With just four days to go for the second round table in Srinagar between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of various political outfits in Jammu and Kashmir, including the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), leaders from Pakistan's impoverished Gilgit and Baltistan region on Saturday categorically rejected the Hurriyat as the key representative of Kashmiri aspirations and self-determination.
Addressing an hour-and-half long press conference at Maurya Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi, prominent Gilgit leaders like Shafqat Inqalabi, Mirza Wajahat Hussain, Haji Gandal Shah and Nazir Gilani, to name a few, said over the last 58 years, since the partition of the Indian subcontinent, no Kashmiri had designated the Hurriyat or any other socio-political entity in the region as their representative for self-determination rights.
"Neither we, nor the Hurriyat are elected by the common people. So, how can we claim to be their representative," said Mirza Wajahat Hussain, president of the Gilgit-Baltistan Thinker Forum (GBTF)
The 29 leaders, who attended the two-day international conference titled Jammu and Kashmir: Alternative Futures at the Heritage Village Resort in Manesar, Haryana, further went on to call for an end to their continued isolation, regional exclusion and the ongoing "ghettoisation" of Gilgit-Baltistan residents by the Pakistan armed forces and intelligence.
Recognising the growing interdependencies of the modern world, the leaders demanded that "The future of Jammu and Kashmir must be envisaged within the economic, social and political imperatives of integration, while recognising the primacy of and safeguarding the diverse and plural aspects of the identities of the people of Jammu and Kashmir."
They said that the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan could not be met by a "mere political redistribution of power between regional or factional elites," but required the "establishment of clear mechanisms that ensure access to developmental opportunities and safeguarding of economic and natural resources for the benefit of the people of the region".
"The aspirations of the various constituent communities and peoples of Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan must be met within their traditional homelands," they said, adding that no community should be "forcibly evicted, displaced or artificially reduced to a minority through violence or experiments in demographic re-engineering."
Commenting on India's role in the past and in the present, Hussain said: "India is also responsible for our plight, because the focus has always remained on the issues of the valley (Kashmir Valley). It is also wrong on the part of the Pakistan Government that they give a red carpet welcome to these unelected `Hurriyat' leaders."
All the leaders were of the unanimous view that till a final resolution of the status of Jammu and Kashmir was not reached, an effort should be made to establish a "legislative, constitutional and judicial structure that guarantees the rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan". This, they said, "should be statutorily enshrined and enforced."
In their three-page final resolution, the Kashmiri and Gilgit leaders also called on the Indian Government to "provide openings in higher professional and technical education institutions to deserving students from Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir," who at present were being denied this necessary facility. — ANI
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