Syed Junaid Hashmi/Balwant Singh Bhau
Promulgated by the Maharaja Hari Singh in the year 1927 in United Jammu and Kashmir, State Subject Law which bars people from outside the state from permanently settling down in present day Jammu and Kashmir is in demand in Gilgit- Baltistan, the disputed ‘semi-autonomous northern-most administrative territory of Pakistan’.
The populace of Gilgit- Baltistan, once a part of Jammu and Kashmir, is peeved over the law having been sidelined by the government of Pakistan. Reports appearing in various newspapers which are either published in POK or Pakistan or from England indicate that a silent storm brewing with indigenous people of Gilgit- Baltistan demanding that law be brought back so that Pakistanis especially from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are prevented from settling down in their land.
Locals of Gilgit-Baltistan region believe that if the government of Pakistan would not stop their people from settling down in their areas, time is not far when the region would lose its identity and it would be dominated by people from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. It is because of this fear that they are demanding that the State subject law enacted by Dogra rulers in the year 1927 be brought back so that they are able to save their future generations.
They have said that the state subject law of Maharaja Hari Singh was landmark legislation aimed at preventing the special identity of the people of the then Jammu and Kashmir. They peeved over the fact that the government of Pakistan had kept the State subject law enacted by Dogra rulers in the year 1927 aside and settled several Pakistanis especially from Punjab and other provinces of Pakistan. They want eviction of all those people who have settled in their land from various parts of Pakistan.
The reports from Gilgit-Baltistan pointedly indicate that the issue of non-state subjects especially Pakistanis being settled in Gilgit- Baltistan was first racked up by none other than the President of Gilgit-Baltistan unit of Bhutto’s family’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Its president for the Gilgit-Baltistan unit Advocate Amjad, a resident of Sost area of Gilgit, alleged that the government of Pakistan was deliberately trying to change demographics of Gilgit-Baltistan.
He had gone to the extent of saying that both provincial and the Pakistani government were snatching the land of the people by force. Castigating Pakistan, he had further said that Pakistan takes away billions of rupees from the Sost post every year in terms of different taxes and duties while adding that rivers flowing Gilgit-Baltistan are watering the agricultural land of Pakistan while the land in Gilgit-Baltistan are barren due to unavailability of water and the barren land are now being occupied under the so-called Khalsa Sarkar law.
Government of Pakistan is snatching land from the locals and giving it to its own people. A local leader of Gilgit-Baltistan even said that this land is not a fief of anybody’s dad or their uncle, it is the property of people of Gilgit-Baltistan and would and should be utilized for their benefits. The people in this region of Jammu and Kashmir have been saying that it has been their demand that the State Subject Rule should be implemented in Gilgit-Baltistan in order to protect the rights of the people on their land and avoid settlement outsiders in the region.
Pointing towards the state subject law, they say that under this rule, outsiders cannot own land or property in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. However, the law enacted by the former Dogra rulers has been kept aside. As a result, thousands of people from different parts of the country, especially Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have now purchased land in Gilgit-Baltistan and settled there.
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are of the view that under a conspiracy, the successive governments in Islamabad have facilitated the settlement of outsiders in Gilgit-Baltistan in order to change the demography and turn the indigenous people into a minority thereby prolonging their illegal rule in Gilgit-Baltistan region, claims reports in the local newspapers of Gilgit-Baltistan.