The issue of the detention of the spouses of GB men in neighboring Xinjiang province of China, on suspicion of their links to religious extremist groups is an indicator of the latent volatility of the GB-Xinjiang annex and its implications for the future of CPEC and stability in the disputed province.

GB is crucial to the Pakistan-China relationship, being a site of established border trade between the two countries and of CPEC. It has been quite sometime since the Chinese government launched a crackdown on elements involved in religiously-motivated acts of terrorism in Xinjiang province. The province is home to the minority Muslim nationality of Uighur which has long presented an ethnic-religious secessionist issue in the region. Where the phenomenon of of sub-identities facing repression inside a nation state is a universal phenomenon, China is clear that the Xinjiang violence instigated by Uighar separatist outfits has been fanned by religious-jihadi movements percolating from Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Pakistan has taken effective action against al Qaeda-linked elements in the Tribal Areas attracting Uighur recruits from Xinjiang, however GB lies at the crossroads of competing economic and security interests and has become a de facto part of China’s Xinjiang province. Amidst residual extremist elements in Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan is alleged to become the locus of various radical forces forces that can exploit more fundamental Uighur factions to contribute to violence in the region.

The resolution passed by the assembly calling for the federal government to negotiate with Chinese authorities highlights the growing concerns within the region regarding the Chinese presence in and integration with GB. It also highlights their concern regarding the inordinate delay in announcement of political and constitutional reforms in the region as recommended by the parliamentary committee, reforms that can allow the restricted region representation in the parliament and provincial discretionary powers that it desperately needs. The committee had recommended de-facto integration of GB with and delegating further legislative, administrative and financial powers to GB to enhance the people’s sense of participation and to improve service delivery.

While GB families have been suffering, the federal government has not made any headway in conceding rights to the disputed area. The federal government needs to take notice of the issue with China, but more pressingly, it needs to assume a more concrete stance on GB, reevaluating its grapple over Kashmir. It needs to integrate GB in more autonomous capacity in CPEC to allow the locals to derive economic benefit from it and stem sentiments of resentment against it. If GB is not extended its rightful political and constitutional reforms, not only are the people suffer under marginalization, they are susceptible to coercion and exploitation by antagonistic elements in the region contributing to larger geo-political contentions.