New Delhi: In a bid to lodge a protest against the crackdown by the Pakistani Army, people in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, took to the street on Saturday morning.
According to news agency ANI, protesters said 500 young men have been imprisoned for asking the Pakistani Army to leave Gilgit’s soil.
Raising 'anti-Pakistan' slogans, angry protesters came out in Gilgit town, Astore, Diamer and Hunza of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is the only Shia-dominated area in Sunni-dominated Pakistan.
The political crackdown and arrests in Gilgit were made against people protesting against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which protesters said would only benefit China and Pakistan's Punjabi traders.
The youth of Gilgit are not being involved in any manner with the CPEC and those who are protesting are being harshly dealt with, said the protesters.
Over 500 young Gilgitis have been jailed, including Gilgit's top political activist Baba Jan, which saw increasing mass street-based movement for his release.
Protesters alleged that Pakistan is perpetrating massive human rights abuses to crush the political aspirations of the people of Gilgit.
— ANI (@ANI_news) August 13, 2016
The Pakistan government has signed a multi-billion dollar deal on a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Gilgit, which activists and separatists in the region see as a design by the two neighbours to exploit the resources in the occupied territory. The corridor is said to be part of China's ambitious proposed 21st century Silk Road (also called the Belt and Road) initiative to reach out to Central Asia.
The Chinese government is said to have made huge investments in the vast but sparsely populated Gilgit-Baltistan area, bisected by the Karakoram highway, which leads from the plains of north Pakistan to China.
The protests came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi minced no words in terming cross-border terrorism supported by Pakistan as the root cause of turbulence in the Kashmir Valley and said the time had come to expose the atrocities committed "by our neighbouring nation" in Balochistan and the areas of Jammu and Kashmir under its illegal occupation.
Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan after the 1948 war. Pakistan has separated Gilgit-Baltistan from the areas occupied by it in Kashmir and designated it as a separate administrative territory.
The landlocked region borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, Indian Kashmir to the south and southeast, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.
Traditionally, Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is a disputed region and its status should be decided through a plebiscite under the UN resolution of 1948-49.
(With Agency inputs)