"Not only were the NLI soldiers used as cannon fodder, even the bodies of their dead comrades were moved at night to avoid publicity and they were mostly buried in the same civilian clothes in which they had left for the front line." Residents of the Northern Areas also claim that the wounded NLI soldiers were not provided with adequate medical attention.
NEW DELHI: In launching its military misadventure across a well-defined Line of Control (LoC) though perennially snow-covered gaps in the summer months of 1999, the Pakistan army led by Gen Pervez Musharraf had many dubious feats to its credit. It employed regular soldiers dressed in civilian clothes for a military operation; returned the badly mutilated bodies of Lt Saurabh Kalia and his gallant men; and refused to take back the dead bodies of its regular soldiers directly from Indian Army and finally did so only through the Red Cross under international pressure. The Pakistani army’s misdemeanours collectively earned for it the sobriquet “rogue army” in military and diplomatic circle across the world.
The most chilling deed of the Pakistan General Staff was perfidious employment of the hardy men of the Northern Light Infantry (NLI) as cannon fodder in the Kargil conflict. Shortly before launching the il-fated intrusions, the Pakistani army with drew battalions from the Punjab, Baluch, Sindh and Frontier Force regiments from the LoC opposite Kargil district and replaced them with NLI battalions from the Northern Areas
This treachery was practiced to ensure that most of the casualties which occurred during the operation Badr would be of soldiers who belong to the Gilgit, Baltistan, Ghizer, Hunza and Nagar areas. The aim was to ensure that no body bags would arrive from the front in major Pakistani cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta in full glare of the media so that a public uproar could be avoided in the event things went wrong, Because of their place of origin, the NLI soldiers were considered expendable
Not only were the NLI soldiers used as cannon fodder, even the bodies of their dead comrades were moved at night to avoid publicity and they were mostly buried in the same civilian clothes in which they had left for the front line.” Residents of the Northern Areas also claim that the wounded NLI soldiers were not provided with adequate medical attention.
According to The Herald, ‘’The anger of the people spilled into the streets of Hunza where activists of the Karakoram National Movement… openly raised slogans against the manner in which the operation was being handled. Trouble broke out in Skardu too when Al-Badr mercenaries forcibly tried to occupy a house to set up their office. “The militants had to be ordered out of Skardu to appease the infuriated population.”
This was not the first time that the people of the Northern Areas had been discriminated against. The Gilgit Agency and Baltistan, that now comprise the Northern Areas, were part of J&K at the time of partition. The woes of the people of the Northern Areas began on November 4, 1947, soon after the state of J&K acceded to India in terms of the Independence of India Act.
A young British Major who was commanding the Gilgit Scouts overstepped his authority and illegally declared the accession of the Northern Areas to Pakistan. It shall remain one of the quirks of history that a Major of the British Raj could violate good order and military discipline and seal the fate of the people of an area almost as large as England.
Since then, the people of the Northern Areas have been denied all fundamental and political rights just like the Kashmiris in the rest of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). They have been governed with an iron hand by a Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas nominated from Islamabad and supported by the Pakistan army.
The judiciary exists only in name and Civil administration is virtually nonexistent, with the result that almost no development has taken place and the the peopte live poverty-stricken lives without even semblance of health care and with only primitive educational facilities based primarily on madrasas run by Islamist fundamentalist, Consequently there have been frequent riots and uprisings. The most violent political out-bursts took place in, 1971, 1988 and 1997.
In fact, it was General Musharraf, then a Brigadier commanding the Special Service Group (SSG) commandos, who had been handpicked to put down a Shia uprising in Gilgit in 1988. He let loose Wahabi-Pakhtoon tribesmen from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on the hapless protestors. These tribes.men invaded Gilgit, indulged in arson, ransacked houses and destroyed standing crops and left the area smouldering for years. Brig Musharraf, of course revelled in his success.
Pakistan’s nefarious designs in using the people of the Northern Areas as canon fodder and then refusing to acknowledge the contribution of the NLI battalions to Operation Badr were, viewed with the utmost consternation by the people Of the 772 Pakistani soldiers, including 69 officers and 76 SSG: personnel, who laid down their lives for a militarily futile venture, 80 percent belonged to the NLI
Of these, over 200 were buried, military honours by the Indian Army in graves at heights ranging from 15,000 to 17,000 feet because the Pakistan army refused to take their bodies back. The people of the Northern Areas were extremely agitated by these a developments and expressed their resentment in no uncertain terms when Mr Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf visited the region after the Pakistan army had withdrawn
The simmering discontent of the past 50 years and deep resentment against being treated as second-class citizens has now led to a widespread demand for the state of Balawaristan. The people are demanding democratic rule and the right to govern themselves. A large number of influential leaders of the Northern Areas have buried their political differences and joined hands to form the Balwaristan National Front (BNF), with its head office at Majini Mohalla, Gilgit