Sunday, June 3, 2012

US Embassy officials met Manzoor Parwana of GBUM in Gilgit:

Press Release
US Embassy officials met Manzoor Parwana of GBUM in Gilgit: US urged to support right of self-determination for the natives On May 31, 2012, a three-member delegation of US Embassy consisting of Lisa Buzenos, Political/Economic Officer, Kimberly Phelan, Political Officer, and Khalid Javed, the Security Advisor, met Chairperson of Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM), Manzoor Hussain Parwana in Gilgit, who was accompanied by the General Secretary of GBUM, Ghulam Shehzad Agha and member of Core Committee, Ali Noor Mazhar. Mr. Parwana appreciated the US government for financing the Sadpara Dam and supporting the non-profit sector in undertaking grassroots developmental work in Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Parwana urged the international community especially the offices of the United Nations to support the right of self-determination for the oppressed and poverty stricken natives of the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan, which remains in Pakistani occupation since 1947. He reminded that successive resolutions passed by both the UN Security Council and UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) have asked Pakistan to withdraw its forces and citizens from Gilgit-Baltistan and their continued presence in the region is a violation of these accords. He also claimed that representatives of Pakistani secret service agencies, military and political parties interfere in the internal affairs of Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Parwana requested the international community to heed equal treatment and attention to both Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani Kashmir, or the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan will continue to live an impoverished life with complete denial of freedom of expression, press and political activity. He blamed the occupying regime for rampant corruption and gross human rights violations and deplored the ad-hoc ordinance system which has been used to treat the people like captives and the land like a colony. Mr. Parwana called denial of the right of self-determination and degradation of local national and cultural identity as two main issues. He stated that the regimes create sectarian and racial conflicts to maintain status quo and weaken the masses. He said that the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan despite linguistic and religious differences have co-existed peacefully for centuries. Now, engineered demographic change and ethnic and religious genocide has brought irreparable damage to local social fabric. He reiterated that since Pakistan has no capacity or the will to solve constitutional and economic problems of the region, therefore, the international community must pay immediate attention to address this impasse. Mr. Parwana claimed that Gilgit-Baltistan with abundance of natural resources and enviable geo-strategic location fulfills the criteria to sustain as an independent country. He said, “We expect brotherly relations with our neighbors namely India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, China and Afghanistan but do not expect them to treat us like a colony. The international community including our neighbors should respect our will to exist as an independent nation. We intend to use our land and resources for the wellbeing of our people but would refuse to let our neighbors exploit us to enhance their strategic depth or use our poor people as cannon fodder”. Mr. Parwana stated that a democratic and secular state of Gilgit-Baltistan will enable all diverse ethnic and religious groups to co-exist the way they have done in the last several centuries. He said that emergence of Gilgit-Baltistan as a secular state will help neutralize extremism and terrorism in the region. Like India, Gilgit-Baltistan can find strength in ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity. He claimed that ethnic and religious prejudices will die naturally once interferences from Pakistan come to an end. Showing dissatisfaction in the existing ad-hoc system, Mr. Parwana demanded that a political setup based on the UN resolutions should help Gilgit-Baltistan come out of its six decade long socio-economic and political stagnation. He said that affiliation with Pakistan only helps spreading corruption, resource thievery and terrorism. He claimed that the system has failed to provide relief to the common people as absolute authority lies with the Pakistani secret service agencies and bureaucrats who are only interested in playing divide and rule game to sustain their presence in the region. Mr. Parwana emphasized that the Karakoram Highway has become unsafe for the traders and tourists and it is the demand of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan to resume trade over historical routes which lead to Ladakh and Wakhan. He stated that trade and tourism along Astore-Kashmir, Kargil-Skardo, Khapulo-Nubra, Drass-Gultari, Gojal-Wakhan and Ishkoman-Badakhshan routes will directly benefit more than a million people of Gilgit-Baltistan. He deplored Pakistani double standards and said that even as Pakistan has granted MFN to India, but this development has failed to resume trade along the Ladakh routes. While mentioning the hardships of the political activists of Gilgit-Baltistan who remain in jail and face sedition charges, Mr. Parwana, requested the international community to help in their release. He also suggested to the US government to initiate programs in Gilgit-Baltistan to help promote human rights, cultural and economic wellbeing, improved communication and transportation links, freedom of speech, press and political activity, and enhanced literacy and women development. He also requested the USAID representatives to ensure transparency and check corruption during allocation of funds to benefit maximum number of poor. The delegates termed the meeting very informative and constructive and ensured availability of US investment to promote basic rights in the region. The delegates also ensured scholarships for the students of Gilgit-Baltistan to help them study in the US universities. Office of the Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan Dated: June 1, 2012