Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Election in Gilgit Baltistan on November 12, 2009: The White Paper Issued by Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM)

Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) currently under Pakistani occupation, is yet to see the dawn of independence and receive fundamental political and judicial rights. After 1947, when Pakistan occupied it, the region provided her the geo-strategic bridge to cement relations with China. Dependency of Pakistan on China has prolonged her occupation and refusal of re-entry into administrative, judicial and political sphere of J&K. Proclamation of the so-called ‘self-governance and empowerment presidential ordinance’ on October 26, 2009 is yet another tactic to sustain occupation and impose governor’s rule by Pakistan in Gilgit-Baltistan. It was the same day when rest of the world was commemorating ‘Republic Day’ or the Day of Democracy, however, in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan was taking measures to maintain status quo and tighten its grip. Subsequently, Mr. Qamar Zaman Kaira, a parliamentarian from Gujrat district of Pakistan was appointed as the first governor of Gilgit-Baltistan and under his leadership, assembly election was held in Gilgit-Baltistan on November 12, 2009.

The white paper details election rigging which started with registration of thousands of bogus votes as part of pre-poll rigging and the process culminating with vote-purchase, arrest of contestants of opposition parties and death of nationalists to coerce voting. GBUM and other nationalists decided to participate to judge transparency of the process. Among the contestants was Chairperson of GBUM, Mr. Parwana who has rejected the entire election process. GBUM issues this white paper so international political and rights groups would know the reality and understand intentions of the occupiers of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Election monitoring NGOs like HRCP and FAFEN termed the process eyewash and heavily rigged.

It is shocking that despite requests by international unbiased and independent election monitoring teams, they were refused visit to Gilgit-Baltistan to observe the election process.

In addition to HRCP and FAFEN, political leaders of mainstream Pakistani parties have also rejected the process and outcome and condemned PPP for rigging. Those who demand re-election in Gilgit-Baltistan are Mr. Nawaz Sharif of PML-N, Ms. Marvi Memon of PML-Q, Mr. Altaf Hussain of MQM, Mr. Imran Khan of PTI, and the Amir of Jamat Islami Pakistan.

Along with Pakistani parties, the representatives of political parties of Gilgit-Baltistan, including GBDA, GBUM, KNM, BNF and BLP, also condemn rigging of election process.

Rigging started from the day when the governor appointed a non-local as the chief election commissioner without consulting other political parties. Then, deputy commissioners were declared deputy election commissioners in their respective districts and thereby making local administration a party to the whole process. Further, district judges were appointed as returning officers, which further tainted transparency. Government resources, employees, security personnel and funds from district and village councils were used to help win PPP candidates.

Beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) were bound to vote for PPP candidates or they were threatened with rejection of their forms and funds. Thousands of fake BISP cards were distributed among voters and in many cases, an advance was paid as part of BISP ‘funds’ to buy votes.

Shia-Sunni divide was exploited and PPP was projected as a Shia party to garner majority of votes. As a result, Mr. Hafiz Rehman of PMLN from GBLA-2, and Mr. Fida Nashad of PMLN from GBLA-9 lost elections due to religious and ethnic polarization.

In the entire Gilgit-Baltistan, emergency article 144 was imposed to ban political congregations and protests by the nationalists.

Government representatives threatened the nationalists by terming traitors and anti-state elements. This way, President of PPP of Gilgit-Baltistan, Mr. Mehdi Shah, coerced voters of Rondu against GBUM chairperson, Mr. Parwana. Voters of Chairperson of GBUM, Mr. Manzoor Parwana, were threatened of arrest if they voted for GBUM. This way thousands of voters were forced to change their decisions by security personnel at the last minute. Owing to the actions of government agencies, Mr. Parwana has filed a case in the court to challenge accusations of treason against him since he fears for his life and wellbeing of his family and the supporters.

Nationalists faced repeated threats from government employees and para-military personnel and their movement was restricted to provide ample space for PPP candidates to campaign. Many nationalists of GBUM, BNF and GBDA who participated as independents, were harassed and their electioneering was hampered in favor of PPP candidates.

Many nationalist contestants were arrested ten days before the voting day when they were preparing to commemorate Gilgit’s Independence Day on November 1, 2009. Among the arrested were Mr. Shahid Hussain, contestant from GBLA-1, Advocate Farooq of GBLA-2, and Mr. Ijlal Hussain of GBLA-3. Further, an immediate ban was imposed on GBDA and BNF after the arrests, which culminated into GBDA boycotting the election process.

Chairperson KNM, Advocate Iqbal was pressured by government agencies to withdraw his membership of KNM and abandon his party. Further, S. Haider Rizvi and Mehboob Ali of BNF were declared anti-Pakistani and thereby banned from contacting their voters. Mr. Rizvi also received threats of death from ISI in case he didn’t abandon the electioneering and membership of BNF.

In GBLA-3, independent candidate, Mr. Mehboob Ali Abbas, and MQM contestant, Captain (Retd.) Hadi, were arrested and charged under the act of terrorism, while they were protesting government-sponsored rigging.

On December 22, 2009, police fired upon political workers of BNF and Mr. Zubair, a supporter of BNF contestant, Mr. Nawaz Naji, was shot dead. Such acts of intimidation have helped PPP candidate win against Mr. Naji who was considered as a likely winner by independent sources.

Votes were purchased at anywhere between Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 3,000 while notables of a constituency received bribes between Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000 based on their influence among voters. Such practices which didn’t occur in Gilgit-Baltistan previously are now introduced by the PPP office bearers.

In many cases, polling agents of opposition parties were abducted and during their absence, fake votes were casted in favor of PPP to ensure victory. Security personnel, police and para-military coerced polling agents to imprint signatures on final results even though they differed with the process and refused to accept the results. Many polling officers were paid money in advance to get required results.

In constituencies where anti-PPP candidates were winning, polling process was halted for up to 8 hours, while polling continued for about 18 hours at stations where PPP was winning.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Gillani, also joined local PPP leadership during campaign to ensure victory for PPP contestants. He addressed PPP rallies in Gilgit and Skardo towns and announced economic incentives for potential voters.

Despite all the packages and ordinances, majority of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan has refused to support PPP. Of total registered votes in Gilgit-Baltistan, PPP received less than 20% while more than 60% of registered voters didn’t bother to cast the votes as they considered the process eyewash and failing to meet the demands of local people, who want a genuinely autonomous political and judicial set up akin to one prevalent in AJK. When spread over the entire population of Gilgit-Baltistan, the results show that less than 7% of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan supported PPP which is very shameful for a party that has poured money and used government resources and security personnel to hijack the whole election process. Rejection of the presidential ordinance and economic incentives by 93% of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan should be an eye opener for the occupiers who continue to deceive locals with the notions of Islamic brotherhood and two-nation theory. By installing puppet regimes, Pakistan cannot legalize the occupation and it will have to vacate Gilgit-Baltistan as per the UNO resolutions which gave her 90 days to withdraw in the first place. It is not the job of Pakistani governments to manage political processes in Gilgit-Baltistan. Their job is to abide by the UNO resolutions and withdraw from Gilgit-Baltistan .

GBUM condemns election rigging, arrest of party workers, and murder of BNF supporter Mr. Zubair and declares the election immoral, unconstitutional, undemocratic, biased and lacking transparency. GBUM appeals to the UNO, the American (USA) Congress, the European Union Parliament (EUP) and other international political and human rights bodies to take serious notice of election rigging which is a hoax as two million natives of Gilgit-Baltistan have already rejected it. International community should exert diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to hold transparent and unbiased re-election under the supervision of members of international monitoring bodies. GBUM appeal that the election of November 12, 2009 should be declared void.

GBUM believes that the control of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan is de facto and not de jure, which is done to extend occupation of the region and enslavement of natives of Gilgit-Baltistan. International community is requested to take serious notice of Pakistani occupation of the region and help locals attain self determination and human rights.

Released by:

Department of Information and Publication

Gilgit Baltistan United Movement (GBUM)

Skardu, Baltistan

December 23, 2009

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