Spokesman of the Foreign Office (FO) Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry, in a statement issued on Sunday, categorically rejected a statement of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs regarding Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and called it “irresponsible and unwarranted.”
“India has no locus standi whatsoever on the issue — legal, moral or historical. For more than 73 years, India has been in illegal and forcible occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement said. “Regurgitation of false and fabricated claims by India can neither change the facts nor divert attention from India’s illegal actions and continuing humanitarian crisis resulting from perpetration of the worst human rights violations in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).”
The statement said that Pakistan’s position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute remains firmly anchored in the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and that the final resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute is only possible “through the exercise of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination by holding free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations.”
The FO spokesperson’s statement maintained that administrative, political, and economic reforms have been a long-standing demand of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and the provisional reforms announced by Pakistan’s federal government reflected the aspirations of the indigenous people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
“Pakistan calls upon India to immediately end its illegal and forcible occupation of parts of Jammu & Kashmir and comply with its international obligations by allowing the Kashmiris to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination through a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as enshrined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” the statement concluded.
This statement came in response to the statement issued by Indian Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava earlier on Sunday, which “firmly rejected” what it claimed to be Pakistan’s attempt “to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory, under its illegal and forcible occupation.”
The Indian statement was issued in reaction to the announcement made by the Pakistani federal government on Saturday of elevating the status of Gilgit-Baltistan to a province. This was announced by Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur, who said this decision was taken four months ago.
The PTI government was criticized by political opposition for announcing reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan ahead of the upcoming GB elections.
“It was amazing for me to hear that the GB people had liberated themselves from the Dogra rule and decided to annex the region to Pakistan unconditionally,” Gandapur had said, before appealing to the GB public to vote for Imran Khan in the elections.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who visited Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday to commemorate the 73rd Independence Day of the region, expressed happiness at celebrating the day with the people of GB. While he restrained from speaking of the development package prepared for the region due to the upcoming election, he reiterated the commitment to granting the region provisional provincial status.
“I want to pay tribute to GB scouts and those shuhada (martyrs) who gave sacrifices and freed this region. I wanted to congratulate people of GB on another thing: our decision to give GB provincial status. This decision has been taken while keeping in view the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions,” the Prime Minister announced.