No Taxation Without Representation

By Najeeb Ullah Khan Nangialy

The main motive behind the American Revolution was the slogan of “No taxation without representation.” The same slogan had recently being raised by the people of Gilgit Baltistan against the state of Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan is disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan and a plebiscite is supposed to happen according to the UN Resolution of 1948. Administrative control of Gilgit Baltistan lies with Pakistan, despite the fact that the constitution and judicial system of Pakistan doesn’t apply to GB and there is no seat reserved for Gilgit Baltistan in both chamber of legislative Assemblies. The current government tried to impose direct taxes on the people of Gilgit Baltistan and the people reacted vehemently by carrying out protests throughout Pakistan and asking the government to shut down the FBR office in Gilgit Baltistan and take back the decision.

Yaqoob, a resident of Gilgit Baltistan, said that “We are already paying the government of Pakistan a lot through indirect taxes and the government is not giving us representation or rights. The presidential ordinance and other changes in laws throughout the decades are small lollipops fed to us after each interval of time.” The reason behind the decades-old buried conundrum to be actively debated again is that China has asked Pakistan to resolve the Gilgit Baltistan constitutional problem, this may be because China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan. Not to mention, that the corridor plan has been strongly criticised by the Indian government.

Gilgit Baltistan was incorporated in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir by the Dogras in 1846. After partition of Hindustan, Gilgit Baltistan acceded into Pakistan by choice on 1st November 1947; expecting they were now citizens of Pakistan, but this wasn’t entirely the case. When the matter of Kashmir went into the UN for a peaceful resolution, Gilgit Baltistan which was claimed by India as a part of Kashmir also went to the UN. Pakistan was happy with this decision because when the plebiscite will happen the vote for Pakistan is likely to increase due to Gilgit Baltistan being a part of Kashmir and as a result the whole Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan region could constitutionally become part of Pakistan. However the plebiscite haven’t happened yet and Pakistan can not claim Gilgit Baltistan constitutionally because in this way India will also officially claim over Kashmir (Dawn). This was implicitly the reason for the six-decade-long delay in restructuring the governance of the region.

The constitution of Pakistan don’t apply to Gilgit Baltistan nor does have any representation in any Pakistan Legislative Assembly. They have their own judicial system, laws, Assembly and Chief Minister. While discussing the possible solutions with an a activist of Baltistan Youth Development Forum, Haroon, I came to know that people of Gilgit Baltistan are not happy with the government; which is not working on development projects nor giving them any representation, but still want to become a part of Pakistan. They want to pay taxes on the cost of getting representation but unfortunately it seems like Pakistan don’t want Gilgit Baltistan to be a part of it because sixty eight years is more than enough time to resolve any problem provided that the political oligarchy took it serious.

The recent move of government to impose direct taxes on the disputed territory of Gilgit Baltistan without giving them any representation bring to my mind the American Revolution. The British kings were imposing new taxes on American colonies such as stamp act and the American resisted vociferously against it and it was the time when they started their campaign for independence in the 18th century.

Amidst such confusions, peaks such as K-2 or heroes such as Lalik Jan Shaheed (Nishan-i-Haider) are claimed as Pakistani even though they are from Gilgit Baltistan. Local wisdom dictates that when it suits Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan is a formal part of the country; and when it suits Pakistan to show Gilgit Baltistan as a disputed territory, it is shown as that. We have seen the Bangladesh debacle and now Baluchistan is facing the same situation. History has manifested in a manner that state take everything for granted until it reaches a position where there is no coming back. Soon Gilgit Baltistan may also start demanding freedom it if it is taken for granted. The elite class dominated political and bureaucratic oligarchy of the state simply haven’t taken the issue of Gilgit Baltistan constitutional limbo seriously until the China asked them to resolve the issue. They were busy in foreign visits, resolving the issues of other countries, lacking the will to resolve their own conundrums, ignored from last six decades.

Writer Najeeb Nangily is a student of Economics and Political Sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences you can reach him with nangialymuhmand@yahoo.com