Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan: 10 facts that show whether India or Pakistan treat human lives better

Photo: Cover of Law and Society Alliance comparative study report on Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir & Gilgit-Baltistan released on Aug. 26, 2020.

Kashmir has been a constant subject of conflict between India and Pakistan. While for India, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan are all part of India, for Pakistan, PoK is a territory that it has claimed is ‘azaad’ (which means ‘free’ or ‘independent’). However, it is firmly under the rule and occupation of Pakistan. Gilgit-Baltistan, similarly, is also under the Pakistani occupation. The three regions have seen an extremely different growth trajectory and standard of living indices under the direct rule of India and Pakistan.

A study released by Law and Society Alliance lists the comparison between PoK, J&K and Gilgit-Baltistan as far as the condition of living is concerned. The study was a mapping exercise of human development and human rights conditions existing in J&K and PoK along with G-B, followed by a comparative analysis of development components under various categories. Most of the data relied upon by the organisation are open-source data like media reports, government reports, research carried out by local, national, and international non-government and human rights organisations.

There are several aspects that were compared in the report as far as the living conditions, human rights conditions and development in the respective regions are concerned.

Here are the 10 key facts that have been highlighted in the 48-page report:

1. Budget allotted to PoK by Pakistan and JK by India

According to the report released by Law and Society Alliance, the PoK government allocated PKR (Pakistani Rupee) 12,156 crore or US$773 million for its 2019-20 budget. On the other hand, J&K spent INR (Indian National Rupees) 88,911 crore or US$12.4 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20.

Essentially, India allocated funds which is 16 times higher compared to the amount spent by Pakistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

2. Education and literacy

The literacy rate in Gilgit-Baltistan is at an abysmal stage, according to the report. The report cites Pakistani non-profit organisation Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, Islamabad (PIPS) to say that the literary rate in the area is an abysmal 14 per cent for men and 3.5 per cent for women.

In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the literacy rate is far better, standing at 60 per cent.

The report states that there are currently six small and big universities in PoK. Except for the University of Azad Kashmir, all other universities were founded in the 21st century and are yet to be fully developed. Besides, there are two small universities in G-B region with small numbers of students’ enrolment. The Karakoram International University has a comparatively higher number of enrolment than the Baltistan University – which was founded recently in 2017. 

The literacy rate in Jammu and Kashmir, on the other hand, is 67.16 per cent. As of now, there are ten major State Universities and two major Central Universities in J&K: one Central University in each part of the state – Central University of Jammu and Central University of Kashmir. In addition, there are four premier Institutes of National Importance including Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jammu, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Jammu, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Srinagar. 

The spending by the respective governments on education is also a telling marker of how seriously the two governments view education and literacy in the respective regions.

Chart 1: Education indicators in the three regions (Table source: Report by Law and Society Alliance)

According to the report, India spent $1.55 billion on education in J&K, has 12 Universities and a literacy rate of 67.16 per cent.

In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Pakistan spent $173 million, has six universities and a literacy rate of 60 per cent.

What is worse is that there is no record per se of any expenditure in Gilgit-Baltistian. It has only 20 Universities and the literacy rate is less than 20 per cent.

3. Health condition and government expenditure

The budget of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for health in the fiscal year 2019-20 was US$62 million. Whereas India allocated $618 million for health in year 2019. The comparison of relative health expenditures of both the governments reflects a similar trend observed in education expenditure, as the budget allocated by India in Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 11 times more than that by Pakistan in PoK.

Interestingly, while Pakistan Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 62 per thousand infants, it does not even include PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Considering the underdevelopment of these regions, the IMR is expected to be far greater in these regions, according to the report.

The report says, “available statistics suggest that G-B’s maternal mortality ratio hovers between 250 and 600 per 100,000 live births – among the highest in Pakistan”.

Chart 2: Health indicators in the three regions

According to the report, the number of hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir stands at 5,534 while in PoK, the number of hospitals is only 73. The situation is far worse in GB where the number of hospitals is only 33. The infant mortality rate also shows a massive difference. In JK, the IMR is 23 while in PoK, it is 62.

4. Per capita income

The report states, “According to Agha Khan Rural Support Program Survey, the annual per capita income of G-B is less than US$268, which is one-quarter of Pakistan’s national average per capita income. The per capita income of PoK is US$1,512, which is around six times higher than the per capita income of G-B and substantially higher than that of J&K. Per capita income of J&K is US$1,000 per annum. Despite a moderate per capita income, the poverty rate in J&K is extremely low and currently stands at 10.35 per cent, which is almost half of the national average of around 21 per cent.

According to the latest data available, the unemployment rate in PoK is higher than the national average of Pakistan, measuring 10.3 per cent. Whereas it stands at 5.3 per cent in J&K, measuring lower than the national average”.

5. Ethnic demography

Gilgit-Baltistan has seen a massive decline in the Shia population over the years, as per the report.

Chart 3: Declining Shia population in Gilgit-Baltistan

The report attributes the decline to several reasons. One is the concerted ethnic cleansing of Shias in GB. Further, the report says, “Besides numerous violent attempts of ethnic cleansing in these regions, Pakistan government and military, under the leadership of Zia-ul-Haq, made several continuous attempts to alter the ethnic demography of the region. Post-1980s, Sunni Muslims from hegemonic Pakistani provinces like Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa started to make an influx through business routes and started to gradually settle in the region.

In this regard, researcher and activist Samuel Baid argues, “the influx of outsiders has created two problems, depletion of employment opportunities for the locals and brutalisation of sectarian tension. Along with this, there has come along a gun culture and gradual replacement of spiritual values by class materialism of the new middle class. The outsiders grab land and government jobs. It is not only the jobs that the outsiders grab, but they also plunder upon forest and natural resources in the region. The funds allocated for the development of G-B are spent on the Army deployed there”.

According to the report, Jammu and Kashmir (both regions combined) have a majority Muslim population.

According to the last census of 2011, Muslims are the majority in the state, constituting 68.31 per cent of the total population. Muslims are in a majority in 17 of the 22 districts of the state. Hindus are in a minority in J&K forming 28.43 per cent of the total population, with the majority in four districts. Other minorities in J&K are Sikhs (1.87 per cent), Buddhists (0.9 per cent) and Christians (0.28 per cent).

While Pakistan has tried to fan communal tension and terrorism in Kashmir, which led to the genocide and ouster of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990-1991, the Jammu and Kashmir region combined has seen a steady increase in population.

Chart 4: Population of Jammu and Kashmir (combined)

The report says, “Interestingly, there has been a remarkably steady, stable similarity in the population growth of all the communities for more than five decades in J&K. In 1961, Muslims with a population of 2.4 million, constituted 68.31 per cent of the state’s population of 3.6 million and Hindus with a population of one million made up 28.45 per cent. It reflects that the ethnic and religious demographics of the state has been absolutely sustained and constant. It also gives a strong rebuttal to the contentious allegations of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on India, of trying to alter the religious demography of the state”.

6. Language in PoK, J&K and G-B

The inhabitants of G-B speak a combination of languages and dialects including Balti, Burushaski, Shina, Khawer, Wakhi, Turki, Tibeti, Pashto, Urdu, and Persian. Shina language, majorly spoken in Gilgit is a Dardic language, similar to Kashmiri and the two languages have close affinity. Kashmiri is the language spoken by the majority population of PoK. Unfortunately, neither of the languages – Kashmiri as well as the ones spoken in multilingual G-B – have been placed among the list of ‘National Language’ or at least ‘Official Language’ by the Pakistani government.

Interestingly, the national language opted by Pakistan is Urdu, which is only spoken by 8 per cent of the population. English is also used for official purposes in Pakistan, other than Urdu.

Interestingly, with Pakistan pandering to China, a resolution was passed in the legislative house in Pakistan to adopt Mandarin as one of the official languages. “This House recommends that, in view of the growing collaboration between Pakistan and China under the CPEC, courses of the Official Chinese Language should be launched for all current and prospective Pakistani CPEC human resources in order to overcome any costly communication barriers.” The resolution was passed and adopted by the House. With this resolution, Mandarin, along with Urdu and English, has become one of the official languages of Pakistan.

As far as India is concerned, however, of the 22 languages in the official language list, three of them are from Jammu and Kashmir – Kashmiri, Dogri and Urdu.

7. Freedom of religion

The discrimination on the basis of religion is rather rampant in Pakistan and all territories under its illegal occupation, such as PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.

In its June 2018 report, OHCHR drew attention to the provision in PoK’s Interim Constitution, which in similarity with Pakistan’s Constitution, defines who may be considered to be a ‘Muslim’ and uses this definition to discriminate against the minority Ahmadiyya community. The amended Interim Constitution of 2018 has made no changes to this discriminatory provision and declared the Ahmadiyya to be non-Muslims. Other than this, the strict blasphemy laws have also been widely criticised as being discriminatory and draconian.

On the other hand, the report says, “Islam has been flourishing in the Kashmir valley in J&K. According to the Centre for Policy Analysis, Kashmir Valley of J&K has witnessed a doubling number of births annually since Census 2001, despite being affected by Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. “Of the children born in the Valley, 99.13 per cent are Muslims. The spurt in live births in J&K is such that an average Muslim woman in the Valley can now expect to produce 1.34 extra children over her lifetime compared to what she could have expected in 2001,” highlights the report.

In Jammu, the Buddhist, Sikh, and Hindu communities have also grown in strength.

8. Other Human Rights

The report analyses how CPEC has been forced on the inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan despite disenchantment and resentment.

The report says, “According to an International Crisis Group (ICG) report, the people of G-B are resentful because they feel CPEC projects were designed and implemented without their input and will be of little benefit to them. The report further said that it “could also affect G-B’s delicate Sunni-Shia demographic balance.” The ICG concluded, “the State’s response to local dissent and alienation has been an overbearing security presence, marked by Army checkpoints, intimidation and harassment of local residents and crackdowns on anti-CPEC protests”.

Further, the communities of PoK and G-B have little to no rights and control over the natural resources of their own land since it is the Federal Govt that controls both the areas.

Journalism has also taken a hit since the Pakistani state often threatens journalists to not report the truth, especially any negative news about the CPEC.

In Jammu and Kashmir however, women’s rights and the rights of indigenous people were restored after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A.

The report notes:

Article 35A had barred a female citizen of the state from any property rights if she married a person from outside the state. The provision also extended to the children of such women as they do not have any succession rights over the property. Through the abrogation of Articles 35A and 370, the Government of India has ensured the entitlement of property rights to women of the state and ended the decades-long anti-women discriminatory process. It has also entitled liberty to women of the state with the choice to marry citizens outside the state, without losing rights of inheritance in ancestral property.

Within a month of abrogation of Article 370, the Government of India received at least 44 proposals from companies to make investments worth INR 15,000 crore (over US$2 billion) in J&K. The business leaders also expressed optimism of growth and development in the region, besides evincing interest to invest in the Union Territory.

Through passage of the Central Labour Laws (Extension to J&K) Act 197096, the Government of India entitled the citizens of J&K with a number of vibrant and liberal labour laws, which were unavailable to them. These include the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923, the Trade Union’s Act, 1926, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Employment of Children Act, 1938, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, besides other binding labour laws. Introduction of this legislation opened up the dynamic trade unionist culture for J&K.

Besides this, in Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK there is a rampant issue of forced disappearances and abductions by the security forces to crush dissenting voices.

9. Restrictions of the rights to Freedom of Expression and Association

According to the report by Law and Society Alliance, the PoK Interim Constitution (13th Amendment) Act, 2018 entitles the Pakistani government to authoritatively suppress dissenting voices. It states, “No person or political party in Azad Jammu and Kashmir shall be permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the state’s accession to Pakistan.”

Further, members of nationalist and pro-independence political parties claim that they regularly face threats, intimidation, and even arrests by local authorities or intelligence agencies, for their political activities. They said that threats are also directed at their family members including children. Such intense pressure has reportedly forced many to either flee Pakistan, and continue their political activities in exile, or stop them completely, according to the report.

There are several incidents cited in the report, where Pakistan targeted and even convicted journalists from PoK for carrying out their regular duties.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), Pakistani intelligence officials have also warned journalists in G-B against criticising the CPEC projects.

10. Laws leading to Human Rights Violations

The report states: The Pakistani government, under the Karachi Agreement with the PoK government, divided the natural resources-rich and fertile G-B from PoK and renamed it as Northern Areas. Since then, Pakistan has been directly ruling G-B through provisional orders/ordinances, where every new order replaces the previous one. Unlike PoK, it does not have an interim or permanent constitution.

The State Subject Rules of 1927 – the land ownership act entitling land rights to the locals – was annulled by the Pakistani government in 1974, which opened the door for the influx, settlement and subsequent dominance of the Pakistani community in G-B.

There are several other laws and acts pertaining to PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan that perpetuate human rights violations and does not accord the people equal rights that have been enumerated in the report.

NOTEDefence.Capital is available on Telegram. Please click here to subscribe

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.