The mutual interests of Pakistan and China in Gilgit-Baltistan has resulted in the suppression of the locals, provoking sectarian violence and exploitation of natural resources. Recently, the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) region, Gilgit Baltistan made into the news given the Awami Action Committee’s (AAC) protest rally against the heavily imposed taxes, reduction in the wheat quota followed by a land reforms act in the region, reported Al Arabiya Post.
The protestors expressed their discontent on the arrest of their leaders including Chairman Fidah Hussain and several other senior AAC leaders. In early 2022, another protest by locals to oppose the decreased subsidies in wheat prices, had witnessed a fierce crackdown by the Pakistani authorities that was organised.
The belief is that Pakistan has been systematically exploiting Gilgit Baltistan in terms of its resources and giving no share of the profits to the locals. The resentment goes back to decades from when the locals felt that they were ignored, exploited and ill-treated, reported Al Arabiya Post.
It is important to note here that Beijing has vital stakes in the region for its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which falls under the larger umbrella of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Given the crucial investments that Beijing has made in the region, it has been pushing Islamabad towards granting Gilgit-Baltistan a provincial status in the greater intention of protecting its interests, reported Al Arabiya Post.
The region shares border with China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. It has been China’s only overland gateway access route to the Arabian Sea since the construction of Karakorum Highway that links China and the Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan from 1978.
The CPEC is the largest BRI initiative with capital of over USD 60 billion out of which most are invested in Gilgit-Baltistan. This makes it very significant territory under the project. For the past two decades, China has been intending to see the region becoming a province as a reality.
Under these ambitious CPEC projects, the construction of major dams, oil pipelines and gas facilities is being undertaken. The price for these projects is being paid by the locals in the form of threat to sustainability to the environment, immense pollution and major damage to the marine ecosystems, reported Al Arabiya Post.
Pakistan army in Gilgit Baltistan has engaged in snatching the land from locals and pass it on to the Chinese firms operating in the region.
Islamabad is facilitating the Chinese companies even on the front of workforce. On one hand when most of the population of Pakistan remains unemployed, Islamabad has no objection for the Chinese firms to bring Chinese workers.
The young locals who try to resist or protest the autocracy of Pakistan are often charged with charges like treason and terrorism. It is clear that both Pakistan and China are leaving no stone unturned to exploit the people and land of Gilgit-Baltistan, reported Al Arabiya Post.
Moreover, Gilgit-Baltistan is a region where there are many areas still void of basic amenities, nerve jolting load shedding in winter, shortage of medicines in government hospitals besides no expert dedicated doctors, reported Baad-e-Shimal, leading Newspaper of Gilgit Baltistan.
Apart from such grave issues, the non-availability of clean drinking water is another big problem. People including women and children are seen protesting on streets but authorities are turning deaf ears.
Gilgit City and adjacent areas are facing acute shortage of drinking water besides electricity outages. The locals complain that concerned authorities are not ready to even listen to them and misbehave, reported Pak vernacular media.