing from Xinjiang, Zhejiang and Shandong provinces as well as the Weifang area will arrive in the region on May 15…reports Asian Lite News

The Chinese delegation is all set to travel to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Gilgit-Baltistan region next week to explore the options for buying and importing cherries, Commercial Counselor, Pakistan Embassy, Beijing, Ghulam Qadir said, reported The Nation.

15 members of the delegation from China, basically Chinese buyers hailing from Xinjiang, Zhejiang and Shandong provinces as well as the Weifang area will arrive in the region on May 15, Qadir told APP. They will meet local farmers, and relevant officials and visit cherry orchards and inspect the quality of the exotic fruit, he added.

Pakistan and China signed a cooperation protocol during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to Beijing in November last year. Under the protocol, China will import cherries from Pakistan and help the local grower enhance production.

Currently, China imports the bulk of its cherries from South American countries to meet growing demand. However, the transportation cost and time is a major predicament, reported The Nation.

Qadir also said the annual demand of the Chinese market is around 350,000 metric tons but Gilgit-Baltistan produces around 5,000 metric tons of cherry per season.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang is in Pakistan for Pakistan-China Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue.

During the dialogue, the Chinese foreign minister told Pakistan to overcome political differences to pave the way for economic progress, Voice of America (VOA) news reported.

“We sincerely hope the political forces in Pakistan will build consensus, uphold stability and more effectively address domestic and external challenges so it can focus on growing the economy,” Qin said, addressing a press briefing alongside his Pakistani counterpart, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Pakistan is facing intense political turmoil since former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted a year ago in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. A lack of consensus between Khan’s party and the 13-party ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif regarding the election schedule has plunged the country into a political and constitutional crisis.

The country also is mired in a crippling financial crisis. To help Pakistan revive a stalled bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and avoid default, China has provided relief by rolling over debt and parking funds there to boost dangerously low foreign exchange reserves. (ANI)

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Protests grip Gilgit-Baltistan

From fuel to food to power, the shortages have triggered street protests in recent weeks by the local people….reports Asian Lite News

Often used to woo foreign tourists to its mountains, Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is also called Pakistan’s “soft face” is a neglected region where all-around shortages have reduced its people to “begging” before the federal government, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

From fuel to food to power, the shortages have triggered street protests in recent weeks by the local people. They have little by way of political power, share in the administration and no way out of the “anomalous” situation in Pakistan’s polity.

Pak Military Monitor reported that the mood is getting anti-federal in the PoK area of Gilgit-Baltistan. Elected representatives do nothing to bring relief to the local people.

The Awami Action Committee leading the street protests has begun to say that the national parties have used Gilgit Baltistan as a ‘colony’ to be exploited by the federal authorities. This will continue unless they are rejected in elections, the Pak Military Monitor reported.

Gilgit Baltistan was forced into the Kashmir dispute after Pakistan illegally occupied a part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947.

In 1949, without the consent of the people, Gilgit-Baltistan was made part of the Kashmir issue by the government of Pakistan. Right from the beginning, “no local resident of Gilgit-Baltistan was considered competent. The region was ruled through the notorious Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). Only during Zulfiqar Bhutto’s rule, in the first half of the 1970s, the FCR was abolished in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pak Military Monitor reported.

During Ayub Khan’s rule, parts of Gilgit-Baltistan were illegally ceded to China. This was under the Sino-Pakistan agreement of 1963, which has a provisional status.

Mubashir Hasan, an important minister in Bhutto’s cabinet, writes in his book “The Mirage of Power” that during his visit to the region in 1973, he observed that the government accounts of Gilgit Agency were under the control of the Accountant General based in Peshawar, the provincial capital of North- West Frontier Province, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Constitutional and political rights need to be given to the locals. Gilgit- Baltistan’s representation in the Senate and National Assembly must be ensured. The legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan must be given more powers as an impotent assembly is of no use to the common masses, the Pak Military Monitor reported. (ANI)

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Gilgit Baltistan hit by acute food & energy crisis

The electricity shortage is so acute that there is only 2 to 3 hours of electricity available daily which has rendered the local industry worthless, snatching away the livelihood of several hundred people….reports Asian Lite News

The situation in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) on the issue of wheat and electricity shortage has been very disturbing for the region and its people.

With the winter setting in, serious food and electricity shortages have led to strong criticism against the government in GB and the PTI leadership which heads the government there. Bitterness and frustration in the population has grown over the years with growing instances of challenges they are having to face in the given circumstances.

While the present situation has blown into an intra-political conflict between the political parties, with the PPP and other parties accusing the PTI of creating the present situation, the fact remains that successive governments in GB have mercilessly exploited the natural resources of GB and indulged in land-grabbing rendering the people of GB victims of exploitation. Moreover, GB politicians are dissociated from the reality on ground and are not keen to understand the woes of the people. This has led to a serious lack of trust between the government and the people.

People in GB have been accusing PTI leaders of highly callous and apathetic attitude towards GB residents, and that they seem to be unaffected by the sufferings of the people of GB. Residents of the region claim that they do not expect much from the government as no efforts have been made yet by the authorities to undertake recovery measures to cope with the flood devastations which rendered thousands homeless and jobless. And now with the winter setting in, the locals do not expect much in terms of redressal of issues faced by them.

Gilgit Baltistan.

The electricity shortage is so acute that there is only 2 to 3 hours of electricity available daily which has rendered the local industry worthless, snatching away the livelihood of several hundred people.

Adding to their woes is rampant corruption and misuse of power by local bureaucrats who have been indulging in nepotism and extortion while the ordinary individual continues to suffer. Another issue which has been impacting local sentiments is the blatant manner in which land-grabbing has taken place in the region. Locals are disturbed at the brazenness with which politicians and bureaucrats have been indulging in flagrant violation of property norms and handing over large patches of land to Chinese companies.

The youth are the worst-affected as they do not see any future for themselves in GB, especially since scope for education and employment remain remote. There have been several instances of people committing suicide due to the dire situation. Cases of psychological disorder has also become common among them leading to serious social issues. The absence of medical facilities for treating such form of illnesses has only made the situation more worst.

Politicising the matter, the PPP has threatened jamming roads and highways in GB in case the issues are not addressed. Senior PPP leader Sharafat Hussain King said in a statement in Gilgit on December 8 that the people of GB have tolerated misgovernance of the provincial government thus far, but this would not continue for long.

He alleged that the GB CM and his ministers were spending crores of rupees on their luxurious lifestyles while the people are desperately struggling to survive.

Sharafat Hussain also called upon Imam of Juma Wal Jamaat, Agha Rahat Hussain and Khatib of Jama Masjid Gilgit, Maulana Qazi Nisar Ahmed to play their roles in making the public protest successful.

JeI Amir Maulana Abdul Samih, addressing a meeting of local JeI leaders in Gilgit said on December 9 that while the people of GB were facing a dire situation with the wheat and electricity crisis, the politicians were busy playing games. He described the performance of the PTI government as highly disappointing and said that problems of the people were increasing day by day.

Former member of GB Assembly and President of Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party GB, Himayatullah Khan in a statement in Gilgit alleged that GB government blatantly violated the norms set for appointment of woman health workers recently, leading to serious protests among prospective applicants for the job.

In this backdrop, protests are being organised in GB by representatives of the Awami Action Committee Gilgit Baltistan (AACGB) besides other smaller groups. The AACGB held a massive rally in GB on December 11. Thousands of people and leaders and activists belonging to Awami Action Committee, Anjuman-e-Tajiran, Transporters associations, Gilgit-PakhtunWelfare Organisation, Karakoram National Movement, Balawaristan National Front, Hotel Association of GB, Shopping Malls Association and various political and Islamist parties and organisations participated in the rally.

Former chairman AAC Sultan Raees, in his speech on December 11 announced that all stakeholders and people of GB, including businessmen and transporters have expressed their strong opposition to the government by joining the protest. He reiterated that while the government has to address the issues affecting normal life in GB on priority, at the same time he warned that if anyone attempted to manipulate the resources of GB or indulged in land grabbing, he would be dealt with firmly by the people of the region.

This is the first time that the degree of frustration evident among the people has reached such serious proportions that it could lead to physical action challenging the security forces. In such a situation there is a possibility of the government resorting to strong hand tactics to control the situation which in turn might lead to further disenchantment among the locals.

The situation remains no different in PoK where similar issues have distanced the people from the government in power. This leads one to ponder that Pakistan has indeed failed to generate goodwill among the people of these critical regions. Comparatively, the situation in J and K is one of peace and prosperity with the aspirations of the people being fulfilled.

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CPEC: Gilgit-Baltistan Pays the price for China’s Greed

In a way, China-driven by its greed for power and resources has taken a calculated risk to establish its own ‘sphere of influence’ in the Gilgit Baltistan region. Sadly, however, this is being done at the cost of the environment, impacting local livelihoods and changing demographic structures while Pakistan, the country it calls its iron brother, acting as a vassal state, surrenders its much fought sovereign character to a culturally alien neighbour…reports Asian Lite News

China’s Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at renewing the country’s historic trade routes in the coastal countries of south-east Asia, Eurasian mainland and big sweeps of the Indian Ocean if it is finished as intended could have lasting consequences for China’s geopolitical and economic interests in the region, according to an analysis.

Experts and officials expect that the vast transport infrastructure of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and especially its Gwadar port will play a crucial role in the country’s pursuit of its goal particularly at a time when it has started enhancing trade ties with landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries, opines Fabien Baussart, President of CPFA (Center of Political and Foreign Affairs), writing in the Times of Israel.

CPEC says Baussart since it was launched in the year 2015 is the ‘prize plan’ of the BRI, which links China’s northeastern province of Xinjiang (Kashgar) with the Gwadar Port region of Balochistan in southwestern Pakistan.

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The BRI corridors are projected to link China with more than 150 countries through a web of roads, railways and sea routes. In total, the estimated amount of the BRI projects could be up to USD 1.3 trillion.
The analyst points out that several existential issues pose a serious challenge to the way CPEC is unravelled and executed in the region. These include factors such as internal strife and sectarian conflicts within Pakistan, particularly in the insurgency-prone areas in Balochistan, where CPEC has made significant amount of investments.

Also, China faces restraints within its own borders. The Xinjiang Province plays a strategic role geographically for the CPEC has already been suffering from ethnic turbulence due to clashes between the indigenous Muslim Uyghur population the mainstream Han Chinese. The consequent harsh measures being taken by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur population has globally become a matter of concern.
The Times of Israel article notes that the CPEC is central to the hegemonic quests of China in the Indian subcontinent. The CPEC when complete will not only give China access to the Arabian Sea and develop an alternative route for its critical energy imports and other resources but also provide another gateway to mineral-rich and politically vulnerable Afghanistan.

A major challenge for Pakistan in the context of CPEC is to negotiate better terms with the Chinese companies so as to derive reasonable profits from the investments made in the country’s infrastructure.
Baussart writes that the Pakistani leadership seems apprehensive on the nature and scope of implementation of the CPEC program so that structural imbalances are removed and the economy attains sustainable growth. This, says the analyst, is an important cause of concern since the CPEC is heavily tilted in China’s favour and driven by its own vested interests.

In a way, China-driven by its greed for power and resources has taken a calculated risk to establish its own ‘sphere of influence’ in the Gilgit Baltistan region. Sadly, however, this is being done at the cost of the environment, impacting local livelihoods and changing demographic structures while Pakistan, the country it calls its iron brother, acting as a vassal state, surrenders its much fought sovereign character to a culturally alien neighbour. (ANI)

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