Balawaristan

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Flag of the Balawaristan National Front

Balawaristan (Urdu:بلاورستان) is an historical name of Gilgit-Baltistan that has regained some prevalence in recent years. The archaic English spelling for the name was Boloristan, and its first known documented usage is in Chinese sources from the 8th century AD.[1] Gilgit-Baltistan includes Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza, Ishkoman Puniyal and Yasin (see Districts of Gilgit-Baltistan). The regions of Baltistan, and Ladakh (including Kargil) are also considered to be a part of Balawaristan by nationalist parties of Gilgit, and sometimes Chitral is as well.

Origins of the name[edit]

The people of this region have historically been referred to as Balawars (or highlanders), which is said to have come from the term Bala, which means high, a reference to the high-altitudes prevalent in this area. An alternative theory links the name to a mythic ancient king called Bolor Shah, who had first united the region and from whom local rulers in turn often claimed descent.[2] Yet a third theory was proposed by the National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research of Pakistan that "the name is most probably derived from the title Patola, the Buddhist royal dynasty which was powerful in the region from to 8th centuries AD."[3]

Historically, the Baltistan region was called "Great Bolor" and Dardistan and parts of Brooshal (e.g. Gilgit Valley) were called "Little Bolor." Great Boloristan is known to have sent ambassadors to the Chinese court.[4]

Political status movements[edit]

In more recent times, the name Balawaristan initially found favour with nationalists of the Gilgit region, such as the Balawaristan National Front, who are seeking independence from Pakistan. These groups state that they are geographically, ethnically, linguistically and culturally distinct from Pakistan and Kashmir, and that the region is incorrectly associated with the dilemma facing the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. The Balawaristan National Front, for instance, has explicitly defined its goal as "freedom from Pakistan's illegal occupation."[5] According to the chairman of the Balawaristan National Front, in May 1999, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that Balawaristan "is a disputed territory and the government of Pakistan has no claim over it".[6] The Bolor Thinker Forum, in a public seminar in Rawalpindi in 2005, also called for "an independent Bolor state," and asserted that "it was their legitimate right to demand an independent Bolor state".[7]

Some Balawar leaders argue that since the people of the region do not have proportional representation in the Pakistani parliament as the local people have been demanding for years, therefore Pakistan should not apply its laws. In recent years, many Pakistanis have also voiced support for greater political representation for the people of the region and for giving them federal representation and civic amenities.[8] Some leaders have requested UN intervention in settling the North West provinces constitutional dilemma as they seek full rights, amenities and integration within the Pakistani federation.[9]

A map of Balawaristan, and its three regions

However, some leaders of Balawaristan reject increased representation or economic packages as an alternative to independence and separation from Pakistani control, often specifically deriding the various economic and political "packages" that are designed by the Pakistani government for the area.[5][10] Pakistani critics argue that an independent Balawaristan will not be able to function as a separate state with a small population (about 2 million), lack of subsidies provided by the Pakistani government, and landlocked status.

Some Balawar groups, such as the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement, have limited their demands to total autonomy and a respect for their distinctiveness, asking the Pakistani government to end what they describe as its "colonial attitude."[11] The group opposes the appointment of Pakistanis as officials or judges in the region and, although not officially dedicated to seeking independence, had nevertheless issued an appeal to Barack Obama upon his election as president of the United States to use "his influences to restore the sovereignty of small nations of the world such as Palestine, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan."[11] The Balawaristan National Students Organisation, in April 2008, raised a demand for Balawaristan to be constituted into the fifth province of Pakistan (the other four are Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Osterreichishe Leo-Gesellschaft, Görres-Gesellschaft, Anthropos Institute, Görres-Gesellschaft zur Pflege der Wissenschaften im Katholischen Deutschland, Bonn, Leo-Gesellschaft, Vienna (1984), Anthropos, v.79 no.1-6, retrieved 2009-01-24, "A more indigenous label for the same territory is Bolor (or Boloristan); this designation had appeared in Chinese sources already in the 8th century." 
  2. ^ Amanullah Khan (1999), Gilgit Baltistan, a Disputed Territory Or a Fossil of Intrigues?, retrieved 2009-01-24, "... Princes of Gilgit-Baltistan assumed to be descendants of Bolor Shah ..." 
  3. ^ National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (Pakistan) (1988), Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, v.9, retrieved 2009-01-24, "As the name Bolor suggests, Gilgit has been the most ancient kingdom in the area. The name is most probably derived from the title Patola, the Buddhist royal dynasty which was powerful in the region from to 8th centuries AD." 
  4. ^ Centre for the Study of the Civilizations of Central Asia (Pakistan) (1979), Journal of Central Asia, v.2 no.1, Centre for the Study of the Civilizations of Central Asia, Quaid-i-Azam University, retrieved 2009-01-29, "The eastern half, Great Bolor, could afford to send several embassies to the Chinese court during the first half of the 8th century" 
  5. ^ a b Balawaristan National Front Website, Gilgit, retrieved 2009-01-24, "We Want Freedom from Pakistan's illegal occupation. Pakistan must Quit Balawaristan (Occupied Gilgit Baltistan) by Complying UNCIP Resolution. No package, no Pakistan. We want free Balawaristan." 
  6. ^ Pakistan's heart of darkness By Abdul Hamid Khan August 22, 2002 Asia Times
  7. ^ "Seminar demands independent Bolor state", Daily Times, 2005-03-03, retrieved 2009-01-24, "Speakers from the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) demanded an independent Bolor state at a seminar ‘Great Bolor State and Kashmir Issue’ at the Rawalpindi Press Club on Sunday." 
  8. ^ Across the divide, PART 3: Gilgit Valley searches for identity by Sultan Shahin December 18, 2004 Asia Times
  9. ^ UN asked to intervene on constitutional status for NAs November 2, 2003 Daily Times
  10. ^ 'We are ready to fight against Pakistan'
  11. ^ a b Gilgit Baltistan United Movement, Skardu, retrieved 2009-01-24, "Gilgit Baltistan is fast slipping into poverty, joblessness, social injustice and backwardness due to the ill planned policies and colonial like system of government, an activist said." 
  12. ^ "Provincial status sought for Gilgit, Baltistan", Daily Dawn, 2008-04-01, retrieved 2009-01-24, "Historically, geographically and politically, Gilgit-Baltistan deserves to be a province. The people of the region should have the right to send their representatives to the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan, of which they have been deprived for the last 60 years, said speakers at a seminar organised by the Balawaristan National Students Organisation here." 

Further reading[edit]

  • Abdul Hamid Khan (2001) The Last Colony of 21st Century: Balawaristan (Balawaristan National Front ASIN B002O7DXSS)
  • Hum Kon (Nam Ki Ehmiyat by Nawaz Khan Naji)
  • Masla Kashmir Aur Choutha Fareeq by Nawaz Khan Naji

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°35′N 75°9′E / 35.583°N 75.150°E / 35.583; 75.150