Abolition of GBís independent status damaging

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GILGIT: Former chief minister of Azad Kashmir and leader of Muslim Conference, Sardar Attiq, while accepting the independent status of Gilgit-Baltistan before 1947 has said that Pakistan should have maintained this status of the region.

In an interview to a FM radio, Sardar Attiq said that before the so-called accession to Pakistan in 1947, Gilgit-Baltistan had its own independent status but abolishing this status Pakistan caused an irerparabe loss to the issue.

He also acknowledged that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan kicked out the Dogra rule in 1947 through their sheer force and established an independent government. He said Col Hassan Khan is still a national hero in Gilgit-Baltistan for leading the war of independence but Pakistan did not keep the independence of the area intact.

The Kashmiri leader also said that under clause 5 of a border agreement signed with China in 1963, Pakistan liked the future status of Gilgit-Baltistan with the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Mr Attiq then asked and wondered why there was a need to change the status of Gilgit-Baltistan overnight. He said this was a ploy to sabotage the united status of the overall state of Kashmir, of which Gilgit-Baltistan was a part.

When asked why the Kashmiri leadership had been opposing any plan and idea to give political and constitutional rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, the Kashmiri leader said that they were always supportive of giving internal autonomy and AJK-like set-up to Gilgit-Baltistan. However, making Gilgit-Baltistan a separate constitutional province of Pakistan would weaken the decades-old stance of Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir ad provide a justification to India to continue its illegal occupation of Kashmir, he contended. He was of the view that the basic issue of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan was not the lack of constitutional rights but the absence of quality educational institutions and job opportunities. Sardar Attiq also claimed that Gilgit-Baltistan was a part of the state of Kashmir whose chief was Maharaja Harri Singh. To authenticate his claim, he also referred to the statement of a US official.

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