The proposed Mining Concession Rules 2014 has triggered a sharp reaction in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and outside the territory, with politicians and human rights activists saying it is an attempt to rob the region of its autonomy. The proposals are believed to say that the federal government’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan will be issuing licences and permits instead of giving these powers to the local G-B government. This is creating fears that favourites will be given lucrative contracts.
The latest reaction against these proposed rules has come from Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar, who is also a member of the Senate Sub-Committee of Human Rights Committee on Gilgit-Baltistan, headed by Senator Raza Rabbani. The sub-committee is reviewing the G-B Empowerment and Governance Order 2009 with a view to improve the human rights situation in the area.
“The new mining and mineral policy is a brazen attack on local autonomy, and a grave assault on the fundamental rights of the people,” Babar said in an email sent to The Express Tribune on Tuesday. “It will further deepen the acute sense of deprivation and enhance feelings of alienation among the people of G-B.”
The Mining Concession Rules 2014 was reportedly formulated by the Gilgit-Baltistan Council, a body chaired by the prime minister, to regulate the mining of metals. The rules will be tabled in the council for approval once they are finalised and vetted by experts.
“The G-B Council is a high-sounding front for bureaucracy in Islamabad. Most of its members have not even visited the area, let alone understand the aspirations and needs of its people. It has no business to usurp the powers that legitimately belong to the local,” said Babar.
The wily scheme to usurp the powers of the G-B administration and legislative assembly in giving mining concessions also raises serious questions about the motive behind it, as awarding mineral concessions to bidders is a lucrative business, he said.
While G-B Empowerment Order 2009 gives the powers to regulate labour and safety in mines to the local legislature, the powers to grant mining concessions is taken over by the bureaucracy in Islamabad, said Babar, adding: “It must not be allowed; it will not be.”
Earlier, the G-B Metals Minerals & Gems Association also expressed serious reservations over the proposed rules and called them a mockery of the federal government’s claim that people of G-B have been given autonomy under the Empowerment & Self Governance Order, 2009.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2014.