Committee on GB reform reviews options of constitutional amendment

ISLAMABAD: The high-level committee constituted to propose constitutional reforms for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has discussed and reviewed various options of constitutional amendments to grant provincial status to GB.

According to sources, the committee, which for the first time met on Thursday, discussed a proposed constitutional bill for amendment in the constitution to pave way for mainstreaming GB. Insiders informed Pakistan Today that the proposals made by concerned authorities were aimed at granting all powers to GB like other provinces of the country.

“The meeting has deliberated the proposed amendments in various articles of the constitution. However, it is yet to be clear which article will be amended to grant the provisional constitutional status to GB,” said the source, adding that further deliberation would be made in the next meeting which was expected within the next 15 days.

“One thing is clear that all the members of the committee representing various stakeholders were on board to make the constitutional amendment to grant the provincial status to GB as per the unanimous resolution passed by legislative assembly of GB,” the source added.

While replying to a query, an insider said that the committee has so far not discussed the number of seats in parliament for GB in case of amendment in the constitution. “Such proposals would be discussed in next meetings,” he said.

The meeting on Thursday was chaired by Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Khan Gandapur. Federal minister for law & justice, GB chief minister, the attorney general for Pakistan (AGP), Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary, Ministry of Defence secretary, Ministry of Finance secretary, secretary Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs member, GB chief secretary, co-opted members from national security Institutions, and GB Council joint secretary had also attended the meeting.

During the meeting, Gandapur underlined the need for political consensus and national cohesion to change the status of the region.

He said that a unanimous resolution, passed by the GB assembly recently, for changing its status was a true reflection of its people’s aspirations, adding the federal government was making all out efforts in that regard.

The meeting discussed in detail various models for changing the status of GB and stressed the need to make progress over the issue of national interest.

The 12-member committee, constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan for making recommendations regarding granting provisional provincial status to GB had met for the first time as it could not meet within the stipulated time of 60 days, an official source said. Earlier it was scheduled to meet on March 11, 2021 but it could not for unknown reasons.

The prime minister, following his announcement in Gilgit last year, had constituted a high-powered 12- member committee to discuss the legal, historic and political aspects of granting provincial status to GB.

As per an official source, the sitting of the committee was delayed for approval of a resolution in the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA) demanding an early granting of provisional provincial status, a longstanding demand of the people of the area.

As per the notification, Terms of Reference (ToRs) have also been set for the committee, under which it would prepare a report regarding giving provisional provincial status to GB in light of United Nations resolutions on Kashmir.

The committee would also keep in view the country’s principled stance on Kashmir and the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan’s decision on GB reforms while giving its recommendation.

According to sources, the committee would also consider the historic documents and findings of previous committees and forums on matters.

PM Imran, during his last visit to Gilgit, had also said that it was the government’s top priority to grant the provisional provincial status to GB as promised earlier.

It is noteworthy that a high-powered committee formed by the previous government had already worked on the subject for two years, the opposition pointed out.

Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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