Geneva [Switzerland], Mar. 17 (ANI): Asserting that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will convert the Baloch people into minorities in their own homeland, Human rights campaigner from Balochistan Noordin Mengal stated that with an influx of outsiders due to the project, the identity of the Baloch will be threatened.
Speaking to ANI here on the sidelines of the event "In the Shadow of the Silk Road: Economic Exploitation and Human Rights Violations in Balochistan" during the 34th UN session of the Human Rights Council here, the activist highlighted Pakistan's rampant human rights abuse being carried out in the disputed region, adding that thousands have disappeared and scores are being killed and dumped publically by the army.
"Pakistan has ruthlessly treated the Baloch people and tried to convert them into a minority within their own homeland. It has different methods to silent the Baloch people. The current military operation began in 2005 , since then thousands have disappeared, hundreds have been abducted and killed and their bodies have been dumped in public areas," he said.
Talking about the looming threat of the CPEC for Balochistan, Mengal stated that the core issue of the project is that the development would bring an influx of non-Baloch and convert the Baloch into a minority, as the Gwadar Port will bring massive job opportunities in the wake of the construction of the trade route.
"The CPEC project is something the Baloch have not approved. Even the provincial government has not been consulted and they are bystanders when it comes to the CPEC. Lots of people have been evacuated from their ancestral homes. China and Pakistan want to complete the CPEC at any cost even if it means wiping out Baloch people," Mengal added.
International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International USA T Kumar, who was also a speaker at the event, stressed that the CPEC will give a cover and encouragement to the Pakistani Government to continue its abuses, which have been extremely disturbing in Balochistan.
"This will give them a railroad to push it through and to abuse local population, especially in those areas. The overall situation is disturbing, especially in Balochistan and increasingly in Karachi now. It all boils down to impunity aspect, as the government can get away under the cover of war and terror, which they can use to go after anyone," Kumar told ANI.
Gilgit-Baltistan has been occupied since 1947, when a British-supported military coup led to Pakistani control and the construction of CPEC, which runs through the occupied nation, has evoked a cry of outrage from several forums across the globe.
CPEC is a 51.5 billion dollar project that aims to connect Kashgar, in China's western province of Xinjiang, with the port of Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
Though Gilgit Baltistan plays a key role in the CPEC project and all roads and pipelines crossing into China from Pakistan will run through this mountainous region, there are no plans for any special economic packages to support the people of Gilgit.
The locals, as stakeholders in the project, have been demanding that the Pakistani government shares details of the project with them, failing which they would consider the project, being constructed through an area contested by India, as illegal.
As a largely remote area with a delicate eco-system, Gilgit has been grappling with the problem of ecological imbalance due to uncontrolled deforestation.
Now, with the CPEC project planning to upgrade the Karakoram highway and build a rail network in the region, there are concerns that the project will displace thousands of locals and render them homeless, and also disturb the fragile ecology of the region.
Meanwhile, responding to reports that Pakistan is set to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as fifth province, India has firmly said that any unilateral attempt to change this would not have any legal basis, adding that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is and will remain integral part of the country.
"Such a step will not be able to hide the illegality of attempt and illegality of Pakistan's occupation of the parts of Jammu and Kashmir which it must vacate forthwith. It will also not be able to hide the tremendous and very concerning human rights violation and denial of freedom that has been going in those parts under Pakistan's control for the last 70 years," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Gopal Baglay said.
The Gilgit-Baltistan area is Pakistan's northernmost administrative territory that borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
A committee headed by Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz recommended granting the region a provincial status.
Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh are four provinces of Pakistan. (ANI)