Explaining Gilgit-Baltistan Crisis for Dummies
Gilgit-Baltistan ;the most important tourist attractions in Pakistan has a long history of struggle. For beginners, Gilgit-Baltistan are two separate places adjacent in the same region. Gilgit was liberated on November 1, 1947 while Baltistan was freed in 1948 as a result of a bloody freedom war.
Where it began: Before independence, present-day GB was part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir which was one of the largest princely states of India. This state was created in 1846 after the signing of a treaty between the British and Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty.
The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir had four units: the province of Jammu, the province of Kashmir, the district of Gilgit and the district of Ladakh.
In 1846 British directly occupied and created the ‘Gilgit Agency’ in order to bring the area under their control keeping in mind the geostrategic importance of it. From there began the era of dual British-Dogra control in Gilgit.
Gilgit Scouts: British Indian Empire’s main goal was to secure its northern border. Thus a local paramilitary force was formed under the title of Gilgit Scouts. They were trained and equipped by British Army.
In 1935 British took over the administration of Gilgit Agency under the lease for 60 years by Dogra regime but Baltistan remain under Dogra
Plot twist: British abruptly canceled the lease and offered the administration of Jammu and Kashmir to take over Gilgit. Eventually the region came under the rule of Maharaja.
Scout and Army: Under the Maharaja rule Gilgit Scouts grew concerns over their status and requested the head of state to make them a part of the Kashmiri Army. But as the independence spirit grew more in subcontinent, Muslim uprising became a challenge for Dogra Raj, in reaction to this Dogra decided to make Kashmir a part of India.
The Revolt: On October 31st, 1947 Gilgit Scouts initiated a revolt against the regime. Under the leadership of Mirza Hasan Khan, Scout attacked the Sikh troop of Maharaja and remained successful. Sikh Army fled to Rondu Baltistan.
That’s why 1st November, 1947 is celebrated as Independence day of “Islamic Republic of Gilgit”
After 15 days of independence Gilgit acceded with Pakistan.
The Raja of Rondu wrote a letter and invited the Gilgit Scouts to liberate Baltistan from Dogra Raj, as there was no organised local force in the area.
Locals along with Gilgit Scouts fought against both Kashmiri and Sikh Army of Dogra Raj. Eventually Baltistan unconditionally acceded with Pakistan.
Plot twist(again): Gilgit-Baltistan did accede with Pakistan but their loyalty and hope immediately shattered when a colonial law i.e. Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was imposed in the region.
What is FCR: FCR bestows a civil servant the supreme authority regarding executive, legislative and judiciary. This law till now has deprived GB of its administrative autonomy.
But why not give GB a provisional status
Here’s why: Nosheen Ali, in her book “Delusional States” explained that Pakistan has used this special case to gain more support regarding the Kashmir Crisis in the United Nation. This special status of Gilgit-Baltistan has been a crucial part of any government in Pakistan.
What happened now: PTI-government recently announced that Gilgit-Baltistan will be a part of Pakistan, the government suggested to hold a plebiscite. If this bold step is mere rhetoric then it will be a disappointment for the people of the region. Many GB journalists and intellectuals believe that this step is a political pointer and suppression of right of self determination.
Either way this decision will surely impact GB future politically and socially.