Balawaristan National Front

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Flag of the Balawaristan National Front

The Balawaristan National Front is a minor political party seeking the independence of Northern Area Balawaristan (officially known as the Gilgit-Baltistan) located in Pakistan, as well as Chitral and Kohistan, in neighbouring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The party also claims regions in Indian-Administered Kashmir, Kargil and Ladakh, as part of its historic territories. The party is represented in the 33-seat Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly by a single member, Nawaz Khan Naji.

There are no reliable indicators of its popularity, or whether it enjoys any significant political support. The leader of the party, Abdul Hamid Khan, is quoted as saying in 2002 that "We cannot measure the degree of support that we enjoy."[1] The party fielded two candidates in the 2009 elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan - though neither candidate was elected to the 33-seat assembly, which is dominated by mainstream Pakistani parties such as PPP, PML, and JUI. However, in a special by-election in 2011, BNF founder Nawaz Khan Naji won seat LA-22 Ghanche-I, with 46.4% of ballots cast in his favor.[2] Upon taking his seat in the assembly, he undertook an oath to "remain faithful to the state of Pakistan".[3] An ex-party fellow of Nawaz Khan Naji, Hamid Khan, claimed that Nawaz Khan Naji was an undercover ISI operative upon learning of his victory.[4]

Background[edit]

Balawaristan is a historic name for the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, the party considers Baltistan a part or Balawaristan as well. The party was formed on dec 28, 1989 under the Chairmanship of Nawaz Khan Naji.first time reorganized in jul 30 1993.In 1947 at the time of independence of Pakistan the people of the area were predominantly Shia Muslims. However over the years the ethnic composition has been changed as non Kashmiri Pakistanis have settled in this area leading to discontent - although Shias remain the outright majority..[citation needed] A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which includes Gilgit-Baltistan, was 'Not Free'. In 2009 as part of Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, the region was granted self-rule with an elected legislature for the first time in its history, despite protests from India which regards the region as Indian territory.[5]

BNF also criticized the Pakistani Government saying 'The appropriation of land in the Northern Areas by non-Kashmiri migrants from elsewhere in Pakistan, with the tacit encouragement of the federal government and army, has led to dwindling economic opportunities for the local population and an increase in sectarian tension between the majority Shia Muslims and a growing number of Sunnis.'[6] India asserts Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which it regards as an 'integral part' of India.[7]

Political positions[edit]

The party does not consider areas of Gilgit and Baltistan to be legally or constitutionally part of Pakistan or India. Nor does it regard neighboring regions of Chitral, Kohistan, Ladakh, or Kargil to be legitimately part of India or Pakistan. It demands freedom not just for regions within Pakistan, but also Kargil and Ladakh.[8]

The party asserts that as per UNCIP resolutions, Pakistan (and India) must withdraw their forces and handover the control of the region to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, under the supervision of the United Nations, until a final settlement of the whole Jammu and Kashmir issue is reached, as per a United Nations sponsored plebiscite that would be held in both Pakistan and Indian-Administered Kashmir."[9] This grievance was directly addressed in the 2009 political reforms for the region, which granted the region self-rule with its own elected legislature - rather than being administered directly from Islamabad,[5] although the Pakistani military has not evacuated the region, and nor has the UN been introduced to oversee the administration of the region. The party pointed out that the old arrangement, by which the region was directly ruled from Islamabad, was unlike that of neighboring Azad Kashmir, which was granted its own legislative assembly shortly after the first Kashmir war in 1948.

It does not want to join India or Pakistan for religious or any other reason.[10] It condemns what it sees as religious and sectarian games played against its people by Pakistan and its intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence,[11] and indeed even terms sectarian violence as full-fledged genocide.[12] It opposes what it claims are attempts of the Pakistani administration to alter the demographic profile of the area, reducing the indigenous people to a minority. In 2002, it opposed what is saw as the Pakistan government's attempts to impose Wahhabi Islam on the region's predominantly Shia population under the rule of General Pervez Musharraf.[13] [14] Currently, Pakistan is governed by secular and left-leaning PPP, which is headed by President Asif Ali Zardari who is himself Shia.[15]

Activities[edit]

In 2000 the party accused Pakistan of settling 'terrorists, drug and arms smugglers, and Taliban activists in Balawaristan to convert indigenous people into a minority.'[16]

In June 2002 in an interview with Yoginder Sikand Abdul Hamid Khan accused Pakistan of treating people of Gilgit-Baltistan as virtual slaves and blamed Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence of fomenting sectarian violence between Shias, Sunnis and Ismailis.[10]

Khan claimed that dozens of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders were hiding in Balawaristan with the help of Pakistani military and ISI. He released a list of 30 militants who he believed were in Balawaristan in a letter to Kofi Annan of the United Nations.[17][18]

On November 3, 2003 Nawaz Khan Najee who is QUID [supreme head] of party participated in a rally demanding United Nations intervention regarding the status of Gilgit and Baltistan.[19]

In a letter dated November 24, 2004 party Chairman BNF[Hameed Group]Abdul Hamid Khan presented a peace proposal for Kashmir to President Musharraf and Manmohan Singh. This was however not accepted by any party.[20]

On January 3, 2005 Quid e tehreek Nawaz Khan NajI spoke at a seminar in Rawalpindi demanding an independent Bolor state.[21]

On April 25, 2007 European Union published a report entitled 'on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects'. Section 2 of the noted the absence of democracy in Gilgit Baltistan region and in section 32 deplored the human rights violations in this region.[22] Partly as a result of this President Pervez Musharraf announced a package for the Northern Areas[23]

A 2-day conference on Gilgit Baltistan was held on April 8–9, 2008 at the European Parliament in Brussels under the auspices of International Kashmir Alliance. Here several members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed concern over the human rights violation in Gilgit Baltistan and urged the government of Pakistan to establish democratic institutions and rule of law in this area of northern Kashmir. Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman Balawaristan National Front speaking at the same conference said "no democratically elected representative (from Gilgit Baltistan) was included when Karachi Agreement was signed between Pakistan and Muslim Conference leaders in 1949." [24]

On June 8, 2008 the present Chairman Abdul Hamid Khan who currently lives in exile telephonically addressed a gathering at Gahkuch. He reiterated the demand for independence from Pakistan and deplored the sectarian violence and accused Pakistani intelligence agencies of creating sectarian tension.[25]

In 2009 Pakistan government implemented autonomy package for the people from Gilgit-Baltistan. This package was rejected as an eyewash by Balawaristan National Front whose spokesperson stated “It’s meant to detract the international community from the violation of human rights in this region.”[26] The party later decided to field two candidates for the 33 member assembly - neither was voted into power. However, the package, for the first time in the history of Gilgit-Baltistan, addressed the political grievances of the local population who had felt discriminated against as they were ineligible to vote in Pakistani elections (Pakistan regards the area as a disputed territory - and any attempts to incorporate the region into the Pakistani state would jeopardize its claim vis-a-vis India).[5] The people of the region were granted self-rule, citizenship within Pakistan, and an elected legislature to administer the region.[5]

In February 2011 Abdul Hamid Khan criticized the move to raise the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan's assembly. He said "Marvi Maman's move in the Pakistan National Assembly is another trick of Pakistani hidden rulers to diffuse the international pressure about Gilgit Baltistan, her unwanted move by presenting herself as the representative of GB (Gilgit-Baltistan) is nothing but a drama on behalf of Pakistani hidden hands. Pakistan has only one option according to UNCIP resolutions, that is to withdraw its forces and civilians and handover the control to the people of Gilgit Baltistan under the supervision of the United Nations until a final settlement of the whole Jammu and Kashmir issue is reached."[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "'Treated By Pakistan As Virtual Slaves' | Yoginder Sikand". Outlookindia.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  2. ^ Ali, Manzoor. "Gilgit-Baltistan shocker: Nationalist candidate wins Ghizer by-poll – The Express Tribune". Tribune.com.pk. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  3. ^ Name *. "Nawaz Khan Naji takes oath of GBLA membership". Pamirtimes.net. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  4. ^ "Good Bye PPP, Nawaz Khan Naji Wins in Ghizar". Dardistantimes.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  5. ^ a b c d Shigri, Manzar (2009-11-12). "Pakistan's disputed Northern Areas go to polls". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  6. ^ Freedom in the World 2008 - Kashmir (Pakistan), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2008-07-02
  7. ^ Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Kashmir, asserts India
  8. ^ Naxal Watch (2008-06-10). "IntelliBriefs: Balawaristan: BNF Chief Abdul Hamid Speech to a Historic Gathering". Intellibriefs.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  9. ^ a b "Pakistan has no right to discuss Gilgit-Baltistan in its parliament: BNF chief". Sify.com. 23 February 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2011. 
  10. ^ a b 'Treated By Pakistan As Virtual Slaves', Outlook (magazine), 2002-06-28
  11. ^ Balawaristan National Front - party profile
  12. ^ http://www.balawaristan.net/pdf/Latest-news/send-un-forces-to-stop-genocide-of-the-indigenous-people-of-gilgit-baltistan.pdf
  13. ^ Pakistan's heart of darkness, Asia Times, 2002-08-22
  14. ^ Balawaristan National Front, homepage, 2002-08-22
  15. ^ Bokhari, Farhan (29 November 2010). "Pakistan-Saudi relations appear strained in leaked cables". CBS News. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Pak settling ultras in PoK: BNF, The Tribune, 2000-11-15
  17. ^ Al-Qaida activists in PoK, The Tribune, 2002-10-10
  18. ^ Sectarian Violence Rooted in Pakistan, The Jamestown Foundation, 2005-05-25
  19. ^ UN asked to intervene on constitutional status for NAs, Daily Times (Pakistan), 2003-11-02
  20. ^ A Letter From Balwaristan, The South Asian
  21. ^ Seminar demands independent Bolor state, Daily Times (Pakistan), 2005-01-03
  22. ^ on Kashmir: present situation and future prospects, European Union, 2007-04-25
  23. ^ Northern Areas to have elected local govts: President okays devolution package, Dawn, 2007-10-21
  24. ^ European Parliamentarians express concern for Gilgit Baltistan, German Information Center, New Delhi, 2008-04-12
  25. ^ Balawaristan: BNF chief Abdul Hamid's telephonic speech to a historic gathering at Gahkuch on June 8, 2008
  26. ^ Gilgit-Baltistan package termed an eyewash, Dawn (newspaper), 2009-08-30

External links[edit]