The political leadership of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) sought on Monday a provisional provincial status of the area with representation in the Senate as well as the National Assembly of Pakistan till the settlement of the Kashmir issue.
The recommendation was given to a sub-committee of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, which met here to review the G-B Governance and Self-Rule Order 2009, and to discuss the fundamental human rights violation in G-B.
The committee was chaired by its convener Senator Raza Rabbani, and was attended by Senator Farhatullah Babar, Chief Minister G-B Syed Mehdi Shah, Speaker G-B Legislative Assembly Wazir Baig, members the G-B Council Amjad Advocate and Attaullah Shahab and the G-B chief secretary.
The G-B political leadership sought a full-fledged constitutional status of the area by giving it financial autonomy and representation in the Senate and the NA. The officials of the Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ministry will brief the committee on Tuesday (tomorrow).
The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights had visited G-B in April this year, where they met all stakeholders, including politicians, civil society, the judiciary and the general public, to discuss their reservations over the fundamental political and constitutional rights violation.
Sources said that G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah had put forward the demand of a full-fledged provincial status in the area. He had noted that G-B is facing difficulties due to the absence of a financial mechanism within the provincial government.
“We made it clear to the special committee on human rights that neither the UN resolution on Kashmir nor the Establishment is [an obstacle] in providing constitutional rights to the people of G-B. But there is a need for [political will by the leaders], in this regard,” said Amjad Advocate, a member of the G-B Council, who was one of the participants in the meeting on Monday.
He said that though G-B was given provincial status earlier under the G-B Governance and the Self-Rule Order-2009, no financial mechanism rests with the provincial government because it has not been given a share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) awards, nor is it allowed to collect GST and custom duty.
He said that a demand had already been put to allow G-B to collect its GST and custom duty before the former prime minister, and he had approved this proposal in principle. However, the finance division is the key hurdle in implementing this proposal, he added.
“At present, we are like beggars. What is the harm if, constitutionally, we are given our financial share under the NFC award, or[if we are allowed] to collect our own revenues in our own territory,”he maintained.
He noted that the G-B Governance and Self Rule-2009 Order was approved before the 18th Constitutional Amendment, and why the 18th Amendment is implemented in G-B.
“Why [do] certain quarters give the impression of sensitivity when there is time to give it rights,” he said, adding that the federal government never considers the sensitivity of the area when it builds the Diamer-Bhasha dam and the economic corridor, or any other such mega project in the area.
“Therefore, we had [given our recommendation] today to the committee granting the area with a provisional provincial status till the settlement of the Kashmir issue," he maintained.
Shifting of custom check post
Later on Monday, at a session of the G-B Council held in Islamabad, a Legislative Bill was also tabled by Advocate Amjad, seeking to shift the custom check post from the Sost Border till G-B is allowed to collect GST and custom duty by itself.
“We had taken this position because we want to have free trade access to our people -- at least within our own territory. And the federal government should relocate this check post in any area other than the G-B jurisdiction,” he maintained.