GILGIT: Federal Communication Minister Arbab Alamgir’s statement denying Gilgit-Baltistan the right to claim royalty from Diamer-Bhasha Dam has sparked a sharp reaction in the region with politicians fastening their belts for a final showdown with the federal government.
“It’s our land and we will have its royalty as per the judgment of the G-B apex court,” Amina Ansari, a lawmaker from Ghanche, Skardu, told the media on Friday while commenting on a statement made by Arbab Alamgir a couple of days back in Islamabad. “We will take up this matter with the federal government, but if the issue persists we will chalk out a future course of action,” she threatened.
The federal communication minister had said that according to the constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan is not a constitutional part of Pakistan but a disputed territory just like Kashmir. Therefore, it is not entitled to get any royalty.
Early this month, the supreme appellate court had ruled that as per the constitution of Pakistan, G-B was entitled for 75 per cent of the royalty.
“If you don’t want to give us our due share, then you should make your Kalabagh Dam so that you will have all the royalty with you,” she said addressing the federal minister.
Arbab Alamgir also said that for its constitutional status, G-B would have only “user charges”.
It wasn’t the lawmakers alone who got angry over the statement. The people of Diamer who are the likely victims of the dam, rose against it to vent their anger.
“We have sacrificed our property and land, and now it’s we who are being deprived of the royalty,” said Haji Najeebullah Khan, a member of Diamer Dam Action Committee, adding that if G-B is not part of Pakistan then why the dam is being built on G-B territory.
Senior lawyers Mohammad Faqir and Mohammad Iqbal of the Karakoram Lawyers Forum termed the Self-governance and Empowerment Order 2009 (under which the present assembly came into existence) a ‘pack of lies’ and the assembly a puppet that has no powers to make decisions on any point.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2010.