Pak ‘gifts’ disputed land to China to set up base

Prashun Bhaumik |

Pakistani move to lease land to China is aimed at cementing its all-weather relations with China amid the irreparable rupture in US-Pak ties over the past year.

By RC Ganjoo

Pakistan’s decision to lease out Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) to China for 50 years has provoked the people of this region along with those in Pak-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to launch nationwide mass movements against the “wicked” proposal.

Angered by Pakistan’s offensive proposal, Syed Salahuddin, chairman United Jihad Council (UJC), PoK said: “Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory and therefore any kind of intervention by Pakistan and China are illegal and such violations will never ever be tolerated. We will launch a mass struggle against this plan.”

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-occupied part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to Pakistan’s Constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous region separate from Pakistan itself, and its inhabitants have never had any representation in Pakistan’s Parliament. Gilgit Baltistan, known as the Northern Areas, shares an international border with China.

Pakistan’s lease of Gilgit-Baltistan to China for 50 years was exposed by an Urdu daily — Roznama Bang-e-Sahar– published from Gilgit Baltistan The report which appeared in December said: “Deliberations have begun [on a Proposal] to hand over Gilgit Baltistan to China on a 50-year lease; In the next stage, China [will] deploy its troops there. In the backdrop of deteriorating situation in Pakistan and its strained relations with America, a Chinese think tank has also given the green light for such a move.”

The report, with an Islamabad dateline, surmised that international powers i.e. the US and allies want to foment terror attacks in Gilgit Baltistan in order to watch on China by sending a counter-terrorism force there.

Clearly, the Pakistani move is aimed at fortifying its strategic relations with China amid the irreparable rupture in US-Pakistan relations over the past year.

The plan is that China will first formulate a strategy for development in the area and will gradually take control of this region for 50 years and then deploy its troops. According to Abdul Hamid Khan, chairman of the Balawaristan National Front (BNF): “There is already a big Chinese presence in Gilgit Baltistan, apparently involved in the construction of many mega projects. But the presence of the Chinese army and their designs to take control of the region is worrying. Not only are they opening Chinese banks and building infrastructure by investing billions of dollars, they are secretly and assertively taking control of the region.”

He also claims that “About 15,000 Chinese including those from the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and its secret agency are scattered from Khunjarab, Gilgit up to Kashmir and Balochistan. A big PLA camp (about 2,00,000 personnel) has been established in Tashkurkand near the Hunza border in Sinkiang (East Turkistan) of China, where even Chinese nationals are not allowed into the so-called labour camps.

According to well-informed sources, Pakistani and Chinese militaries are moving in the direction of a joint military management of Gilgit Baltistan. The two militaries will cooperate under a specific plan designated by Pakistan as the “Pak-China Strategic Program for Gilgit Baltistan.” As part of this plan, officials from Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will “undergo joint trainings and exchange of expertise.” According to a Pakistani newspaper, the Pak-China Strategic Program for Gilgit Baltistan will come into effect from June 2012.

China has been already been working on an expansion plan of the Karakorum Highway (KKH). In addition, a contract has been awarded to China to restore the Karakorum Highway. The 851-km-long KKH was constructed without paying a single penny to the local people besides illegally gifting 2,500 sqmile area of Shamshaal of Hunza to China by Pakistan. Pakistan earns billions of dollars from this highway and it also eases passage of military equipment including WMD (weapons of mass destruction) from China. About three billion rupees in custom duty is earned by Pakistan from the Sost Custom check post in Hunza per annum, despite Pakistan having no right to collect taxes from this disputed land, sources revealed.

China is aware that Gilgit Baltistan is disputed and that Pakistan’s sovereignty does not extend to this region. The Pakistani Constitution and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, or other federal government institutions, do not have jurisdiction in Gilgit Baltistan, a strategic region through which China intends to establish trading routes to Iran and the Middle Eastern countries.

Gilgit Baltistan was an ethnically different part of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir, which was ruled by a Hindu king during British era. However, after the British left India in 1947, Jammu & Kashmir was divided by a Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. India claims the entire Jammu & Kashmir state, including Gilgit Baltistan, to be its integral part but has avoided any serious claim for control of the region. This is mainly because India is confronted by Pakistan-sponsored militancy in its part of Kashmir.

UJC’s Salahuddin further also pointed out that the dialogue between India and Pakistan is incomplete without taking Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims, Sikhs, Dogras and Buddhists on board for a final settlement of the Kashmir issue. “After reaching a J&K resolution, we will take up the issue with China, gifted with 2200 sqmiles of Aksai Chin from Gilgit Baltistan region to China in 1963 from erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir territory by Pakistan,” he said. While expressing dismay over the present situation in GB, he said the region is deprived of social, political and civil rights. He demanded the region be granted a special package which will address their grievances without declaring it as one of their provinces, which will not be accepted at any cost. This area of over two million inhabitants spread over 100,000 sqkm came under Pakistan control on 16 November 1947, just 15 days after Gilgit claimed independence. Later Pakistan maintained its hold by dividing the people on sectarian lines. This is the world’s most beautiful as well as the most deprived and neglected part of the region.

Echoing Abdul Hamid Khan’s statement, ex-Chairman of Karakorum National Movement (KNM) GB region Mohd Iqbal, advocate, said: “Clandestine activities of Chinese and Pakistan forces in Hunza and other areas of Gilgit Baltistan has upset the ecological balance of the region and the exploitation of natural resources will further marginalize the people economically.”

Arif Shahid, president of Jammu Kashmir National Libration Conference, says Balawaristan has become the focal point of international political intrigue. He emphasized on a framework where all stakeholders could work together to solve the dispute. in PoK.

Abdul Hamid Khan said Gilgit Baltistan is the gateway for China and Central Asia, which is disputed in the UN along with Jammu & Kashmir. Pakistan has already established a puppet Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly so that it can be used as a rubber stamp to lease out the region to China.

China could lease Hainan island to Pakistan for 50 years

In what is being seen as a quid pro quo, there is a proposal that China could lease the island of Hainan to Pakistan for a period of 50 years, in return of leasing a part of Gilgit. This will further strengthen the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan.

Chinese leader Xi Jinpin, who is slated to take over from Hu Jintao, will be discussing the proposal with Pakistani premier in their next meeting in Beijing.