India which has already been supporting insurgency in Pakistan’s province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and separatism in Balochistan has also accelerated its intervention in Northern Areas. In this connection, with the help of some external powers, New Delhi has continuously been backing the minority nationalist elements, who claim an independent Balawaristan, consisting of Gilgit and Baltistan.
It is mentionable that strategic location of the Northern Areas is of a greater geo-political importance for Pakistan, linking major parts of South Asia, Central Asia and South East Asia. Besides India, Pakistan’s clandestine rivals, America and Afghanistan on one hand and its close friend, China on the other also consider it as strategically important. In the present era of economic wars, the region is the backbone of our country’s economy, and trade with China entailing future partnership with the Central Asian States. Pakistan imports almost all kind of items from China via Karakorum Highway. These areas are significant in respect of natural resources containing precious minerals such as gold, ruby, emerald, iron ore and uranium. Water is another major source. Pakistan’s major source of water is River Indus which flows through this region. It was also due to the ideal strategic location of this region that India had occupied the Siachen Glacier, deputing its forces below 50 and 60 degree freezing point peaks, and compelled Pakistan to defend its Northern Areas.
It is notable that just like the separatist groups of Balochistan and the Pakhtunkhwa, Indian secret agency, RAW has played a key role in the Northern Areas in organizing a number of nationalist groups such as Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA), Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM) etc.—and particularly Balawaristan National Front (BNF) which plays a leading role, claiming that Chitral and Kohistan are inseparable parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, known as Balawaristan.
New Delhi and Kabul with the covert support of Washington have already been creating lawlessness in various regions of Pakistan by fuelling sectarianism—are also converting our Northern Areas into another volatile place where they have been manipulating anti-Pakistan sentiments to achieve their secret strategic goals.
Apart from other external secret agencies, RAW which has became most active in availing the anti-Muslim phenomena of world terrorism is especially using US war on terror against Pakistan by supporting the separatist elements with a view to either disintegrating or weakening the federation of our country. So far as the Northern Areas of the country are concerned, in this context, RAW which had performed a major role in forming Balawaristan National Front (BNF) in 1992 has been providing it with political and financial support including arms and ammunition. The sole aim is to promote the agenda of an independent Republic of Balawaristan from Kohistan to Chitral and Khunjrab to Skardu which also includes Ladakh.
India’s backing to the BNF could be judged from the fact that on October 18, 2008, its leader Abdul Hameed Khan along with the Indian projected so-called Kashmiri leader Shaukat had held meetings with Emma Nicholson, the Vice Chairperson of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Union and member of the European Parliament with the covert help of RAW. In that meeting, Abdul Hameed blamed Pakistan for human rights violations in Gilgit and Baltistan, exaggerating regional disparities which are very common in the less developed countries due to a number of problems like lack of resources, finance, high population growth etc. Surprisingly, being a Third World country, India, itself, is facing these problems. Nevertheless, Ms. Emma Nicholson visited Islamabad in February 2008 and had meetings with Shafaqat Inqalabi of BNF and advocate Muhammad Iqbal of Karakurum National Movement (KNM). Both the leaders admired her favour in filing a successful resolution in the European Parliament on Kashmir issue, requesting her to initiate a similar resolution in relation to Gilgit and Baltistan. They also submitted basic data regarding current political, economic, social and constitutional disparities including alleged human rights violations in connection with those areas to Ms. Nicholson. Notably, statistics were already prepared by these organizations with the instructions of RAW.
However, with the guidance of Indian Raw and help of Ms. Nicholson, so-called leaders of the Indian-held Kashmir and Balawaristan succeeded in their nefarious designs. And in April, 2008, several members of the European Parliament expressed concern over human rights violations in Gilgit and Baltistan.
Apart from Indian diplomatic and political assistance to the nationalists of the Northern Areas, its media also leaves no stone unturned in giving undue coverage to the news of separatist elements of these regions. In this regard, The Tribune, Chandrigarh India wrote on April 9, 2008 “Islamabad has come under sharp focus of the European Parliament when it discussed the appalling human rights conditions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” and “constitutional, political and socio-economic conditions in northern parts of Kashmir at the two-day conference in Brussels, giving sleepless nights to the Pakistan foreign policy establishment”
In an exclusive interview with Indian Hindu Sitah (india.indymedia.org), Abdul Hameed Khan Chairman of Balawaristan blamed Pakistan for many problems regarding Gilgit and Baltistan, while defending the movement of the people who want freedom from Pakistani occupied Balawaristan and are in favour of political and economic integration with India. While advocating, independence, sovereignty and integrity as the main mottos of Balawaristan, in reply to a question, he requested New Delhi for more political, diplomatic and media help for his movement.
Indian conspiracy in relation to the nationalist movement of the Northern Areas could be witnessed from this self-contradictory statement of Abdul Hameed Khan. In this respect, it is surprising that in most of the vocal speeches or statements, he advocated total independence of Gilgit-Baltistan (Balawaristan), but in this interview, he wants integration with India. So besides RAW’s physical aid, Indian media has also been misleading the masses of the Northern Areas by promoting anti-Pakistani nationalist voice.
It is of particular attention that on the direction of RAW, nationalist elements of the Northern Areas of Pakistan have been making hectic efforts for opening of Kargil-Ladakh road. It was part of Indian conspiracy for a very long time with a view to fulfilling its covert agenda. For this purpose, refugees from Indian-held Turtuk, Tiaqshi and Nabar, entailing other towns, now settled in Baltistan are being exploited through various tactics. In this context, a Kargil-Ladakh Refugee Committee of Skardu has already been formed to propagate the issue. RAW with the help of its agents, Indian officials and related-organizations has been inviting various delegations intermittently from the Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir to New Delhi and the Indian occupied Kashmir for implementation of its secret agenda.
Besides, BNF is also mobilizing and organizing student’s community at college and university level to instigate the sentiments of separatism among them. For this aim, on July 29, 2008, BNF had formally created Karakuram Students Organization (KSO) at Karakuram University Gilgit. It also decided to form Balwaristan National Students Org (BNSO).
Being a frontline state of the US war on terror, Pakistan has become a continuous target of terrorist attacks. While our security forces are already engaged in fighting new style of insurgency in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan where RAW and Afghanistan’s Khad are fully supporting the separatist groups by fuelling sectarianism, bomb blasts etc., now India, with the tactical help of some external powers, has also become pro-active in inciting sentiments of nationalism in the Northern Areas. In this connection, New Delhi has accelerated its designs, especially for the so-called cause of Balawaristan which RAW has, itself, created.
In the recent past, Pakistan’s government granted provincial status to the Northern part of Pakistan, with its own provincial assembly, cabinet, and judges and representatives in the Federal cabinet. It has been named as Gilgit-Baltistan. Declaring it as a separate entity will play a key role in progress of the area and that of the local population, building a feeling of trust among the locals, and this undoubtedly is in the best interest of the entire nation. This was a very prudent decision on part of the government to castigate the Indian intervention in the Northern Areas.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations