With Pakistan signing the pact for construction of the Rs.442 billion Diamer—Bhasha dam in Gilgit Baltistan, Chinese footprints will further increase in the Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). However, residents of Gilgit Baltistan have started raising their voice against the Land Reforms Act introduced by the Pakistan government to acquire their lands for its dream project that was hanging for the past about 40 years.
Chinese presence in large numbers in the PoJK first came while construction of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that rips through the J&K illegally held by Pakistan.
These activities by China are being allowed purposely by Pakistan in the strategically located POJK’s Gilgit Baltistan (GB) where protests against the CPEC were widespread.
Before that, the defence strategic Karakorum highway through the PoJK was built by China to get direct access into Pakistan.
Residents of GB have taken to the social media to criticise Pakistan trying to disempower them with muscle power of China to grab their lands for such projects. Sayed Ali Baig, a prominent resident of GB, has tweeted; “They can’t snatch our ancestors land through their greedy acts like that of ‘Land Reforms Act’. People of #GilgitBaltistan will unitedly raise their voice against any such forceful oppression”.
Another resident, Ejaz Hussain Nasiry reacted to Pakistan’s move by tweeting; “Land Reforms Act is a move to change our demography. One such example is Gilgit city where the locals are almost close to become minority due to abolishing of SSR and now the Land Reforms Act will add fuel to the fire”.
It is noteworthy that none of the Kashmiri separatist or Kashmir centric political party has raised their voice against Pakistan constructing projects with Chinese support in the occupied territory.
Chinese have already created their own cemetery in Gilgit where more than 150 Chinese workers, who lost their lives while building the highway through the high Karakorum Pass, are buried. China has reportedly been dispatching arms and ammunition to the Pakistan Army through this highway.
The controversial dam, which is part of a major hydropower plant, will be built jointly by state-run firm China Power and Pakistan Army’s commercial wing, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). The Chinese have a 70% stake in the joint venture, while the FWO holds the remaining 30 per cent stake.
The Pakistani government on 13 May signed the contract with the Chinese firm that would construct the 272-metre high dam that will be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam in the world.
India has strongly protested against the construction of the project in the territory under Pakistan’s illegal occupation.