–PM Khan opposes proposals of high-level committee, says it will undermine Kashmir dispute, sources say
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Thursday refused to accept a summary to make Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) a special provisional province, as proposed by a high-level committee constituted by the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Although the PTI had criticised the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for introducing the GB Order 2018 and called it insufficient to provide fundamental rights to the area locals, the ruling party outrightly rejected the possibility of introducing any amendment in the constitution needed to give GB a representation in National Assembly and Senate, a well-informed source told Pakistan Today.
According to the source, Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first to oppose the proposed reforms in the GB, saying that the same will undermine the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan’s international obligations.
“Since major reforms have been rejected by the cabinet, GB will be governed through a presidential order,” said the source, adding that the government may later try to give more rights to the area while remaining within the ambit of the order.
During the cabinet meeting, three other ministers also objected the proposals, saying that they had received multiple calls from Kashmiri leaders who suggested that the government should avoid giving representation to GB in the National Assembly and Senate as it may cause a dispute in Kashmir.
However, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Affairs Iftikhar Durrani, while briefing media about the cabinet decisions, claimed that the agenda item related to the reforms in GB was deferred for consultation with stakeholders.
The committee, which proposed provisional provincial status to GB through constitutional amendment unanimously, had a representation of all stakeholders, including the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence.
The federal government, through Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP), will submit its report to the Supreme Court during a scheduled hearing of the related case on Friday (tomorrow), informing the court about government’s position on the subject of reforms in GB.
Earlier, the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, on the basis of proposals of the high-level committee, had forwarded the summary to award a provisional province status to the GB until the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
AGP Anwar Mansoor Khan had sent the final report of the committee to the Supreme Court during the last hearing of the same case, which is being heard by larger bench of the superior court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan.
The committee had unanimously agreed that GB should be given the status of a provisional province and should be allowed representation in the National Assembly and Senate.
GB Order, 2018, was a milestone in granting fundamental rights to the people of GB. However, the issue of representation in the parliament, as per the aspirations of the locals, needs clarification so that the people of the area can be declared full citizens of the country with the right to participate in the affairs of the federation.
According to the draft proposal, this arrangement can be formalised by giving representation to GB in the parliament through constitutional amendments in Article 51 and 57, respectively. The GB will be entitled to three special seats with one for each of the three divisions and one additional seat for women can also be added by the order of the president under Article 258. Provision of these seats can be made by amending Article 51 (4) of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Similarly, three special seats may be created for GB in the Senate with one for each division through appropriate amendments in Article 59. The proposal further recommended that the GB government may be given representation in constitutional bodies like NEC, NFC, IRSA and CCI as an observer or by extending special invitations similar to those extended to Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK).
It is worth mentioning here that the proposals forwarded by the committee were based on the recommendations of the committee led by Sartaj Aziz during the tenure of the previous government. However, the previous government could not implement those recommendations, which according to sources, was because of opposition from Kashmiri leaders.