Gilgit is located in the north eastern part of Pakistan in the northerly regions that have an autonomous status in Pakistan. Nowadays this region is known as Gilgit-Baltistan, the capital of this region is Gilgit. India does not recognize this region as part of Pakistan and classifies it as being part of the Indian province of Kashmir. This has given rise to one of the largest conflicts between these two countries. Gilgit is an old city which has been an important trading post for centuries because of its situation on the silk route.
|Location:||North Eastern Part of Pakistan|
|Type:||Self-governing territory of Pakistan|
|Local Language Name:||Balti, Shina, Burushaski|
|Chief Minister:||Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman|
|Governor:||Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan|
|Total Area:||72,971 km2 (28,174 sq mi)|
|Established:||1 Nov 1948|
|Sport :||Yak Polo|
|Flower :||Granny’s Bonnet|
|Tree :||Himalayan oak|
Table of Contents
The rock carvings found in various places in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially those found in the Passu village of Hunza, suggest a human presence since 2000 BC. Within the next few centuries after human settlement in the Tibetan plateau, this region became inhabited by Tibetans, who preceded the Balti people of Baltistan. Today Baltistan bears similarity to Ladakh physically and culturally (although not religiously). Dards are found mainly in the western areas. These people are the Shina-speaking peoples of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore and Diamir while in Hunza and in the upper regions Burushaski and Khowar speakers dominate. The Dards find mention in the works of Herodotus.
- Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny
- the geographical lists of the Puranas
In the 1st century the people of these regions were followers of the Bon religion while in the 2nd century they followed Buddhism.
Map of Tibetan Empire Citing the Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan
Map of Tibetan Empire citing the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as part of its kingdom in 780–790 CE.Between 399 and 414, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Faxian (Fa-hsien) visited Gilgit-Baltistan, while in the 6th century Somana Palola (greater Gilgit-Chilas) was ruled by an unknown king. Between 627 and 645, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) travelled through this region. From 644 to 655, Navasurendrādityanandi was King of Palola (Gilgit ). In 706/707, Jayamaṅgalavikramādityanandi became king of Palola. It is said that in the year 717, a delegation of a ruler of great Palola, named Su-fu-she-li-ji-li-ni according to the transcription of Chinese characters, reached the Chinese imperial court. In 719, Su-fu-she-li-ji-li-ni, King of Palola, sent a second delegation to the Chinese Imperial court. By at least 719/720, Ladakh (Mard) was part of the Tibetan Empire. By that time, Buddhism was practiced in Baltistan, and Sanskrit was the written language. It is unknown if Baltistan temporarily was ruled under Palola at that time. In 720, the delegation of Sou-lin-t’o i che (= Surendrāditya), King of Palola, went to the Chinese imperial court. The Emperor gave the ruler of Cashmere, “Tchen-fo-lo-pi-li (Chandrāpīḍa)”, the title of “King of Cashmere”. By 721/722, Baltistan had become part of the Tibetan Empire.
Conquest of Little Palola or Bru-zha Yasin
During 721–722 the conquest of Little Palola or Bru-zha (Yasin) by the Tibetan army failed. Mo-ching-mang (Mo-kin-mang) had become the King of Palola by this time which was visited by the Korean Buddhist pilgrim Hyecho(Huichao) between 723–728. In 737/738, Tibetan troops under the leadership of Minister sKyes-bzang ldong-tsab conquered Little Palola. By 747 the Chinese army under the leadership of the ethnic-Korean commander Gao Xianzhi (Kao Hsien-chih) reconquered Palola. In 753 Great Palola was conquered by a Chinese army under the military Governor Feng Changqing but by 755, due to the An Lushan rebellion, the Chinese lost supremacy in Central Asia and in the regions around Gilgit-Baltistan.
Turkic tribes practicing Zoroastrianism arrived in Gilgit during the 7th century, and founded the Trakhan dynasty in Gilgit. During the 8th century, Tibetans were known to live in Baltistan. Rulers of Gilgit formed an alliance with the Chinese T’ang Dynasty and forced the Arabs back with their help.
In the 14th century Sufi Muslim preachers from Persia and Central Asia introduced Islam in Baltistan. Famous amongst them was Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani who came via Kashmir while in the Gilgit region Islam entered in the same century through Turkic Tarkhan rulers. Gilgit-Baltistan was ruled by many local rulers, amongst whom the Maqpon dynasty of Skardu and the Rajas of Hunza were famous. The Maqpons of Skardu unfied Gilgit-Baltistan with Chitral and Ladakh, especially in the era of Ali Sher Khan Anchan who had friendly relations with the Mughal court.
Anchan reign brought prosperity and entertained art, sport, and variety in architecture. He introduced polo to the Gilgit region and from Chitral he sent a group of musicians to Delhi to learn Indian music; the Mughal architecture influenced the architecture of the region as well. Later Anchan in his successors Abdal Khan had great influence though in the popular literature of Baltistan he is still alive as dark figure by the nickname “Mizos” “man-eater”. The last Maqpons Raja, Ahmed Shah, ruled all of Baltistan between 1811–1840. The areas of Gilgit, Chitral and Hunza had already become independent of the Maqpons.
Before the demise of Shribadat, a group of Shin people migrated from Gilgit Dardistan and settled in the Dras and Kharmang areas. The descendants of those Dardic people can be still found today, and are believed to have maintained their Dardic culture and Shina language up to the present time.
In November 1839, Dogra commander Zorawar Singh, whose allegiance was to Gulab Singh, started his campaign against Baltistan. By 1840 he conquered Skardu and captured its ruler, Ahmad Shah. Ahmad Shah was then forced to accompany Zorawar Singh on his raid into Western Tibet. Meanwhile, Baghwan Singh was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) in Skardu. But in the following year, Ali Khan of Rondu, Haidar Khan of Shigar and Daulat Ali Khan from Khaplu led a successful uprising against the Dogras in Baltistan and captured the Dogra commander Baghwan Singh in Skardu.
Dogra Commander Wasir Lakhpat
In 1842, Dogra Commander Wasir Lakhpat, with the active support of Ali Sher Khan (III) from lKartaksho, conquered Baltistan for the second time. There was a violent capture of the fortress of Kharphocho. Haidar Khan from Shigar, one of the leaders of the uprising against the Dogras,was imprisoned and died in captivity. Gosaun was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) of Baltistan and till 1860, the entire region of Gilgit-Baltistan was under the Sikhs and then the Dogras.
Defeat of the Sikhs
After the defeat of the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War, the region became a part of the princely state called Jammu and Kashmir which since 1846 remained under the rule of the Dogras. The population in Gilgit perceived itself to be ethnically different from Kashmiris and disliked being ruled by the Kashmir state. The region remained with the princely state, with temporary leases of some areas assigned to the British, until 1 November 1947.
2-First Kashmir War
After Pakistan’s independence, Jammu and Kashmir initially remained an independent state. Later on 22 October 1947, tribal militias backed by Pakistan crossed the border into Jammu and Kashmir. Local tribal militias and the Pakistani armed forces moved to take Srinagar but on reaching Uri they encountered defensive forces. Hari Singh made a plea to India for assistance and signed the Instrument of Accession.
Gilgits Population did not Favour
Gilgit’s population did not favour the State’s accession to India. The Muslims of the Frontier Districts Province (modern day Gilgit-Baltistan) had wanted to join Pakistan. Sensing their discontent, Major William Brown, the Maharaja’s commander of the Gilgit Scouts, mutinied on 1 November 1947, overthrowing the Governor Ghansara Singh. The bloodless coup d’etat was planned by Brown to the last detail under the code name “Datta Khel”, which was also joined by a rebellious section of the Jammu and Kashmir 6th Infantry under Mirza Hassan Khan. Brown ensured that the treasury was secured and minorities were protected. A provisional government (Aburi Hakoomat) was established by the Gilgit locals with Raja Shah Rais Khan as the president and Mirza Hassan Khan as the commander-in-chief. However, Major Brown had already telegraphed Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan asking Pakistan to take over. The Pakistani political agent, Khan Mohammad Alam Khan, arrived on 16 November and took over the administration of Gilgit. Brown outmaneuvered the pro-Independence group and secured the approval of the mirs and rajas for accession to Pakistan. Browns’s actions surprised the British Government. According to Brown,
Alam replied , “you are a crowd of fools led astray by a madman. I shall not tolerate this nonsense for one instance… And when the Indian Army starts invading you there will be no use screaming to Pakistan for help, because you won’t get it.”… The provisional government faded away after this encounter with Alam Khan, clearly reflecting the flimsy and opportunistic nature of its basis and support.
The provisional government lasted 16 days. The provisional government lacked sway over the population. The Gilgit rebellion did not have civilian involvement and was solely the work of military leaders, not all of whom had been in favor of joining Pakistan, at least in the short term. Historian Ahmed Hasan Dani mentions that although there was lack of public participation in the rebellion, pro-Pakistan sentiments were intense in the civilian population and their anti-Kashmiri sentiments were also clear. According to various scholars, the people of Gilgit as well as those of Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Ishkoman, Yasin, Punial, Hunza and Nagar joined Pakistan by choice.
Control of Gilgit
After taking control of Gilgit, the Gilgit Scouts along with Azad irregulars moved towards Baltistan and Ladakh and captured Skardu by May 1948. They successfully blocked the Indian reinforcements and subsequently captured Dras and Kargill as well, cutting off the Indian communications to Leh in Ladakh. The Indian forces mounted an offensive in Autumn 1948 and recaptured all of Kargil district. Baltistan region, however, came under Gilgit control.
Council Passed a Resolution
On 1 January 1948, India took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council. In April 1948, the Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and India to reduce its forces to the minimum level, following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain the people’s wishes. However, no withdrawal was ever carried out, India insisting that Pakistan had to withdraw first and Pakistan contending that there was no guarantee that India would withdraw afterwards.Gilgit-Baltistan and a western portion of the state called Azad Jammu and Kashmir have remained under the control of Pakistan since then.
While the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan expressed a desire to join Pakistan after gaining independence from Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan declined to merge the region into itself because of the territory’s link to Jammu and Kashmir. For a short period after joining Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan was governed by Azad Kashmir if only “theoretically, but not practically” through its claim of being an alternative government for Jammu and Kashmir. In 1949, the Government of Azad Kashmir handed administration of the area to the federal government via the Karachi Agreement, on an interim basis which gradually assumed permanence. According to Indian journalist Sahni, this is seen as an effort by Pakistan to legitimize its rule over Gilgit-Baltistan.
There were two reasons why administration was transferred from Azad Kashmir to Pakistan: (1) the region was inaccessible to Azad Kashmir and (2) because both the governments of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan knew that the people of the region were in favour of joining Pakistan in a potential referendum over Kashmir’s final status.
International Crisis Group
According to the International Crisis Group, the Karachi Agreement is highly unpopular in Gilgit-Baltistan because Gilgit-Baltistan was not a party to it even while its fate was being decided upon.
Gilgit-Baltistan was Governed
From then until 1990s, Gilgit-Baltistan was governed through the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, which treated tribal people as “barbaric and uncivilised,” levying collective fines and punishments. People had no right to legal representation or a right to appeal. Members of tribes had to obtain prior permission from the police to travel to any location and had to keep the police informed about their movements.There was no democratic set-up for Gilgit-Baltistan during this period. All political and judicial powers remained in the hands of the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas (KANA). The people of Gilgit-Baltistan were deprived of rights enjoyed by citizens of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
Remoteness of Gilgit-Baltistan
A primary reason for this state of affairs was the remoteness of Gilgit-Baltistan. Another factor was that the whole of Pakistan itself was deficient in democratic norms and principles, therefore the federal government did not prioritise democratic development in the region. There was also a lack of public pressure as an active civil society was absent in the region, with young educated residents usually opting to live in Pakistan’s urban centers instead of staying in the region.
Two Parts of the Territory
In 1970 the two parts of the territory, viz., the Gilgit Agency and Baltistan, were merged into a single administrative unit, and given the name “Northern Areas”.The Shaksgam tract was ceded by Pakistan to China following the signing of the Sino-Pakistani Frontier Agreement in 1963. In 1969, a Northern Areas Advisory Council (NAAC) was created, later renamed to Northern Areas Council (NAC) in 1974 and Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) in 1994. But it was devoid of legislative powers. All law-making was concentrated in the KANA Ministry of Pakistan. In 1994, a Legal Framework Order (LFO) was created by the KANA Ministry to serve as the de facto constitution for the region.
In 1984 the territory’s importance shot up on the domestic level with the opening of the Karakoram Highway and the region’s population came to be more connected with mainland Pakistan. With the improvement in connectivity, the local population availed education opportunities in the rest of Pakistan. Improved connectivity also allowed the political parties of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir to setup local branches, raise political awareness in the region, and these Pakistani political parties have played a ‘laudable role’ in organising a movement for democratic rights among the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan.
President of Al-Jihad Trust
In the late 1990s, the President of Al-Jihad Trust filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to determine the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its judgement of 28 May 1999, the Court directed the Government of Pakistan to ensure the provision of equal rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and gave it six months to do so. Following the Supreme Court decision the government took several steps to devolve power to the local level. However, in several policy circles the point was raised that the Pakistani government was helpless to comply with the court verdict because of the strong political and sectarian divisions in Gilgit-Baltistan and also because of the territory’s historical connection with the still disputed Kashmir region and this prevented the determination of Gilgit-Baltistan’s real status.
Deputy Chief Executive
A position of ‘Deputy Chief Executive’ was created to act as the local administrator, but the real powers still rested with the ‘Chief Executive’, who was the Federal Minister of KANA. “The secretaries were more powerful than the concerned advisors,” in the words of one commentator. In spite of various reforms packages over the years, the situation is essentially unchanged.Meanwhile, public rage in Gilgit-Baltistan is “growing alarmingly.” Prominent “antagonist groups” have mushroomed protesting the absence of civic rights and democracy.Pakistan government has been debating the grant of a provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan.
PPP-led Pakistani Government
According to Antia Mato Bouzas, the PPP-led Pakistani government has attempted a compromise through its 2009 reforms between its traditional stand on the Kashmir dispute and the demands of locals, most of whom may have pro-Pakistan sentiments. While the 2009 reforms have added to the self-identification of the region, they have not resolved the constitutional status of the region within Pakistan.
People of Gilgit-Baltistan
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan want to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province, however, leaders of Azad Kashmir are opposed to any step to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan oppose any integration with Kashmir and instead want Pakistani citizenship and constitutional status for their region.
Nowadays the city has a population of more than 200,000. Gilgit is often used as a stop over by travelers that are on their way to the Himalayans or the Karakoram mountain range. Because Gilgit is situated in the vicinity of the border with China Chinese culture has left its mark in the city.
The Climate of Gilgit varies from region to region; surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has the moist zone of the western Himalayas, but going towards Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably. Gilgit is hot during the day in summer yet cold at night and valleys like Astore, Khalpu, Yasin, Hunza and Nagar where the temperature is cold even during the summer.
At an altitude of 1,500 meters Gilgit has a desert climate with warm summers and cold winters. During the summer temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius are uncommon. Winters are cold longer periods with subzero temperatures are not uncommon. Precipitation figures are low all year round. During the winter precipitation often falls in the form of snow or hail.
Gilgit is home to a number of diversified cultures, ethnic groups, languages and various backgrounds. It is home to people belonging to all regions of Gilgit as well as from other cities of Pakistan and aboard. This multitude of cultures is because of the strategic location of Gilgit. Being the headquarters of the Gilgit-Baltistan almost of the key offices are located in Gilgit.
Urdu and English are the official languages spoken while other languages include Pushto and Punjabi. Shina is the basic language spoken by most of the original settlers but the new comers have various backgrounds of languages and cultures. Other key languages spoken in Gilgit are:
As Gilgit is a multicultural city and there are a lot of different languages spoken in Gilgit which has an effect on the attitudes of people as well. Many citizens are following the old traditions and customs while others are enjoying a modern lifestyle which is influenced by other cultures, media and education.
Majority of the inhabitants are Muslims belonging to two different communities of interpretations i.e. Sunnis, Shias and Ismailies. A small number of Christians also reside in Gilgit.
- Eid-e- Ghadir
- Eid ul Azha
- Eid Milad un Nabi
- Eid ul Fitr
- Jashn e Baharan
- Shandoor Polo Festival
- Babusar Polo Festival
- Harvest time festival
The instruments commonly used in Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan are Dadang (drum), Damal and Surnai while some other instruments like Sitar, Gabi(Flute) Rabab and duff represent the different areas. Beside this khiling-boo.chang, porgho-too etc instruments are used in Baltistan region.
Types of Music
- Alghani: The people of Gilgit, Ghizer Yasin, Puniyal, and Gupis call this rhythm as Alghani
- Ajoli: During departure of bride and groom from house this rhythm is used in different parts of Gilgit
- Souse: A martial rhythm and it has a fast rhythm and is used specially in sword dances.
- Dani: Dani is the name of a traditional music used in Hunza which links to Tibet, Baltistan and Laddakh.
The famous trio band music is played in this region as in most of the other regions. On the rhythm of this loud music, men love to dance in their typical way. There are some variations in lyrics from region to region. The people of Gilgit have some unique and very beautiful dances in different parts. Following dances are common during the festivals, traditional events and ceremonies.
Following are some of the famous dances:
- Old Man Dance: In this dance more than one man wears some old style dresses and dance.
- Sword Dance: In this unique dance the participants show taking one sword in right and shield in left. One to six participants as pair can dance.
- Cow Boy Dance: In this dance a person wears old style dress, long leather shoes and a stick in hand.
Some of the famous places which tourists can see when they are visiting Gilgit are as following:
- Gilgit Bridge: Bridge over the fast flowing Gilgit River, at the end of its traditional bazaar, is the largest suspension bridge in Asia (182 metres long and 2 metres wide) permitting enough room for one jeep ata time to cross
- Kargah Buddha: Located on a rock near Kargah Nullah 10 km. from Gilgit town is a beautiful rock engraving of Buddha from 7th century A.D.
- Monument of Taj Mughal: A victory monument of Taj Mughal, built 700 years ago, is 30 km
- Sher Qilla: It is 38 km from Gilgit. Trekking route links with Naltar valley. Trout fishing can be enjoyed in Sher Qilla Nullah and a small lake.
- Singal: About 61 km from Gilgit. Trekking route links with Chilas and Kohistan valley.
- Gahkuch: Headquarter of Ghizer Distric it is an Ideal place for trekking, good fishing sports and duck shooting in season. It is the gateway to Iskoman Valley. Government rest house and private hotels are available (73 km from Gilgit).
- Naltar Valley: Two hours jeep drive from Gilgit link rod. Government Rest house, Private hotels and a Ski slope, lush green Alpine forest with small lakes and glaciers, trout fishing in lake
Gilgit is perhaps the most beautiful area of Pakistan because of its geography and scenic beauty. It has a mix of a lot of culture which makes it even more important. Gilgit is also strategically the most important region in the Karakoram’s. So the people of Pakistan should realize this importance too and take care of it as it’s a valuable asset for Pakistan.