Gilgit-Baltistan rages against Pak Army

Valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan are resonating with loud protests by local
communities against Pakistan for forcibly usurping village lands and
plundering their natural wealth.
Recently, a large number of people came out into the streets protesting
against the Pakistan government’s decision to issue licenses to private
contractors for mining gems. Many of these contractors are close to the
Pakistan Army.
During the rally, people were heard saying that their region was a disputed
territory and Pakistan was an illegal occupier and hence had no right to lease
out their natural resources without the consent of the local communities.
The main allegation against the Pakistan Army was that ancestral land was
being forcibly taken away and leased out to private contractors working with
the army. This contractor-military nexus has robbed scores of poor people of
their homes in the past few years. The local communities have been
protesting against this state-run land grabbing racket for years now but
without any success. The Pakistan government, as well as the army, is too
powerful to bow under public pressure.
In February this year, the Gilgit Baltistan people had organised a Pakistanwide protest against illegal licenses. Residents of Nasirbad, Hunza, and
Gilgit Baltistan took to the streets demanding the revocation of licenses given
to contractors. Simultaneous protests were also held in Islamabad, Lahore,
Karachi, and other cities where many youngsters from Gilgit Baltistan live
and study.
Local communities are angry at the reckless manner in which Pakistan,
especially its military, was usurping land under various pretexts and gifting a
large part of them to private contractors for mining of precious stones and
In January this year, people of Nopura village held a demonstration against
the army for trying to forcibly acquire 500 canals of land. The local people
threw stones at the army personnel and chanted anti-army slogans. The local
population has accused the army of using the old Khalsa Sarkar (state land)
rules 1978 and other related laws to take over private lands. Under this law,
all barren land in the state is under government ownership and thus are
parceled out without local consent.
The army has been running roughshod over local communities in GilgitBaltistan ever since the ambitious China Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC) came into the scene. The region happened to be the gateway to the
$46 billion project. The army was made the sole authority to oversee
development of the project along with Chinese construction and engineering
Large chunk of areas belonging to villages were acquired and given to the
army for setting up various infrastructures for their new security unit created
for the CPEC project. Two places which saw widespread and persistent
protests were Thak Das and Maqpoon Das. The area has been razed to the
ground, destroying houses, cattle shed, farms and other living spaces of
traditional mountain villages. The army is busy constructing the headquarters
for the security unit and other paraphernalia. Locals, however, believe that
their land was being snatched away and taken over by the army and its
cohorts to change the demographic profile of the area. The government has
been ruthless in terrorising the villagers, issuing warrants to over 200
villagers for protesting against the army.
Not a month passes in this beautiful mountainous region without local
communities breaking out into protests against the land grabbing spree
launched by the army and civilian leadership of Pakistan

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