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
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
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.
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 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,
Khan Muhammad Alam, the Pakistani political ageent replied to locals, “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 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 favour of joining Pakistan, at least in the short term. Historian Ahmed Hasan Dani mentions that although there was a 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.
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 Kargil 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.
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.
Gilgit-Baltistan has been a member state of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization since 2008.
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is an international organization established to facilitate the voices of unrepresented and marginalised nations and peoples worldwide. It was formed on 11 February 1991 in The Hague, Netherlands. Its members consist of indigenous peoples, minorities, and unrecognised or occupied territories.
UNPO works to develop the understanding of and respect for the right to self-determination, provides advice and support related to questions of international recognition and political autonomy, trains groups on how to advocate for their causes effectively, and directly advocates for an international response to human rights violations perpetrated against UNPO member groups.
UNPO’s vision is to affirm democracy as a fundamental human right, implement human, civil and political rights worldwide, and uphold the universal right to autonomy and self-determination and further federalism. It encourages nonviolent methodologies to reach peaceful solutions to conflicts and oppression. UNPO supports members in getting their human and cultural rights respected and in preserving their environments. The organization provides a forum for members to network and assists them in participating at an international level.