Right to Ownership and Right to Rule: The Revival of Politics in GB

Iftikhar Ali

The political temperature in Gilgit-Baltistan is on rise and it is entering into the triggering phase on the conflict curve since the initiation of CPEC, introduction of a controversial GB Order 2018, grabbing of public lands by the government for federal projects, introduction of taxes, imprisonment of social and political activists in addition to the latent constitutional imbroglio since the people liberated the area and opted to join Pakistan unconditionally. As Machiavelli observed in “The Prince” that the best fortress a ruler can have is not to be hated by the people; if the people rise up there will never be any lack of foreign powers to help them. As we bring this picture into focus in the face of a hybrid war launched against Pakistan, the movement launched by Pakistan Peoples Party’s GB Chapter for the right to ownership and right to rule has won the hearts and minds of the people already deprived of their fundamental human rights for last seven decades. One may begin to doubt that the legitimacy of the claim that the government in Gilgit Baltistan is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. In the current scenario, one may even start to see the actions of the government in Gilgit-Baltistan as robbing individuals of their fundamental right to ownership and right to rule.

Amjad Hussain Advocate, the provincial president of PPP, organized a gargantuan public demonstration on CPEC route at Danyore on November 16, 2016 launching the movement of “Right to Ownership and Right to Rule” against the grabbing of public lands in the name of a controversial laws “Khalisa Sarkar” an outdated policy that was enforced on the two former agencies of Gilgit and Skardu during the Dogra rule and Nautor Rules 1980 introduced by Zia regime. This time, the movement was joined by Bilawal Bhutto Chairman PPP attracting mass mobilizations at district Gilgit, Ghizer, Nagar, Hunza and Diamer. The power show at Gilgit was unprecedented in the contemporary political history of Gilgit which is acknowledged undisputedly; even the political opponents of PPP are not shying away to acknowledge the mass participation. The movement gave a revival to the politics in Gilgit-Baltistan whereby the first ever visit of Bilawal Bhutto injected a new spirit into the peoples love for PPP based on historical reforms introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974, Benazir Bhutto in 1994 and Asif Zardari in 2009.

Usually the leaderships of federal parties like PML(n), PTI and religious parties visit Gilgit-Baltistan during the elections with false promises and pledges to the people. Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to GB was a unique in terms of selection of its timing as the region is engulfed with harsh weather conditions with no election schedule as well as the party is not in the helm of treasury affairs of the government to utilize the government resources for the mobilization of masses. Bilawal’s visit is no doubt termed as a deep-rooted love affair between the mountainous community and PPP’s third generation leadership since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto initiated the reforms giving the people a sense of right to ownership and right to rule by giving a full-stop to Rajgiri and Nambardari systems.

The five days visit of Bilawal Bhutto gave a new lifeline to PPP and revival of issue-based politics in Gilgit-Baltistan. With his Chairman on the stage at political rallies in Gilgit, Ghizer and Diamer, Provincial President of PPP Amjad Hussain Advocate lashed out at Chief Minister GB for creating barriers and not presenting his bill titled “GB Village Common Land (Shamilat Deh) Regulations Act 2016 which is pending at GBLA since 2016. The bill claims that barren land in the region belongs to the local populace rather than the government viz-a-viz seeking compensation for locals if the government requires the land for government and CPEC projects. Once the bill is enacted into law, it will repeal the Nautor Rules 1980 which are against the basic human rights. It is pertinent to mention here that the government has allotted more than ten thousand Kanals of land to different government and military organization without any compensation to the public considering the lands as Khalsa Sarkar. The lands have been allotted in Chilmish Das, Maqpon Das and other places. Military establishment should sense the fact that lands allotted to them from common lands by government could be a huggermugger against them. The devil-may-care attitude will create hatred among the masses.

Keeping in view of the above, the people of the region are eying towards Supreme Court of Pakistan for a robust and implementable decision on the constitutional petition. In such a time of all out despair and hope, the federation and the concerned quarters in the corridors of power need to give importance to the sensitivities of the region whereby a nationalist lava is on the verge of its eruption. Bilawal Bhutto’s visit has no doubt attracted the masses towards a federalist notion to seek the remedies. Since the recent past, there is a sense of estrangement from the federal parties giving space to Awami Action Committee and other nationalist motives. Youth of GB are all time highly concerned with their marginalization and constitutional deprivations.

Having no government at the centre as well as GB, Bilawal was not expected to make announcements other than to extend his support to the right to ownership and right to rule movement launched by his party. However, the people welcomed his announcements to establish Bhutto Universities sub-campuses at Gilgit, increasing the reserve seats for GB students in the medical and engineering colleges of Sindh. Bilawal also pledged to be an ambassador of GB at federation for their right to ownership and right to rule.

In nutshell, Bilawal’s visit was a need of the hour for his party as well as for the federation to reduce the sentiments of deprivation and despair. The concerned quarters must understand that Pakistan is facing a hybrid warfare and in the words of Machiavelli men are so naive and so dominated by present necessities that a deceiver will always find someone who’ll let himself be deceived. This is the right time for the federation as well as for the Supreme Court of Pakistan to extend the long awaited representation in the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan by emending Articles 51(4) and 59 without any prejudice to Pakistan’s principle stance on Jammu and Kashmir dispute till its resolution.

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