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Gilgit-Baltistan order to appease China: EFSAS

Pakistan’s new Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 is illegal and is aimed at appeasing China to ensure the success of the over USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a European think tank has said.

An analytical report published by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, would only add to a long-list of issues already bedeviling Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and added that China’s reaction to it proves its disregard for human rights.

“China, through its reaction, has once again revealed its proclivity to totally disregard human rights violations, the rules of international engagement and the rights of indigenous people that come in the path of its single-minded pursuit of its geo-strategic and economic goals,” the Amsterdam-based think tank said.

On May 27, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi proposed the Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms Order 2018, which was a replacement for the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order of 2009.

The new order was aimed at providing greater administrative and financial powers to Gilgit Baltistan than its predecessor. According to the report, members of the opposition in the GB Legislative Assembly stormed out while tearing copies of the new order and joined ongoing protests at the Ittehad Chowk in Gilgit.

“The PM imposed the order just a few days before the end of his government despite knowing the aspirations of people and their opposition to the bill,” said the leader of the opposition, Muhammad Shafi, who demanded constitutional rights be accorded to the people of GB, which had been governed by orders and reforms for 70 years.

The report also cited that India, which claims GB as part of the Instrument of Accession of 26 October 1947, maintained its stance on the order as being an attempt by Pakistan to incrementally incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan as its fifth province.

“It was clearly conveyed that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947. Any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable,” read a press released from India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

The report suggested that Pakistan’s dilemma regarding GB stems from its geo-strategic importance, which has increased exponentially since the signing of the USD 60 billion agreement on the CPEC.

“GB is the only territory controlled by Pakistan that borders China, and the Karakorum highway, the arterial link of the CPEC, enters Pakistan after passing through about 600 kilometres in GB. Hence, without GB, Pakistan cannot possibly have a CPEC which its faltering economy has placed all hopes of revival on. Peace and stability in GB is, therefore, of paramount importance to Pakistan. The Gilgit-Baltistan Reforms Order 2018 represents Pakistan’s feeble, half-hearted attempt at assuaging the sentiments of the people of the region. That it failed to delude them is obvious from the widespread protests it generated,” the EFSAS said in its report.

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