Karakoram province or Gilgit-Baltistan
The Rise of "Shia Power in Pakistan
The Northern Areas is given the status of a separate province, it will be a Shia-majority province. Pakistan is second only to Iran in respect of the number Shias living in it. The study, the first of its kind, was completed by Khaled Ahmed, contributing editor at Daily Times, who conducted his research during the last nine months as a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in 2006-2007. Entitled “Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and its links to the Middle East”,
Historically The Gilgit and Northern Areas have never been part of the Dogra or Bharati Jammu and Kashmir. 1935, the British demanded J&K lease to them for 60 years Gilgit town plus most of the Gilgit Agency and the hill-states Hunza, Nagar, Yasin and Ishkuman. The leased region was then treated as part of British India, administered by a Political Agent at Gilgit responsible to Delhi, first through the Resident in J& K and later a British Agent in Peshawar. J& K State no longer kept troops in Gilgit and a force, the Gilgit Scouts, was recruited with British officers and paid for by Delhi.
Three relevant phases of Shia ascendance could be traced. The first started with the triumph of the Iranian Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Iran then embraced the strategy of exporting the Revolution to neighboring societies.
The second phase followed the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, when Shia became the hegemonic political group. This situation had an impact on the Shia of neighbouring Gulf countries and the rest of the world.
The third phase was marked by the Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006. As Hizbullah emerged victorious, a euphoria expressing admiration and respect to its courage and military might swept the region.
On September 7, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan signed what was called the Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, purporting to introduce administrative, political, financial and judicial reforms in the Northern Areas of Pakistan which has been under Pakistani control since 1947-48 after local people sided with Pakistan in a uprising against the Dogra ruler. The order re-names the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan,
The great majority of Pakistan's Muslims are Sunni. Shias form about 15%. Violence between the two communities dates back to the 1980s.In Pakistan, Shias also played a key political role. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, its ill-fated prime minister, were both Shias, Feeling the wind shift in the 1990s, Benazir styled herself a Sunni, but her Iranian mother, her husband from a big Shia landowning family 2009 currently President Asif Ali Zardari is Shias too. Though the more numerous Sunnis eventually brushed Shia influence aside.Thank to a shia president to bring Gilgit- Baltistan a shia provice and open a new debate and hated in Pakistan.
The fourth distinct in the region is Gilgit which is known as Dardistan. The region includes the tributory states of Hunza, Nagar, Chilas, Punial, Ishkuman, Kuh and Ghizar. The people belong to the Dardic race and are closely connected with Chitralis in race, culture and language. They are mostly followers of Ismaili sect headed by the Agha Khan (Muslims). This region was conquered by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh between 1846 and 1860. Thousands of Dogra soldiers lost their lives in the campaigns that led to the conquest of this inhospitable but strategically very important region. The whole Dardistan including Gilgit has been merged with Pakistan and is governed by the Pakistani Central Government. This area has not been included even in the so called “Azad-Kashmir” (literally means Free/Liberated Kashmir
Gilgit Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.
Of the total population of the NA, 40 per cent used to be Shias, 25 per cent Ismailis, who are close to the Shias, and the remainig 35 per cent Sunnis.. The Sunnis were in a majority in the Diamir District,Astore and in a minority in the remaining four districts.
The people of Gilgit and Baltistan had never accepted the forcible occupation of their land by pre-partition Dogra rulers. In 1947, through a popular revolt against Maharaja Hari Singh, they got themselves liberated from the yoke of Dogra rule. The Mirs of Hunza and Nagar and other chieftains of the areas requested Pakistan to assume direct responsibility for the administration and security of the Agency.
Sectarian violence is amongst the most lethal in Pakistan since the mid-eighties. It opposes mostly Sunnis and Shias. Actually, it would be more accurate to describe this conflict as a Deobandi-Shia conflict since the former somehow appropriated the term Sunni for themselves and is supported in its anti-Shia struggle by Ahle Hadit organizations
Shia Revolt for province to be called the Karakoram province when Zia was in power. Bordering Afghanistan, China and India, the area was perceived as strategically important for Pakistan and therefore was isolated from the rest of ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’,
The Legislative Assembly will have 24 members, who will be elected directly and in addition, there will be six women and three technocrat seats. In order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters there would be a consolidated fund.The budget of the area would be presented and approved by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.
The Chief Judge of the Appellate Court will be appointed by the Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council on the advice of the Governor, and other judges will be appointed by the Chairman on the advice of the Governor after seeking the views of the Chief Judge. The number of judges will be increased from three to five. A Gilgit-Baltistan Public Service Commission, a separate Auditor-General and an Election Commissioner will be appointed.
The judiciary of the Northern Areas consists of district courts and a chief court, whose decisions are final. The Northern Areas Council Legal Framework Order of 1994 provides for a court of appeals, but this court has not yet been established.
Despite these all facts, if some one is still having hope of changes from these ruling elites,. No any head of administration has been nominated from Gilgit-Baltistan during 60 years. From 1947-2007 head of administration has been nominated with different designation, such as Political Agent, Chief Commissioner, Administrator and now who is called as Chief Secretary of Northern Areas.
Before 1994 in NAPWD there had been non-local army Colonel as Secretary Works, later for some period that opportunity given to local officers, promoted them as Chief Engineer, but it again failed to continue and reinstated a non-local Colonel as head of NAPWD. And now all senior officials including Deputy Commissioners and SPs of all districts, Secretary Health, Secretary Education, Home Secretary, DIG Police, head ISI, force commander of FCNA and head of Skurdu Brigade, all are non-locals.
The name "Northern Areas" was first used by the United Nations, to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir.
On May 28, 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had observed that, "It was not understandable on what basis the people of Northern Areas can be denied the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. We are of the view that the people of Northern Areas are citizens of Pakistan for all intents and purposes. They have the rights to invoke any fundamental rights but are also liable to pay taxes and other levies competently imposed."
The Court ruled, further, "We allow the petitions and direct the respondent federation to initiate appropriate administrative/legislative measures within a period of six months from today to make necessary amendments in the Constitution... to ensure that the people in Northern Areas enjoy their fundamental rights, namely, to be governed by their chosen representatives, and to have access to justice inter alia for the enforcement of their fundamental rights under the Constitution (of Pakistan)."
The NA is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu. These districts are grouped into three agencies or Divisions called Diamir with headquarters at Chilas, Gilgit with headquarters in Gilgit Town and Baltistan with headquarters in Skardu Town.
Population (2008) 1,800,000 (Estimate) Density 20.7/km˛ Area 72496 km˛
District, Ghanche, Area (km˛) 9,400 ,Headquarters Khaplu Today, the Baltis are; Shia' denomination (10%), Sufia Nurbakhshi (80%), and Sunni-Ahlehadith sect (10%).
District, Skardu ,Area (km˛) 18,000 ,Headquarters Skardu
District, Astore, Area (km˛) 8,657, Headquarters Gorikot. Gorikot lies on the historic junction where roads link to Rattu axis and Tarisheng Base camp-Nanga Perbat and other axis leads to Gudai - Chilum & Deosai Plains linking Astore to Skardu.
District , Diamir, Area (km˛) 10,936, Headquarters Chilas
District , Ghizar, Area (km˛) 9,635 ,Headquarters Gahkuch
District, Gilgit ,Area (km˛) 39,300 ,Headquarters Gilgit.
Each district can boast of at least one lofty peak. Out of 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on earth, 4 occupy an amphitheater at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range in Northern Pakistan. These are; K-2 or Mount Godowin Austin (8,611 m, world's second highest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 m), Broad Peak (8,047 m) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 m). There is yet another which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), located at the western most end of the Himalayas. In addition to these mountains, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 m and hundreds others of over 6,000 meters.
The Northern Pakistan has some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 km), Hispar (61 km), Biafo (60 km), Baltoro (60 km) and Batura (64 km).
The TJP had contested the 1997 elections as the Tehreek-e-Fiquah-e-Jafferia Pakistan and the SSP as the Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. The TJP and the SSP came into existence after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The TJP was formed at the instance of the Iranian Intelligence to protect the interests of the Shias and was funded by the latter. It extended its activities to the Shia majority areas of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Northern Areas--NA (Gilgit and Baltistan) and started a movement for constituting these Shia majority areas into a separate province of Pakistan to be called the Karakoram province. To protect the Shias, the TJP formed its own militant wing called the Sipah Mohammad (SM).
After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Shi'ites of the NA became politically active and started a movement for the conversion of the NA into a separate Shi'ite state to be called Karakoram province. A revolt by the Shi'ites of Gilgit was ruthlessly suppressed by the Zia ul-Haq regime in 1988, killing hundreds of Shi'ites under the that time Brigader Mussraff who was then based in Khapalu.Iran retaliated by assisting the TEJ and the Sipah Mohammad.
In 1988, the Iranian intelligence, it is said, encouraged the Shias of Gilgit in the Northern Areas to rise in revolt and demand the creation of a separate 'Karakoram' province for the Shias. General Zia inducted ****** tribal hordes into Gilgit, where they carried out a large-scale massacre of the Shias. Moreover, the SSP of Punjab was allowed to open an office in Gilgit, to rally round the Sunnis in the area against the Shias. This resulted in the spread of sectarian terrorism to the Northern Areas, before which it had limited mainly to Punjab and the NWFP.
Sectarian tension between the majority Shias and the Sunnis in the Northern Areas continues to be a concern. Violent protests erupted in 2003 among Shias in Gilgit over the government's decision to introduce a new educational curriculum. Attempts by Shias to campaign for changes to the curriculum led to the imposition of a curfew in Gilgit and several other parts of the Northern Areas in June 2004 after thousands of Shia protestors clashed with security forces and attacked government buildings, offices, and a state-run hotel.
Violence continues in Gilgit and Baltistan and more than 120 persons had been killed in 2005 by October in clashes with State forces and shia protested for curriculm matters.
According to Mohammad Shehzad, writing in the Friday Times on July 10, 2003, these offending sections include, among others:
The incident of wahee (revelation) has been described in a ridiculous manner that shows the Prophet himself was not sure about his prophet-hood. Islamiat, 4th grade, 22; Social Studies, 4th grade, 115; Urdu, 8th grade, 14.
A picture that depicts the Sunni style of saying prayer. Urdu, 2nd grade, 18. The Sunni caliphs have been presented as Khulfa-e-Rashideen [the Orthodox Caliphs] unopposed by Shias. [The Shia do not recognize the first three caliphs as Khulfa-e-Rashideen] Urdu, 3rd grade, 89; Arabic, 7th grade, 46; Social Studies, 7th grade, 12-14.
The Caliphs [that are not recognized by Shias] have been eulogized through titles such as Siddique Amirul Momineen [Siddique, Commander of the Faithful, the First Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique] and Farooq Amirul Momineen [Farooq, Commander of the Faithful, the Second Caliph Hazrat Umar Farooq]. Shias claim such titles are only for Hazrat Ali [the Fourth Caliph]. Urdu, 4th grade, 77; Islamiat, 4th grade, 25; Arabic, 8th grade, 27.
Yazid [who the Shia's accuse of the killing of the Prophet's grandson, Hazrat Hussain]
has been totally exonerated in the Karbala events, which culminated in the extermination of Hazrat Ali's son's (the Prophet's grandchildren) Hassan and Hussain, and their families, and the entire blame has been shifted to Ibn-e-Ziyad. Urdu, 8th grade, 105.
The Prophet's wife Ayesha has been projected as superior to all other women of the Prophet's family through fake ahadiz (sayings of the Prophet). Urdu, 7th grade, 9-10. •
The Prophet's uncle Hazrat Abu Talib has been described a non-Muslim. (Islamiat, BA, 231).
"One of the textbooks of Islamic Studies carries a picture that shows a boy offering prayers in a manner practiced by the Sunnis i.e. hands held together and put on the belly. Shias don't follow this posture. The picture misleads a Shia student about his/her religious rituals," said Ali Ahmed Jan, a Fellow of Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD).
Further, "The textbooks have utterly ignored the contribution of Hazrat Ali in the battle of Badar. It is a known fact that he had killed the major chieftains of non-believers and played a key role in Badar's success. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Hazrat Ali in the books. Moreover, the books speak highly of the companions of Holy Prophet but they are silent over the important figures from Ahle-Biat [family of the Prophet]," said Shia scholar Amin Shaheedi.
There are eight ethnic groups, viz; Baltis, Yashkuns, Moghal, Kashmiries, Pathans, Laddakis and Turks speaking eight different languages namely Shina, Balti, Brushiski, Khawar, Wakhi, Urdu, Pushto, and Farsi.
The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer. The Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan. Minor languages spoken in the region include Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer, while Khowar is the major language of Ghizer. Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal. Another interesting language is Domaaki, spoken by the musician clans in the region. A small minority of people also speak Pashto. People who live in Gilgit Baltistan, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.
The four major religious sects are Sunnies, Shias, Ismailies and Noorbukshies. Sunnies are mostly in Daimer and Gilgit districts. The majority of Shias are in Skardu and Ghanche districts. The Ismalies are mostly in Ghizer district and in Hunza sub-division of Gilgit district.
The sect-wise breakdown of population in the Northern Areas is:
Gilgit – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni;,Hunza –100% Ismaili; ,Nagar – 100% Shia; Punial – 100% Ismaili; Yasin – 100% Ismaili; Ishkoman –100% Ismaili; Gupis – 100% Ismaili;
Chilas – 100% Sunni; Darel/Tangir – 100% Sunni; Astor – 90%Sunni, 10% Shia; Baltistan – 55% Shia,20% Sunni,25% ,Noorbukshies.
Road connect the Northren areas to rest of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan border Swat, Dir, Chitral and Kohistan districts of NWFP.
Mastuj-Shandur: (42 km ): There is presently a jeepable track over the 3734m high Shandur top, which is the boundary between the NWFP and the NA. The elevation varies from 2280m in Mastuj to 3734 m at Shandur, which would be the highest point on this proposed road.
Shandur- Pingal( 62 km)
resently, there is a jeepable track along the Ghizar river in Ghizar District. The jeep track descends from a height of 3734m to 2185 m at Pingal.
Pingal-Gahkuch (40 km): Presently, there is a jeepable track along the Ghizar river. Gahkuch is the headquarters of Ghizar District. It descends from a height of 2185 m to 1870 m at Gahkuch.
Gahkuch-Gilgit (77 km): A road already exists, which is now being metalled. The elevation at Gilgit is 1454m.
The Astore Valley and the Deosai plains used to provide the oldest route connecting Gilgit with Srinagar via the Burzil Pass and Skardu through Chotta Deosai and Sadpara.
Now, a project has been undertaken to connect Thelichi with Skardu via Chilum and Deosai to provide a shorter route between Astore and Skardu. The project is to be implemented as follows:
Thelechi-Chilum (94 kms): It will be 24 ft wide with 12 ft metalled. The elevation of the road rises from about 1250 m at Thelechi to 3400m at Chilum.
Chilum to Deosai Plains ( 53 km): This section spans the Deosai. An existing track is to be widened. Its elevation is around 4500 m and it remains under snow for about four to five months in a year.
Deosai Plains to Sadpara(29 km):Will be 24 feet wide.
The elevation descends from the Deosai Plains (4500m) to 2600 m at Sadpara.
Sadpara to Skardu (10km): This section will be 24 ft wide with 12 ft metalled. The elevation is around 2500 m. The area is snow bound for about two to three months in a year.
The Census of Gilgit and Baltistan has to be conducted before election due in 2009 .the demography of Gilgit and Baltistan is changed now ,so better Govt of Pakistan to bring the peace in the region not dived the people on Sectarian line and new Pandora box open where Sunni quarter start calling declared the Pakistan a Sunni state.
The matter of curriculum must be solved through negation not through violent protest and brutality of force used against each other .Iranian and Saudi involvement must be stopped and supply of $ dollars and hatred literature must be stopped otherwise a new war of sectarian is going to engulf whole Pakistan. if both Saudis and Iranians leave them alone or the government of Pakistan fulfills its constitutional obligation and counters the deadly ideological interventions of the two countries in Pakistan
Usman karim based in Lahore Pakistan [email protected]