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Gilgit-Baltistan's liberation


Aug 31, 2014
Now we all know that Pakistan got independence on August 14 , 1947 , what most of us don’t know is that after 3 months Gilgit-Baltistan got it’s independence .

The history of Gilgit Baltistan can be divided into the following periods:

Pre-History: The earliest inhabitants of the Gilgit-Baltistan can be traced back to 5th millennium BC They were known as Rock Art People as they started the tradition of rock carving which was continued by their successors. They were hunters and lived in rocks. There is a general perception that they had religion having faith in mountains.

Megalith Builders: These people came from Chitral and Swat and had the tradition of building large megaliths. They used to have a ceremonial carved stone in the middle which was worshiped. They used metals like copper, bronze, iron, gold and silver. They developed irrigated fields and also depended on livestock like goat, sheep and other cattle. They lived in mud houses as temporary settlement.

Dardic People:According to some historians, the Dardics lived in the present Gilgit Baltistan during the Achaemenian Empire (4th century B.C). Their economic activities included mining and trading gold. This led to the establishment of a trade route with Central Asia and China.

Scytho Parthians: Various rock inscriptions around Chilas suggest that the Scythians from Central Asia had established their rule in this area around the first century BC The rule of Scythians resulted in the introduction of Kharosthi script and Taxila style stupas and establishment of close trade relations with Taxila. The Scythian rule lasted only two generations between 1 B.C and 1 A.D. This was followed by the Gondophares branch of Parthians. The influence of the Parthians on local culture is evident from the rock carvings of this era which depict some new themes other than those of the earliest inhabitants.

The Kushans: The Khushans moved to Northern Areas between 1 B.C and 1 A.D who had already established their rule in Central Asia and China. They used gold for trade purposes and a route passed through Northern Area which was perhaps the Silk Route on which the current Karakoram Highway has been constructed.

The Post Kushans: After the Kushans, the Sassanis from Persia controlled the area in the beginning of 3rd century AD. During that period, Buddhism continued to flourish and this area remained a famous crossing point for travel to and from India, China and Central Asia.

The Huns: These were tribes from Central Asia who were warriors. They ruled through several Shina and Burushaski kings called 'Rajas'. By that time, Buddhism was still on its way of spreading.

Medieval to Modern Time

With the decline of Huns, the Rajas became independent. From 612 to 750 AD, the areas were ruled by Patoal Shahi Dynasty who were Buddhists and had close ties with Chinese empire. Between 7th Century and early 19th century, parts of the Gilgit-Baltistan were ruled by succession of various dynasties including: Tarkhans of Gilgit, the Maghlots of Nagar, the Ayashok of Hunza, the Burshai of Punyal, the Maqpoons of Skardu, the Anchans of Shigar and the Yabgos of Khaplu. In the beginning of 8th century AD the Tarkhan rulers embraced Islam. In the medieval times, Gilgit-Baltistan remained outside Mughal control although Akbar conquered Kashmir and parts of Baltistan while Gilgit retained its independent status until the Gilgit-Baltistan came under the control of Dogra rulers of Kashmir in the middle of 18th century. By the end of 19th century, the British Government created the Gilgit agency and appointed a political agent, under a lease agreement with Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir. In 1947, the people of Gilgit Baltistan fought against the Maharaja and got independence.

Before partition of the sub-Continent, the state of Jammu and Kashmir with a total area of 84471 square miles, was geographically divided into following three big regions:

1. Jammu Province (12,378 sq. miles)

2. Kashmir Province (8,539 sq.)

3. Frontier Province of Ladakh and Gilgit (63,554 sq)

In 1947, a part of the state gained independence and was called Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which has an area of 5,134 square miles. While 29,814 square miles chunk of the Frontier Province of Ladakh and Gilgit after winning freedom came under the administrative control of Pakistan through an agreement. This is the area now called Northern Areas. The rest of the Frontier province i.e. 3,3740 sq. miles area of Ladakh is under Indian occupation.

Constitutional Position

Historically these areas belong to Dogra State of Jammu and Kashmir. On March 29, 1935, the British government took possession of Gilgit Agency from the state government, through a lease agreement for 60 years. The British feared of the Soviet expansionist moves, and therefore wanted to have direct control in the region. During this period the state flag remained hoisted over residency along with the Union Jack. However by August 1, 1947, the areas were returned to the state government , because the British had decided partitioning of the Indian sub-continent.
The liberation

On November 1, 1947 Gilgit-Baltistan became a republic and 15 days later acceded to Pakistan .Through a jointly formed armed struggle of the local people, the Gilgit Scouts and the Muslim officers of the Maharaja’s army, the area was liberated on November 1, 1947 and an interim government constituted under Raja Shah Rais Khan of Gilgit.The main reason being that : the people wanted to be a part of Pakistan but the governor had other plans , and then what the chain of reaction that unfold .


The national flag

The government of Pakistan was invited through a telegram to take control of the areas. Responding to this request Sardar Muhammad Alam (A tehsildar in the NWFP government at that time) was appointed and sent to Gilgit on 16th November, as government of Pakistan’s political agent.


President Shah Rais Khan


Army Chief Mirza Hassan, first from left, Quarter Master Babar Khan and

Chief of General Staff Saeed Durrani.


Political Agent Ghulam Haider, first from left, Inspector General Police Abdul

Hameed and Member Revolutionary Council Muhammad Khan.


ADC to Army Chief Shah Khan, left, and Advisor to the

government Major Brown.

William Alexander Brown, known as Major Brown played an important role in Gilgit Rebellion, and ensured that these areas remain under control of Pakistan. Major Brown must have done something worthwhile that he was awarded MBE by the British government; and a medal from Pakistan known as Star of Pakistan.

Let us briefly look at the role of Major Brown.

• He was born on 22 December 1922 and came to India in December 1941;

• He became an officer of Frontier Force Regiment which was later converted to Gilgit Scouts in 1943.

• He served Gilgit Scouts for 3 years and also learnt Pashto and Sheena languages;

• He was appointed Assistant Political Agent for Chilas;

• Between 1946 and July 1947 he served as an officer in Tochi Scouts and Chitral Scouts;

• Because of his good rapport with the Gilgit Scouts, knowledge of the region and importance of these areas he was made a Commander of Gilgit Scouts on 29th July 1947;

• He was an employee of the Jammu and Kashmir government up till 1st November 1947 when the Gilgit Rebellion took place.

Colonel Bacon who was a Political Agent of Gilgit met Major Brown and told him that Lord Mountbatten has decided to return areas of Gilgit Baltistan to the Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir on 1st August 1947. It was possible that the Maharaja could have appointed his own man as a head of Gilgit Scouts, but the British wanted to ensure that their trusted man is in control of the Gilgit Scouts – the only military force in the region.

Major Brown in his book ‘The Gilgit Rebellion’ notes, and I quote: ‘All Gilgit wanted was the peace and security afforded under the Pax Britannica and the method by which this could have been continued, despite partition, would have been to have made the Gilgit Agency an agency of the North West Frontier Province, directly under THE Governor. This would have ensured continuity in administration, peace, security, and unity: infertile ground for Soviet seed. My duty was obvious. I must return to Gilgit and lead, advise and help the people over the transition period.’ Unquote

Source: Independence of Gilgit Baltistan, by Ghulam Rasool, page 122

So one can see his mission was clear. Although he was an employee of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir but his loyalty was not with him. On 30th July 1947 Brigadier Gansara Singh as a Governor of the area and accompanied by General Scott and Captain Saeed Durrani reached Gilgit by air. A large crowed consisting of army officials, Gilgit Scouts, rulers of different regions and other notables welcome them.

Major Brown very quickly re-established his contacts with all important rulers of different regions and officers of the Gilgit Scouts, some of them were his personal friends and trusted colleagues. He also strengthened communal sentiments within the Gilgit Scouts, Jammu and Kashmir Army and among the ruling elite. In his book, The Kashmir Rebellion, Major Brown writes an account of a meeting with a son of Ruler of Nagar, Raja Muzaffar Ul Din Shah who said, and I quote:

‘If Kashmir remains independent, well and good. We shall be independent here but we can also keep friendliest relationship with our brothers in Pakistan. If Kashmir accedes to Pakistan even better. But if the Maharaja through pig – headedness, bad advice, political pressure or attractive remuneration accedes to Hindustan, then there will be trouble here.’ Unquote

Raja Muzaffar Ul Din Shah further advises Major Brown, as to how he should handle the Gilgit Scouts – the only local armed force in the event of Kashmir joining India, because some units of the Gilgit Scouts were unpredictable and 6th Battalion of the Kashmir Infantry stationed at Bunji ‘would soon put an end to an insurrection of any sort.’

Major Brown also secretly won over support of some Muslim officers of the Maharaja army, which included Captain Hassan, Captain Saeed Durani, Captain Mohammed Khan and Lieutenant Ghulam Haider. One night during a drink session Captain Saeed and Captain Mohammed Khan said: ‘the Maharaja should remain independent, but if he joins India then as a true Muslims he will resign from the Kashmir Army.

The last straw was Major Brown’s disagreement over some administrative issue with Governor’s staff that came from Srinagar. The Governor sided with his staff; and Major Brown got extremely angry and locked himself up in a room to analyse the situation and plan his future action. In his book, The Gilgit Rebellion, Major Brown writes, and I quote:

‘I, therefore, felt it was my duty, as the only Britisher left, to follow a course which would prevent this. And further, as a liberal member of the world’s paragon of democracy, I considered that the whole of Kashmir, including Gilgit Province, unquestionably go to Pakistan in view of the fact that the population was predominantly Muslim. Partisan, traitor, revolutionary, I may have been, but that evening my sentiments dictated that if the Maharaja acceded to India, then I would forego all the allegiance to him and I would not rest content until I had done the utmost in my power to ensure that not only the Gilgit Province joined Pakistan, but the whole of Kashmir also.’ Unquote

Source: Independence of Gilgit Baltistan, by Ghulam Rasool, page 133

On 30th October 1947, Colonel Bacon, after his farewell party gave briefing to Major Brown, and concluded: “I give the Kashmir Administration three months in Gilgit. Then something will happen.”

Source: Independence of Gilgit Baltistan, by Ghulam Rasool, page 124

That something happened as predicted or planned; and sequence of events is very important in this. The Pakistani government, which included the British officials on key posts, hoped that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir would join Pakistan, but once they realised that the Maharaja was not prepared to accede to Pakistan they managed the Tribal Invasion.

• Pakistani officials violated the Standstill Agreement with the Maharaja and the Tribal Invasion of Kashmir started on 22 October 1947;

• Realising threat to his throne and his people, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir asked India for help;

• Indian government asked the Maharaja to accede to India, which he did under pressure;

• The accession was provisionally accepted and the Indian forces landed in Srinagar on the morning of 27th October.

During all this time nothing happened in Gilgit Baltistan. Those who didn’t want Kashmir to become a part of India, or at least, Gilgit Baltistan to go to India, planned the tribal invasion hoping that they will have strategically important areas of the State under their control.

After the ‘Provisional accession’ on 26th October the Indian forces reached Srinagar on the morning of 27th October; but those who planned and controlled the tribal invasion did not do anything in Gilgit Baltistan because they hoped that Srinagar would be captured. Once they realised that the tribesmen were only good against the civilians, and they quickly retreated after encountering the Indian army, they gave a green signal to Major Brown and the much talked the Gilgit Rebellion took place on 1st of November 1947.

Ghansara(the governor) was alone, but armed. He wasn’t a coward and kept resisting the scouts who were asking him to come out in the dark night and surrender. Flickers danced in the darkness for hundredth parts of a second as Ghansara Singh and the Scouts exchanged fire. Suddenly a bullet pierced through the body of Sepoy Amir Hayat, a member of Hunza Platoon, making him the first martyr of Gilgit – Baltistan’s war of independence.

The exchange of fire increased as the scouts learnt of their comrade’s martyrdom and, soon, Ghansara Singh was without any ammunition. He came out, hands up, and was arrested. It was the first morning of November. The year was 1947.The independent Islamic republic of Gilgit, “Islami Jamhuria Gilgit”, had been founded. Shah Raees was nominated president of the republic. The Gilgit – Scout was being led by Babar Khan, Ehsan Ali and Shah Khan. They were joined by rebellious Muslim officers of Kashmir Infantry, including the charismatic Col Mirza Hasan Khan, Major Durrani and Major Jaral, among others. A revolutionary council was formed and tasked to work closely with the revolutionary government. Col Hassan became the supreme commander of the revolutionary scouts, divided into three companies; the Tiger, the Ibex and the Eskimo led by Babar, Ehsan and Shah Khan, respectively.

The rebellious Gilgit – Scout, then, marched towards Bonji Garrison, forwarding the war of independence. It wasn’t an ordinary occasion. The subjects had risen to reclaim their independence from the masters after decades of silence. The government of Pakistan came to their help, at later stages, and the Dogra Forces were chased out of the region. Seventy two thousand square miles of land were liberated by the poorly armed, poorly trained, semi – military organization.

Major William Alexander Brown,MBE,Sitara e Pakistan-British Scot Leader of Gilgit Rebellion
Brown 1.jpg

In December 1941 he sailed for India and was selected for the Officer Training School Bangalore,receiving his commission as a second lieutenant in the 10/12 Frontier Force Regiment.

Soon after being commissioned he was transferred to the frontier scouts and served in South Waziristan Scouts with which he fell in love.He here acquired proficiency in Pashto.In early 1943 Brown was posted as APA in Chilas where he built a polo ground.Here he acquired proficiency in the local language Shina as well as Burushaski.In 1946 he was posted to the Tochi Scouts in North Waziristan.In June 1947 he was posted to Chitral as Acting Commandant of Chitral Scouts.

On way to Chitral he was posted as Commandant of Gilgit Scouts in view of new developments as Lord Mountbatten had decided to transfer back lease of Gilgit to Kashmir state.He was promoted to rank of major and arrived in Gilgit on 29 July 1947.Gilgit was handed over to Jammu and Kashmir state on 1 August 1947 and the British flag lowered.He was now 25 years old.

In October 1947 the unofficial Kashmir war began.The Maharaja of Kashmir decided to disband Gilgit Scouts as it was an All Muslim unit and feared a revolt.To pre-empt this the Gilgit Scouts planned a rebellion.They found an unexpected ally in major Brown who decided to lead them.On 31 October 1947 Major Brown led the Gilgit Rebellion as a result f which Northern Areas and Baltistan were captured by Gilgit Scouts and the area aceded to Pakistan.Major Brown planned all major attacks of the Gilgit Scouts.He returned to Pakistan from Gilgit in January 1948.


In July 1948 the British Government awarded him an MBE with a very vague citation.This proves that his actions were accepted as that of a hero in higher quarters of the British Empire.He joined the ICI and stayed on in Pakistan till 1959.In July 1957 he married Margaret Rosemary Cooksley who was serving in the British High Commission at Karachi from whom he had a son named William in 1958.

Brown died of a heart attack on 5 December 1984.

He was posthumously awarded Pakistan's highest civilian award Sitara e Pakistan on 23 March 1994.

This in fact does not highlight all the heroes of this liberation war .

Links for further information .

News | Report on 1947 events in Gilgit Agency (part I)

CSIO: Major William Alexander Brown,MBE,Sitara e Pakistan-British Scot Leader of Gilgit Rebellion

GB Tribune: History & Dispute

Radio Pakistan

@Atanz , there is a book by William A. Brown . Very informative . Here is a link for it .
Gilgit Rebelion: The Major Who Mutinied Over Partition of India - William Brown - Google Books

Such a shame , even to this date the region is not enjoying the same rights as the rest of the country .
Gilgit as a fifth province
Before partition of the sub-Continent, the state of Jammu and Kashmir with a total area of 84471 square miles, was geographically divided into following three big regions:

1. Jammu Province (12,378 sq. miles)

2. Kashmir Province (8,539 sq.)

3. Frontier Province of Ladakh and Gilgit (63,554 sq)

How come Ladakh and Gilgit be clubbed under one when they were distance apart?
So again, it was revolt by those who were occupying the power seats and decided the fate of the region. No civilian was involved in deciding the fate of the region. Few traitors revolted and took the advantage of the situation, did mutiny and got a piece of land as a separate country...and then by themselves become kind and declared their alliance towards Pakistan.

Ask the British .
THey are worth nothing to reply..They left subcontinent in such a mess that we are still struggling to settle it. If they really wanted a stable region, they would had cleaned their dirty linen by themselves rather than leaving it.

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