The ambiguous status of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has sparked a new debate in the region’s legislative assembly — with the fourth day of proceedings witnessing a heated discussion over the existing legal status of the territory.
Assertive legislators rolled out two options: Either provide legal cover for the G-B Self Governance & Empowerment Ordinance 2009, or a setup similar to the one given to Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK).
The debate came in the wake of a petition filed by a resident of G-B Dr Ghulam Abbas in the Supreme Court on Wednesday over the ambiguous constitutional status of G-B. During Wednesday’s hearing the Supreme Court asked the attorney general (AG) to explain under which law was the Self Governance Order 2009 promulgated? The AG replied that the president of Pakistan, on behalf of the federal government, had issued the Self Governance Order 2009 for the region that has no representation in parliament due to its disputed status.
“The setup given to the region needs to be supported by a legal cover just like in AJK,” said Didar Ali, an independent lawmaker during the proceedings of the G-B Legislative Assembly that was chaired by Deputy Speaker Jamil Ahmed.
He said that in the wake of the hearing on the petition filed in the Supreme Court, it has been learnt that the order through which the G-B Self Governance & Empowerment Ordinance 2009 has been enforced is liable to be repealed by any authority anytime. “We are concerned about that,” he said.
Another independent legislator, Nawaz Naji, termed G-B a “fake province” that has no solid roots in the Constitution.
Rehmat Khaliq, a lawmaker of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), said that constitutionally G-B cannot be given the status of Pakistan’s fifth province due to some international disputes; hence a package similar to the one given to AJK should be allocated to G-B as well.
Meanwhile, G-B Law Minister Wazir Shakil told the house that the G-B ordinance was a presidential order that cannot be abolished. Chief Minister Mehdi Shah then asked the allied party legislators to convince their main leadership to raise their voice in parliament for a permanent status for G-B.
Responding to a question by an independent lawmaker Raziuddin, the law minister said that the G-B judiciary was independent and the government could not interfere in its matters.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2012.