`China de facto controls Gilgit-Baltistan in Pak`

Senge Sering alleged that ISI was using Gilgit-Baltistan as a hide out and launch pad for the extremist militants.

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2011, 09:37 AM IST

Washington: Claiming that Chinese personnel
have assumed the de-facto control of the Gilgit-Baltistan
region, a Washington-based think-tank told US lawmakers that
the area would end up like Tibet and East Turkestan if China`s
unwarranted interventions are not challenged.

In its testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights
Commission of the US Congress, Institute for Gilgit Baltistan
Studies called for demilitarisation of Gilgit-Baltistan,
promotion of genuine autonomy and democracy, withdrawal of
extremist elements, re-instatement of state subject rule and
people to people contact between Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan.

"The US must persuade both India and Pakistan to open
channels of economic and cultural activity between Ladakh and
Gilgit-Baltistan and enable the UN to take increase its role
in Gilgit-Baltistan to protect the rights of natives," said
Senge Sering during a hearing by Tom Lantos Human Rights
Commission on Indigenous People of Asia.

"The Institute believes that substantial decrease in
Pakistani influence in Gilgit-Baltistan will allow promotion
of indigenous cultures and help neutralise extremism and Arab
tribal influences that have been forced upon the natives in
the name of Islamic values," Sering said.

Sering, a native of Gilgit Baltistan, alleged that
Pakistan and China`s vested strategic and economic interests
in Gilgit-Baltistan restrict the natives from benefiting from
their own resources.

He said that Pakistan`s unilateral decision to award
mining licenses to the Chinese companies has endangered
control of the natives over their land.

"Despite repeated local demands, Islamabad has failed to
transfer legislative authority over trade and transit routes;
and resource management to the indigenous political
institutions, which limits access to revenue worth millions of
dollars," he said.

Asserting that Gilgit-Baltistan was a disputed region,
Sering alleged that it remains in tight control of Pakistan`s
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

As of now, more than 180 activists remain behind bars for
demanding political and religious rights and many face
sedition charges for confronting Chinese and Pakistani
companies, he said.

Sering alleged that ISI was using Gilgit-Baltistan as a
hide out and launch pad for the extremist militants who
actively support Pakistan`s Talibanisation.

"On many occasions, natives clashed with these rogue
elements but failed to oust them due to pressure from secret
service agencies," Sering said, adding the situation, in which
thousands of Chinese personnel have assumed de-facto control
of the region, poses serious political threats both for the
natives and the international community.

"China`s presence in Gilgit-Baltistan complicates the
Kashmir issue and prolongs the dispute between India and
Pakistan which is like oxygen to the terrorists and rogue
elements within ISI. The situation could lead to a potential
war between three nuclear nations creating political and
economic instability at the global scale," he warned.

Sering said many among locals fear that Gilgit-Baltistan
would end up like Tibet and East Turkestan if China`s
unwarranted interventions are not challenged.

"They emphasize that since both Pakistan and China lack
constitutional rights and sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan;
therefore international community must help in withdrawal of
Pakistani and Chinese personnel and citizens from the region,"
he urged.

Asking the US` intervention, he said that US should help
prevent human rights violations caused due to these massive
scale land grabs which pose threats to local livelihoods.

"The US must persuade both India and Pakistan to open
channels of economic and cultural activity between Ladakh and
Gilgit-Baltistan and enable the UN to take increase its role
in Gilgit-Baltistan to protect the rights of natives," he
said.

The substantial decrease in Pakistani influence in
Gilgit-Baltistan will allow promotion of indigenous cultures
and help neutralise extremism and Arab tribal influences that
have been forced upon the natives in the name of Islamic
values, he added.

PTI