Gilgit-Baltistan has long suffered from neglect at the hands of the Pakistani state. According to a recent fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), “the human rights situation in the region had deteriorated, with political workers, rights activists, the legal fraternity and religious leadership expressing their disappointment at the federation’s failure to integrate GB with the rest of the country. The groups that the mission consulted were of the view that GB should, at the very least, be granted provisional provincial status or, as a last option, granted a governance system similar to that of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.”
According to HRCP “the political leadership that met the mission also demanded that GB be made part of the electoral reforms process being undertaken to ensure free and fair elections in this region. In addition, the fact that appointments to the higher judiciary are made by the prime minister puts a question mark over the independence, integrity and impartiality of the GB judiciary, eroding public confidence in the institution.”
HRCP issued a statement “It is a matter of great concern that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly remain under threat in GB: rights campaigners, political workers and students continue to be charged under anti-terrorism and cybercrime laws, particularly Schedule IV. Based on the evidence, the mission believes that the abolition of State Subject Rule has paved the way for exploitation of local natural resources by external private corporations and individuals not resident in GB. This has led to demographic changes in the region, to the consternation of residents, who also feel that GB is being excluded from development projects, primarily those being launched under CPEC.”
The high-profile HRCP fact-finding mission to Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), comprised Council members Salima Hashmi and Muzaffar Hussain, senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, and HRCP regional coordinator Israruddin.