India slams June 8 Gilgit-Baltistan polls

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) India on Tuesday slammed the proposed June 8 election in Pakistani Kashmir’s Gilgit-Baltistan area, terming it as an attempt by Islamabad “to camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation of the regions” and to deny its people their political rights.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, in a statement, said: “India’s position is well known. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes the regions of Gilgit and Baltistan, is an integral part of India.”

He said the proposed election in Gilgit and Baltistan on June 8 “under the so-called ‘Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self Government Order’ is an attempt by Pakistan to camouflage its forcible and illegal occupation of the regions.

“We are concerned at the continued efforts by Pakistan to deny the people of the region their political rights, and the efforts being made to absorb these territories. The fact that a federal minister of Pakistan is also the ‘Governor of Gilgit Baltistan’ speaks for itself,” he said.

Unfortunately, in recent times, the people of the region have also become victims of sectarian conflict, terrorism and extreme economic hardship due to Pakistan’s occupationary policies,” the statement said.

The Gilgit Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan covers 85,793 sq km. It was further divided in 1970 into two separate administrative divisions: Mirpur-Muzaffarabad (which Pakistan calls Azad Jammu and Kashmir, AJK) and the Federally Administered Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan was earlier referred to as the “Northern Areas” in Pakistan.

Pakistan illegally ceded a huge portion of territory of Shaksgam Valley, of around 5,180 sq km, to China in a border agreement of 1963.

Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into seven districts. Two are in Baltistan, four in Gilgit and the Hunza-Nagar. The region has approximately a one million population spread over 72,970 sq km.

According to Dunya News, the Pakistan army will be deployed in 24 electoral constituencies during Gilgit-Baltistan’s legislative assembly election.

The district administration has deployed eight units of Pakistan Army comprising 5,500 personnel in the area from June 4 to 15, it said.

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