Friday, August 05, 2011
On July 28, 2011, at around 2 PM Pakistani standard time, Manzoor Parwana was arrested in Gilgit city by Pakistani security personnel after he finished his speech during the students' convention of Balawaristan National Students Organization. The gathering was inside Palace Hotel and comprised of few hundred students who were unarmed and remained peaceful throughout the ceremony.
Engineer Manzoor Hussain Parwana belongs to sub-district (tehsil) Thowar-Rondu, district Skardo of Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a UN-declared disputed territory under Pakistan's control. Manzoor is chairperson of Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement (GBUM), which is an indigenous political party of Gilgit-Baltistan. Manzoor is a seasoned politician and one of the leading voices of the two million voiceless people of the region. GBUM demands self-determination for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in reference to the UN resolutions. GBUM is also part of the greater political alliance called Gilgit-Baltistan Democratic Alliance (GBDA) which comprises of eight political and cultural groups.
According to the FIR, Manzoor was arrested for demanding cross-LOC (line of control between India and Pakistan in Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan sector) travel to facilitate visits for more than ten thousand divided family members. He also demanded withdrawal of Pakistani security forces from the region which is in line with the UN resolutions. Pakistan is signatory to these UN resolutions and agreed to the international community to pull its troops, citizens and civil administrators from Gilgit-Baltistan.
After his arrest, Manzoor Hussain was taken to the ISI (secret service agency) cell in Sonikot neighborhood of Gilgit city where he was interrogated. Later he was given in police custody. The session judge charged Manzoor for sedition under articles 123A, 124A, and 153A. He was declared guilty for disloyalty to Pakistan.
Manzoor's attorney, Advocate Ehsan Ali, who is also the president of Gilgit-Baltistan bar association, states that Gilgit-Baltistan is a disputed territory. Bringing references from Pakistan's constitution of 1973, verdicts of supreme court and Lahore High Court, the supreme and high courts of Pakistani Kashmir, the articles of empowerment and self-governance presidential ordinance of Gilgit-Baltistan-2009, the consistent statements of Pakistani high ranking bureaucrats, federal cabinet members, presidents, and prime ministers, and the articles of China-Pakistan border agreement of 1963; Advocate Ehsan Ali stated that Gilgit-Baltistan falls outside the constitutional purview of Pakistani federation and therefore the country lacks sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan. Under these conditions, Pakistan has no legal right to extend its penal code, political parties act and judicial system to the region; and the issue of loyalty or disloyalty to Pakistan does not arise either since Gilgit-Baltistan is not a part of the country.
The unfortunate incident of Manzoor's arrest occurred on the same day, when Pakistani foreign minister, Ms. Hina Rabbani Khar, was on her official visit to New Delhi, where she was lecturing Indian authorities to ensure freedom of political activity and expression in Kashmir. The situation exposes Pakistani double standards on human rights as authorities in Islamabad often fail to ensure freedom of expression and political activity in its controlled parts of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The United Nations charter on human rights ensure such rights for every human which the Pakistani regimes have failed to guarantee even under the flourishing democratic rule of President Asif Ali Zardari. Pakistan must allow freedom of expression, peaceful gathering and journalistic activity to even those in Gilgit-Baltistan who disagree with Pakistani policy on the Kashmir issue.
Family and friends fear for life of Manzoor Parwana, who remains in surveillance of predatory ISI. All of you are requested to contact foreign embassies in Islamabad and representatives of international human rights organizations including UNO stationed in Pakistan to demand immediate release of Manzoor Hussain Parwana.
Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies
Washington DC, DC