Srinagar: Reacting to reports suggesting Pakistan authorities have moved a proposal to declare Gilgit and Baltistan (GB) as the fifth province of Pakistan, Kashmiri resistance leaders said the move will have “adverse consequences” for Kashmir.
Senior pro-freedom leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told Kashmir Reader that there is a “considerate opinion” among the entire pro-freedom leadership against the proposed move.
“Any attempt to dilute the pre-1947 territorial status of Jammu and Kashmir can be counter-productive for the solution of Kashmir issue,” Mirwaiz said.
The chairman of Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz added that the entire region is a “dispute” and that the leadership had already conveyed their apprehensions to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi earlier.
“There were similar reports earlier as well but it did not take off. We still do not want to jump the gun before ascertaining the issue fully,” the state’s chief cleric pointed out.
According to Pakistan media, a committee headed by Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has advised to the Pakistan government to grant (GB) region the status of the fifth province along with Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh.
Prime Minister of Pakistan, according to local media, is expected to use his special powers to grant the region a status of province.
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Javed Mir said the proposed move is “detrimental” to the issue of Kashmir and will have a negative impact on Kashmir’s disputed status.
“The move will not only damage the sacrifices Kashmiri’s have rendered for the cause but will also help government of India to damage the cause at international forums,” Mir said.
In a statement, the Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Mirwaiz, JKLF chief Yasin Malik and Syed Ali Geelani said any proposal to merge GB as with Pakistan is “unacceptable”.
“Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir and GB are a single entity and the political destiny of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be decided,” they said.
The leadership termed Pakistan as a prime party to Kashmir issue but asserted that any step that may hamper the disputed status of Kashmir cannot be accepted.
The GB region, which borders Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, enjoys limited autonomy and has been demanding that it should be fully integrated into Pakistan.
However, Pakistan has been rejecting the demand on grounds that it could endanger Kashmir dispute.
Political analyst Gull Mohammad Wani, however, pointed out the proposed decision to include GB region in Pak provinces is an attempt by the country to improve its economic, political and social situation.
“Both India and Pakistan are rational nation states and economic and political stability will take a lead against the territorial status of any of the regions. Both the countries will first think about their interests,” he shared.
Wani believes the move does not necessarily counter the possibility of finding a solution to Kashmir issue, if various other opinions are considered.
“There is an impression in several quarters in both India and Pakistan that there are always possibilities that such measures can reduce the size of the conflict until a final roadmap is chalked out,” Professor Wani said.
New Delhi has also opposed the proposed move and reiterated that GB region is an “integral part” of the Indian state.
The much hyped China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through GB region and the Chinese authorities have reportedly raised issues over its stability. The decision to include GB region among Pak provinces is seen as an attempt by Pakistan to address Chinese concerns in the region.
China has always maintained the dispute is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, to be resolved through a dialogue. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying has reportedly claimed in a recent statement that the country’s stand on the issue remains consistent, however, remained silent on Pakistan’s plans regarding the GB region.