In case of referendum, we will vote for India: Top Gilgit-Baltistan leader

Mohammed Uzair Shaikh
"If referendum happens, people will vote for India. They never committed atrocities on us. Neither have they ever attempted to occupy our land," said Abdul Hamid Khan, leader of Balawaristan National Front.

New Delhi, April 29: Senior Gilgit-Baltistan leader Abdul Hamid Khan claims the region will vote en-masse to join India, in case of referendum. While addressing a gathering in Gilgit, Hamid accused Pakistan of unleashing atrocities against the inhabitants of the disputed province. He further alleged arrest of dozens of human rights activists who have opposed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which would pass through Gilgit-Baltistan and areas of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

“If referendum happens, people will vote for India. They never committed atrocities on us. Neither have they ever attempted to occupy our land. Instead, it was Pakistan who took over our territory without the will of the inhabitants,” Hamid said.

Accusing Pakistan of maintaining turbulence in the disputed territory, Hamid pointed that India “never initiated war” in the region. Siachen was taken back by India only after the cowardly army of Pakistan attacked the neighbouring nation, he added.

CPEC, the ambitious road project aiming to connect Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang to Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan requires some swaths of land to be cleared to infrastructural purpose. Activists of Gilgit-Baltistan have accused Pakistan’s government of keeping the locals uninformed, while planning to usurp their lands at meagre rates.

The activists have further urged the Pakistani government to secure jobs for locals in the region, rather than appointing youths from the politically dominant Punjab province. “In the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), our people are not hired as they do not have any government backing. There is no one to raise our point at the assembly or in the senate. There are no jobs, no opportunities and no business,” said Gilgit-based human rights’ activist Mohammed Ali Shafa.

Reiterating the point, Hamid today stressed that Gilgit Baltistan would echo India’s concerns related to the CPEC, if the concerns raised by locals are not addressed. “People are aware Gilgit-Baltistan is disputed. By arresting few, you (Pakistan) think CPEC will be built and 42 billion (dollars) will be in your pockets. It is a dream,” he said.