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23 February 2020

Angry Tribes chase Bhutto’s helicopter

Bhuto arriving in Gilgit

Hunza— Angry tribesmen of the Himalayan State of Nagar surged down a windswept mountainside and prevented Pakistan’s President Bhutto from making a scheduled helicopter landing on Friday.

They were protesting against the introduction last Tuesday of reforms in the centrally administered Gilgit and Baltistan agency of northern Pakistan, in which the feudal rulers of the acceding States lost their ancestral powers.

Pakistan Army officers advised the crew of the Soviet-bult Mikoyan 8 helicopter to land elsewhere. The tribesmen then marched down the Friendship Highway which links China’s Sinkiang province with Pakistan along the old silk route. Then they crossed into the neighbouring Shangril-La State of Hunza. Meanwhile Mr. Bhutto had transferred to a smaller French Alouette helicopter and landed on the polo ground at Karimabad. – the Mir of Hunza’s hilltop palace. But the tribesmen kept marching and wound their way up the steep mule track towards the palace.

Guards of the Mir’s 1000-man private army rushed down the hill and stopped the advance. At the palace, thousands of the Mir’s subject’s had gathered— the men in thick goat-hair coats and the women in the gaily colored headdresses. Mr. Bhutto told them the reforms were a verdict of the history and no one could stop them.

As the President spoke, a red and silver banner was raised directly in front of him proclaiming in English, “We demand an end to autocracy from Hunza”, The banner gave its sponsors as the Hunza and Nagar Liberation Front.

President Bhutto’s reforms do not affect the Mir of Hunza who retains his all-powerful control of his 40,000 subjects. Thus, on the Nagar side of the roaring Hunza River, tribesmen are demanding the restoration of their ruler’s rights. While on the Hunza side, the demand is for an end to the Mir’s autocracy.

The president said he had seen the various demands and would study them. He said he would be proud to do something for the poverty stricken people of this area.  This northern most region of Pakistan shares borders with Afghanistan, China and Tibet and it is one of the most inaccessible areas of the world.

Published in the Canberra Times on August 28,1972. Courtesty of National Liberary of Australia
Photo Credits: 
Online, Bhutto Family

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