Gilgit-Baltistan: How region 6 times the size of PoK passed on to Pakistan

Passing a motion yesterday, the UK Parliament said that Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.

The UK Parliament has said what India has been saying for 70 years. That Gilgit-Baltistan belongs to India as an integral part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir after it legally acceded to the Union in 1947.

Passing a motion yesterday, the UK Parliament said that Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir, illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.

WHERE IS GILGIT-BALTISTAN?

Geographically, Gilgit-Baltistan is situated in the trans-Himalayan region on the northwestern corner of the Kashmir Valley, a part of which has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since it invaded the region after the partition of India.

Gilgit-Baltistan was part of the formerly princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (then identified as the state of Kashmir and Jammu). Under the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, the princely state consisted of five regions.

The five regions were: Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit Wazarat, and Gilgit Agency. With changing equations in the early 20th century after the formation of the USSR in 1917, the British took Gilgit Agency on a 60-year-lease from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in 1935.

THE PARTITION

After the Second World War, the British, unable to sustain pressure from India's freedom struggle, decided to partition the country into India and Pakistan.

It gave the princely states the right to merge with either of the two provided their territory had geographical continuity with the nation they wished to accede to.

The British also returned the Gilgit Agency to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, 15 days after India attained independence. Gilgit again came under the direct rule of the Maharaja as a legal part of his state.

After independence, both India and Pakistan went for territorial consolidation. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir decided not to accede to either India or Pakistan. But, the situation soon changed as Pakistan invaded the princely state in October 1947.

HOW GILGIT FELL TO PAKISTAN

Pakistan captured about a part of Kashmir by means of invasion and the entire Gilgit region - generally called Gilgit-Baltistan - by the treachery of British military officer of the Maharaja.

Under lease, Gilgit-Baltistan was protected by a British-controlled force called the Gilgit Scouts. After the British terminated the lease, they loaned two of their officers - Major W A Brown and Captain A S Mathieson - to the Maharaja for the purpose of looking after the defence of Gilgit-Baltistan till an alternative arrangement was found.

But as Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on October 31 in 1947, Major Brown revolted and captured King's governor Brigadier Ghansara Singh. Major Brown then informed this former British boss stationed at Peshawar about his decision to accede to Pakistan.

The decision is said to be influenced by the British understanding of the reaction of the Arab nations after the formation of Pakistan. The British did not want to antagonise the oil-rich nations by apparently taking an anti-Muslim stand at a time when the fears of Soviet communism dominated the West.

Major Brown defected on November 1 and the Pakistani forces occupied Gilgit-Baltistan on November 4. Since then, Gilgit-Baltistan has been under Pakistan's administrative control.

CURRENT STATUS OF GILGIT-BALTISTAN

After gaining control of the region, Pakistan renamed the Gilgit Wazarat and Gilgit Agency as The Northern Areas of Pakistan. It is directly administered by the federal government of Pakistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan has an elected Assembly with limited powers to frame laws. The area is governed by a council headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan has been treated as a separate geographical entity by successive Pakistani governments. Gilgit-Baltistan does not find any mention in Pakistan's Constitution.

But things seem to have changed with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan has already gifted a portion (about 5,000-8,000 sq km) of Gilgit-Baltistan in 1963, a year after the Indo-China war.

However, Pakistan has been trying to change the demography of Gilgit-Baltistan for decades. In 1970s, former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had abrogated the State Subject Rule to allow Sunni Muslims to settle down in the Shia-dominated Gilgit-Baltistan. This has worked in Pakistan's favour.

Recently, a committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan be officially recognised as the fifth province of Pakistan in addition to Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also read | British Parliament condemns Pakistan's move over Gilgit-Baltistan, says it belongs to India

Also read | BJP member moves bill seeking Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha seats for Gilgit, PoK

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