Bhan condemns Pak declaration to make Gilgit-Baltistan its 5th province

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Nov 1: Chairman Kashmir Policy and Strategy Group, Ashok Bhan has condemned and challenged the decision of Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s declaration of Gilgit-Baltistan as the interim fifth province of Pakistan.
Speaking at a webinar, Bhan said the announcement is likely to spark massive outrage as it will have much wider implications which will set the tone for exacerbating tensions that are already being played out in the east along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border. He said Gilgit- Baltistan, earlier known as northern areas, has been governed by ‘Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009’ which established an electoral framework. Elections have been held in the region under the order that provides for only limited autonomy.
Bhan said: “The people accused Pakistan of systematically exploiting the region of its resources sharing no dividends with them. Any resistance they said meets brutal government reprisal with activists and leaders hounded, arrested and tortured.”
He said, on October 8, a massive protest was held by J&K activists and Student Liberation Front in Muzaffarabad city of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) against Government’s decision to make Gilgit-Baltistan a province.
He claimed that political activists said they will sacrifice themselves but will not let Pakistan alter the status of the region while the people from Gilgit-Baltistan living in other Pakistani towns have taken to streets against Islamabad’s arbitrary decision.
He quoted geo strategic experts to say that the move is an attempt by Pakistan to assert its claim over Gilgit-Baltistan region which follows the recent decision to award Chinese company a contract to construct the Diamer-Bhasha Dam in the region. Bhan said, New Delhi had recently protested against the planned construction of the $15 million projects in the territory illegally occupied by Pakistan.
He said people of J&K as well as India maintains its position on Gilgit-Baltistan and the entire region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is and will continue to be integral part of India.