A Matter of Top Priority

It was in 1974 that the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was going to confer constitutional status on the Northern Area’s and declare it as the 5th Province. A half hearted attempt has now been made and a federal government official is posted as the so-called Chief Secretary, while the area is still administered by the Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Affairs.

During the rule of General Ziaul Haq, quite a few committees were notified to recommend the constitutional status for Northern Area’s. A committee headed by Ijlal Haider Ziadi could not make any firm recommendations because the Punjabi Members wanted Northern Area’s to be attached to Punjab Province, while Abdul Wahid, Member Secretary of this committee resigned on this issue that people of Northern Area’s wanted to be merged with Punjab, this has never been a fact and is not even now.

Mr. Z. A. Bhutto was assisted by Mr. Bach on this and he advised the Prime Minister to let Northern Area remain a disputed subject linked with Kashmir issue so that at the time of plebiscite, so that the votes of Northern Area would be a bonus for Pakistan. To say the least, this is a shortsighted view of Mr. Bach and a travesty of facts of the history of Northern Area’s. The moot question should have been whether or not Pakistan is sure of its ground in Kashmir? If the fate of Kashmir is left in the hands of Kashmiris, as it should, and this is what Self-Determination means, are we not sure that they are going to become a province of Pakistan. By banking on the votes of Northern Areas, are we oblivious of the fact that struggle with India may end up with Kashmir’s struggle against Pakistan.

It is high time that Northern areas be declared as 5th province of Pakistan and Kashmir as and when the dispute is solved and is declared as a part of Pakistan will become the 6th province.

The Northern areas is a self liberated area since 1st November 1947 under the heroic leadership of Col. Hassan Khan with their own Independent government called The Frontier Government of Gilgit with Raja Shah Rais Khan as its first President, which later signed and accord called Karachi Declaration and acceded to Pakistan and the pity is that because of the short sighted and unimaginative policies of our rulers, this beautiful land is still administered under the frontier crimes regulation of the British Raj by a so-called administration of a Chief Secretary and the Northern area Council with a powerless Dy. Chief Executive to boot.

The report is that about a hundred persons including the Chief Editor of Weekly K-2 are dubbed as traitors and rotting in Pakistan jail. These people who have contributed to Pakistan’s victory in Kargil which we lost negotiation table in Washington accord on 4th July 1999. The moot point is why Northern areas is still ruled by the laws of the dark ages of Frontier Crimes Regulation or alike which led to the fall of the Roman Empire, which God forbid may lead to the fall of Musalmans if we do not bring a change in our attitude towards governance.

It would not be out of place to mention here the gallantry spirit of the people of Northern areas which is recorded in the book ” Gilgit Before 1947 ” written by Brigadier Ghansara Sing the last Dogra Governor who was captured by the famous Gilgit Scouts on 1st November 1947, he writes ” As I had ordered Lt. Col. Abdul Majid Khan on 31st October 1947 to reach Gilgit immediately, so I was expecting him at any time as he was one of our loyal servants. Had he reached Gilgit as ordered the picture might have been different, but to our misfortune, Captain Hassan Khan of 6th J&K Infantry instead reached Gilgit same morning.” With this past record of patriotism and gallantry these men of Northern areas do not deserve the treatment being meted out to them for a whimsical political gain, the bird in hand is worth two in the bush, Pakistan should be sure of its ground in Kashmir.

It is time now that the provincial government of northern area give whatever name to it be established with all powers which the other provincial governors enjoy. They should take notice of the mismanagement and excesses meted out to the people of Northern areas and redress their grievances before they rightly demand a public apology also, they have suffered much more than enough during the last more than half a century of Pakistan.

Mr. Ali Ashraf Khan is a Pakistani Businessman and Ex-Politician who bid good bye to politics in order to concentrate on more useful service benefit of the political intrigues prevalent in the National Political life of Pakistan. He frequently writes for English and Urdu newspapers in Pakistan.