Gilgit-Baltistan (Urdu: گلگت بلتستان, Gilgit Baltistān) is an autonomous region in northern Pakistan. It is the northernmost political entity within the Pakistan. It borders Afghanistan to the north, China to the northeast, the Pakistani state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to the south, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast. The area became a single administrative unit in 1970 under the name "Northern Areas", formed from 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. This area is part of the larger disputed territory of Kashmir between India, Pakistan and China.
Before the independence of Pakistan in1947, Maharaja Hari Singh extended his rule to Gilgit and Baltistan. After the Pakistani independence from British Rule, 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.
These areas were historically known as Gilgit-Baltistan and consist of six districts, with a population of two million and area of 28,000 square miles, bordering with China, former USSR states, Afghanistan and India. The people of the remote region got independence from the Dogra regime of the defunct state of Jammu and Kashmir on November 1, 1947, without any external assistance and were declared a self-liberated independent state. This new state was named the Islamic Republic of Gilgit and remained on the world map for 15 days. On November 16,1947, this newly emerged tiny state asked the government of Pakistan to provide it with necessary assistance to run the affairs of the state as it did not have any proper infrastructure. The government of Pakistan accepted the request and sent Sardar Muhammad Alam Khan, an extra assistant commissioner from the NWFP to Gilgit, who handled the reigns of the area as the political agent.
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, Pakistan officially granted full autonomy to the former Northern Areas, ending their struggle for autonomy since 1947. Furthermore, the name of the Northern Areas was changed to "Gilgit Baltistan".
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.
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 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.
The Karakoram Highway
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.
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.
At the last census (1998), the population of Gilgit Baltistan was 870,347. Approximately 14% of the population was urban.
With Thanks To Wikipedia.