Gilgit-Balistan (PoK): Land grabbing and high taxes have led to a massive protest against the Pakistan Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Gilgit-Balistan, as per the reports by the Voice of Vienna.
Pakistan’s powerful army establishment continues to exert coercive claims over the land as well as resources of poor regions of Gilgit-Balistan.
As per reports by the Voice of Vienna, “The state of Pakistan has been openly misusing the Khalsa Sarkar laws for the purpose of grabbing land in Gilgit-Balistan. The law stated that the federal government could also claim ownership of barren or uncultivated land in Gilgit-Balistan, even if it were collectively owned by the local community.”
Notably, the Pamir Times took it to Twitter on December 30, to share the details about the ongoing protests in GB, “Heavy protest demonstrations held in different parts of Gilgit-Balistan yesterday against the Khalsa Sarkar colonial law, imposing taxes as well as the wheat and power crisis.”
Local traders and members of several political & social organizations on December 28 has observed a shutters-down strike in different regions of Gilgit-Balistan, keeping the markets closed and vehicles off the roads.
The majority of these demonstrations were taken place in Skardu, Gilgit, Hunza as well as Ghizer & reportedly attended by a massive crowd despite the cold weather.
The land of Gilgit-Balistan has continuously faced regular protests with, highlighting the ‘state-backed’ land-grabbing issues. The severe practice has been growing since the GB became the CPEC ‘gateway’ in 2014, as per reported by the Voice of Vienna.
As per the fact-finding reports of the 2022 Pakistani Human Rights Commission, the Khalsa Sarkar system has violated international human rights standards, which includes the ‘UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, which saves indigenous peoples’ “rights to their collective bio-cultural heritage in a whole, including traditional knowledge as well as resources, territories along with cultural and spiritual values & customary laws.”
Noting the reports of Voice of Vienna, “Interestingly, local opposition leaders in the Gilgit-Balistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) recently bring a resolution to reject the Khalsa Sarkar laws in November 2021. It has been expected that neither the bill nor the resolution had been sanctioned by the legislature “because of the differences among legislators.”
Several protests have been erupted since November 2021, however, the army establishment, in cahoots with the civilian leadership, continues to call the shots as well as not allowing any changes in the laws. Importantly, this law is also benefitting the land mafia & powerful local businessmen, who are associated with different mainstream political parties in Pakistan.
Moreover, the illicit influx of ‘outsiders’ has significantly changed the local demography in Gilgit-Balistan, which was once an absolutely Shia/Ismaili majority area.