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Gilgit–Baltistan (Urdu: گلگت بلتستان‎, Balti: གིལྒིཏ་བལྟིསྟན, formerly known as the Northern Areas[4]) is the northernmost administrative territory of Pakistan.[5] It borders the administrative territory of Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang autonomous region of China to the east and northeast and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast.
Together with Azad Kashmir, it forms part of the disputed Kashmir region, which has been the subject of conflict between India and Pakistan since the two countries' independence and partition in 1947.[6][5]
Gilgit–Baltistan is an autonomous self-governing region that was established as a single administrative unit in 1970, formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan region and the former princely states of Hunza and Nagar. It covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and is highly mountainous. It has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Its capital city is Gilgit (population 216,760).
The territory was part of the Delhi Sultanate until it fell to the Mughal Empire in the early half of the 16th century. By 1757, suzerainty of the region was obtained from the Mughals by Ahmad Shah Durrani under an agreement[7] and became part of Afghanistan[8] (also known as the Durrani Empire)[9][10][11] until Ranjit Singh invaded and took control from the Afghans in 1819.[12] It became a princely state with the name "Jammu and Kashmir" around 1847. After the partition of British India in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir initially remained an independent state. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, Pakistani control was established on territories captured by Pakistan to the north and west of the cease-fire line. In 1970, the name "Northern Areas" (today's Gilgit–Baltistan, 72,971 km²) was applied to the areas that had previously been known as the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan. The name "Northern Areas" was actually first used by the United Nations to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. A small part of the Northern Areas, the Shaksgam tract, was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.

Autonomous status and present-day Gilgit-Baltistan

The territory of present-day Gilgit–Baltistan became a separate administrative unit in 1970 under the name Northern Areas, formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. It presently consists of seven districts, has a population approaching one million, and an area of approximately 28,000 square miles (73,000 km2), and shares borders with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and India.
While ruled by Pakistan since 1947, it had never been formally integrated into the Pakistani state and does not participate in Pakistan's constitutional political affairs until 2009.[13][14] On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the President of Pakistan. The order granted self-rule to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, by creating, among other things, an elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Gilgit–Baltistan thus gained de facto province-like status without constitutionally being a province.[13][15] Officially, Pakistan has rejected Gilgit–Baltistani calls for further integration on the grounds that it would prejudice its international obligations over the Kashmir dispute. Some militant Kashmiri nationalist groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, claim Gilgit–Baltistan as a part of a future independent Kashmir rather than as a future integral part of Pakistan.[16]
On September 29, 2009, the Pakistani prime minister, while addressing a huge gathering in Gilgit–Baltistan, announced a multi-billion-rupee development package aimed at the socio-economic uplifting of the people of the area. Development projects are slated to include the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism, and the basic needs of life.[17][18]
An attempt in 1993 by the High Court of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to annex Gilgit–Baltistan was quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, after protests by the predominantly Shia population of Gilgit–Baltistan, who feared domination by the Sunni Kashmiris.[16]
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