|Time zone||PST (UTC+5)|
|Established||1 July 1970|
|Governor/Commissioner||Qamar Zaman Kaira|
|Chief Minister||Syed Mehdi Shah |
Legislative Assembly (33)
Gilgit-Baltistan (Urdu: گلگت بلتستان, Gilgit-Baltistān) is a territory in
Norhtern Pakistan. The territory, which does not constitute a
province of Pakistan, was formerly known as the Northern
Areas (Urdu: شمالی علاقہ جات,
Shumālī Ilāqe Jāt). It is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-controlled part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It borders Afghanistan to the north, China to the northeast, the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to the south, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. The territory became a single administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas" and was formed by the amalgamation of the Gilgit Agency, the Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar. With its administrative center at the town of Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan covers an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and has an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. Pakistan considers the territory as separate from Kashmir whereas India considers the territory as a part of the larger disputed territory of Kashmir that has been in dispute between India, Pakistan, and China since 1947.
Before the independence of Pakistan and the partition of India in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh extended his rule to Gilgit and Baltistan. After the partition, Jammu and Kashmir, in its entirety, remained an independent state. The Pakistani parts of Kashmir to the north and west of the cease-fire line established at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, or the Line of Control as it later came to be called, were divided into the Northern Areas (72,971 km²) in the north and the Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir (13,297 km²) in the south. The name "Northern Areas" was first used by the United Nations to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. A small part of the Northern Areas, the Shaksgam tract, was provisionally ceded by Pakistan to the People's Republic of China in 1963.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which was most recently known as the Northern Areas, presently consists of seven districts, has a population approaching one million, has an area of approximately 28,000 square miles, and shares borders with Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and India. The people of this remote region were liberated from the Dogra regime of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on 1 November 1947 without any external assistance and then became citizens of a self-liberated and very short-lived independent state. The new state asked the government of Pakistan to provide it with necessary assistance with which to conduct its affairs, as it did not have the necessary administrative infrastructure of its own. The government of Pakistan accepted the request and sent Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan, an extra assistant commissioner from the NWFP, to Gilgit. Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan then took control of the territory's administration as its first appointed political agent.
The local Northern Light Infantry is the army unit that was believed to have assisted and possibly participated in the 1999 Kargil conflict. More than 500 soldiers were believed to have been killed and buried in the Northern Areas in that action. Lalak Jan, a soldier from Yasin Valley, was awarded Pakistan's most prestigious medal, the Nishan-e-Haider, for his courageous actions during the Kargil conflict.
On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009, was passed by the Pakistani cabinet and later signed by the President Asif Ali Zardari. It granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed "Gilgit-Baltistan," by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly.
In early September 2009, Pakistan signed an agreement with China of a mega energy project in Gilgit-Baltistan which includes the construction of a 7000-megawatt dam at Bunji in the Astore District of the Gilgit-Baltistan. This also resulted in protest from India, however Indian concerns were immediately rejected by Pakistan, saying the Government of India has no locus standi in the matter.
On September 29, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani while addressing a huge gathering at Gilgit-Baltistan announced a multi-billion rupee development package aimed at the socio-economic uplifting people in the area. Development projects will include the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and basic needs of life. The Prime Minister further went on to say:
"You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it." 
Gilgit-Baltistan is administratively divided into two divisions which, in turn, are divided into seven districts, including the two Baltistan districts of Skardu and Ghanche, and the five Gilgit districts of Gilgit, Ghizer, Diamer, Astore, and Hunza-Nagar. The main political centres are the towns of Gilgit and Skardu.
|Division||District||Area (km²)||Population (1998)||Headquarters|
|Gilgit-Baltistan total||7 districts||72,971||970,347||Gilgit|
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.
Until the war in North-West Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan was a major destination for foreign tourists, especially serious mountaineers, because it is home to five of the "eight-thousanders" and to more than fifty peaks above 7000 meters. Gilgit and Skardu are the two main hubs for expeditions to those mountains. The region is home to some of the world's highest mountain ranges—the main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
Three of the world's longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan — the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier. There are, in addition, several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit Baltistan:
The Deosai Plains, called Byarsa in Baltistan, are located above the tree line, and constitute the second-highest plateau in the world at 4,115 meters (14,500 feet). The plateau lies south of Skardu and west of Ladakh. The area was declared to be a national park in 1993. The Deosai Plains cover an area of almost 5,000 square kilometres. For over half the year (between September and May), Deosai is snow-bound and cut off from rest of Baltistan. The villages of Byarsa/Deosai are connected with the Kargil district of Ladakh through an all-weather road, but due to the closure of the border with the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, the people of Byarsa and Gultari are stranded for the winter months and are, therefore, not able to take advantage of the economic resources of Ladakh during that time.
The climate of Gilgit-Baltistan varies from region to region, surrounding mountain ranges creates sharp variations in weather. The eastern part has a moist zone of western Himalayas but going toward Karakoram and Hindu Kush the climate dries considerably.
There are towns like Gilgit and Chilas that are very hot during the day in summer, yet cold at night, and valleys like Astore, Khaplu, Yasin, Hunza, and Nagar where the temperatures are cold even in summer.
Polo is the favourite game of the people of Gilgit, Chilas, Astore, Hunza, and the surrounding areas. Every year, many tourists visit to enjoy polo in Gilgit Baltistan. Other games such as cricket, gulli danda, kabbadi, and volleyball are also played.
There are more than 20,000 pieces of rock art and petroglyphs all along the Karakoram Highway in Gilgit Baltistan, concentrated at ten major sites between Hunza and Shatial. The carvings were left by various invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the trade route, as well as by locals. The earliest date back to between 5000 and 1000 BCE, showing single animals, triangular men and hunting scenes in which the animals are larger than the hunters. These carvings were pecked into the rock with stone tools and are covered with a thick patina that proves their age. The archaeologist Karl Jettmar has pieced together the history of the area from various inscriptions and recorded his findings in Rock Carvings and Inscriptions in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and the later released Between Gandhara and the Silk Roads - Rock Carvings Along the Karakoram Highway.
Prior to 1978, Gilgit-Baltistan was cut off from Pakistan due to the harsh terrain and the lack of accessible roads. All of the roads to the south opened towards the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AKJ) and to the southeast towards the present-day Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir. During the summer, people could walk across the mountain passes to travel to Rawalpindi. The fastest way to travel, however, was by air, but air travel was accessible only to a few privileged local people and to Pakistani military and civilian officials. Then, with the assistance of the Chinese government, Pakistan began construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), which was completed in 1978. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in Gilgit-Baltistan. The journey from Islamabad to Gilgit takes approximately 20 to 24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are very common. The KKH connects Gilgit to Taxkorgan and Kashgar in China via Sust (the customs and health inspection post on the Northern Areas side) and the Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres (15,397 feet).
Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) offers bus and jeep transport service to the two hubs and several other popular destinations, lakes, and glaciers in the area.
In March 2006, the respective governments announced that, commencing on June 1, 2006, a thrice-weekly bus service would begin across the boundary from Gilgit to Kashgar, China, and road widening work would begin on 600 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway. There would also be one daily bus in each direction between the Sust and Taxkorgan border areas of the two political entities.
Pakistan International Airlines used to fly a Fokker F27 aircraft daily between Gilgit Airport and Islamabad International Airport. The flying time was approximately 50 minutes, and the flight was one of the most scenic flights in the world, as its route passes over the mountain Nanga Parbat, the peak of which was higher than the aircraft's cruising altitude. PIA also offers regular flights of Boeing 737 between Skardu and Islamabad. However, the Fokker F27 aircraft was retired after a crash at Multan in 2006. Currently, flights are being operated by PIA to Gilgit on the brand-new ATR42-500 aircraft, which was purchased in 2006. With the new plane, the cancellation of flights is much less than it was the Fokker aircraft. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and, in winter, flights are often delayed by several days.
The population consists of many diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world's highest mountains. Urdu is the lingua franca of the region, understood by most male inhabitants. The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer. The Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan. Minor languages spoken in the region include Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer, while Khowar is the major language of Ghizer. Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal. Another interesting language is Domaaki, spoken by the musician clans in the region. A small minority of people also speak Pashto. People who live in Gilgit-Baltistan, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.
Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the Federally Administered Northern Areas or FANA) is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistani-controlled part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to Pakistan's constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous region separate from Pakistan itself, and its inhabitants have never had any representation in Pakistan's parliament. Gilgit-Baltistan is home to some of the world's highest mountains, including five of the eight-thousanders. The main focus of attention for many travelers is the world's three highest mountain ranges--the Karakoram, the Himalaya, and the Hindu Kush, with five peaks over 8,000 meters and many peaks over 7,000 meters, and having the largest glaciers in the world (other than those in the polar region). Wild rivers and unique landscapes make this area a "mountain paradise" for mountaineers, trekkers, and tourists.
The administrative center of Gilgit was an important city on the Silk Road, through which Buddhism was spread from India to the rest of Asia. A large number of Buddhist Sanskrit texts, including the long version of the Heart Sutra have been unearthed in Gilgit. The Dards and Cizinas also appear in many of the old Pauranic lists of peoples, with the former finding mention in Ptolemy's accounts of the region. Two famous travellers, Faxian and Hsuan Tsang, are known to have traversed Gilgit as per their accounts. Gilgit was ruled for centuries by the local Trakane Dynasty, which came to an end in about 1810. The area descended into internecine turmoil before being occupied by the Sikhs in 1842. It was ceded to Jammu in 1846. Gilgit's inhabitants drove their new rulers out in an uprising in 1852. The Khushwakhte Dynasty of Yasin and Gulapure led the people of Gilgit to drive out the Dogra rulers. After Yasin was conquered by the Katur Dynasty of Chitral, the power of the Khushwakhte was crushed. The rule of Jammu was restored in 1860. Gilgit came under British rule in 1889, when it was unified with neighboring Hunza and Nagar in the Gilgit Agency. When British rule came to an end in 1947, the region was briefly handed back to the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, it came under Pakistani control. To this day, Gilgit-Baltistan remains part of the Kashmir dispute and is claimed by India to be a Pakistani-occupied part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into two divisions--the Baltistan Division and the Gilgit Division--which together comprise seven districts.
The Baltistan Region consists of two districts:
Gilgit Division now consists of five districts:
Sherqilla is most famous town being capital of Rajas of Punial and Ishkomin. It is still a tourist spot with many attractions like trout fishing, treking natural swimming pools. Wazirs of sherqilla and Raja palace are still inscribe their period of splendour.
Urdu is the national language of Pakistan spoken throughout Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan as lingua franca. The Local languages are Shina, Balti, Khowar, Wakhi and Burushaski, As elsewhere in Pakistan, English is fairly widely spoken among the educated classes and those involved in the tourist industry.
Arrive in Islamabad. Pakistan International Airlines offers daily flights between Gilgit and Islamabad. The flying time is approximately 50 minutes, and the flight is one of the most scenic flights in the world, as its route passes over Nanga Parbat, and the peak of the mountain is higher than the aircraft's cruising altitude.
The Karakoram Highway, once a minor Silk Road route, connects Islamabad to Gilgit and Skardu, which are the two major hubs for mountaineering expeditions in the Northern Areas. The journey from Islamabad to Gilgit takes approximately 20-24 hours. Landslides on the Karakoram Highway are not uncommon, but bulldozers usually clear the road in a short time. The KKH connects Gilgit to Taxkorgan and Kaxgar in Xinjiang, China, via Sust (the customs and health inspection post on the Pakistan side of the border) and the Khunjerab Pass, the highest paved international border crossing in the world at 4,693 metres (15,397 feet).
NATCO (the Northern Areas Transport Corporation) offers bus and jeep transport service to the two hubs and to several other popular destinations, lakes, and glaciers in the area.
Eighteen of the fifty highest peaks in the world are located in the Gilgit-Baltistan.
Three of the world's seven longest glaciers outside the polar regions are also in Gilgit-Baltistan: the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier.
The Siachin Glacier is 75 km. The Hispar (53 km) joins the Biafo at the Hispar La (5154.16 meters (16,910 ft) to form an ice corridor 116.87 km (72 mi) long. The Batura, too, is 58 km in length. The most outstanding of these rivers of ice is the 62 km Baltoro. This large glacier, fed by some 30 tributaries, has a surface area of 1291.39 sq km.
There are several high-altitude lakes in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Most of the top end restaurants are located in Hotels.
Bars are located in most of the top end hotels.
Avoid drinking tap water. Locals usually drinks water coming from a stream, but that can be unsafe for some people due to its minerals which may not suite you. So only drink bottled water, which is easily available all over.
Security wise, Gilgit-Baltistan is considered to be one of the safest regions under Pakistani control, but some parts of it are off-limits to tourists, especially the buffer zone along the "Line of Control" that divides the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir. District Head quarter hospitals are present in Gilgit, Skardu, Khaplu (Ghache District), Chilas (Diamer), Ghazin (Gahkuch).
Mobile services are available in the area.
To China: Thrice-weekly bus service was scheduled to begin crossing the border from Gilgit, to Kashgar, China, and road widening work was scheduled for 600 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway. There were also plans for one daily bus in each direction between Sust and Taxkorgan in the border areas of the two countries.
Pakistan International Airlines offers daily flights between Gilgit Airport and Islamabad International Airport. The flying time is approximately 50 minutes, and the flight is one of the most scenic flights in the world, as its route passes over Nanga Parbat, with the peak of the mountain being higher than the aircraft's cruising altitude. PIA also offers regular flights on Boeing 737s between Skardu and Islamabad. All flights, however, are subject to weather clearance, and in winters, flights are often delayed by several days.
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