By Syed Shams Uddin
THOUGH unofficial, President Dr Arif Alvi’s visit to Gilgit-Baltistan the other day assumes great significance insofar his categorical and unambiguous assurance to accelerate the process of giving constitutional rights to people of Gilgit-Baltitan is concerned. Indeed, the constitutional rights’ issue remains the core problem of this region hanging in balance for the last seven decades at a stretch which has been made subject to a dithering with broken promises and backtrackings. The president is now referred to as having said rather outspokenly that the constitutional rights’ issue which to the GBian is ‘the mother of all issues’, would be taken up as soon as he is back in Islamabad as reported by regional print media. He is also referred to have said that he will have a look at ‘Sartaj Aziz Committee’ report as well whilst asking the regional people to tell as to what setup they would really like. Viewed in this backdrop, the president’s visit though unofficial, signifies great importance in that no head of state ever before expressed the resolve in such no uncertain terms to determine the status of this region attuned to the aspirations and wishes of the GBians nor was an assurance of the ort in such categorical terms and remarkable aplomb made by any head of the state of this country was ever made before. The tone and tenor of the presidential resolve as reported by the print media to address among others, the core issue of the constitutional limbo the region indeed comes as a glimmer of hope at this juncture and hence is tremendously heartening having come as a great solace in a moment of great despair as the clarity of the pronouncement holds it. The people here at this point time, believe sanguinely that all misconceptions about the region’s distinct historical geo-political standing will be removed.
The great misconception that fundamentally led to the limbo is inter alia that during all this period a great fallacy emerged because of unjustly considering only one chapter of the region’s history id est the Dogra occupation during second half of the 19th century till its end on 1st November in an utter disregard to and callously overlooking the rest of the historical background constituting multi-chapter – the real history that quite unquestionably has a bearing on this region’s veritable status as an independent entity. Before the forcible occupation of this region during the course of a saga of warring spanning second half of the 19th century, the region comprised a cluster of independent tiny mountain kingdoms or mirdoms.It becomes construable therefore, that it is this fallacious substitution of the Dogra’s occupation chapter for the real history out of sheer misconceived and misleading perception that overtime led to and engendered an unnecessary imbroglio in the constitutional context the region is currently facing. This all along, got wrongfully highlighted with an undue and irrational reliance on only one chapter of Gilgit-Baltistan’s history as against the original multi-chapters of the history of this region to put succinctly. It has to be seen that there has been a noticeable dithering and hesitance so far in the context of declaring G-B as a constitutional part of Pakistan regardless of the unequivocal accession of the Gbians because of the misconception as stated before. Even the landmark decision of the honorable court of Pakistan was lackadaisically and partially implemented that too, a decade after. The honorable Supreme Court’s verdict of 1999 required the executive to resolve the matter by making efficacious arrangements but instead, it culminated in the Order 2009 called the GIlgit-Baltistan Governance Order instead of giving rights through an Act of parliament. Thus the issue of constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan stands backburnered and hangs in balance yet again. The previous government formed a committee headed by Senator Sartaj Aziz to look into the matter but the findings of the report too remained somewhat shelved. In such a scenario, president Dr Arif Alvi’s statement can be regarded something that brings great hope in that none of his peers ever before neither addressed the issue so outspokenly, nor did anything tangible emerged all along in the past to resolve the core problem of this region save cosmetic changes made in the governance. The president was referred to as saying that hectic efforts would be made soon in this respect on when he is back in Islamabad. The Gbians genuinely boastful they are of their region’s being a veritable oasis of patriotism with their unflinching an consistent fidelity to their principled stand of being a distinct entity having freed their land and acceded to Pakistan. They can justly boast of this unique land, inhabited by a valiant people characterized by distinctive geographical, historical, socio-cultural background and above all, the exemplary spirit of their remaining an fiercely independent entity all along their history (ancient and medieval) bravely and jealously guarding their frontiers against all outsiders, as a cursory look at the ancient as well as medieval accounts of this hitherto landlocked territory in juxtaposition to the modern will sufficiently make it crystal clear and bear unambiguous testimony provided there be no deliberate obtuseness in this particular context. Thus Imbued so much ebulliently with patriotism and fidelity par excellence, the Gbians had had throughout history, jealously guarded their frontiers as do the lofty peaks and the giant mountains standing sentinel over this region. But nevertheless, the region fell on turbulent times presaging a dreadful fate that befell on them that triggered the cataclysmic change inter alia, that the rulers of these tiny states were ironically engaged in internecine squabbles at times, that stemmed either from sheer territorial ambitions or when it came to dethroning one to enthrone another. As fate would have it, these intra-dynastic feuds at long last, paved the way for incursions from outside and the tiny yet sovereign entities started tottering one after the other, towards the middle of the 19th century with the invaders being well poised to gain steady control of the whole of this region towards the close of the 19th century.
To begin with, the underlying cause id est internal dissension resulting from intra-family feud provided a fertile ground for the adverse winds to blow tempestuously and culminate in the eventual crumbling of each tottering fiefdom. The Dogras of Jammu and the Governor of Sikh Darbar of Srinagar starting intrusions into the area ostensibly to assist a ruling family but in fact with ulterior motives of occupying the entire region. Briefly stated, the Dogras made incursions into this region during the second half of the 19th century while the regional people kept resisting fiercely. At long last, they invaders forcibly occupied the entire area towards of turn of that century . However, the people of this region rose in revolt against the occupying forces and liberated their territory on 1st November 1947 and acceded to Pakistan a fortnight later.It is to be seen that prior the Dogra occupation, the region consisted of about twelve tiny yet independent mountain kingdoms or mirdoms, from times immemorial. Thus by driving the occupying forces out on 1st November 1947, they returned to their former state but nevertheless, they acceded to Pakistan in its aftermath. What happened after that is in short that the period of forcible occupation by Dogras not spanning even one century – came to be regarded as the region’s history while unjustly spurning and rather casting to the winds the multi-chapters of this region’s independent history. It is thing mistaken view that has led to the current state. It is worthwhile to state that India has been terming Gilgit-Baltistan as an integral part of the State of J&K dubbing this region as disputed by paltering with facts associated with Gilgit-Baltistan’s ancient and medieval history. It is high time that the regional status is viewed in terms of and in consonance with its history and the accession of this region’s people to Pakistan after liberating their territory in 1947 by exercising their own free cumulative will as a free people be accepted.
In sum, Ladakh was first invaded in 1834 by Dogra general Zorawar Singh which was soon followed by incursion into Baltistan for identical reasons as the fiefdom then was rocked by petty intrigues and riven with intra-dynastic rivalries and factional bickering. It is to be noted that he second half of the nineteenth century ominously spawned and unleashed a ceaseless warfare while the regional people fiercely kept resisting all these invasions throughout this turbulent period but eventually failed. This period may, therefore, with profit, be called the period of uncertainty and essentially cataclysmic in the regional history. If one is to run eye over the ancient and medieval history of G-B, it would become manifestly clear that the region all along, consisted of and apportioned into a dozen tiny yet independent kingdoms each ruled over by a despotic, independent local ruler, from times immemorial and towards second half of the 19th century when the Dogras made incursions into this region for the first time. The regional people seeking an opportune moment to drive the occupiers out and as such heroically threw off the yoke the Dogras fastened to their neck during the course of a tug of war spanning about second half of the 19th century. With this, they quite unquestionably returned to their original geo-political position id est that existed prior to the second half of the 19th century. albeit joining Pakistan by exercising their cumulative will as a free and independent people.
To be continued……..
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org