Pakistan had on Wednesday said it was planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province.
Srinagar: An alliance of key Kashmiri separatist leaders on Friday asked Islamabad to give up its reported plan to make the Gilgit-Baltistan region of undivided Jammu and Kashmir Pakistan’s fifth province.
“There are serious concerns about the proposals to declare Giglit-Baltistan the fifth province of Pakistan,” the Kashmir Resistance Leadership, which has Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik in it, said in a statement.
“It (the plan) will have a damaging impact over the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir. Unless and until the people of the state are provided an opportunity to decide the future course through a referendum, no division, alteration or changes are acceptable. Both India and Pakistan have no authority or right to alter the geographical status of the state,” they said.
The separatist leaders said while they “greatly appreciate” Pakistan’s role in highlighting the Kashmir issue internationally, any deviation in its stance on Kashmir and tampering with its geographical entity would only prove detrimental to the “just Kashmir cause”. This comes a day after India hit out at Pakistan over plans to make Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province. “The entire state of J&K is an integral part of India. No unilateral step is acceptable,” MEA spokesman Gopal Baglay said in New Delhi on Thursday. Pakistan had on Wednesday said it was planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth province. Pakistan’s minister for inter-provincial coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada told Geo TV that a committee headed by foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving Gilgit-Baltistan the status of a province. The $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through the area.
In January 2016, Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the Line of Control had in statements and letters to Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif voiced serious concerns over Islamabad’s proposal to make Gilgit-Baltistan Pakistan’s Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front leader Yasin Malik wrote to Mr Sharif warning him against such a move, saying it would only weaken the Kashmiri people’s “national cause” as it would have implications on the Kashmir dispute.
“If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit-Baltistan, India will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with it. With one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir,” the letter said, urging Mr Sharif to stay away from such a course of action.