Foreign interference in Gilgit-Baltistan
Gilgit-Baltistan is an integral part of Pakistan. By virtue of its location, it acts as a strategic bridge for Chinese and Central Asian States down south to the warmer shores of north Arabian seas and beyond. However, the Gilgit-Baltistan remains vulnerable to spill-overs of India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir, US war in Afghanistan and Indo-US connivance to thwart Chinese influence in the region.
The Iranian revolution of 1979 and subsequent Iran-Iraq war also added to the instability of Gilgit-Baltistan and created dissentions in the native polity resulting in perpetual sectarian strife between the two major entities of the province, Shias and Sunnis. Iran riding on the popular sentiments of the Shia community of the province provided huge funding to the community out of which militant organizations like Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah Jafaria (TNFJ), Sipah-e-Mohammad and others were created to counter Saudi funded Sunni organizations.
India, that traditionally hinders Pakistani efforts to develop pro-Pakistan environment in areas bordering parts of Indian Occupied Kashmir, also exploits the existing sectarian divide to create law and order situation in Gilgit-Baltistan. India also uses its Taliban proxies to attack road transport carrying mostly the Shiites either going to or returning from Gilgit-Baltistan.
The main road leading to GB runs closer to the Afghan border. Moreover, the footprints of RAW’s separatist and terrorist activities in GB are the same as found in Balochistan. To ensure that no development activities takes place in Gilgit-Baltistan, the Indian intelligence agency (RAW) sponsors like minded nationalistic elements in the province. Indian nationals that have migrated to Pakistan from across India and settled in GB as refugees are exploited too by the agents of RAW that force them to work for India. The Indian intelligence agency also sponsors visits of selected nationalistic elements from Gilgit-Baltistan to further its agenda by offering them huge financial perks.
United States’ has also renewed its focus on the province of Gilgit-Baltistan in the last two years, this time to check Chinese expansion. To ensure that it also remains relevant, it has already invested in the education sector of the province financially. The US Embassy officials in Pakistan visited the province a couple of times last year including the US Ambassador who met local officials there. The US also had funded construction of Satpara Dam which is located a few miles from Skardu.
After the initial resistance to fund Diamer Bhasha Dam at the insistence of Indian lobbyists, it apparently has agreed to fund the project from the Kerry Lugar Berman Package. Despite India’s hectic efforts to block international funding for construction of the Dam, US nod for the same would give the project some credibility and may induce donor agencies and other countries to form part of the Dam financing consortium, which shows the US strategic interests in containing China.
On the international front, India has recruited foreign nationals like members of parliaments of various countries, human rights organizations and think-tanks to work for India to demean Pakistan and its armed forces.
At the behest of Indians, hearings on matters of Gilgit-Baltistan in the respective parliaments are arranged by these foreigners to debate and exploit negative events taking place in Gilgit-Baltistan, how small and irrelevant they may be to support separatist demands and fuel misperceptions to further strategic interests. In this regard, Emma Nicholson, Vice Chairperson of the Committee of foreign affairs of the European Union on hectic lobbying by think tanks and parliamentarians gave an audience to Gilgit-Baltistan separatist leader Abdul Hamid Khan.
During the audience Hamid Khan pressed Emma Nicholson to move a resolution in the European Parliament on so-called human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan. Hamid Khan is not the only one who gets sponsored by India abroad to indulge in anti-Pakistan activities. Joining the same coterie is another Pakistani origin American Imtiaz Hussain who did his degree in electronics from the USA and is now working hand in hand with Indian establishment for the Gilgit-Baltistan separatist cause.
Along with Mr. Senge H. Sering, Pakistani educated activist heading the Institute of Gigit-Baltistan Study center in Washington, Imtiaz Hussain regularly writes for alienating the local population from the state of Pakistan. By doing so they are craftily furthering the Indian agenda by projecting distorted historical facts about Pakistan’s independence and the status of Gilgit-Baltistan. Sering is presently based in New Delhi and participates in the academic activities of the Indian Institute of Defense and Strategic Analysis (IDSA) as a visiting faculty. Being closely associated with Indian think-tanks, he translates their agenda by accommodating their aspirations and designs in the related work on Gilgit-Baltistan at Washington’s study center. Sering’s write-ups in magazines and newspapers reflect efforts to create doubts and make the status of Gilgit-Baltistan province controversial in the eyes of his readers.
His writings portray as if the province of Gilgit-Baltistan is passing through turmoil and a great sense prevails amongst its activists that want separation from Pakistan. Sering, as reflected in his write-ups, is an avowed supporter of trade across the LOC from Ladakh to Gilgit-Baltistan. Playing the Indian game, he does not support the economic development of the province by falsely portraying that construction of Dams, laying out road; rail and energy infrastructure in the province would hurt its eco-system.
Supporting the Indian scheme of things, Indian electronic media with its over arching reach around the globe is also playing an important role to influence its viewers on Gilgit-Baltistan. The Indian media airs anti-Pakistan nationalistic programs, discussions and talks shows on Gilgit-Baltistan to influence the thinking of the general masses of the province on separatism and extremism. To counter such propaganda our media needs to counter Indian designs on Pakistan. Pakistani media must understand the greater objectives of anti-Pakistan forces and should not inadvertently start playing in the hands of nefarious propagandists. Our media should also try to air favorable programs highlighting the state’s efforts to improve the life of Gilgit-Baltistan through various development schemes in the province.
The people of the province need to be educated on the economic benefits that these development schemes would accrue for them once they are completed. Being naturally very tolerant, the people of GB are destined to have a bright future if we combine together to check and thwart ulterior motives of inimical forces that are working on psychological front.(Bassam Javed)