Pakistan has scant regard to Gilgit-Baltistan as it continues to dance to China’s tune
New Delhi, Dec 07: The residents of Gilgit-Baltistan have yet again expressed their anger as Pakistan continues its efforts to keep the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in progress. The Pakistan Army was recently sent to Gilgit-Baltistan under the garb of protecting the locals, but on the contrary, it actually facilitated the Chinese in the over-exploitation of natural resources and this caused anger among the locals, a report in IFFRAS said.
The presence of the natural resources is a testament to the progress and prosperity of any region. Ironically, the case of Gilgit-Baltistan the case is the opposite. The part is the most backward and ignored area since its inception and this despite it having a high potential for development. The region is rich in mineral and water resources worth billions of dollars, but the people of the region face extreme poverty due to the indifference of the policy makers.
Recently Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister, Khalid Khurshid Khan accused Islamabad of having the development budget for the region reduced to PKR 23 billion. He said that this was a deliberate attempt to push the region backwards.
Under the banner of the CPEC, work has been initiated on mega damns, oil and gas pipelines, heavy metal extraction and uranium. This has come at a cost of local livelihood and environmental sustainability. Gilgit-Baltistan provides over half of the drinking and irrigation water to Pakistan. Chinese mega projects are showing an adverse impact on the local climate leading to uncontrollable population and irreversible depletion of aquatic ecosystems, IFFRA reported.
The Chinese companies in the region pay scant regard to the local people and many accuse the China Roads and Bridges Corporation, a Chinese firm of using devastating environmental practices in its expansion of the Karokoram highway in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Chinese companies on the other hand refuse to share revenue from resource exploitation with them. Foreign companies do not pay tax to the Gilgit-Baltistan government as they owe their allegiance to the Islamabad based federal institution called the Gilgit-Baltistan Council, which has total legislative control over matters pertaining to forests, water reserves, forests, trade and transit routes. IT also issues mining licences to foreigners without consulting with Gilgit-Baltistan administration.
Islamabad on the other hand earns billions in revenue from the region annually from trade and transit, water resource exploitation, trophy hunting, mineral exploration, and direct and indirect federal taxes. The mainstream media too is stingy in its mention of the region where today protests are becoming increasingly frequent.