The Hindu – Don’t declare Gilgit-Baltistan as a province, separatists warn Pakistan

India, Pakistan have no right to alter geographical status of J&K, they say

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 18 March 2017. Separatists on Friday opposed the Pakistan government’s move to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province.

In a joint statement, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik said, “Kashmir, Ladakh, Jammu, Azad Kashmir [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] and Gilgit-Baltistan is a single entity.”

The separatists said since the political destiny of Jammu and Kashmir was yet to be decided any proposal to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth State of Pakistan was “unacceptable.”

Referring to Pakistan as “a prime party to the Kashmir issue”, the separatists said such a step may hamper the disputed status of Kashmir.

“We hail the role of Pakistan regarding the issue in international fora. However, any deviation in its stance about Kashmir and its geographical entity is improper and will prove detrimental for the Kashmir cause.”

They said no division, alteration and changes were acceptable unless the people of erstwhile J&K get an opportunity to decide the future course of the State through a referendum. “Both India and Pakistan have no authority or right to alter the geographical status of the State,” they added.

Mr. Geelani, the Mirwaiz and Mr Malik expressed the hope that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “will fulfil the country’s commitment regarding the geographical entity of Jammu and Kashmir”.

The separatists’ reaction comes days after, a committee, headed by Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, had proposed giving the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.

The committee suggested that a constitutional amendment be made to change the status of the region, through which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.

Placed under house arrest

Senior separatist leaders, including Mr. Geelani, the Mirwaiz and Mr Malik, were placed under house arrest on Friday in the wake of their call to hold “peaceful street protests after Friday prayers”.

JKLF chairman Malik, while condemning the police action, said, “Casting or boycotting vote is a democratic right of every human. If the rulers really believe in democracy, battle of ideas and freedom of speech and choice, they should refrain from terrorising pro-boycott people and allow the resistance camp to run a boycott campaign in a peaceful way”.

Two parliamentary constituencies, Srinagar and Anantnag, are having by-polls on April 9 and 12 respectively.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dont-declare-gilgit-baltistan-as-a-province-separatists-warn-pak/article17523856.ece?homepage=true

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