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Popular Resentment Is Building Up In Gilgit-Baltistan Of PoJK

The discontent will present a significant challenge to Pakistan’s Federal Government in the long run.

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Nasir Aziz Khan, an activist from Pakistan Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (PoJK), speaking at the 43rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Geneva, on March 10, 2020, raised deep concern over “growing human rights violations taking place in PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan”.

He stated that “peaceful political activists and members of civil society have become targets of state infrastructure”. He urged the UNHRC to ask:

“Pakistan to release all peaceful political prisoners including Baba Jan and Iftikhar Hussain and their colleagues who were trailed under Anti-terrorist act and facing 40 to 80 years imprisonment.”


Baba Jan is one of the most popular leaders in the region, who is serving a life sentence in prison for his alleged role in inciting violence in the region in 2010.

Khan also stressed that “terrorists’ network and infrastructure are very much intact in these areas”. Though he did not specify the groups, he added that “leaders of banned terrorist organizations are roaming freely”.

Pakistan has at least 81 banned terror formations and several of them operate out of and in the PaK region. Sunni extremist outfits such as Ahl-e-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), the front organisation of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have a strong presence in Gilgit Baltistan in particular.


Way back in 2013, reports had confirmed that, as in the neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had opened a new front in Gilgit Baltistan, and their terrorists were operating in the region.

As SAIR had noted earlier Islamabad has turned PaK – including both ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Gilgit Baltistan – into a hub of Islamist extremism and terrorism since the 1990s. Militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and many others have been facilitated to create bases and training camps in the region.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Gilgit Baltistan has accounted for at least 170 terrorism-related fatalities (104 civilians, 26 SF personnel, 26 terrorists, and 14 Not Specified) in 57 incidents of killing since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data (data till March 22, 2020).

The worst of these incidents took place on June 23, 2013, when TTP militants attacked a base camp of the Nanga Parbat mountain in the Bonar area of Diamer District in Gilgit Baltistan, and killed 10 foreign tourists-cum-mountaineers. One Pakistani woman guide was also killed in the incident.

Meanwhile, speaking at the 43rd Session of the UNHRC, Senge H. Sering, Director of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies, Washington, demanded from Pakistan “to release political prisoners including dozens serving life-term”.


Sering further demanded:

“I remind Pakistan and China about their commitment to promotion and protection of human rights including accountability for violations and request both to cooperate fully with the Council when dealing with disputed territories like Gilgit-Baltistan. This includes complete withdrawal from the territory to enable genuine stakeholders to solve the chronic political impasse.”

He also urged Islamabad to refrain from declaring locals’ terrorists for demanding self-rule and share in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The statement of these two activists describe the factual position of the unending sufferings of the people of the region.

Instead of dealing with all these concerns, Pakistan is in more of a hurry to further change the constitutional status of the region to tighten Islamabad’s vice grip.

The region has always been under illegal occupation and direct control of the powers that be in Islamabad, though some nominal autonomy was provided at the local level in 2009, with the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2009.

The steps taken in 2018 and thereafter, however, are intended to destroy that notional autonomy as well.

According to reports, the Government is trying to bring the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2020.

Though the details were not made available, reports indicate that, through this order, the Government is attempting to undermine the Self-Governance order in violation of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling of January 17, 2019.

It is useful to recall that the then Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on May 21, 2018, had promulgated the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, with the ostensible aim to provide the “same rights enjoyed by the other citizens of Pakistan to people of Gilgit-Baltistan.”


The real aim was, in fact, to ‘incorporate’ Gilgit-Baltistan as the ‘fifth province’ of Pakistan, and to quell any voice of opposition to China’s ambitious CPEC project.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan realized this at the very beginning and opposed the Order. Unsurprisingly, on June 20, 2018, the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan, the highest court of the region, suspended the newly-promulgated Order.

The matter went to Pakistan’s Supreme Court and, on August 8, 2018, the Court restored the Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, suspending the decision of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan. A three-member SC bench, headed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard the appeal and CJP Nisar observed, “The government needs to ensure that the people of GB have the same respect and rights as all others.”

In view of the SC’s emphasis on ‘equal rights’ to the people of GB, the Pakistan Government proposed Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Reforms 2019.

Though the details of the Reforms 2019 were not publicly available, it was reported that some rights had been ceded to the people. On January 17, 2019, the SC ruled that the ‘modified order’ shall be forthwith promulgated by the President on the advice of the Federal Government, within a fortnight.

As expected, the deadline was not met, and the Federal Government on May 13, 2019, sought time to implement the Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Reforms 2019. the application filed by Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit and Baltistan stated, “Timeframe prescribed in the January 17, 2019, judgement may kindly be extended.”

The application observed, further:

“Some discontentment expressed by the people and the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan were reported (sic). The people of Gilgit-Baltistan demanded that instead of governing Gilgit-Baltistan through Presidential Orders, the area should be governed through an Act of Parliament of Pakistan. The government of Gilgit-Baltistan also raised certain observations that their viewpoints were not addressed… A meeting of the stakeholders was held in February [February 6, 2019] and the consensus was reached that the G-B Governance Reforms 2019 may be enacted through the Parliament of Pakistan as per aspiration of the People of G-B.”

The hearing in the case, after a long delay, resumed on November 7, 2019. The SC declared that it had announced the verdict and the matter was now handed over to the Government.

Despite this, Islamabad has sought to bring the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2020. Not surprisingly, on February 7, 2020, Gilgit-Baltistan rejected this Order and demanded that no change be brought about in the constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly Speaker Fida Mohammad Nashad asserted that the SC order regarding the status of Gilgit-Baltistan should be implemented.

Notably, in its January 17, 2019, order, the SC had categorically stated:

“Nothing in the judgment shall be construed to limit the jurisdiction conferred on this Court by the Proposed Order itself and if the Order so promulgated is repealed or substituted by an Act of Parliament the validity thereof, if challenged, shall be examined on the touchstone of the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, reacting to the proposed Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order 2020, Senge H. Sering, asserted:

“Locals oppose unconstitutional land reforms and unconstitutional 2020 ordinance imposed by Pakistan as both rob locals of decision and their cultural identity while empowering Pakistani and Chinese citizens to abuse common property regime with impunity.”

Crucially, there is enveloping backwardness in the region. Ashok K. Behuria, Surinder Kumar Sharma, and Yaqboo ul Hassan, in their Pakistan Occupied Kashmir: Politics, Parties and Personalities published in 2019, observe:

The Pakistan Government has not done much to improve the economic condition of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan which is considered as the most backward in South Asia.”

Behuria et al also note that there has been an increasing frequency of suicides in the region, adding that over 300 youths, both boys and girls, had committed suicide in Ghizer District alone since 2000. “One major reason for committing suicide is unemployment”.

Unsurprisingly, the region has witnessed several anti-government protests. But these have not been effective, as Islamabad has deceitfully changed the demography of the region, settling people from other provinces who were supportive of Islamabad’s agenda.

The region, where the native language speaking Shias were an overwhelming majority, is now dominated by Urdu and Punjabi speaking Sunnis.

Indeed, accusing Pakistan, of changing the demography of the region, Sering noted, “You will be surprised that while Pakistan is trying to be the attorney of Kashmiri people, it has changed the demography in a huge manner.”

Though Islamabad has so far succeeded in quelling the protests, suppressing the genuine demands of the people in the region by deceit and force, popular resentment is building up, and will present a significant challenge to the Federal Government in the long run.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Ajit Kumar Singh

Dr Ajit Kumar Singh is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research on conflicts in South Asia. After completing his M.Phil. on "Emergence of Afghanistan as Buffer between Tsarist Russia and British Indian Empire (19th Century)", from JNU, New Delhi, he was awarded Ph.D. on "The Ethnic Conflict and State Structure in Afghanistan: 1989-2001".

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Pakistan Remains Epicenter Of International Terrorism: MEA’s Srivastava

“Pakistan has failed in fulfilling its international obligations to put an end to supporting to terrorism.”

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NEW DELHI: India has said recent UN Security Council report vindicates India’s long-standing position that Pakistan remains the epicentre of international terrorism.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said this in response to media queries regarding the report submitted by the UN Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning individuals and entities constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan.

He said India notes with serious concern the reference in the Report to the continued presence of the senior leadership of the UN-designated terrorist organisation Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan.


India has also expressed concern at the large number of foreign terrorist fighters, including up to 6500 Pakistan nationals, operating in Afghanistan.

Besides, UN-designated entities like Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed, operating from Pakistan controlled territories are facilitating trafficking and imparting training to other terrorists in Afghanistan.

The spokesperson said that proscribed terrorist entities and individuals continue to enjoy safe havens and recruit, train, arm, finance and operate with impunity from Pakistan with state support. He said they inflict violence and spread terrorism in the region and other parts of the world.


Srivastava said Pakistan has failed in fulfilling its international obligations to put an end to support to terrorism emanating from territories under its control. He said India will continue to contribute and support all efforts towards securing peace, security and stability in Afghanistan.

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Pakistan’s Ghastly Silencing Of The Pashtuns

The intimidation and killing of Pashtun activists by state actors demonstrate Pakistan’s inflexibility.

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Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Sardar Arif Wazir was killed in an attack at Ghwa Khwa in Wana town of South Waziristan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on May 1, 2020.

According to reports, unidentified attackers opened fire at him when he was strolling outside his house. Eyewitnesses said two of the attackers were also injured in an exchange of fire with Wazir’s security guards.

Earlier, on April 17, 2020, Wazir was arrested by the Police in Wana, allegedly for making an ‘anti-Pakistan’ speech during his visit to Afghanistan.


Though Police official Usman Wazir accused Sardar Arif Wazir of delivering an ‘anti-Pakistan’ speech on March 6, 2020, during his visit to Afghanistan, he did not provide any further details.

Wazir spent 10 days in prison before being released on bail on April 27.

Wazir has become the 18th member of his immediate and extended family to be killed since 2007. Seven members of Wazir’s family were killed in a clash with al Qaeda-linked foreign militants (mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks) near Wana on March 6, 2007. The dead included his father Saadullah Jan and uncle Mirza Alam.


Wazir was the first cousin of PTM leader Ali Wazir, who was elected as Member of the National Assembly (MNA) from South Waziristan in the General Elections of 2018 as an independent candidate.

Another PTM leader and MNA, Mohsin Dawar, who represents North Waziristan in the National Assembly as an independent member, blamed the state for the attack. He asserted that the attack was carried out by “good” (state-backed) terrorists and added that his party’s “struggle against their masters will continue.”

Echoing the same sentiment, Aurang Zeb Khan Zalmay, the PTM organiser in Europe who lives In Heidelberg, Germany, issued a statement that the Wazir’s killers were:

“…state-sponsored militants of Pakistan. The Pakistan military called them as ‘Good Taliban’ and consider them as their shadow army. Arif Wazir and his family have fought for last two decades against these militants and have burnt their safe-havens in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

PTM is an ongoing non-violent protest movement for Pashtun human rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.


PTM’s origins lie in the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement (MTM) started in May 2014 by eight students of the Mehsud tribe, including Manzoor Pashteen, staying at the Gomal University Hostel in Dera Ismail Khan town of KP, to campaign for the rights of the Mehsud community impacted by military operations.

The campaigners also demanded removal of landmines from Waziristan and other parts of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas, now part of KP, and KP.

However, the MTM came into prominence after the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model, in a Police encounter by Karachi Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rao Anwar on January 13, 2018. The incident reignited anger in the Pashtun community.

Under the leadership of 26-years-old Manzoor Pashteen, MTM turned into PTM, and organised a “long march” of Pashtuns from Dera Ismail Khan to Islamabad to protest the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud. Their peaceful two-week sit-in in Islamabad from January 28 to February 10, 2018, shook the security establishment and compelled them to arrest SSP Rao Anwar and start a criminal investigation into the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud.

On March 25, 2019, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) indicted Rao Anwar and 17 others for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud.

Latest reports indicate that, on March 25, 2020, the Court adjourned hearings of the Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case till April 9, 2020, due to the coronavirus lockdown. There is no further open source information regarding the case.

Meanwhile subsequent to the “long march”, PTM organized protest rallies in most of the major cities across Pakistan, including Quetta in Balochistan; Peshawar, Swat, Swabi, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, in KP; Karachi in Sindh; and Lahore in Punjab.

The movement has secured a great deal of traction and is widely seen as the largest non-violent protest in Pakistan and, consequently, has attracted considerable international attention.

This has encouraged PTM members to organize more rallies and reiterate their demands, which include:

  • removal of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR)
  • release of missing persons
  • stopping the humiliation of Pashtuns at security checkpoints
  • removal of landmines in the tribal areas

Since its emergence, PTM has openly criticized the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agencies, accusing them of human rights violations in the tribal region. The Pakistani authorities, on the other hand, accuse the PTM leadership of getting funds from Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.


Islamabad expectedly tried to suppress the movement, misusing the state machinery and has arrested PTM activists from time to time. Amnesty International’s annual report Human Rights in Asia-Pacific: Review of 2019 pointed out that Pakistan authorities had intensified the crackdown on PTM, arresting and arbitrarily detaining dozens of its supporters, subjecting them to surveillance, intimidation, prosecution and threats of violence.

PTM suffered its first casualty of this state suppression on February 2, 2019, when Muhammad Ibrahim Arman Luni, a college teacher and rights activist, died in the hospital after reportedly being beaten by the Police in the Loralai District of Balochistan for his peaceful sit-in protest. Luni had repeatedly protested alleged targeted killings by the state and had criticized the state for marginalizing Pashtuns. He had also raised awareness for those affected by militancy and Army operations in KP and Balochistan.

Another prominent PTM activist Gulalai Ismail, a woman human rights defender who campaigned against violence against women and enforced disappearances, was charged with sedition, terrorism and defamation on May 22, 2019. In September, she fled to the USA. Her family faced serious intimidation by the law enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile, the first confrontation between Army and PTM activists reportedly occurred on May 26, 2019, when a crowd led by PTM leaders and MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir raided Kharqamar checkpost in the Boya area of North Waziristan District in KP, resulting in a clash in which 13 protesters were killed and 25 others, including five soldiers, sustained injuries. A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) claimed,

“Troops at the checkpost exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation and direct firing on the post. Due to firing of the group, five army soldiers got injured. All injured have been evacuated to army hospital for treatment.”

The statement added that Ali Wazir, along with eight individuals were arrested, while Mohsin Dawar escaped after inciting the crowd. The statement, however, did not mention the loss of life of PTM activists.

Earlier, on April 29, 2019, Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General, ISPR, had claimed that PTM had received funding from Afghan and Indian intelligence services, and warned:

“want to do everything for the people [of tribal areas], but those who are playing in the hands of people, their time is up. Their time is up.”

In this context, it appears that SFs, at the direction of people at the helm, used disproportionate force.  Indeed, the Government tried to suppress information of the massacre. A Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP’s) fact-finding team that was trying to reach to the area to investigate was stopped by the Army on June 24, 2019.

Despite the Pakistan Army’s and Government’s intimidation, PTM organised rallies across different cities of Pakistan through 2019 and continues its protests in 2020 as well.  Protests and sit-ins are organised regularly where the participants reiterate their demands. Speeches of Manzoor Pashteen during PTM rallies have challenged the military in a way that no other civil movement in Pakistan previously had.

In every rally, he talks about human rights abuses by the Army in tribal areas. In one of his interviews with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on January 27, 2020, he stated:

“It has taken us almost 15 years of suffering and humiliation to gather courage to speak up, and to spread awareness about how the military trampled our constitutional rights through both direct action and a policy of support for the militants.”

PTM mobilization has deeply disturbed the Government and the Army, and the response has been a ‘campaign’ of arbitrary arrests of PTM leaders on charges of sedition and criminal conspiracies.

In one such move, the Pakistan Government arrested Manzoor Pashteen on January 27, 2020, from the Shaheen Town of Peshawar, on charges of sedition, hate speech, incitement against the state, and criminal conspiracy.

Pashteen reportedly had attended a gathering on January 18, 2020, in Dera Ismail Khan city of KP, where he had allegedly stated that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights. He was, however, released on bail by the Islamabad High Court on February 15, 2020.

During the bail hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the High Court remarked:

“We don’t expect that a democratic government will curb freedom of expression. An elected democratic government cannot place curbs on freedom of expression. (We) shouldn’t fear criticism.”

Manzoor Pashteen is lucky not to face the same fate as Sardar Arif Wazir who, after securing bail, has been brutally killed by suspected state proxies.

The intimidation and killing of Pashtun activists by state actors demonstrate the inflexibility with which the Pakistan Government and Army view dissent. With the killing of Sardar Arif Wazir, the Government and security establishment have given a warning to all those who dare raise their voices against injustice and human rights violations: their voices will be silenced forever.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

Tushar Ranjan Mohanty joined the Institute in August 2008. Currently, he is involved in research and documentation of Conflicts in Pakistan. He has also written on conflicts in North East India. He is pursuing M. Phil. from the Department of African Studies, Faculty of Social Science, Delhi University, New Delhi, on "Angola's Energy Potential: Prospect For India".

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PM Modi And POTUS Trump Talk On Telephone; US Invites India To G7 Summit

The US President expressed his desire to include India in the ambit of Group of Seven, G7.

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FILE PHOTO

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation with United States President Donald Trump. They discussed the US Presidency of G-7, the COVID-19 pandemic, and many other issues.

During a telephone conversation yesterday, President Trump expressed his desire to include India in the ambit of Group of Seven and invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the next G-7 Summit to be held in the USA.

According to an official statement, President Trump spoke about the US Presidency of the G-7 and conveyed his desire to expand the ambit of the grouping beyond the existing membership, to include other important countries including India.


Prime Minister Modi commended President Trump for his creative and far-sighted approach, acknowledging the fact that such an expanded forum would be in keeping with the emerging realities of the post-COVID world.

The Prime Minister has said that India would be happy to work with the US and other countries to ensure the success of the proposed Summit.

During the phone call, Prime Minister Modi expressed concern regarding the ongoing civil disturbances in the US and conveyed his best wishes for an early resolution of the situation.


The two leaders also exchanged views on other topical issues, such as the COVID-19 situation in the two countries, the situation on the India-China border, and the need for reforms in the World Health Organisation. Later in a tweet,

PM Modi said, he richness and depth of India-US consultations will remain an important pillar of the post-COVID global architecture.

President Trump warmly recalled his visit to India in February this year. Prime Minister Modi said that the visit had been memorable and historic on many accounts, and had also added new dynamism to the bilateral relationship.

AIR Correspondent reports the exceptional warmth and candour of the conversation reflected the special nature of the Indo-US ties, as well as the friendship and mutual esteem between both leaders.

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