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Federally-Administered Northern Areas (FANA)

Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the Northern Areas) has the greatest concentration of the highest peaks in the world. This attracts trekkers, mountaineers, and mountain climbers from all over the world. Trekking in Pakistan involves walking over rugged, steep terrain, where one is exposed to the elements, often at high altitudes.

The people of Northern Areas, who claim to be Pakistani for all intents and purposes, were denied any constitutional status, rights or representation in any houses of Parliament or any Provincial Assembly. The greater injustice is that the so-called 'Legislative Council,' though a body elected by the local people, but their elected representative was still denied the right to the Chief Executive of the area or to preside over the sessions of this Council.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said 01 November 2020 his government would grant provisional status to a portion of the disputed territory of Kashmir, drawing condemnation from India and sparking a fresh war of words between the two countries. The strategically important Gilgit-Baltistan region bordering Afghanistan and China is home to an estimated population of two million people. Khan addressed a political rally in the city of Gilgit, capital of the Gilgit-Baltistan region that forms part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, ahead of planned elections there later this month.

“We have made a decision to grant provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, which has long been the demand here,” said Khan. The proposal is unlikely to face opposition within Pakistan, where opposition political parties met secretly with the country’s army and intelligence chiefs in September to discuss the issue, lending their backing to the upgrade of Gilgit-Baltistan’s status, several opposition leaders told Al Jazeera at the time.

In India, however, Khan’s pronouncement was met with a sharp rebuke from the foreign ministry, which said it “firmly rejects” the move. “I reiterate that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Shri Anurag Srivastava.

The statement provoked an equally strong response from Pakistan’s foreign ministry, which “categorically reject[ed]” the Indian statement.“Administrative, political and economic reforms are a long-standing demand of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan,” said. “The envisaged provisional reforms reflect the aspirations of the indigenous populace of Gilgit-Baltistan.”v Gilgit-Baltistan is a vital part of the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with the project’s major overland crossing at Kashgar, in the territory’s north. Launched in 2014, CPEC is a set of trade and infrastructure projects that would connect China to the Arabian Sea through road and other transport infrastructure Pakistan, and also includes several power-generation and industrial revival projects.

The territory was nominally governed by the legislative assembly, for which elections are due on November 15, but that body has few legal powers and the region remains largely governed directly by the federal government in Islamabad. The upgrade to provisional provincial status would see a more empowered local provincial assembly formed, with broad-ranging administrative and governance powers.

In the northeastern tip of the country, Pakistan controls about 84,159 square kilometers of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. This area, consisting of Azad Kashmir (11,639 square kilometers) and most of the Northern Areas (72,520 square kilometers), which includes Gilgit and Baltistan, is the most visually stunning of Pakistan. The Northern Areas has five of the world's seventeen highest mountains. It also has such extensive glaciers that it has sometimes been called the "third pole."

The Northern Areas are ruled by executive fiat from the Federal Capital Territory, Islamabad, through the Federal Ministry for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA). Northern Areas are administered by Pakistan under the Northern Areas Council Legal Framework Order, 1994 (LFO) and are for this reason also referred to as the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA). No government in Pakistan to date has taken any meaningful steps to address the wider issues of constitutional disregard and political deprivation of the Northern Areas.

The Northern Areas have always been at the crossroads of conquerors, raiders and travelers. Therefore, its history has been deeply influenced by the various incidences of history. The Northern Areas have a very rich history which can be understood through periodizations made by historians. It is said that small chieftains ruled Gilgit and Baltistan, until the beginning of the 19th century. They had to grapple with trivial issues amongst each other Taking advantage of their weaknesses and mutual rivalries, the Dogra regime of Kashmir annexed these territories around the middle of the 19th century even though they found the control of the area difficult. Baltistan was administered directly by the Kashmir Government as a part of District Laddakh with Headquarters at Leh. The British Indian Government got attraction in the region following the political developments in Russian and Chinese Turkistan during the late 19th century.

The earliest inhabitants of the Northern Areas can be traced back to 5th millennium BC They were known as Rock Art People as they started the tradition of rock carving which was continued by their successors. They were hunters and lived in rocks. There is a general perception that they had religion having faith in mountains.Megalith Builders: These people came from Chitral and Swat and had the tradition of building large megaliths. They used to have a ceremonial carved stone in the middle which was worshiped. They used metals like copper, bronze, iron, gold and silver. They developed irrigated fields and also depended on livestock like goat, sheep and other cattle. They lived in mud houses as temporary settlement. Dardic People:According to some historians, the Dardics lived in the present Northern Areas during the Achaemenian Empire (4th century B.C). Their economic activities included mining and trading gold. This led to the establishment of a trade route with Central Asia and China.

Various rock inscriptions around Chilas suggest that the Scythians from Central Asia had established their rule in this area around the first century BC The rule of Scythians resulted in the introduction of Kharoshti script and Taxila style stupas and establishment of close trade relations with Taxila. The Scythian rule lasted only two generations between 1 B.C and 1 A.D. This was followed by the Gondophares branch of Parthians. The influence of the Parthians on local culture is evident from the rock carvings of this era which depict some new themes other than those of the earliest inhabitants. The Kushans: The Khushans moved to Northern Areas between 1 B.C and 1 A.D who had already established their rule in Central Asia and China. They used gold for trade purposes and a route passed through Northern Area which was perhaps the Silk Route on which the current Karakoram Highway has been constructed. The Post Kushans: After the Khushans, the Sassanis from Persia controlled the area in the beginning of 3rd century AD. During that period, Budhism continued to flourish and this area remained a famous crossing point for travel to and from India, China and Central Asia. The Huns: These were tribes from Central Asia who were warriors. They ruled through several Shina and Brushaski kings called 'Rajas'. By that time, Budhism was still on its way of spreading.

With the decline of Huns, the Rajas became independent. From 612 to 750 AD, the areas were ruled by Patoal Shahi Dynasty who were Budhists and had close ties with Chinese empire. Between 7th Century and early 19th century, parts of the Northern Areas were ruled by succession of various dynasties including: Tarkhans of Gilgit, the Maghlots of Nagar, the Ayasho of Hunza, the Burshai of Punyal, the Maqpoons of Skardu, the Anchans of Shigar and the Yabgos of Khaplu. In the beginning of 8th century AD the Tarkhan rulers embraced Islam. In the medieval times, Northern Areas remained outside Mughal control although Akber conquered Kashmir and parts of Baltistan while Gilgit retained its independent status until the Northern Areas came under the control of Dogra rulers of Kashmir in the middle of 18th century.

By the end of 19th century, the British Government created the Gilgit agency and appointed a political agent, under a lease agreement with Maharaja Harising of Kashmir. In 1947, the people of Northern Areas fought against the Maharaja and got independence. Since then, it is being administered under the Federal Government of Pakistan as Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA).

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 14:06:04 ZULU