Home > Uncategorized > [Press Review] Gilgit-Baltistan-Reform Package Less than what it should be

[Press Review] Gilgit-Baltistan-Reform Package Less than what it should be


The Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009 approved by the federal cabinet on Saturday has received mixed initial reactions. At least one change has been universally applauded though: renaming the Northern Areas Gilgit-Baltistan has met a long-standing demand of the people of the area who chafed under an appellation that was simply the geographical expression of the area’s position vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir, i.e. the ‘northern areas’ of Jammu and Kashmir. But while the federal government and its allies have trumpeted the other changes to the administrative structure of Gilgit-Baltistan, the people of the area have been less than impressed.

What are we to make of the changes then? In fairness, the government deserves some credit for taking the step of recognising that there is such a thing as Gilgit-Baltistan and moving to redress at least some of the local grievances against the system of governance and the delivery of justice.Yet, we are also sympathetic to the local claim that they are denied any clear constitutional status and the rights that would flow from it and the fact that the absence of a high court in Gilgit-Baltistan means the locals have to go to Islamabad to seek justice.

The problem though has to be seen in the international context because of the Kashmir issue. Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan was not merged into Pakistan proper because the fear was that it could undermine our claim on Kashmir and it was not merged into AJK because it could complicate a settlement on the area. If, for example, Gilgit-Baltistan is made a full-fledged province within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, India could perhaps argue that the state it has carved out of the disputed area, Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, is also a legitimate entity and that it is a settled issue.

This, then, is the government’s dilemma; acting on the desire to see to it that all the people who live in Pakistan have the same constitutional rights versus potentially further complicating an already intractable problem like the Kashmir issue. What the government appears to have done is to try and occupy the middle ground by moving towards replicating the AJK template of governance in Gilgit-Baltistan.

It is certainly not ideal — there are real questions about whether the federally dominated council will overshadow the locally elected assembly — but it at least opens the door to further changes down the road once the new system is operational. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan deserve all their rights; however, realistically, that goal can only be achieved incrementally. Source


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