Cover Story : Unmasking the Beast
The incessant atrocities on the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir need to be exposed
Deepak Zazia from J&K
Shias of Ladakh and inhabitants of twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri are elated over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concluding speech during the all-party meeting on Kashmir and his address to the nation on the auspicious occasion of 70th Independence Day. The Prime Minister has brought into limelight the unending atrocities on deprived and subjugated Shias of Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and on the residents of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). While as Shias of Kargil have cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic similarities with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, residents of Poonch and Rajouri have relations in other side of the Line of Control, called as PoJK so both of them have reasons to be elated after Prime Minister take this issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 12 chaired an all-party meeting to discuss the prevailing situation in Kashmir which had witnessed violent protests after the elimination of dreaded Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. In a stern message to Islamabad, Prime Minister said the time has come for Pakistan to answer the world on atrocities against the people in Balochistan and PoK including Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that PoK is part of Jammu and Kashmir.
Similarly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day 2016 speech, has taken up the issue of PoK and Gilgilt-Baltistan. “In the last few days, there have been talks of Gilgit, PoK and Balochistan. People from these places have expressed their gratitude and have thanked me. I am very grateful and thankful to them. I have never met them, they live far away, but the fact that they are appreciating me is a matter of respect for the people of India,” the Prime Minister has stated.
Senge Hasnan Sering, Director of the Washington DC-based Gilgit-Baltistan National Congress, was quick in welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remark. “We welcome the remarks that Prime Minister of India made on the human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Balochistan. We have been saying from the very beginning that be it the matter of Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Balochistan every country or organisation who are the stakeholders should take part in the matter,” he told media. He said that the Pakistani government should be exposed, adding this would help in stopping the crimes against humanity committed in Gilgit-Baltistan, PoK and Balochistan.
Sering, further that Pakistani establishment has brazenly been indulged into persecuting native on Gilgit-Baltistan on one or other pretext. “Prime Minister, Narenda Modi's views should be appreciated because the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will continue to suffer if the neighbours of Pakistan as well as the international community does not pay attention to the plight of the people here”, he said and argued, “India is a stakeholder in the dispute and must play a role to bring the solution.”
Shia religious leaders of Kargil have taken Prime Minister’s Independence Day with a positive note. In Kargil there are two dominating religious institutions namely Islamia School, Kargil and Imam Khomini Memorial Trust, Kargil. And leaders of both these institutions have hailed Prime Minister for highlighting atrocities of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was part of Ladakh region of Dogra dynasty of J&K before 1947. Like Poonch and Rajouri, there are many divided families living Kargil who have their relations across the LoC. Kargil residents have reasons to hail Prime Minister’s remark because they have been helplessly witnessing atrocities being committed on their relatives in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan.
While addressing a meeting on May 18 this year, Sering had narrated how human rights being brazenly abused in Gilgit-Baltistan. Asserting that Pakistan is an occupier of Gilgit-Baltistan, a group representing people from the area in PoK has sought help from US lawmakers over the deteriorating human rights conditions there. “Gilgit-Baltistan cannot end rights abuses without the help of the international community. The US must continue to be a beacon of light for the democratic spirit, to demand an end to colonial rule and support Gilgit-Baltistan in its struggle for a free nation,” Senge Sering told lawmakers during an event at the Capitol Hill. At an event organised by Senator Tim Kaine to mark Vietnam Human Rights Day, Sering said the UN Security Council resolution 47 declares Pakistan an occupier and aggressor in Gilgit-Baltistan and calls for its withdrawal.
The event was addressed by several top American lawmakers including Senators John Cornyn, John McCain, Kaine and Mark Warner and House of Representative members Barbara Comstock. Right activists have reasons to blame Pakistan for oppressive residents of PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. A couple of years back Sardar Arif Shahid, a leader of PoK, who also held the chair of J&K National Liberation Conference (JKNLC) and All Parties National Alliance (APNA) was murdered in Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. The political leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir have Pakistani secret agencies for this cold blooded murder. He was shot dead from close range in front of his house on Adiyala Road in Rawalpindi. It was reported that a car carrying the assailant arrived in front of his house exactly at the time when he was leaving his home in his vehicle. The assailants blocked his way and fired gun shots at him. Shahid died on the spot while the assailants escaped from the scene and remain at large.
Arif Shahid, who is the author of dozens of books pertaining to freedom struggle in Kashmir, was one of the most senior leaders of Pakistani Kashmir and an outspoken person who held sentiments of freedom for Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistani occupied Kashmir. Few months ago, he was arrested and tortured in Mirpur along with two political leaders of Indian controlled Kashmir who had come to Pakistani Kashmir on a valid visa. He was later released due to huge protests that covered entire Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Arif Shahid's killing was act of state terrorism. He was the leading voice opposing militancy and terrorism in Kashmir. Like in Balochistan, Pakistani secret agencies are involved in detention, torture, rape and murder of innocent people of Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir. He was the voice and hope of liberal forces in Pakistan controlled Kashmir and he never compromised on his views.