Pakistan’s interference sparks political crisis in POGB

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Gilgit-Baltistan
Tehreek-e-Insaf in Gilgit-Baltistan (Photo: News Intervention)

On July 4, 2023, Khalid Khurshid, the Chief Minister of the elected government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Pak-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, was disqualified by the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan due to a fake degree case. Consequently, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government was dissolved in Pakistan-occupied- Gilgit-Baltistan. What makes this situation intriguing is that despite multiple attempts by opposition parties, such as the People’s Party and the Muslim League, to topple the government through democratic no-confidence measures, it was ultimately dissolved by a court decision, both in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Adding to the surprise is the fact that upon the disqualification of Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid, who was favored by Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, the leaders of Tehreek-e-Insaf Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan swiftly distanced themselves from the party, displaying their indifference. These turn of events raises questions about the underlying reasons.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, three factions of Tehreek-e-Insaf have emerged. One is known as the ‘like-minded group’, another as the ‘Forward Block’, and the third comprises supporters of Khalid Khurshid, who not only faced disqualification by the court but also is barred from contesting elections for the next two and a half years. The court decision has resulted in the scattering of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in Gilgit-Baltistan. Despite this, Khalid Khurshid remains the sole person in Gilgit-Baltistan who stands by Imran Khan. This explains why Imran Khan has retained Khalid Khurshid as the president of Gilgit-Baltistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, despite his disqualification. However, other leaders and ministers of Imran Khan’s party have either joined the new government by aligning themselves with the ‘Khairabad’ group or have chosen to remain silent, expressing their indifference towards the party.

After parting ways with Tehreek-e-Insaf, Haji Gulbar Khan, the leader of the Forward Block, has been elected as the new Leader of the House in Gilgit-Baltistan with the support of PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement). Interestingly, Raja Azam Khan, a former minister of the Tehreek-e-Insaf government, positioned himself as the unanimous candidate of the like-minded group, but he, along with MWM (Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen), Islami Tehreek, and other like-minded colleagues, boycotted the election for the Leader of the House in Gilgit-Baltistan today. This group of like-minded individuals who have separated from the opposition parties, MWM, Islami Tehreek, and especially PTI, boycotted the elections. Furthermore, the establishment has faced accusations of coercing its members into joining the Forward Block, thereby exacerbating another political crisis.

The election for the Leader of the House in Gilgit-Baltistan has faced significant criticism. However, despite this, when Haji Gulbar Sahib, the newly elected Leader of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, addressed the assembly, nationalist leader and Balavaristan National Front Chairman Nawaz Khan Naji, who is also a member of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly, congratulated him. Naji stated, ‘Congratulations to you, Mr. Chief Minister, because you have become the Chief Minister in the same manner as previous Chief Ministers of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly. This practice has been ongoing since 1947, so it is nothing new.’

He further said that this is an oppressed assembly. A lie is told in this assembly by saying that it is a powerful house. “Apart from congratulating the Chief Minister, I also offer conditional congratulations to all my friends. Let them sit comfortably in the evening and think that whatever has happened to them during this month, if it is in accordance with conscience, then bless you; otherwise, it is a reprehensible act. This is something to be ashamed of and self-condemned.” Islamabad’s interference in Gilgit-Baltistan has gone too far and may have dire consequences.”

It is important to note that a few days ago, the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly was sealed by the police following a court order to halt the election of the Leader of the House. Assembly members and the Speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly were prevented from entering the premises. Senator Raza Rabbani of Pakistan, while addressing the National Assembly, remarked that “The way the police sealed the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly was the darkest day in parliamentary history.” These are signs of danger to your democracy.”

The primary reason for the disrespect shown towards the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly lies in the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018. This order does not grant any authority or role to the members of the Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly. Additionally, the order cannot be challenged in the Pakistan-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court or the Chief Court of Gilgit-Baltistan. Essentially, it is a presidential decree that concentrates power in the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs, granting them more authority in the region than a king. Consequently, in this unconstitutional region, the government belongs to the federal party that holds power in the Federation of Pakistan or receives their complete support. As a result, governments in Pakistan-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan can be formed overnight, and it doesn’t take long for them to be toppled. The loyalty of the people also revolves around the parties that rule at the federal level. Once a government ends, the people’s loyalty completely shifts. The detachment of all Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders and minister advisors in Gilgit-Baltistan from the party today is not a new phenomenon, as the past is filled with similar examples.

“Let’s reflect on the tragic history of Gilgit-Baltistan: In 745 AD, the forces of Tibet and China engaged in a fierce battle for control over the crucial strategic routes in the valleys of Gilgit. In this bloody conflict, the Chinese emerged victorious, leading to the collapse of the Bilor state. Our people subsequently rallied behind the triumphant army. Another significant example is seen when the Sikhs of Punjab launched an attack after 1840, and despite their defeat, our people supported them. Similarly, the Dogras of Jammu and British India extended their support to our people when they faced defeat. Following the Gilgit-Baltistan War of Independence, the people united under the leadership of Sardar Muhammad Alam, a unity that endures to this day. This long-standing pattern reveals a colonial system dominated by psychological influences”.

Now it remains to be seen what role the youth of Pakistan-occupied-Gilgit-Baltistan will play in advancing the collective national interests of the region following the announced boycott of the elections for the Leader of the House by the Islamic Movement, MWM, and the Gilgit-Baltistan like-minded group. Will they strive for peace, development, and meaningful change, transcending divisions based on sectarianism, regionalism, and color? Or will they merely engage in the chanting of slogans like La La Musa, Raiwand, Zaman Park, or Big Brother? Only time will answer this question.

Pakistan has terrorised locals across Gilgit-Baltistan and stifled their demands for political, social and fundamental rights.

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