Gilgit Baltistan, (formerly known as the Northern Areas), (Urdu: گلگت بلتستان) is the northern-most autonomous territory of Pakistan. In terms of land area it is bigger than Sierra Leone but smaller than Panama. It was part of the former Princely state of Kashmir and Jammu in 1800s and later leased to British eventually liberated after a planned liberation movement led by Gilgit Scouts. It borders Azad Jammu and Kashmir in the south Indian-administered Kashmir in southeast where KPK province of Pakistan to the west, and internationally borders Afghanistan to the north, although Tajikistan is separated by fourteen kilometres via Wakhan Corridor, the People's Republic of China to the northeast. Gilgit Baltistan, which became a single administrative unit in 1970, was formed from the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. Gilgit Baltistan remains part of the Kashmir dispute. The Government of Pakistan since Independence regards the entire area of Jammu and Kashmir as "territory in dispute" to be resolved by a plebiscite to be held throughout the former state in order to determine the area's final accession to either India or merger with Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan is governed by a Governor and a Chief minister, the latter elected by a legislative assembly. Gilgit Baltistan covers 64,817 km² (28,174 mi²).
گلگت - بلتستان
Location of Gilgit-Baltistan, disputed (red) and (white), with Siachen Glacier (1949-1984)
|Established||1 July 1970|
|• Type||Self-governing territory of Pakistan|
|• Body||Legislative Assembly|
|• Governor||Mir Gazanfar Ali|
|• Chief Minister||Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman|
|• Total||72,971 / 64,817 km2 (0.43466991684284 sq mi)|
|• Density||0.00038/km2 (0.00099/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+5 (PKT)|
|ISO 3166 code||PK-NA|
Gilgit Baltistan historically belonged to the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after the partition of India in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession, thereby acceding to the Indian Union. Hence, whole Kashmir is legitimately an inherent part of India. This territory has been under Pakistan’s unlawful control ever since the Pakistan Army orchestrated the tribal invasion of the territory in October 1947.
The regions of Baltistan, and Ladakh (including Kargil) and Chitral are also considered to be a part of Balawaristan by nationalist parties of Gilgit. The peoples' do not consider areas of Gilgit and Baltistan to be legally or constitutionally part of Pakistan or India. Nor do they regard neighboring regions of Ladakh wazarat to be legitimately part of India or Pakistan. They demand freedom not just for regions within Pakistan, but also Indian held areas. They also assert that as per UNCIP resolutions, (Pakistan and India) must withdraw their occupational armed forces and handover the control of the disputed region to the people of Gilgit Baltistan, under the supervision of the United Nations, until a final settlement of the whole Jammu and Kashmir issue is reached, as per a United Nations sponsored plebiscite that would be held in both Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir."
Semi-autonomous status and present-day Gilgit-BaltistanEdit
On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the country's President. The order granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly. There has been criticism and opposition to this move in Pakistan, India, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Gilgit Baltistan United Movement—while rejecting the new package—demanded that an independent and autonomous legislative assembly for Gilgit-Baltistan should be formed with the installation of local authoritative government as per the UNCIP resolutions, where the people of Gilgit-Baltistan will elect their president and the prime minister.
In early September 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with the People's Republic of China for a mega energy project in Gilgit-Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7,000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District. This also resulted in protest from India, although Indian concerns were immediately rejected by Pakistan, which claimed that the Government of India has no locus standi in the matter.
On 29 September 2009, the Pakistani Prime Minister, while addressing a huge gathering in Gilgit-Baltistan, announced a multi-billion rupee development package aimed at the socio-economic uplifting of people in the area. Development projects will include the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and the basic needs of life. The Prime Minister further went on to say:
"You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it." Gilgit–Baltistan thus gained de facto province-like status without constitutionally becoming part of Pakistan. The official poistion of Pakistan has rejected Gilgit–Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that it would prejudice its international obligations with regard to the Kashmir dispute.
In 1982 the Pakistani President General Zia ul Haq proclaimed that the people of the Northern Areas were Pakistanis and had nothing to do with the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
An attempt in 1993 by the High Court of Azad Kashmir to annex Gilgit–Baltistan was quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, after protests by the predominantly Shia population of Gilgit–Baltistan, who feared domination by the Sunni Kashmiris.
The Government of Gilgit Baltistan also known as the State Government of the Northern Areas, is the highest governing authority of the territory and its 10 districts. It consists of an executive, led by the Governor of Gilgit Baltistan, a judiciary and a legislative branch.
Like other provinces in Pakistan, the head of state of Gilgit Baltistan is the governor. The governor is chosen by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the central government. The governor's post is largely ceremonial. It does not have much power. The Chief Minister is the head of government and is holds most of the executive powers.
The Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly is a 33-seat unicameral legislative body. It was formed as part of the Gilgit–Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009. This order gave the region self-rule and an elected legislative assembly. Before this, the region had been directly ruled from Islamabad.
Districts of Gilgit BaltistanEdit
- Astore District - (Diamir Division)
- Diamir District - (Diamir Division)
- Ghanche District - (Baltistan Division)
- Ghizar District - (Gilgit Division)
- Gilgit District - (Gilgit Division)
- Hunza District - (Gilgit Division)
- Nagar District - (Gilgit Division)
- Skardu District - (Baltistan Division)
- Shigar District - (Baltistan Division)
- Kharmang District - (Baltistan Division)
Geography and climateEdit
Gilgit–Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west.
Gilgi-Baltistan is home to five of the "eight-thousanders" and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world's highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram Mountains and the western Himalayas. The Pamir mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
The Deosai Plains are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet) after the Chinese region of Tibet. The plateau lies east of Astore, south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared as a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Astore & Baltistan in winters. The village of Deosai lies close to Chilum chokki and is connected with the Kargil District of Ladakh in the Kashmir disputed region through an all-weather road.
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