As protesters chant 'quit Gilgit', Pak army cracks down, arrests 500

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The Pakistani army on Saturday arrested more than 500 young men in Gilgit-Baltistan who had come on to the streets protesting against the Pakistani army and asking them to vacate the occupation of the region. Gilgit-Baltistan borders Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, both territories under illegal Pakistani occupation and rule since 1948. [Pak's withdrawal from Gilgit-Baltistan will help resolve Kashmir issue: US]

According to news agency ANI, protesters said 500 young men had been imprisoned for asking the Pakistani army to quit Gilgit.

'Quit Gilgit' protests: Pak army arrests 500

Raising 'anti-Pakistan' slogans, angry protesters came out in Gilgit town, Astore, Diamer and Hunza of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, the only Shia-dominated area in Sunni-dominated Pakistan.

The protests were also against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which protesters said would only benefit China and Pakistan's Punjabi traders.

The youth of Gilgit are not being involved in any manner with the CPEC and those who are protesting are being harshly dealt with, said the protesters.

Over 500 young Gilgitis have been jailed, including Gilgit's top political activist Baba Jan, as a mass street-based movement gained ground for his release.

Protesters alleged that Pakistan is perpetrating massive human rights abuses to crush the political aspirations of the people of Gilgit.

The Pakistan government has signed a $46 billion deal on a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Gilgit, which activists and separatists in the region see as a design by the two neighbours to exploit the resources in the occupied territory.

The corridor is part of China's ambitious 21st century Silk Road initiative to reach Central Asia.

The Chinese government is making huge investments in the vast but sparsely populated Gilgit-Baltistan area, bisected by the Karakoram highway, which leads from the plains of north Pakistan to China.

The protests came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan areas are an integral part of India and said Pakistan must be exposed for its atrocities in these regions, which must be liberated from Islamabad's rule.

Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the erstwhile kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has separated Gilgit-Baltistan from the areas occupied by it in Kashmir and designated it as a separate administrative territory.

The landlocked region borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, Kashmir to the south and southeast, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.

(With Agency Inputs)

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