A his­tor­i­cal dis­pute

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Afzal A. Shi­gri

The dis­trict of Chi­las in Gil­gitBaltistan shares a border with KP's Ko­his­tan dis­trict. The peo­ple across the di­vide are linked by tribal, lin­guis­tic and cul­tural bonds. They have lived for cen­turies in the iso­lated val­leys gov­erned by lo­cal ma­liks and a rudi­men­tary sys­tem of elected bodies.

Sus­pi­cious of out­siders and fiercely in­de­pen­dent, the small tribes have re­mained em­broiled in blood feuds, with clashes re­volv­ing around tribal ri­val­ries, hon­our and land dis­putes, mostly over graz­ing and wa­ter rights.

There is a history of stronger neigh­bours and out­siders at­tack­ing these ar­eas to sub­ju­gate the pop­u­lace and im­pose suzerainty. For in­stance, the Bri­tish at­tacked and in­te­grated Chi­las and ad­join­ing ar­eas into Gil­git Agency. In 1947, as in other ar­eas of GB, the lo­cal ma­liks and jir­gas opted for Pak­istan. The peo­ple had to fight a long-drawn battle with the reg­u­lar army of Jammu and Kash­mir state for join­ing Pak­istan along with other parts of GB.

The fair set­tle­ment of border ten­sions with KP is a test case that is be­ing mon­i­tored by the peo­ple of GB.

The gov­er­nor of the Fron­tier prov­ince was ap­pointed agent of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for GB. In 1950, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of GB was trans­ferred to the Min­istry of Kash­mir Af­fairs. At that time, the area of Ko­his­tan on the left bank of the In­dus was uni­lat­er­ally made part of the Fron­tier prov­ince. While a large area of GB was be­ing in­te­grated into an­other prov­ince, the fed­er­a­tion was obliv­i­ous to this de­vel­op­ment and their stance on the Kash­mir dis­pute and its ef­fect on a pos­si­ble plebiscite on Jammu and Kash­mir.

Ac­cord­ing to Prof Ah­mad Hasan Dani, his­tor­i­cally, the area right up to Jalkot in In­dus Ko­his­tan was part of Gil­git Agency. His claim is based on two doc­u­ments, namely a let­ter from S.M. Fraser, res­i­dent in Kash­mir to the chief com­mis­sioner, Pe­shawar, in 1913 that the Jalko­tis were part of Gil­git Agency. This po­si­tion is fur­ther con­firmed in a let­ter, dated Jan 12, 1928 from the res­i­dent in Kash­mir to the Sur­vey of In­dia, wherein he wrote that the un-ad­min­is­tered area, ie Darel, Tan­gir, Kan­dia (Killi), Jalkot, Sazin, Sha­tial and Har­ban fell within Gil­git Agency.

The peo­ple of GB did not raise any voice against the trans­fer of a large tract of land of Ko­his­tan dis­trict to Fron­tier prov­ince in 1950. There was, how­ever, a lo­cal dis­pute be­tween the peo­ple of Thor (GB) and Har­ban (KP) for graz­ing rights on a stretch of land lo­cated on the newly cre­ated bound­ary of GB and KP that re­sulted in fre­quent armed clashes.

How­ever, in 1950 the peo­ple from both ar­eas held a jirga that set­tled the bound­ary dis­pute through a writ­ten agree­ment. Ac­cord­ing to this decision, the land up to Bhasha stream was given to the peo­ple from Thor. It was in 1960 that the Sur­vey of Pak­istan, with­out tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion this set­tle­ment, showed the area up to Basri as part of Ko­his­tan. The peo­ple of Har­ban now use this sur­vey re­port as ev­i­dence in their favour.

The prospect of huge com­pen­sa­tion for land ac­qui­si­tion to sit­u­ate the Di­amer-Bhasha dam has com­pli­cated this lo­cal border dis­pute. The peo­ple of Har­ban im­me­di­ately filed a claim for land on both sides of the Karako­ram High­way up to 8km. They fol­lowed it up by de­tain­ing cat­tle be­long­ing to the Thor peo­ple and also set ablaze the cat­tle sheds at Khanda Nala that had been in their use for cen­turies.

There is yet an­other as­pect to the dis­pute wherein the com­plic­ity of the gov­ern­ment of KP is sus­pected. Ac­cord­ing to the de­sign of Di­amerBhasha dam, the power gen­er­a­tion tur- bine, will be lo­cated in the area be­ing claimed by Har­ban. Gen­er­ally, of­fi­cial opin­ion is that since GB is not a prov­ince, it is not en­ti­tled to any net profit on hy­del power, as per Ar­ti­cle 161(2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion. They base this opin­ion on the fact that AJK was also not given any part of net profit on hy­del power gen­er­a­tion from Mangla Dam.

Due to the fail­ure of the gov­ern­ment to set­tle the mat­ter in 2014, the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated into an open armed clash in which five peo­ple died. Later on, a bound­ary com­mis­sion was es­tab­lished. Re­port­edly, the com­mis­sion has fi­nalised its re­port but due to height­ened ten­sions, has not made it pub­lic. How­ever, re­cently there has been a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment whereby the two tribes, through the ef­forts of the lo­cal no­ta­bles, for­gave each other for the loss of life.

The most un­for­tu­nate as­pect is the com­plete ap­a­thy of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment that has al­lowed the sit­u­a­tion to de­te­ri­o­rate. Re­cently, due to this lo­cal dis­pute the KKH was blocked by armed lo­cals from Har­ban, while their ri­vals also came out in big num­bers. Af­ter the set­tle­ment of blood dis­putes, an un­easy peace ex­ists. But due to the es­ti­mated com­pen­sa­tion of dis­puted land to the tune of Rs8 bil­lion, set­tle­ment is not go­ing to be easy.

The peo­ple of GB are not pre­pared to ca­pit­u­late this time, as they feel they got an un­fair deal when a large chunk of land was given to KP in 1950. There is also an­other par­al­lel dis­pute of the Shan­dur pass, for­merly part of Ghizer and now un­der KP's con­trol. They fear that as in the case of Mangla Dam, GB will also be de­nied the net hy­del profit from the Di­amer-Bhasha dam.

The fair set­tle­ment of the border dis­pute is a test case that is be­ing mon­i­tored by the peo­ple of GB. In case they are short-changed again, the re­ac­tion is likely to be very vo­cal and pos­si­bly vi­o­lent, even spilling over into other ar­eas of the re­gion. The gov­ern­ment, there­fore, should not con­sider it a lo­calised dis­pute, but rather one that will en­gulf the en­tire area and en­dan­ger CPEC. The only vi­able op­tion seems to be full com­pen­sa­tion of the en­tire dis­puted area to both par­ties so that this is­sue is set­tled once and for all and as­sur­ances given through a bind­ing treaty with GB for a share in net hy­del power prof­its from the Di­amer-Bhasha dam.

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