Map of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan
A map of the disputed Kashmir region showing the Pakistani-administered region of Gilgit-Baltistan
|Established||1 November 1948|
Gilgit-Baltistan (Urdu: گِلگِت بَلتِسْتان, Balti: རྒྱལ་སྐྱིད་ སྦལྟི་ཡུལ།), formerly known as the Northern Areas, is a region administered by Pakistan as an administrative territory, and constituting the northern portion of the larger Kashmir region which has been the subject of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947, and between India and China from somewhat later. It is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan. It borders Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang region of China, to the east and northeast, and the Indian-administered union territories Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to the southeast.
Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the greater Kashmir region, which is the subject of a long-running conflict between Pakistan and India. The territory shares a border with Azad Kashmir, together with which it is referred to by the United Nations and other international organisations as "Pakistan administered Kashmir".[note 1] Gilgit-Baltistan is six times the size of Azad Kashmir. The territory also borders Indian-administered union territories Jammu and Kashmir (union territory) and Ladakh to the south and is separated from it by the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan.
The territory of present-day Gilgit-Baltistan became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas". It was formed by the amalgamation of the former Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan district and several small former princely states, the larger of which being Hunza and Nagar. In 2009, it was granted limited autonomy and renamed to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Self-Governance Order signed by President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, which also aimed to empower the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, scholars state that the real power rests with the governor and not with chief minister or elected assembly. Much of the population of Gilgit-Baltistan wants to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province and opposes integration with Kashmir. The Pakistani government has rejected Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that it would jeopardise its demands for the whole Kashmir issue to be resolved according to UN resolutions. However, in November 2020, Pakistan announced that Gilgit-Baltistan has been given provisional provincial status, with the process to fully convert it into a proper province underway.
Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of over 72,971 km2 (28,174 sq mi) and is highly mountainous. It had an estimated population of 1.249 million in 2013 (estimated as 1.8 million in 2015 by Shahid Javed Burki (2015)). Its capital city is Gilgit (population 216,760 est). Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the "eight-thousanders" and more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Three of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan. The main tourism activities are trekking and mountaineering, and this industry is growing in importance.
The provisional government lasted 16 days. The provisional government lacked sway over the population. The Gilgit rebellion did not have civilian involvement and was solely the work of military leaders, not all of whom had been in favour of joining Pakistan, at least in the s
The provisional government lasted 16 days. The provisional government lacked sway over the population. The Gilgit rebellion did not have civilian involvement and was solely the work of military leaders, not all of whom had been in favour of joining Pakistan, at least in the short term. Historian Ahmed Hasan Dani mentions that although there was a lack of public participation in the rebellion, pro-Pakistan sentiments were intense in the civilian population and their anti-Kashmiri sentiments were also clear. According to various scholars, the people of Gilgit as well as those of Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Ishkoman, Yasin, Punial, Hunza and Nagar joined Pakistan by choice.
After taking control of Gilgit, the Gilgit Scouts along with Azad irregulars moved towards Baltistan and Ladakh and captured Skardu by May 1948. They successfully blocked the Indian reinforcements and subsequently captured Dras and Kargil as well, cutting off the Indian communications to Leh in Ladakh. The Indian forces mounted an offensive in Autumn 1948 and recaptured all of Kargil district. Baltistan region, however, came under Gilgit control.
On 1 January 1948, India took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council. In April 1948, the Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and India to reduce its forces to the minimum level, following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain the people's wishes. However, no withdrawal was ever carried out, India insisting that Pakistan had to withdraw first and Pakistan contending that there was no guarantee that India would withdraw afterwards. Gilgit-Baltistan and a western portion of the state called Azad Jammu and Kashmir have remained under the control of Pakistan since then.
While the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan expressed a desire to join Pakistan after gaining independence from Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan declined to merge the region into itself because of the territory's link to Jammu and Kashmir. For a short period after joining Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan was governed by Azad Kashmir if only "theoretically, but not practically" through its claim of being an alternative government for Jammu and Kashmir. In 1949, the Government of Azad Kashmir handed administration of the area to the federal government via the Karachi Agreement, on an interim basis which gradually assumed permanence. According to Indian journalist Sahni, this is seen as an effort by Pakistan to legitimise its rule over Gilgit-Baltistan.
There were two reasons why administration was transferred from Azad Kashmir t
There were two reasons why administration was transferred from Azad Kashmir to Pakistan: (1) the region was inaccessible to Azad Kashmir and (2) because both the governments of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan knew that the people of the region were in favour of joining Pakistan in a potential referendum over Kashmir's final status.
According to the International Crisis Group, the Karachi Agreement is highly unpopular in Gilgit-Baltistan because Gilgit-Baltistan was not a party to it even while its fate was being decided upon.
From then until the 1990s, Gilgit-Baltistan was governed through the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, which treated tribal people as "barbaric and uncivilised," levying collective fines and punishments. People had no right to legal representation or a right to appeal. Members of tribes had to obtain prior permission from the police to travel to any location and had to keep the police informed about their movements. There was no democratic set-up for Gilgit-Baltistan during this period. All political and judicial powers remained in the hands of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA). The people of Gilgit-Baltistan were deprived of rights enjoyed by citizens of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
A primary reason for this state of affairs was the remoteness of Gilgit-Baltistan. Another factor was that the whole of Pakistan itself was deficient in democratic norms and principles, therefore the federal government did not prioritise democratic development in the region. There was also a lack of public pressure as an active civil society was absent in the region, with young educated residents usually opting to live in Pakistan's urban centers instead of staying in the region.
In 1970 the two parts of the territory, viz., the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan, were merged into a single administrative unit, and given the name "Northern Areas". The Shaksgam tract was ceded by Pakistan to China following the signing of the Sino-Pakistani Frontier Agreement in 1963. In 1969, a Northern Areas Advisory Council (NAAC) was created, later renamed to Northern Areas Council (NAC) in 1974 and Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in 1994. But it was devoid of legislative powers. All law-making was concentrated in the KANA Ministry of Pakistan. In 1994, a Legal Framework Order (LFO) was created by the KANA Ministry to serve as the de facto constitution for the region.
In 1984 the territory's importance shot up on the domestic level with the opening of the Karakoram Highway and the region's population came to be more connected with mainland Pakistan. With the improvement in connectivity, the local population availed education opportunities in the rest of Pakistan. Improved connectivity also allowed the political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir to set up local branches, raise political awareness in the region, and these Pakistani political parties have played a 'laudable role' in organising a movement for democratic rights among the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan.
In the late 1990s, the President of Al-Jihad Trust filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to determine the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its judgement of 28 May 1999, the Court directed the Government of Pakistan to ensure the provision of equal rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and gave it six months to do so. Following the Supreme Court decision, the government took several steps to devolve power to the local level. However, in several policy circles, the point was raised that the Pakistani government was helpless to comply with the court verdict because of the strong political and sectarian divisions in Gilgit-Baltistan and also because of the territory's historical connection with the still disputed Kashmir region and this prevented the determination of Gilgit-Baltistan's real status.
A position of 'Deputy Chief Executive' was created to act as the local administrator, but the real powers still rested with the 'Chief Executive', who was the Federal Minister of KANA. "The secretaries were more powerful than the concerned advisors," in the words of one commentator. In spite of various reforms packages over the years, the situation is essentially unchanged. Meanwhile, public rage in Gilgit-Baltistan is "growing alarmingly." Prominent "antagonist groups" have mushroomed protesting the absence of civic rights and democracy. Pakistan government has been debating the grant of a provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to Antia Mato Bouzas, the PPP-led Pakistani government has attempted a compromise through its 2009 reforms between its traditional stand on the Kashmir dispute and the demands of locals, most of whom may have pro-Pakistan sentiments. While the 2009 reforms have added to the self-identification of the region, they have not resolved the constitutional status of the region within Pakistan.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan want to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province, however, leaders of Azad Kashmir are opposed to any step to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan oppose any integration with Kashmir and instead want Pakistani citizenship and constitutional status for their region.
In September 2020, Pakistan decided to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan’s status to that of a full-fledged province.
The territory of present-day Gilgit-Baltistan became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas". It was formed by the amalgamation of the former Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat and the hill states of Hunza and Nagar. It presently consists of fourteen districts, has a population approaching one million and an area of approximately 73,000 square kilometres (28,000 square miles), and shares borders with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and India. In 1993, an attempt was made by the High Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to annexe Gilgit-Baltistan but was quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan after protests by the locals of Gilgit-Baltistan, who feared domination by the Kashmiris.
Government of Pakistan abolished State Subject Rule in Gilgit-Baltistan in 1974, which resulted in demographic changes in the territory.Government of Pakistan abolished State Subject Rule in Gilgit-Baltistan in 1974, which resulted in demographic changes in the territory. While administratively controlled by Pakistan since the First Kashmir War, Gilgit-Baltistan has never been formally integrated into the Pakistani state and does not participate in Pakistan's constitutional political affairs. On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the then President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. The order granted self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Gilgit-Baltistan Council. Gilgit-Baltistan thus gained a de facto province-like status without constitutionally becoming part of Pakistan. Currently, Gilgit-Baltistan is neither a province nor a state. It has a semi-provincial status. Officially, the Pakistan government has rejected Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that it would jeopardise its demands for the whole Kashmir issue to be resolved according to UN resolutions. Some Kashmiri nationalist groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, claim Gilgit-Baltistan as part of a future independent state to match what existed in 1947. India, on the other hand, maintains that Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that is "an integral part of the country [India]."
The Gilgit-Baltistan Police (GBP) is responsible for law enforcement in Gilgit-Baltistan. The mission of the force is the prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of law and order and enforcement of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into three divisions: Baltistan, Diamer and Gilgit, which, in turn, are divided into fourteen districts. The principal administrative centers are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.