In remarks that will stir up a hornet’s nest within the Pakistani establishment, a prominent activist from Gilgit-Baltistan has demanded that the region be reintegrated with India. He’s also accused China of colluding with Pakistan to plunder the region’s mineral wealth.
Senge H. Sering, who is the director of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies in Washington, has also highlighted the demographic changes being brought about in the region as well as the increasing Chinese presence in a region that India says is its integral part.
Sering was speaking at a day-long conference on ‘Recent Developments in Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’ that had been organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs. Sering who grew up in this province that’s part of PoK and himself has been on the Exit Control List (ECL) of Pakistan for the last six years told SNI wryly, “It means I can fly in but cannot fly out (of the country)”.
His reason for seeking the reintegration of Gilgit-Baltistan with India is historical as he noted that the region was once part of India. Asked what India can do for the cause of Gilgit-Baltistan, he told SNI: “India is a country that has an entire system. It understands the bigger picture and it knows what it has to do.”
Maintaining that Gilgit-Baltistan is being treated as a colony by Pakistan, Sering told SNI: “There is a lot more involvement of the military, they’ve taken control of literally every department; no decision can be taken without its approval. They’ve taken control of most of the useful land and the process hasn’t stopped.”
He also slammed China—the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is to pass through Gilgit-Baltistan—accusing it of being “fully involved with the Pakistan military to control and exploit the resources”. Sering also said there was a “lot more supervision, surveillance” by authorities in the region and “tightening of control over local people. He added, “political activists can’t say anything without getting into trouble”.
As for the demographic change that’s being sought to be brought about, Sering said land along the Karakoram highway has been targeted for effecting this change. He also accused Pak authorities of widespread human rights violations in this region, while also drawing attention to “the huge massacre that happened in 1988”. He remarked, “That was the turning point for the local people. They realised for the first time that Pakistan is not a friend, not a benign benefactor.”
Sering also drew attention to a recent order that’s been passed which effectively prevents the local population from taking control of the land without seeking permission of the authorities.
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