Gilgit-Baltistan: Tightrope walk for new governor

Published: January 26, 2011

Opposition parties hope Pir Karam Ali Shah won’t turn out to be another ‘Jiyala’.

GILGIT: At long last Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) is set to have its governor, a post lying vacant for nearly five months. A notification for the appointment of Pir Karam Ali Shah to the position is likely to be issued on Wednesday.

Opposition parties remain hopeful that the new governor won’t turn out to be yet another ‘Jiyala’.

“He is a seasoned politician and we expect him not to be a Jiyala governor,” said Bashir Ahmed Khan, a PML-Q leader and opposition leader in Gilgit-Baltistan. Khan said that people expect the new governor will forge a consensus among various sects of the region to guide them towards success.

Unlike Punjab, the G-B governor, Pir Karam Ali Shah, was appointed after nearly five months since the death of the first governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Dr Shamma Khalid, who died of cancer. Whereas in Punjab, Latif Khosa took charge as the new governor only days after the assassination of Salmaan Taseer.

Speaker G-B Wazir Baig was made “acting” governor in the interim period. The Pakistan Peoples Party even held a special meeting in Islamabad last month asking President Zardari to appoint a male governor for the region in line with the region’s traditions.

“Pir Karam has vast experience of running government affairs and we hope for the best,” said Hafizur Rehman, provincial chief of PML-N in Gilgit-Baltistan. Rehman said that unlike Punjab or any other province, the G-B governor has even more powers than the chief minister in the constitutional setup, meaning that the position in G-B is far more significant than elsewhere.

However, despite the appointment of Shah, a PPP stalwart and former deputy chief executive G-B, fears of him turning out to be a partisan governor remain alive. “We have tolerated other governors in Punjab too and we just hope for the best,” said Rehman, adding that if the new governor did turn out to be partisan, they would have to devise a strategy in response, accordingly.

A regional politician of a religious party suggested that the governor should learn from past mistakes and avoid confrontation. “If he does so, he will have to face the repercussions,” said the politician, requesting anonymity.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2011.

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