ISLAMABAD: People of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) living in different cities of the country staged a protest demonstration in Islamabad, demanding provincial status for the region.
The protest gathering was organized by the civil society of GB, which was also attended by representatives from political parties, students’ organizations and residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The participants held placards and national flags chanted slogans as “Make GB province of Pakistan, GB Banega Pakistan, Pakistan Zindabad.”
The protest gathering was addressed by a number of political leaders like Dr Muhammad Iqbal of PTI GB, Imtiaz Gilgiti of Diamer Youth Forum and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI) Vice President Haji Qurban.
Representing the caravan from Gilgit, former GB minister Dr Iqbal said, “We have been the most peaceful people in Pakistan, but most of the citizens of the country do not know that our elders made sacrifices and voluntarily joined Pakistan not even seeking any reward in return.”
He said the people of GB had arrived in Islamabad with the hope that their longstanding demand would be taken seriously and the provision of constitutional rights to the people of the region would be ensured immediately.
“We see that there are certain elements opposing a provincial status for GB, and that is why we have decided to raise our voice,” he added.
Muhammad Iqbal Ganache, another political leader from the Baltistan region, while addressing the gathering, said granting the constitutional status of a province to GB was the right of the people of the area.
He rejected the impression that making GB an interim constitutional province of Pakistan would have a negative impact on the Kashmir issue at the international level.
Iqbal, “We need to make the people understand that GB is being given an interim provincial status which would not undermine the Kashmir cause because whenever there is a referendum in Kashmir, the people of GB will also be a part of it”.
“Therefore, we expect our brothers in Azad Kashmir to be a part of this cause and join us in overcoming our 73 years of deprivation,” he added.
In his address, Haji Qurban Ali said the representation to the region in the National Assembly and Senate, as proposed by the PML-N, would reduce the sense of deprivation of the people of the area. The people of the area would continue their support to Kashmiri people, he added.
Qurban also said the Supreme Court, in its landmark decision regarding reform in GB, also made it clear that granting provisional provincial status to GB would not affect the cause of Kashmir.
Imtiaz Gilgiti said people of GB had been deprived of their due rights for over 70 years because they had already made their choice to be part of Pakistan.
The federal government should not wait for the election in GB for the announcement of the provincial status as there was a complete consensus among political parties in GB regarding their demand for constitutional rights, he added.
Unanimous resolutions of GB Assembly and joint statements of All Parties Conferences held in GB were enough to know the aspiration and demand of GB, he said.
Later, PTI leader Syed Wajid Hussain Bukhari said the PTI government was going to give provisional provincial status to GB as per the demand of the people.
He said agents of an Indian spy agency were spreading anti-Pakistan rumors and propagating against the rights of the people of GB, and that was because GB was strategically a very important place for the country.
The protestors demanded from the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan that Gilgit-Baltistan be given the status of a provisional province of Pakistan without further delay.