Baltistan (Urdu: بلتستان), also known as بلتیول (Baltiyul) in the Balti language, is a region in northern Pakistan. It borders Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. It lies in the Karakoram mountains just to the south of K2, the world's second highest mountain. It is an extremely mountainous region, with an average altitude of over 3,350 m (11,000 ft). It is inhabited principally by Balti Shi'a Muslims of Tibetan descent who converted from Tibetan Buddhism before the 16th century.
Baltistan was an independent state but was occupied by the Raja (King) of Kashmir in the nineteenth century. In 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence, it was still part of Kashmir. Now the region is divided between Pakistan and India.
The elections on 12 November 2009 brought about a major change and upheaval in the Baltistan region, which had been once an area ruled by a feudal Raja and then an area under Pakistani military control. It is believed that democracy in the region will also help to bring about more economic development and public empowerment.
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