OPINION
OPINION

Gilgit Baltistan Polls To Be Under China-ISI Watch

Pakistan’s federal minister for information, Shibli Faraz, and federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Ali Amin Gandapur, recently held a joint press conference to announce Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates who were awarded the party tickets to contest elections on November 15 in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan.

This act in itself is humiliating for the PTI political activists and politicians from Pakistani-occupied GB since it overrules the GB’s authority to select its candidates. Hence, such action has immediately translated into a rebellion from those PTI leaders who were expecting to be considered for the candidacy.

The list of candidates presented to the media by the two PTI federal ministers did not seek the approval of the local constituencies and this has led to many potential winning candidates to announce that they will contest elections independently against their own party candidates.

This has further frustrated any hopes for PTI to secure a significant majority in the next GB legislative assembly.

That the Pakistani military establishment (ISI) is manipulating the upcoming elections is no secret. The elections were delayed and postponed till such time when winter sets in and the roads and pathways to reach polling stations are blocked by snow.

The announcement made by the Pakistan government that GB will become the 5th province of Pakistan was another tactical manoeuvre to seduce the GB electorate that badly backfired since every major political party in GB and PoJK opposed it and National Equality Party JKGBL leader Sajjad Raja even threatened that his party will call for open rebellion against the state of Pakistan if such action was taken.

Another leader of GB and Chairman of GB People’s Rights Movement, Ibrahim Nagri demanded that local bodies election should be held before the elections of the legislative assembly.

Muhammad Sharif Khan leader of GB Awami Bedari Tehreek (People Awareness Movement) has called these elections a ‘tamasha’. At best the GB elections have lost any credibility in the eyes of the local population and a low turn out should not come as a surprise.

Pakistani military establishment is becoming fearful of China regarding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) since most of the projects are falling behind schedule. Hence, the Chinese are also keen in getting a GB government elected that dances to the tunes of its Pakistani military and new Chinese colonial masters.

This is why a list of all the approved 20 candidates was allegedly handed over to the Chinese ambassador in Islamabad to get his consent.

Failure in mustering up enough candidates and support in GB, China has allegedly had a crucial role to play as the Chinese ambassador brokered a deal between the Shia Majlis Wahdat e Muslameen and Tehreek Islami and the pro- Taliban Sunni PTI.

The deal was done after bringing the Iranian ambassador on board who then convinced the two religious parties to join PTI in an electoral joint campaign. Therefore, PTI is now contesting the elections in coalition with the above-mentioned two religious parties. This in itself shows the vulnerability of PTI, which is the ruling party in Pakistan.

At a time when resentment against the corrupt generals can be felt in every corner of Pakistan and when ex-Prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech via video link from London, to the All Parties Conference (APC) held in Islamabad on September 20, in which he condemned the interference of army in civil matters has gone viral, it will be a very difficult task to crush a popular uprising in the country.

In my opinion, the bugle of the anti-establishment revolt has been blown by Nawaz Sharif at the APC and in the days and weeks to come small towns and cities will begin to explode and with violent protests that would finally encircle larger metropolitan centres.

Hence, any step that the Pakistan military establishment takes in the name of restoring national, regional or global stability will be marked by catastrophic instability.

Soon we will see political instability being translated into missing economic targets which in turn will lead to shrinking foreign investment and the worst of all: the flight of capital!

This will hasten the collapse of Pakistan a state into a region infested with armed gangs and anarchy. Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun and the people of PoJK and GB depending upon the clarity of purpose could then soon secede from Pakistan.

This is a damning scenario. Regional powers such as India and China cannot ignore it and could find themselves face to face in a decisive negotiation session or god forbid a bloody battle. Hence the elections in GB are very important and will leave a mark of the political map of the region.

In the final analysis, attempts will be made to rig the GB elections to bring out a result that both the Pakistani military and the Chinese desire.

However, such a legislative assembly will lack credibility and more and more people will become alienated from the current setup. It should not be long before we witness a long march of the oppressed people of GB demanding the opening of Skardu-Kargil Road.

(The author is a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK – ANI)

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